What’s on the menu at Sunnys Chinese’s brand-new patio in the old Cold Tea space

What’s on the menu at Sunnys Chinese’s brand-new patio in the old Cold Tea space

Including dan dan noodles, boozy slushies and bubble tea cocktails

Name: Sunnys Chinese
Contact info: 60 Kensington Ave., 437-833-5798, sunnyschinese.com, @sunnyschinese
Neighbourhood: Kensington Market
Previously: Cold Tea
Owners: Big Hug Hospitality
Chefs: David Schwartz, Braden Chong, Joseph Ysmael

Sunnys is a great space for a night out—sitting shoulder to shoulder with friends in the cozy, dimly-lit room, sipping baijiu cocktails and eating shrimp toast and mapo tofu.

But we’re in the midst of a hot, sweaty Toronto summer, and the sun doesn’t set until late in the evening. So the Sunnys team decided to expand the space with an, ahem, sunnier locale, reviving the back patio that once belonged to Cold Tea.

The Cold Tea patio lives on through Sunnys Photo by Ryan Nangreaves

It’s the perfect place for an impromptu hang. Stop in after a Pedestrian Sunday and snag a no-reservations-required seat to slurp up noodles and sip on baijiu slushies (yes, baijiu slushies).

While Sunnys is still in its freshman year, chef-owner David Schwartz’s Kensington Market roots run deep. His grandparents moved to the market a half-century ago, running P&K Poultry out of what is now Tom’s Place. Schwartz’s elders grew up selling chickens on Baldwin.

Related: Backyard hideaways, rooftop lounges, a 2,000-square-foot all-season terrace and more of Toronto’s best new patios

Chef and owner David Schwartz
The food

To start off, the menu leans in to snacks—quick, cold dishes to fill up drinkers or fuel passers-by. Think chewy dan dan noodles, skewers of charcoal-grilled chicken wings, Magic Chili (a version of bar nuts) and high doses of mala, the tingly, numbing sensation Sichuan chili provides.

Other dishes pull inspiration from the set menus that Sunnys serves on Mondays. Once a week, the team tests out new dishes or explores different diverse culinary regions within China through an ever-changing tasting menu. (Remember Sunnys’ hyper-localized pop-up tasting menus during the pandemic? They’re back, and this time served on plates, not in takeout containers.) The most successful dishes from each Monday will live on through the patio menu.

Sunnys’ version of bar nuts: a big bowl of fried chilis scattered with peanuts and sesame. It’s a popular street snack in Chongquing and great to munch on with a cold beer, according to Schwartz. $8


For the Strange Flavour Eggplant, the veggie is fried, marinated and served cold, coated with a healthy dose of doubanjiang (a spicy fermented soybean sauce) and sprinkled with bamboo and fried taro. “It’s got some beautiful, interesting textures,” says Schwartz. $18


Sunnys Chinese
“One of our chefs, Eddie, came up with this super nostalgic chicken wing,” says Schwartz. “New Orleans–spiced chicken wings are super popular in China. It’s something that’s not really Chinese but is so Chinese to Chinese people.” While Schwartz won’t disclose the exact spice blend these wings are coated in, expect influences from China by way of New Orleans, which in this case means a good hit of paprika, soy, honey and other, secret spices. $14


These saucy beef ribs are braised, chilled, fried and then tossed in a sticky-sweet, lick-your-fingers-good sesame-soy sauce. $40


Sunnys Chinese
Coming soon to your Instagram feed: shots of these slurpable spicy dan dan noodles, finished in true Sichuan style with lots of house-made, mouth-numbing chili oil, ground pork and a crumbling of peanuts. $19
The drinks

The drink list captures the essence of summer: there’s a slushie machine operating at full force and plenty of refreshing summer sippers on offer. But what makes the beverage program particularly interesting is the integration of Chinese ingredients. Daiquiris get their sweetness from hawthorn berry, the rum punch has undertones of black tea, and quenching highballs incorporate bunches of bright tapioca spheres for a bubble tea effect. Other than cocktails, there are plenty of cool, crisp drinks of the beer and wine variety, including a collaborative sour pomelo beer made just for Sunnys by Burdock Brewery.

My Friend Boba is a boozed-up bubble tea made with gin, Martini Fiero Aperitivo and—at the bottom of the glass—passionfruit tapioca balls waiting to be sucked up through the extra-wide paper straw. $18


The Jiu Niang Piña Colada slushie is a new summer essential with a twist. “Instead of pineapple, we use jiu niang, a fermented sticky rice,” says Schwartz. “It’s a very nostalgic flavour for some people.” $19


The Hawthorn Strawberry Daiquiri is a boozy version of Haw Flake candies, with hawthorn berries added into a strawberry daiquiri and sent through the slushie machine. $19


South of the Clouds is everything you want from a summer patio crusher: rum, fresh mint, grilled peach. Remy Martin infused with black tea brings down the sweetness and adds a little tannic backbone. The name is a reference to Yunnan, the Chinese province where tea is said to have been born. $19
The space

It’s a patio, so expect everything you could want from al fresco dining (plenty of sunny seats, no reservations required) tucked away in a private courtyard and removed from the hustle and bustle of Kensington Market.

The energy of Cold Tea lives on, but instead of dance-on-the-table DJ sets, Schwartz and his team are bringing in guest chefs for collaborations, hosting barbecues (for which they’ll haul out a big Japanese konro grill) and, yes, okay, they will turn the patio’s cold-pass kitchen into a DJ booth now and again.