12 of our favourite Chinese restaurants in the GTA
The late-night stalwart is the perfect place to bring Spadina strip newbies. Each shrimp and pork won ton packet, served in a delicate broth, is laced with ginger for heat and bok choy for crunch. The mapo tofu brings silky cubes of tofu simmered in a rich minced pork sauce, then stir-fried with tongue-tickling Sichuan garlic chili sauce.
Chung King Garden
4394 Steeles Ave. E., Markham, 905-513-8788.
The main attraction at this Markham restaurant is the terrific Peking duck, which comes in an elaborate three-course feast. First up: slices of succulent breast meat surrounded by crisp skin and sided with cucumber, scallions and hoisin pancakes. They’re followed by a pleasant celery-heavy stir-fry, accompanied by lettuce leaves for wrapping, and finally a rich soup made with the remaining meat. Cash only.
During the day, this Bay Street spot buzzes with diners, heads bowed over dainty platters of fancy dim sum. For dinner, a thick soup of crab and fish maw benefits from a splash of red wine vinegar and dash of white pepper. A conch dish features the thinly sliced shellfish, stir-fried with sugar snap peas and a briny XO sauce. The crisp curls of conch are a sweet foil to the grassier vegetables, but the precious portion is lost in the sea of green. Both dishes are a shocking contrast to a heartier plate of tender morning glory, stir-fried with rich preserved tofu. Ginger juice steamed milk is a wobbly eggless custard that doubles as a digestif.
20 Gibson Dr., Markham, 905-604-8680.
Visitors wait half an hour for the roast duck at this Markham restaurant. It’s one of the best birds in the GTA: crackling skin shields ribbons of juicy meat to pull apart and wrap in thin pancakes freighted with toppings both typical (cucumber and hoisin) and novel (granulated sugar). Sichuan-inspired dishes include basa fillets boiled until tender and served in a tureen of hot oil chock full of dried chilies and Sichuan peppercorns.
The place is so generic looking that it’s easy to pass over, but Dumpling King is worth a visit for the solid bargain-priced food. Fresh, filling hand-made dumplings include a juicy shrimp, leek and lamb version. Plump pork dumplings swim in a won ton soup fragrant with cilantro, but the stock lacks flavour. Green beans sautéed with shrimp and minced pork are a tasty but greasy treat.
John’s Chinese BBQ
328 Highway 7 E., Unit 10, Richmond Hill, 905-881-3333.
In-the-know diners visit this family-run Richmond Hill restaurant for one thing: sublime, off-menu char siu barbecued pork. A premium cut of belly is flash-roasted under the broiler until the meat is supple and smoky, then it’s slathered in a sweet honey sauce. The other dishes are just as good, such as crisp-skinned Peking duck and springy jellyfish noodles in sesame oil. Cash only.
Polished tables, blonde wood panels and herringbone floors give Kwan Dim Sum a trendy vibe. Northern Chinese hot-and-sour soup has pronounced spice and tartness, dotted with ample nuggets of seafood. Peking duck brings shards of crispy skin, morsels of juicy flesh and oversized, herb-flecked crêpes. From the dim sum menu, homemade har gow and siu mai—delicate bundles of steamed shrimp and pork, respectively—are sensationally moist and flavourful.
This restaurant has been a top downtown destination for upmarket Chinese food since 1995, thanks to a mix of culinary traditionalism and excellent ingredients. The signature chow mein is a mainstay for good reason: the noodles are light, subtle, plentiful and topped with sizeable shrimp, whitefish and whole bok choy. The best dish of the night combines soft beef tenderloin with scallions and a glorious hoisin sauce.
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Susur Lee’s restaurant in the Soho Metropolitan Hotel serves dim sum all day, along with a menu of larger dishes designed for sharing. He stuffs dumplings with a subtly floral mince of asparagus and lobster, and fist-size, fluffy bao with a slow-braised, peppery beef. He deep-fries cubes of crab and tofu, and dresses them in a rich mushroom and hoisin sauce. Thick rings of squid come coated in “golden sand”—a Hong Kong–style seasoning that hits the ideal balance of salty and spicy. Closed Monday.
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Chef Zhen’s dumpling house remains Toronto’s go-to destination for Beijing and northeastern Chinese comfort food. Whole-wheat dumplings are packed with ginger-laced pork and sweet, vinegary strands of pickled cabbage. Toothsome wheat noodles are served in a hearty broth studded with sweet ground pork, earthy oyster mushrooms and buttery braised cabbage.
In East Chinatown’s bright, airy room, the ceiling dances with glass chandeliers and Chinese lanterns as regulars dig into their favourites and servers help newcomers navigate the mainly Cantonese menu. Mu shu pork is an impressive DIY feast of stir-fried shredded pork, cabbage and egg studded with crisp wood ear fungus—it’s delicious packed into thin flour crêpes and streaked with hoisin sauce. A cornstarch-thickened black bean sauce cloaks sweet B.C. clams. Saucy spare rib is under-seasoned but tender, perched on a tangle of crunchy chow mein noodles. A complimentary red bean soup is a sweet, simple way to end the meal.
Inebriated late-night crowds have made Taste of China a post-bar destination, but it’s worth a visit for sober dining as well. The extensive menu offers group-friendly options, like a large platter of luscious deep-fried crab claws. Smoky wok hei flavours waft from stir-fried chicken covered in sticky ginger and onions. Tank-fresh sea bass is simply dressed in green onion, cilantro and soy sauce.