Posted by: jyunbugspeaks | December 30, 2011

Toronto’s Hong Kong Diners: The forgotten gems

Now don’t get me wrong,  Toronto does have great diners everywhere but I bet most people don’t know about the Hong Kong diners that have been around North York and Richmond Hill areas for years.  These places are either very bright and noticeable or tucked away in a small mall that only locals know about.  It’s these local places that show case cheap but extremely tasty dishes that I want to talk about. Here are three locations that I recently visited:

HK diner #1: YOGI Noodles – this place is located in suburban mall called Bamburgh Circle. The exact address is 165 East Beaver Creek Road, Richmond Hill 905-709-3338. Most of these locations are very clean and well-lit. This place is no exception, even their washroom is very clean and tidy.  The ladies will greet you when you enter and they will speak to you in Cantonese, Mandarin or broken english, in that order. They do have an extended menu booklet but majority of the deals are printed on the place mat in front of you so browse through it as it is in both english and chinese. The best thing about HK diners is that most items on the menu are dirt cheap. I mean I ordered a Spaghetti Bolognese with milk tea drink included for $5.99?!  Also the portions are huge! Not as big as US sizes but still pretty big.  My gf got a fried rice dish with smoked salmon, bbq eel and crab meat ($6.99) that was so big she had to doggie bag the rest. Also her friend got 2 pork chops with rice and veggies for $7.99. All meals come with your choice of hot milk tea, hot lemon tea or hot soya milk. It will cost you $0.50 more if you want it cold (?).  As you can see from the menu above there are quite a few selections to choose from. They even have combo meals for two, three and up to 6 ppl. I would highly recommend this place if you are a few days from payday and are strapped for cash. 10 bucks will be plenty for you to grab a hearty meal and have plenty of change left to grab a chinese bun or dessert at the asian grocery store next door.

HK diner #2: Leslie Cafe – this small but quaint little joint is located in a strip mall near Leslie and Finch (149 Ravel Road  Toronto, ON (416) 493-4933). Again I did not know about this place until my gf’s good friend told us about it and said it’s a place we should check out. It’s not easy to find as the more popular restaurants like Congee Wong and a grocery store are found on the main street. Like Yogi’s Noodle this place is clean, bright and the food that we ordered was pretty tasty for what we paid. I got the 2 massive pork chops Malaysian style (ginger and fish sauce) with rice and drink for $6.99. What a bargain! The chops are moist and the portions were very generous. My gf got baked  fish in a white cream sauce on rice while her friend got pan-fried monk fish over a creamy mushroom sauce with veggies. Both were under $7.99! All meals come with drinks and just like other places they charge $0.50 if you want it cold.  With a small side of chinese broccoli in oyster sauce the total bill came out to under $30 for 3 people and that’s including tax and tip! Another great thing about these places is that their menu is quite extensive, over 30+ items in several categories. Plus they have daily specials and tea time (2:30pm to 4:30pm) where everything on the menu is $7.99 or less.

HK Diner #3: Phoenix – This is the last stop on this culinary crusade of HK diners. This place is located at 7155 Woodbine Ave Markham, ON L3R 1A3 (905) 940-1113 just off of Hwy 404 (exit Steeles Ave) and north one set of street lights. You can’t miss their green restaurant sign. When we arrived on a Saturday during “tea time” the place was packed. I’ve read other reviews and they were correct in that the service is sometimes suspect at best. You have to be aggressive in claiming your spot in the que. Don’t assume because the lady sees you that you are guaranteed a number…no no no you must grab her attention and get a number or you will be pushed aside by other Asians who know the drill. Sigh, this is unfortunately the way it is for this place. The prices are higher than the two above diners but it still generates good food and apparently this place makes the best Hainanese Chicken in town. Well I’ve had it at a few locations and I must admit it is quite tasty at this location. Chicken is moist and the rice is infused with chicken broth so that it is a nice yellow colour.  I enjoyed the chicken the most when liberally doused with the ginger and garlic sauce that it came with. My gf had the egg sandwich and she claims it to be one the best tasting egg sandwiches she’s ever had! I was skeptical because to me, an egg sandwich is an egg sandwich however this one is a little different. The egg is lightly beaten and mixed with milk and cooked a la crepe style. This style of layering is what makes the sandwich so light and fluffy and oh so tasty! Kudos to Phoenix for making a simple sandwich into a heavenly delight!

So on a final note, hopefully you will take some time and head up north to Markham. Try and check out one these wonderful hidden gems that may appear on the outside to be unspectacular but instead of looking past it, take a chance and see for yourself what you have been missing.

Cheers!

If you have been to any of these places or recommend a place please don’t hesitate to comment. Any feed back would be greatly appreciated.

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