Where chef Nuit Regular eats eggs Benedict, Peking duck and butter tarts in East Chinatown
“I’m grateful for my staff—we’re like family,” Nuit Regular says. “Many people who started with us are still with us. I cannot believe it’s been 12 years since we opened our first Sukhothai.” Since then, Nuit and her husband, Jeff, have built a restaurant empire that includes three Sukhothai locations, plus Sabai Sabai, Pai and Kiin—and yet she has somehow managed to find the time to write a cookbook, which is slated for release this fall. “It’s pretty much a love letter to my children,” says Regular. “They’re young and not interested in what mom does, but one day I hope they will be. If and when they are ready, this will be here for them. It’s not only a cookbook, it’s a travelogue and journal about my upbringing in Northern Thailand, my move to Canada and my unexpected culinary journey.” (Regular originally trained to be a nurse.) Her cookbook will feature nearly 100 recipes with photographs scattered throughout, including some she snapped herself on trips back to Thailand. She also just completed filming the first season of Food Network Canada’s Wall of Chefs, where she was one of the judges. Despite all of these accomplishments, there’s still one item on her to-do list that she’s keen to check off: get her driver’s licence. “I don’t even have my G1!”
Fortunately for her, East Chinatown is easily accessible by transit. This area was home to Regular and her family for over a decade, as it was pretty close to their first Sukhothai location at Parliament and Queen. That restaurant has since been turned into a commissary kitchen and no longer serves the public. “We’re using it as the mothership where staff from all of our restaurants can meet up, do recipe testing and ensure we’re all on the same page. While it’s incredible to grow our brand, maintaining high standards of quality will always remain a priority,” she says. Although they now live in East York, Regular and her family can still be spotted shopping and dining in East Chinatown. Here are some of her favourite places to go in the neighbourhood.
265 Broadview Ave., 647-351-7645, ladymarmalade.ca
Regular has been a fan of this east-end brunch favourite since forever, following them from their former spot Queen East to their new, much bigger location on Broadview. Despite the extra space, weekend lineups are still out the door but they move more quickly than before. “When we were first starting out in the restaurant business, this place was our saving grace. We worked long hours and never had time for nice sit-down dinners, so brunch would be our sort of date night. Those were moments to breathe, relax and spend time together.”
Go-to item 1: Huevos Migas with scrambled eggs, sausage, cheese, pico de gallo, brown rice, black beans, sour cream and organic corn chips.
Tasting notes: “Since I was born and raised in Thailand, I always have to have rice at breakfast. I crave it all the time and will enjoy it three times a day. So when I first came to Canada, Lady Marmalade was not only close to our original Sukhothai location, but thanks to this dish, I was able to satisfy my early morning rice craving.”
Go-to item 2: Crepe Croque Monsieur stuffed with ham, cheddar and scallion cream, topped with two poached eggs, wilted spinach and served with a side of home fries.
Tasting notes: “Jeff and my daughter are big fans of this dish. And I’ve come to love it just as much, because when we often order a bunch of dishes and share everything. I really appreciate how delicate and thin the crepe is, but it’s still sturdy enough to hold the filling.”
Go-to item 3: LM Signature Eggs Benedict with brie, avocado and bacon.
Tasting notes: “This is the perfect combo of textures and tastes—just like with Thai food, where you need to be thoughtful about balancing sweet, sour, salty, creamy, spicy and bitter. They’ve nailed it with the combo of these elements. Then there’s the wonderful contrast of textures: the softness of the English muffin, crispiness of the bacon and the funky-sweet brie.”
Go to item 4: Bread pudding of the day with fruit, berry coulis and Ontario maple syrup.
Tasting notes: “I never wait until the end of a meal to have dessert. Instead, I go back and forth between all of the sweet and savoury dishes. It’s my secret game plan, because this way I can best strategize what I should save room for. I really enjoy the vibrant, summery taste of the blueberries and citrus drizzle. It’s a much needed bit of sunshine, especially in these colder months.”
Wok & Roast Chinese BBQ Restaurant
349 Broadview Ave., 416-461-3811, no website
“I’ve been coming here for about three years now. With the steam table and takeaway counter, it’s the perfect place for me to pick up a few takeout dishes for my husband and kids. I’ve also dined in, too, sometimes with my husband and kids and sometimes with staff for our family meals. Despite the language barrier, the owner and his staff will always go out of their way to greet me with a warm and welcoming smile. They also remember what my go-to dishes are.”
Go-to item 1: Peking duck with pancakes.
Tasting notes: “This is a must-have every single time I’m here. That crispy skin is unbeatable and super addictive. For the first wrap, I’ll eat it with one piece of duck, a bit of hoisin sauce, some spring onions and celery. Halfway through eating, I’ll add another piece of duck. At this point, I dip the duck wrap in their house chili oil. I love spice but I always like to first try a dish in its original state before playing around with flavours.”
Go-to item 2: Stir-fry duck meat with snow peas, carrots, celery and minced garlic.
Tasting notes: “The chef here just cares a lot. Oftentimes with this dish—especially when you order it elsewhere—the meat has not been pulled from the bone. But here, the work has been done for you, leaving you with nothing but tender duck meat. Even the celery stalks have been trimmed and stripped of their fibrous exterior. Honestly, it’s these little things that make me love places like this even more.”
Go-to item 3: Roasted pork.
Tasting notes: The staff asks Regular if she wants her pork cut to be lean or medium fatty. Her answer: fatty. “Fat is flavour, and you run the risk of getting dry meat with leaner cuts. Look at that glistening fat layered with the sweet meat and the crispy skin—it just coats your mouth. And each piece is perfectly seasoned. I usually order a pound or two of this to-go, bring it home and serve it with my jasmine rice and my house spicy sauce on the side—that’s my tasty Thai hack. If there happen to be leftovers, what I’ll do is pan-fry the pork to revive its crispy texture and then stuff a bunch of pieces inside a sweet Filipino bun. My husband is Filipino-Canadian and this is one of his favourite breakfast dishes.”
Go-to item 4: Gai lan.
Tasting notes: “It’s a simple dish but it’s so flavourful. What I love most is that when I eat it, it feels like I’m closer to my mom, who passed away four years ago. I learned to love veggies when I was young, thanks to my mom who had a beautiful backyard garden in Thailand where we’d grow a variety of greens, including gai lan. Its bitterness acts as a palate cleanser between the richer dishes—but it also stimulates your appetite, so you can go back for more food.”
Go-to item 5: Stir-fried snow pea leaves with minced garlic.
Tasting notes: “This is one of my husband’s favourite dishes, which is why I always order it. I enjoy its soft texture, sweet taste, and saucy profile—it’s an ideal accompaniment to a big bowl of rice.”
Gerrard St. Bakery
635 Gerrard St. E., 416-465-4567, @gerrardstbakery
“I discovered this neighbourhood gem one day when I was walking home after grabbing vegetables from a nearby supermarket. Now, whenever I pass by, I always stop in to pick up a box of treats.” Formerly known as Andrea’s Gerrard Street Bakery, the space has been under new ownership for the last two years. The bakery sells a bunch of sweet and savoury things, but has a reputation for making some of the best butter tarts in town.
Go-to item 1: Butter tarts.
Tasting notes: “The ratio of crust to filling is perfect, and the filling is set at the bottom but just a touch runny. And that aroma! It just adds to the overall experience. The thing I love most about this tart is that the filling is actually salt-kissed, so it’s not cloyingly sweet. It reminds me of Thai desserts because salt is such an essential ingredient to balance out all the sugar.”
Go-to item 2: Pecan tart.
Tasting notes: “The shell walls are thicker and taller, and I really like the textural folds to the dough. And they’re very generous with the toasted pecans too, which give the dessert a crunchy and nutty profile. It also balances out the creamy and sweet filling.”
Go-to item 3: Chocolate Chunk Cookies.
Tasting notes: “These are such a classic treat. My pro tip is to call ahead, so you can time your arrival and get them fresh from the oven.”