Location: 4300 Steeles Avenue East, Markham (inside Pacific Mall)
There are few things that are more satisfying than a really good bowl of chewy, hand-made noodles. And Sun’s Kitchen in the Pacific Mall definitely knows how to do it.
If you come at the right time, you can see the noodle maker doing his thing; he pulls the dough again and again and again until a thick piece becomes a handful of noodles, almost as if by magic. It’s the work of a man who has clearly spent years mastering his craft, and it’s a sight that’s as hypnotic as it is impressive.
I’ve been here at least a dozen times, and I order the same thing every time: noodles with spicy pork. I’m occasionally tempted to order something else, but the spicy pork is so damn good, and I don’t come here enough to mess around.
It’s an exceptionally simple dish; it’s just spicy ground pork, a whole bunch of noodles, and some sliced cucumber to cut the richness and the heat of the pork.
It’s outstanding. The pork is salty, spicy, and intense. It’s the perfect foil for the amazingly chewy noodles.
It comes with a cup of sweet, citrusy soy milk. I didn’t like it at first, but now I can’t get enough. It also comes with a bowl of bland soup that I’m not crazy about. I keep meaning to tell them to hold the soup, but I always forget.
Location: 9 Bogert Avenue, North York (in the Emerald Park food court)
There’s a Chinese street food called jian bing that’s fairly ubiquitous in China, but virtually unknown over here. And I’m not sure why — it’s super delicious, and it’s cheap and relatively easy to make.
That’s why I was so excited when I found out that a little place called Gao’s Crepe in the Emerald Park food court serves these things.
That food court is hidden away on the bottom level of a condo near Yonge and Sheppard; you’d never even know it’s there if you’re not specifically seeking it out. But it’s a gem. Aside from the crepes, there’s several interesting-looking eateries here, mostly Asian.
Gao’s Crepe doesn’t even have a sign, and there’s no English menu posted — again, if you didn’t know it was there, you’d pass right by. But the jian bing they’re serving is the real deal.
Jian bing is essentially an eggy crepe that’s coated with hoisin sauce and hot sauce, sprinkled with green onions and cilantro, and wrapped around a crispy piece of fried dough. The version at Gao’s Crepe is freshly made right in front of you (you can watch the chef doing his thing).
It’s quite tasty. The contrast between the chewy crepe and the crispy fried dough is really satisfying, and the vibrant flavours of the hoisin and the hot sauce matches well with the freshness of the green onions and the cilantro.
It’s not as good as the versions I had in Shanghai — it’s a little dry, and the balance of flavours feels just a bit off — but then that sort of comparison is always unfair. We’re a million miles from Shanghai, and it’s quite good.
Location: 9425 Leslie Street, Richmond Hill
If you’re going to put the word excellent in the name of your restaurant, you’d better be able to back that up. Even if you’re serving pretty good food, that’s not excellent, is it?
Well, Excellent BBQ Restaurant in the Richlane Mall in Richmond Hill definitely lives up to its name: it is indeed excellent.
There’s something really satisfying about the simplicity of Chinese-style BBQ like this. It’s beyond simple — it’s basically just whole pieces of meat and rice — but when it’s done well, it’s delicious and comforting in a way that few dishes can match.
Excellent BBQ Restaurant does it quite well, which is evident as soon as you get there: when I visited, there was a line going out the door, and it remained that way for the whole time I was there.
When you’re serving food this good, word gets around.
We tried a few different things. BBQ duck.
And roast pork.
Everything was really good. In particular, the duck was fatty, tender, and perfect. The skin could have been a bit crispier, but that’s a fairly minor complaint.
Both types of pork were just as good — there wasn’t a whole lot of crispy skin on the roast pork, but what was there was shatteringly crisp and amazing. The BBQ pork was slightly dry, but again: that’s a minor complaint.
Location: 190 University Avenue, Toronto
I don’t really have a favourite restaurant in the city — I have a tendency to want to try something new every time I eat out, so it’s rare that I’ll go to the same place more than a couple of times.
So I guess Momofuku Noodle Bar is one of my favourite restaurants by default, because I’ve been there several times, and it’s consistently very good.
On this particular visit I tried a couple of their buns — chicken burger and cod cake — and both were quite tasty. The chicken burger, which featured a generous spread of pepper hummus, was the more interesting of the two. But the crispy, tasty cod was quite good as well.
I also tried the onigiri, and with its crispy fried bottom layer of nori, it was certainly an interesting take on the ubiquitous Japanese snack. But it was a little bit bland, and probably not something I’d order again.
The Jaja noodles, which the menu describes as “bacon, black bean, cabbage, pickle,” was good, but it was another item I probably wouldn’t get again. It had a meaty, umami-filled flavour, but it felt one-note. It really needed a bit more vibrancy to round out its porky richness (it probably didn’t help that it reminded me a lot of a dish I had in Malaysia called chili pan mee that was superior in every regard).
Location: 3225 Highway 7, Markham
There’s a dim sum place in Markham called Golden Palace Banquet Hall, and it’s quite good. I’ve been there a couple of times now, tried at least a dozen things, and I don’t think I’ve had a single dud.
All of that stuff? Quite tasty! But there’s one reason to visit Golden Palace Banquet Hall, and it’s these things right here:
I’m talking about the enormous, honey-coated pieces of fried dough in the lower right-hand side of that photo. They’re called angel wings (though I’ve also heard them referred to as egg shatters), and they’re the best.
There’s really not all that much to them. They’re airy, lightly crispy pieces of fried dough that have been coated in honey. That’s it. But there’s something about them that’s completely irresistible. Once you start eating them, you can’t stop. They’re so great.