Disappointing Fried Bao at Zheng’s Juicy Fried Buns

Zheng's Juicy Fried BunsLocation: 4750 Yonge Street, North York (in the Emerald Park food court)
Website: https://baogong.business.site/

Last year, I checked out Sang-ji Fried Bao and tried the scallion oil noodles and the sang-ji bao (fried soup-filled pork buns).  I thought it was tasty enough, but nothing particularly mind-blowing.

Well, I just had the exact same meal at Zheng’s Juicy Fried Buns, and suddenly I’m appreciating Sang-ji Fried Bao so, so much more.

Zheng's Juicy Fried Buns

Here’s a one word review of the meal I just had: yikes.

I started with the scallion oil noodles, which tasted like plain instant noodles tossed in a whole bunch of soy sauce (and a buttload of oil); it was greasy and one-note salty with absolutely none of the sweet complexity you associate with this dish.  The deeply caramelized scallions were present, but they couldn’t do much to fight the face-punch of saltiness from the noodles themselves.  It doesn’t help that the undercooked instant noodles were a complete bummer to eat.

Zheng's Juicy Fried Buns

The pan-fried buns weren’t much better.  The wrapper was thick, gummy and unpleasantly doughy, and the would-be crispy bottom was actually just dry, like a stale cracker.  The soupy filling was completely bland (it needed a lot of vinegar to be even remotely edible), and the pork was surprisingly tough and flavourless.

Zheng's Juicy Fried Buns

Sang-ji Fried Bao is about two kilometres north of here, and trust me: that’s the one you want.  There’s no comparison.

Tasty Chicken at Yang’s Braised Chicken Rice

Yang's Braised Chicken RiceLocation: 780 Burnhamthorpe Road West, Mississauga
Website: http://yangschicken.ca/

Yang’s Braised Chicken Rice is a Chinese chain that recently opened seven simultaneous locations in the GTA.  Opening one restaurant is tricky enough; I can’t even imagine what must go into opening so many at the same time.

Whatever kinks they had (and there must have been kinks) since opening in September have clearly been worked out; the food and service were both top-notch.  Apparently they have over six thousand locations worldwide, so I guess opening seven more is no big deal.

Yang's Braised Chicken Rice

As you can probably guess from the name, Yang’s specializes in braised chicken rice, a dish in which tender, saucy braised chicken is served with a bowl of rice.

You can either get it standard or boneless (I went with the former), and you can pick your spice level (I picked “authentic,” which was actually quite mild; I’ll probably go spicier next time).

It seemed a bit simple at first, but it really grew on me; by the time I was done, I was 100 percent into it.

Yang's Braised Chicken Rice

The chicken is quite tender, and has a nice soy-sauce-infused flavour from the braising liquid.  Combined with the rice and the richly flavourful sauce, it’s surprisingly addictive.

Oddly enough, however, the chicken wasn’t the highlight — it was the slices of mushroom in the sauce.  These things do an amazing job of soaking up all the flavour from the dish; they’re basically chewy little flavour bombs.  They’re delightful.

Tasty Hand-Pulled Noodles at Gol’s Lanzhou Noodle

Gol's Lanzhou NoodleLocation: 100 City Centre Drive, Mississauga (inside Square One)
Website: https://lanzhou.ca/

There’s something both delightful and bizarre about the presence of Gol’s Lanzhou Noodle in Square One’s food court.  It’s hard to imagine a place serving legit Chinese hand-pulled noodles — nestled between a KFC and a cheesesteak joint — being able to exist in a suburban shopping mall like Square One even just a decade ago.

But it’s here now, and it’s surprisingly great.

Gol's Lanzhou Noodle

I had the beef noodle soup, and I was shocked at how good it was.  It’s not the best bowl of noodles you’ll ever eat, but it’s seriously tasty for something in a mall’s food court.  It’s not even in Square One’s fancy new “Food District” — it’s in the plain old food court, right near places like A&W and Manchu Wok.

(Sorry, I know I’m harping on its location, but it kinda blows my mind.)

Gol's Lanzhou Noodle

And yes, they serve real-deal hand-pulled noodles; they’re freshly pulled to order, and you can watch them do it (which is always an oddly hypnotic display).

It’s a tasty bowl.  The soup is a bit too salty, but it has a clean beefy flavour with a nice hit of freshness from the cilantro.  It comes with a healthy amount of chili oil on the side; I wish this stuff were spicier (it’s just barely hot), but it has a fantastic smoky/savoury flavour that really kicks up the flavour of the soup.

Gol's Lanzhou Noodle

The sliced beef had a slight leftovery flavour, but was otherwise tender and enjoyable.

And the medium-thick noodles are great.  They were ever-so-slightly on the soft side, but they were nice and hearty, with a satisfying level of chew.

Tasty (and Cheap!) Eats at Shanghai Dim Sum

Shanghai Dim SumLocation: 330 Highway 7, Richmond Hill
Website: http://www.shanghaidimsum.ca/

If you’re looking for a delicious and delightfully affordable meal, you could absolutely do worse than Shanghai Dim Sum.  If you show up before 11:00 AM (and you should definitely do this) you can order off a special early morning menu that includes an order of four soup dumplings for 99 cents.

Shanghai Dim Sum

99 cents!  Are they they best soup dumplings you’ll ever have?  No, but they’re quite tasty, and for the price, they’re outstanding.

Shanghai Dim Sum

Everything else was quite good as well.  We managed to try a generous amount of stuff (I was quite full by the end of the meal) — the total bill?  About 30 bucks for three people.  You can’t argue with that price.

Shanghai Dim Sum

The restaurant also has the distinction of serving what might be the garlickiest dish I’ve ever had.  The boiled pork with garlic paste features tender slices of pork belly doused in a sauce that’s effectively pure, uncooked garlic.  It was actually quite tasty, but that garlic taste lingered on my palate for a solid 24 hours.

Hand-Pulled Noodles at Omni Palace Noodle House

Omni Palace Noodle HouseLocation: 235 Consumers Road, Toronto
Website: https://www.omnipalace.ca/

I’ve mentioned many times before that a big bowl of chewy, hand-pulled noodles is pretty much the best.  That’s just a fact.  If you disagree?  You’re wrong, and I hate to have to tell you this, but you’re living your life like an idiot.

Sorry, but someone was going to tell you eventually.  It may as well be me.

Omni Palace Noodle House

The main thing to order at Omni Palace is the Traditional Lanzhou Beef Noodles, which is a pretty basic bowl of noodle soup topped with thinly sliced beef, cilantro, scallions, and sliced radish.

The broth is actually quite tasty — it’s very salty, but it also has a nice beefy richness, and a mild tingling numbness from sichuan peppercorns.  Once you add a heaping spoonful or two (or three, or four) of the smoky, flavourful chili oil, you’ve got a pretty memorable bowl of soup.

Omni Palace Noodle House

The chili oil is surprisingly mild, so you have to add a decent amount if you want a nice kick.  That works out quite well, however — it’s so tasty that the bowl seems to get more and more delicious with every additional spoonful.

Omni Palace Noodle House

Then, of course, there’s the noodles, which are available in nine levels of thickness.  I went with what they call classic, which is quite spaghetti-like in size and shape.  The noodles have all the satisfying chewiness that you’re hoping for, and they’re the perfect thickness for this particular dish.

The only thing here I wasn’t crazy about was the beef; it was a bit tough, and the flavour was middling.  But everything else is tasty enough that it really doesn’t matter.