Time winding down for Market Village
When you're an average Joe standing beside a celebrity, it's easy to understand why you end up being overlooked. This is exactly how Market Village would feel (if malls had feelings). It was originally built in 1990 to emulate the feel and design of country farm barns but has practically always been a small Chinese mall (which arguably renders its original concept irrelevant).
The erection of Pacific Mall in 1997 ended up diminishing this already-obscure shopping centre's significance even further, though it still attracts a steady clientele. These days, the mall complex sustains itself predominantly by drawing on its many restaurants that are located outside the main mall area.
Growing up, many of my friends identified Market Village as "the little mall beside Pacific Mall," often paying little attention to its actual name. This is unfortunate as the mall, despite its size and relative lack of major tenants, houses many gems that are worth visiting. In addition, there is now an additional reason for people to go visit Market Village: it's scheduled to be demolished to make way for a new Chinese retail complex called Remington Centre (which will be connected to Pacific Mall).
Oddly, although whispers about plans for the new mall have circulated since at least around 2010, nothing visible has been done yet. Presently, Wikipedia gives the most updated demolition schedule to be in late 2012. The time to visit this early 90's curiosity is quickly running out, so why not pay your last respects (maybe) by visiting some of these interesting spots:
One's Better Living (main mall)
This interesting department store (which presently has five locations in the GTA) had its humble beginnings at this location. Offering interesting Japanese household products and gifts ranging from unique neck massaging devices to those smiling kitten figurines with the waving arms you see in every Chinese restaurant, this store provides a lot of bang for your buck as many of the goods are very reasonably priced. The items are so unique and diverse that it's worth your time to slowly traipse down the aisles just to see what's on offer. You may just end up going home with a pair of super-comfy Hello Kitty slippers. Or back scratchers.
Green Grove Bubble Tea House (main mall)
While Pacific Mall next door may provide a lot of bubble tea stalls, you can only have a nice sit-down experience in this little tea shop within Market Village. Offering your usual assortment of fruit-flavoured milk teas with tapioca pearls along with healthier options such as the blooming flower teas, this place is a great place to stop by (complete with lovely décor reminiscent of a park) after your jaunt through the mall. I've always found the honeydew milk tea here to be one of the better ones, with just the right amount of sweetness, and is plain heaven when mixed with their thick cut condensed milk toasts.
Graceful Vegetarian Restaurant (outside mall)
One of the best dim sum restaurants in Toronto, this bustling spot is a favourite among many vegetarians, with their non-meat take on various traditional Chinese dishes. Flavours are generally a lot more subtle than mainstream restaurants, which allows you to slowly savour the delicate interplay between the fresh ingredients used in each dish. The smoked "duck" is really impressive, along with the "pork" shu mai dumplings. It goes without saying that their "actual" vegetable dishes are also highly recommended.
Great Khan Mongolian Grill (outside mall)
If this restaurant and Graceful Vegetarian Restaurant ever came in contact, the universe would probably implode. Great Khan provides a modern all-you-can-eat buffet style where you choose your own meat and sauce, while highly skilled chefs around a massive grill prepare them for you afterwards. With long buffet table selections to complement your meal, this place is impressively huge and is a must try for carnivores. I've found their lamb cuts to be a highlight and that the sauces (no matter which one I try) complement the meats beautifully. What's more, for a limited time they have slightly lower prices if you identify yourself as a light eater. A weekend AYCE lunch, for example, will only cost you just south of $13 while dinners will be just under $20.
Tung Tung Dan Quen King (main mall)
Located on the main corridor before the food court, this stall is responsible for the delicious baked aroma that you smell in the mall. Creating handmade egg pastries with a delicate and smooth taste, Tung Tung takes the blame for the countless children tugging at their parent's coat while screaming "Pleeeeasee??" as they saunter through the mall. An added bonus is that you can watch the owners making the goodies. It may not be as elaborate as Ding Tai Fung's dumpling-making, but it's still free entertainment while you munch away. The only downside is that the service can occasionally be hit or miss.
Food Court (main mall)
Completely renovated around 5 years or so ago, the food court is very bright, spacious, and feels a million miles away from the cramped feel associated with many downtown Chinese restaurants. Some of the highlights here include the seafood soup with pastry top offered at HK Express for around $4, and the always unhealthy-yet-delicious dishes, such as the pork chop with spicy salt on rice, at Top Worth (probably Market Village's answer to Canadian greasy spoons).
City Hollywood Café (outside mall)
If you ever wondered what a hardcore Hong Kong resident's take on Planet Hollywood would be like, then you've come to the right place. Opened at the height of its Western counterpart's popularity, this place is a great place to get Canto-Western cuisine, as covered in my previous post. The delicious ribs with black pepper sauce is a mainstay on my selections list whenever I visit, and you shouldn't miss the really cheap French toast. Coupled with the wonderfully kitschy décor of Cantonese celebrities adorning the walls, this place is both a feast for your eyes and your taste buds.
Curry's Art Store (outside mall)
I don't know a single art student (or art enthusiast) in the area who hasn't at one time or another gotten their supplies from this place. Part of an Ontario-wide chain of stores that also provides regular art newsletters, this location offers everything from brushes, easels, to canvases, many at prices lower than the bigger chains. The place also prides itself on its many art classes and the fact that most of its workers are artists themselves, lending the place a much more artsy atmosphere than its arguably more corporate-like competitors.
Market Village is located right next to Pacific Mall at 4390 Steeles Ave. East. Markham (at Kennedy Road)