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Where Lai Wah Heen chef and owner Canson Tsang gets to-go noodle dishes and steak dinners

We’re asking Toronto chefs and restaurateurs which takeout dishes have been getting them through the pandemic

Where Lai Wah Heen chef and owner Canson Tsang gets to-go noodle dishes and steak dinners
Photo courtesy of Canson Tsang

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Canson Tsang has been working in Toronto’s restaurant scene since the ’90s, but he’s never experienced anything like the challenges this pandemic has presented. Although it’s been tiring, Tsang remains hopeful. “We’re trying our best to succeed and overcome—putting in more hours even during this low-season, finding time to spend with our families and just hoping for the best,” he says. “We need to come together to really tackle this virus that has upended our entire city.”

Because he can’t currently welcome diners into his restaurant for banquet-style Cantonese meals, Tsang has pivoted to offer Lai Wah Heen meal kits. Fans of Tsang’s cooking can now learn to make eight of his specialities, including sweet and sour pork with pineapple, three-cup chicken and lobster with ginger and scallion. For those who want Tsang to do the cooking, they can order from Lai Wah Heen’s takeout menu (dim sum included) available for delivery on UberEats, DoorDash and F.O.D. Tsang hopes that these new initiatives will allow customers to continue to support the restaurant, so he can in turn provide work for his staff. “It’s the only fighting chance that we have to make ends meet, and allow our city to continue to be vibrant and keep our diverse food culture alive.” When he’s not busy running his own restaurant, Tsang likes to help support other businesses with takeout orders. Here are a couple of this go-tos.

 

Swatow

309 Spadina Ave., 416-977-0601, swatowrestaurant.com

“I’ve been eating here since I was a high school student. I went to Easton High School on the Danforth, and the highlight of my week was taking the TTC streetcar for a 30-minute ride to Chinatown to have a bowl of simple wonton mein. I am originally from Hong Kong, and it was a slice of home at a time when I felt very alone. I’d eat noodles, spend half the day at a local bookstore nearby reading magazines from Hong Kong to catch up on news and feel connected to my hometown. I believe Swatow has been open since the ’70s, and for good reason because it continues to serve up affordable fare and big portions—which is an appealing combination to nearly everyone.”

Go-to item 1: Wonton mein and fish ball mein Tasting notes: “You can’t go wrong with either of these. They’re each minimalist in ingredients yet incredibly savoury, and perfect to warm the soul—particularly in the winter. The super-clear broth they come in also has handmade noodles and the perfect crunch from some vegetables.

Go-to item 2: Beef brisket Tasting notes: “The brisket is slow-cooked which results in such a tender texture. And I believe the jus is made with a very thickened broth cooked with beef bones, which adds to the overall depth of flavour.”

David Duncan House

125 Moatfield Dr., North York, 416-391-1424, davidduncanhouse.com

“This restaurant has a special ambiance, and I’m a real carnivore so I love a steakhouse. I actually proposed to my wife here years ago and we have been going back for anniversaries and other special occasions. As a restaurant owner, I don’t often have the free time to indulge, but we always go at least once a year–with the exception of last year.”

Go-to item 1: French onion soup Tasting notes: “This is the perfect appetizer. The thick and gooey melted cheese on top of the soup reveals a rich broth underneath. It’s so intense that the flavours tender to linger on your palate long afterwards.”

Go-to item 2: Ribeye steak Tasting notes: “It’s just so succulent. The team here cooks steak perfectly, so you get that perfect char and unctuous meaty flavour. I highly recommend you order it medium-rare.”

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