Location: 3160 Steeles Avenue East, Markham
I mentioned recently that I generally prefer checking out restaurants I haven’t tried over revisiting ones I have. There are, however, exceptions to that rule, such as: Shiso Tree Cafe, a restaurant that fuses Japanese and Italian cuisine with some seriously delicious results.
On this visit I had the shoyu mushroom spaghetti: “shimeji, enoki, king oyster mushrooms in mentsuyu butter sauce.”
It’s so good. It looks a little bit dry in the photo; a lot of the sauce is at the bottom of the bowl, but once you mix it up, it becomes creamy and amazing (and the sauce is rich enough to cling perfectly to the pasta — there wasn’t any left in the bowl when the spaghetti was done).
It has an incredibly satisfying buttery/savoury flavour, and the various types of mushrooms add a nice variety of textures and flavours. It’s a top-notch bowl of pasta.
It’s also an incredible deal; every pasta on their lunch menu costs twelve bucks and comes with a salad, soup, and a slice of garlic bread. The salad looks a little sad, but features a sesame-infused dressing that’s a cut above the standard Japanese-inspired salad dressing you’re expecting. The creamy seafood soup is rich, flavourful, and packed with tasty chunks of seafood — it’s way better than a free soup has any right to be. The garlic bread is quite tasty, too.
Location: 550 Highway 7, Richmond Hill
Sometimes, Asian desserts can be a bit of an acquired taste. With their emphasis on ingredients you don’t necessarily associate with sweets (like beans or tofu), unusual spices, and a very restrained level of sweetness, they can seem a bit odd if you’re not used to them.
If you are used to them, however? They’re delicious.
Sweet Turtle Desserts in the Times Square plaza in Richmond Hill is an absolute cornucopia of various Chinese puddings and sweet drinks (there are easily over a hundred items on the menu). I ordered the soya bean jelly with sesame, which is a creamy tofu-based pudding topped with a black sesame sauce.
The tofu itself is completely unsweetened, with a luxuriously silky texture but very little flavour. It doesn’t seem like much, but that silkiness is surprisingly addictive.
The black sesame topping suits it very well, with a nice hit of sesame and just enough sweetness to keep things interesting. It’s quite good.
Location: 3235 Highway 7, Markham
The Cups is a little dessert shop in the First Markham plaza that specializes in bingsu, a tasty Korean shaved ice dessert.
I generally liked shaved ice, though sometimes, it’s a bit watery. The Cups has a fairly ingenious solution for this issue: they use milk instead of water for their ice, which gives the dessert a much richer, creamier consistency.
I ordered the mango bingsu, which features mango chunks, cheesecake chunks, condensed milk, mango sauce, and whipped cream.
It’s quite good. The mango pieces are ripe and sweet, and the ice-to-stuff ratio is pretty much right on point. Plus, the aforementioned milk ice ensures that the whole thing has a satisfyingly creamy consistency.
On another visit, I tried the red bean, which features soybean powder, mochi cubes, almond flakes, red bean, and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I think I might have liked it even better than the mango, though the ice-to-stuff ratio was a bit off. It needed a bit more red bean (I don’t think there was any in the middle).
Location: 160 East Beaver Creek Road, Markham
Dragon Boat Fusion Cuisine is a dim sum joint that does well. We showed up at around 10:40 on a Saturday, and the place was seriously crowded. By the time we left, it was even more packed, with a crowd waiting for tables almost going out the door.
Eating the food, it’s easy enough to see why. Some highlights:
The char siu was sweet and incredibly tender.
These fried seafood-filled tubes were nice and crispy on the outside, with a fishy (but not overbearing) flavour.
The fried dough noodle rolls were probably the best version of that dish that I’ve ever had, with a surprisingly complex flavour and a very satisfying contrast of textures between the chewy noodle, the crispy fried exterior, and the soft interior.
I really should have taken a picture of the interior of these salted egg buns, because they were absolutely crammed with an oozy, sweet custardy filling.
There were only a couple of weak dishes — surprisingly, they were the dim sum standbys that you’d think they’d work especially hard to get right. The har gow featured an overly thick, almost gummy wrapper encasing overcooked shrimp.
And the pork buns featured a filling that tasted a bit too leftovery.
Still, they were only two mild weak points in a meal that was otherwise quite stellar.
Location: 3255 Highway 7, Markham
Though there are a ton of amazing restaurants in the First Markham plaza, you’re going to have a hard time topping Mei Nung Beef Noodle House, which specializes in Taiwanese beef noodle soup.
The beef and beef tendon noodle soup is where it’s at. You can choose from rice noodles, glass noodles, or homemade noodles, and the choice is clear — you’ve gotta get the homemade noodles. They’re thick and hearty, with an amazingly satisfying level of chewiness. They’re so good.
But then everything about this bowl is so good. The broth is ridiculous: it’s beefy, zippy, and immensely flavourful.
You think it can’t possibly get any better, and then you add a spoonful of their wonderfully smoky chili oil, and lo and behold — it gets better.
The chunks of beef are super tasty and enormously tender, though the tendons are the real star of the show. They’re so perfectly cooked that they’re essentially like meat butter. They’re soft and unctuous and amazing.
They’re also super tasty; they do an impressive job of absorbing all of the seasoning in the soup. They’re squishy, melt-in-your-mouth flavour bombs.
It all adds up to a bowl of noodle soup that’s easily one of the best in the GTA. I challenge you to find a substantially better bowl of beef noodle soup — even with a plane ticket to Taiwan.