Decent Pork Belly at Chengdu Guokui

Chengdu GuokuiLocation: 4750 Yonge Street, North York (in the Emerald Park food court)
Website: None

I’ve mentioned before that the Emerald Park food court near Yonge and Sheppard is a treasure trove of unique Asian eateries (though not everything there is particularly great).

My latest discovery: Chengdu Guokui, which specializes in Sichuan cuisine.

I ordered the braised pork rice bowl, which comes with the aforementioned pork, stewed eggplant (I think?), and a spicy slaw on top of rice.

Chengdu Guokui

It’s almost 17 bucks with tax, which seems excessive until you get your bowl and realize that it weighs about a pound, and is crammed with enough pork belly to feed a small family.

It’s certainly better than the last thing I tried in this food court, but alas, it’s not great.  The main issue here is the pork; it’s quite underseasoned, and is lacking the punch of flavour you’re expecting from the dish.  It also had a vague leftover flavour, and wasn’t quite as melt-in-your-mouth tender as it should have been.  It was tasty enough, but it was nothing special.

Chengdu Guokui

The eggplant was nice and tender, and the rice, though mushy, featured a tasty sauce and was fairly satisfying.

The star of the show, oddly enough, was the slaw; it was tossed in an intensely flavourful chili oil, and had that great numbing heat you get from Sichuan cuisine.  I wish there had been about double the amount.

Fancy Dim Sum at Yu Seafood

Yu SeafoodLocation: 270 West Beaver Creek Road, Richmond Hill
Website: http://www.yuseafood.com/

If you have anyone you’re looking to impress with a fancier dim sum joint, you could do worse than Yu Seafood.  The restaurant itself is quite a bit more sleek than your average dim sum place, and the presentation of the dishes is a bit snazzier.

Yu Seafood

And of course, it also has the prices to match — it’s not outrageous, but it’s noticeably more expensive than the norm.

Yu Seafood

The food is all solid, though nothing quite blew me away.  I think pretty much everything was slightly (or more than slightly) underseasoned.

Yu Seafood

One of their specialties is the visually striking Bamboo Charcoal & Egg Yolk Bun.  It looks impressive and tastes pretty good, but the molten custard filling was broken; it was lumpy and oily.

Yu Seafood

Everything I tried was quite tasty — but given the hefty pricing, it’s not quite as amazing as you’d hope.

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.