Hidden pleasure: a delectable Cantonese dining experience that’s off the foodie radar
Hidden pleasure: a delectable Cantonese dining experience that’s off the foodie radar
By Renée Suen | August 10, 2009
By Renée Suen | 08/10/2009
It’s easy to see why
John’s Chinese Barbecue Restaurant has remained off the foodie radar: it’s hidden in a Richmond Hill strip mall and has a non-descript English name. Most come for the Chinese rotisserie—a joy in itself—but adventurous diners tend to order John’s Cantonese fare. Several notches above the usual cloying sauces and greasy batter of take-out Chinese, we dig into expertly rendered versions of chow mein and stir fry, as well as Guangdong delicacies like braised sea cucumbers, Peking duck and dried abalone (dining with a Chinese-reading companion helps decipher the specials and menu). In this slideshow, we tour an authentic Cantonese meal that’s worth a drive north of the 407.
John’s Chinese Barbecue Restaurant, Unit 10, Chalmers Gate 11, 328 Hwy. 7 E., Richmond Hill, 905-881-3333.
9200 The meal starts with a complementary turren of the daily soup, a traditional broth made from simmering various ingredients over a fire for hours. Pictured here is the pork rib and fuzzy gourd soup, but after several visits to John’s, we’ve sampled a spare rib version, with watercress and apricot kernels; an interpretation with winter melon and pork; and even a milky rendition, with fresh fish, tofu and bok choy. https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/johns-bbq-soup.jpg https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/johns-bbq-soup.jpg https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/johns-bbq-soup.jpg 580 309  https://torontolife.com/food/hidden-pleasure-a-delectable-cantonese-dining-experience-thats-off-the-foodie-radar/slide/johns-bbq-soup/ johns-bbq-soup 0 0
9196 Unlike many downtown charcuterie-centric restaurants, eating offal is incredibly affordable at John’s, where it is served served lou mei style (dim sum-like appetizers). We grudgingly pass over the pigs ears and duck tongues to sample this dish of goose livers simmered in a seasoned soy-based liquid. The Chinese foie gras is warm, tender, firmly textured and with an incredible umami punch. https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/johns-bbq-gooseliver.jpg https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/johns-bbq-gooseliver.jpg https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/johns-bbq-gooseliver.jpg 580 387  https://torontolife.com/food/hidden-pleasure-a-delectable-cantonese-dining-experience-thats-off-the-foodie-radar/slide/johns-bbq-gooseliver/ johns-bbq-gooseliver 0 0
9197 No visit to John’s would be complete without ordering the resto’s signature “king of all char siu.” This is not a standard barbecued pork shoulder (John’s uses a rare cut that requires an extra 15 minutes of preparation time, resulting in a sweet, tender creation that’s worth the higher price tag). We find ourselves fighting over the crunchy caramelized ends, although the candy-like braised soy bean nuggets at its base are equally addictive. https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/johns-bbq-kingofbbqpork.jpg https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/johns-bbq-kingofbbqpork.jpg https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/johns-bbq-kingofbbqpork.jpg 580 461  https://torontolife.com/food/hidden-pleasure-a-delectable-cantonese-dining-experience-thats-off-the-foodie-radar/slide/johns-bbq-kingofbbqpork/ johns-bbq-kingofbbqpork 0 0
9195 Fresh live seafood is a specialty in Cantonese cuisine. Steamed and dressed lightly with hot oil, soy sauce, ginger and scallions, the white fish bursts with natural sweetness. Done well, the flesh should be opaque, start to flake and barely adhere to the spine. John’s accomplishes all three flawlessly. https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/johns-bbq-freshfish.jpg https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/johns-bbq-freshfish.jpg https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/johns-bbq-freshfish.jpg 580 435  https://torontolife.com/food/hidden-pleasure-a-delectable-cantonese-dining-experience-thats-off-the-foodie-radar/slide/johns-bbq-freshfish/ johns-bbq-freshfish 0 0
9201 Stir-fried egg white cloud: crispy chow mein noodles are accompanied by stir-fried scallops and egg whites in a dish that is as fluffy as the name suggests. Raw egg yolk sits atop the mountain of protein, creating an unctuous sauce when broken. https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/johns-bbq-stirfry.jpg https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/johns-bbq-stirfry.jpg https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/johns-bbq-stirfry.jpg 580 543  https://torontolife.com/food/hidden-pleasure-a-delectable-cantonese-dining-experience-thats-off-the-foodie-radar/slide/johns-bbq-stirfry/ johns-bbq-stirfry 0 0
9199 Cantonese roast duck is served Peking style with steamed Mandarin pancakes, shredded scallions, julienned cucumbers and carrots. The crackling amber skin is a joy, especially when served with moist breast, crunchy vegetables, hoisin sauce and soft wheat pancakes in a DIY Chinese taco. https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/johns-bbq-pekingduck.jpg https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/johns-bbq-pekingduck.jpg https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/johns-bbq-pekingduck.jpg 580 387  https://torontolife.com/food/hidden-pleasure-a-delectable-cantonese-dining-experience-thats-off-the-foodie-radar/slide/johns-bbq-pekingduck/ johns-bbq-pekingduck 0 0
9202 This lobster stir fry is an excellent illustration of how John’s avoids oily batters and congealed sauces. It comes with ginger, green onion and the lobster head (just for fun). https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/johns-bbq-stirfrylobster.jpg https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/johns-bbq-stirfrylobster.jpg https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/johns-bbq-stirfrylobster.jpg 580 370  https://torontolife.com/food/hidden-pleasure-a-delectable-cantonese-dining-experience-thats-off-the-foodie-radar/slide/johns-bbq-stirfrylobster/ johns-bbq-stirfrylobster 0 0
9198 Spongy bamboo fungus are braised with shiitake and straw mushrooms, then ladled over firm broccoli florets and bok choy. https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/johns-bbq-mixed.jpg https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/johns-bbq-mixed.jpg https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/johns-bbq-mixed.jpg 580 387  https://torontolife.com/food/hidden-pleasure-a-delectable-cantonese-dining-experience-thats-off-the-foodie-radar/slide/johns-bbq-mixed/ johns-bbq-mixed 0 0
9194 Tender sliced beef is seasoned, stir-fried with minced garlic and served over a bed of al dente Chinese broccoli. It’s an authentic rendering of a take-out standby. https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/johns-bbq-beef.jpg https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/johns-bbq-beef.jpg https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/johns-bbq-beef.jpg 580 387  https://torontolife.com/food/hidden-pleasure-a-delectable-cantonese-dining-experience-thats-off-the-foodie-radar/slide/johns-bbq-beef/ johns-bbq-beef 0 0
3 thoughts on “Hidden pleasure: a delectable Cantonese dining experience that’s off the foodie radar”
Toronto Life continually mines chowhound for stories. At least more gwailos will know about it now.
Would you please include the dish names as they appear on the menu and price approximations? Would be helpful to recreate the visual experience.
Been there the second time. Overall conclusion = Horrible service + obnoxious attitude. No Integrity.
I had a debate whether I should give this place I try given the overall rating is 3 but decided to go given certain recent comments are pretty decent. I understand for Chinese restaurants, even if you made reservations, if there are many people waiting, 10 to 30 minutes wait is reasonable depending on how many people are in line. Totally understandable. But how this place handles the reservation and the obnoxious attitude toward their customers, it completely unbearable. If you like to be treated like shit, please definitely visit this place. They will be able to give you the shittiest experience thta you will ever want.
I called well in advance at noon to reserve a dinner table for 6:30pm. The manager/owner (an old lady) told me the reservation at 6:30pm is no problem, but maybe better to come at 6pm. It should mean that the if you come at 6:30pm you will have a table, but if you can come earlier, that will be great.
I arrived at 6:10pm and she told us we need to wait for a bit. Another table is almost done and ready to pay the bill. That’s fine. We were early and were willing to wait for a bit. At that time, there is one big table already empty (fit 10 ppl). It is probably for another reservation so we won’t blame them on that. By the time it is 6:30pm, there is still no table. In fact, I don’t see any table that is ready to leave. Everyone seems to just order their food and well in the way eating. I don’t see a table that she referred “will leave soon”. So i asked again. She told “yes, you will have a table soon.” I called to reserve a table but no table is reserved. what kind of reservation system is this?
Then we finally saw another table paying off their bill and thinking this is the table she referred to so many times that they are waiting for them to pay the bill. The customers left and the table was clear. She still didn’t ask us to sit in. She said that table is not for us. There is no one waiting at the restaurants except us. I don’t understand why she didn’t give us that table. So I try to calm down and be reasonable thinking we only have 4 people and the table can probably fit 6 to 8, that’s probably why they didn’t want to give it to us, although the group who just sitting at that table had 5 people, including 1 kid.
10 minutes after, another table left and she told us again we will have out seat soon and pointing at that table that this is ours. I was thinking, finally we have a table. People are leaving and cleaning up. When it is done, she told us that this table is not for us AGAIN. No one is waiting for any table in this place except for us the whole time. She kept telling us we will have a table numerous time and even pointing at the last table that it will be ours, but lied when the table is ready.
We ended up waiting for 50 minutes and although there are THREE EMPTY tables the whole time, they did not ask us to sit in the place and kept telling us the next table is ours. I do not understand this logic at all.
Their attitude is terrible. The owner/manager even yelled at me saying those tables are not for us when there are clearly empty tables. Their service is terrible. They don’t treat customers with respect at all. I don’t understand why people would go to this place to pay them to let them yell at you and treated with no respect.
I normally let bad service restaurants go and typically a patient and reasonable person, but this owner’s way of doing business is extremely horrible that I have to leave a comment. Thanks for reading this story and I hope you get something out of this.
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