Since I've been working in the Eaton Centre recently -- today is my last day, on this contract -- I had requested suggestions for lunch alternatives in the area. I had posted a review of Ginger 2 (link below), and received a suggestion of Pearl Garden (which is College, just east of Yonge).
My assessment is that this is a restaurant, not fast food, and Pearl Garden somehow doesn't deserve to be compared to Ginger 2. I felt a bit guilty having lunch there alone, because it's too nice to be there alone. The next time I go, I'll get a friend to go with me. The decor is nice, with soft banquettes and nice chairs, and I would be comfortable taking a business associate for lunch, there.
I ordered (partially for comparison's sake) the same thing that I had ordered at Ginger 2: vermicelli with grilled pork and a spring roll. This was $6.25, compared to Ginger 2 at $4.95. It's not the same, however. The quality of the food was higher, and bowl was larger. (It's the first time I've had the bean sprouts and basil on the bottom of the bowl, but it actually mixes better that way). Hot tea in a glass was brought when I sat down. Paper napkins are tightly wound around chopsticks with a heavy fork and spoon. When the bill comes, it's brought with a fortune cookie.
I don't eat shrimp, but there was a lot of it on the menu. I saw a order go by with a large shrimp on top -- antennae hanging over the side of the bowl. There appears to be a good choice of vegetarian dishes.
There's no way that I wouldn't tip at a nice restaurant like this. At Ginger 2, it feels like fast food, and it seems strange to tip (at least any more than a coin in the tip jar). Of course, Pearl Garden takes credit cards.
I've now got a little cognitive dissonance going, because Pearl Garden doesn't really cost that much more for lunch, but I feel so guilty about spending the extra few bucks on myself for no particular reason.
The other way of looking at this is that Pearl Garden doesn't appear to have any lunch specials, so the place is a bargain for dinner. I would normally go over to Spadina if I was travelling for dinner, but this is a lot closer if I were going for a dinner or concert in the Yonge/College/Dundas area.