Where DaiLo’s Nick Liu eats in the burbs
We're going on the road with some of the city's top chefs to explore their favourite suburban restaurants. Nick Liu tells us what's good in Markham and Richmond Hill
Nick Liu, executive chef at DaiLo, is a suburban kid at heart. He makes weekly trips to Markham to visit his parents, who also happen to be DaiLo’s dumpling suppliers—they make hundreds of the little bites in their home kitchen every week. We tagged along during one of his dumpling runs and ate spectacular noodles, wontons and crab.
“This is one of the few places that does hand-pulled noodles à la minute—I get mesmerized watching the cook make them. I tried to make noodles myself at the restaurant before we opened, but I couldn’t get it right. It’s a lost art.”
Favourite dish: Dan dan noodles. $5.97 (includes a cup of soy milk).
Tasting notes: “The soup and toppings are good but it’s the noodles that are really incredible—they almost sparkle when you chew them. I like soup noodles in the morning, especially if they’re a bit spicy. You can’t get anything like this downtown for under $10.”
Other recommendations: “The spicy ground pork noodles. They’re the same noodles but they come topped with spicy ground pork and shredded cucumber instead of in the broth.”
4300 Steeles Ave. E. (Pacific Mall), 2nd floor, Unit F5, Markham, 905-947-8463, sunskitchen.com.
Ding Tai Fung
“This place isn’t connected to the official Din Tai Fung [in Taiwan], but it’s also not a rip-off. The only thing they do the same is the xiao long bao (Shanghai soup dumplings). I’ve been coming here since it opened because I grew up just across the street. On Sundays, my family and I would walk over and eat here.”
Favourite dish: The Shanghai wontons. $6.99.
Tasting notes: “You don’t often see wontons served dry and tossed in a sauce like this—they’re usually in a soup. They remind me of my grandmother’s dumplings; it’s a nostalgia thing. Shanghainese cooking uses lots of black vinegar and spicy oils, and I find it heavier and meatier that a lot of other Chinese cooking.”
Other recommendations: “People always order the xiao long bao, but I like the pork patties stuffed with glass noodles and Chinese chives. They’re crispy, and the folds in the crust are beautiful. I’m also a huge fan of the beef tendon. My grandmother used to make this all the time; she’d braise gristly bits of leftover beef and compress them to make these little chewy snacks. Here, they’re marinated in chili oil, garlic, fresh chilies and a bit of black vinegar.”
3235 Hwy. 7 E. (First Markham Place), 905-943-9880.
Shanghai Dim Sum
“Last summer, Christine Cushing told me this place had the best xiao long bao she’d ever had. I tried it out the next day and yes, it was the best I’ve had in Markham. It’s how a good xiao long should be.”
Favourite dish: Xiao long bao with snow crab. $7.99.
Tasting notes: “A sign of a good xiao long bao is the amount of soup in the dumpling: there should be a lot. The dumpling wrapper should be thin—and look at the number of pinches around the top. They say the more folds in a dumpling, the more skilled the chef. When I made dumplings at the restaurant, there were large folds and maybe eight creases. Here, there are probably 50.”
Other recommendations: “The chili hot pot cauliflower. A lot of their noodle dishes are really good, too.”
330 York Regional Rd. 7, Richmond Hill, 905-597-5866.
“My parents have been coming here for a long time and they used to bring friends from out of town. It wasn’t until three years ago that I finally went with them to try this crab and, oh man, ever since then I bring all my friends here. This is always the last stop on my food tours—it’s the star attraction.”
Favourite dish: Whole curry crab. $MP.
Tasting notes: “The meat is fresh and juicy—you can watch them pluck the crab right from the tank. The Singaporean-style yellow curry hits the perfect balance—it’s not super spicy but you still get a bit of heat. It’s so flavourful. I always get it with naan, but I see a lot of Vietnamese people order it with a French loaf.”
Other recommendations: “The steamed clams and the pineapple fried rice are pretty good, but to tell you the truth I really just come here for the crab. When you have something like this in front of you, why taint it with another dish?”
330 Hwy. 7 E., Richmond Hill, 905-731-7221, saigonstartoronto.com.