Times Square in Richmond Hill
Times Square is the largest Asian shopping centre in Richmond Hill. Found at 550 Highway 7 East a few blocks west of the 404, it's a place I like to think of as Richmond Hill's answer to Pacific Mall. Built around 1995 in an architectural style that I would imagine was deemed futuristic 20 years ago, the mall has enjoyed steady, though hardly stellar, success. Many Asian locals see it as the go-to place for their shopping and dining needs, with the mall's expansive parking lot and sprawling physical layout are well-suited for the suburban lifestyle.
With a name as grandiose as Times Square, though, you'd think there'd be plenty of North American chain stores here. Not so. Just like every other Asian mall in the GTA, Times Square is composed primarily of independent shops and restaurants.
Here are some of my favourite places to visit at Times Square:
Richmond Court Restaurant
Taking up what feels like a quarter of the mall's ground floor, this large restaurant has it all. It serves Chinese cuisine, cha chaan teng snacks, dim sum, sushi (seriously) and even has a bakery. The pastel colours of its interior take me back to the 90s but this restaurant is a great place to sit back and enjoy some old-fashioned congee with crispy chicken on the side. The service can be hit-or-miss but there's a reason why this restaurant has been in business since '95. Be sure to try their pineapple bun (with butter of course!), an extremely cheap and satisfying snack at under $2 a pop.
With brand names like Chanel, Gucci, and Dunhill, Sophie has been a staple for many Asian ladies (and men!) looking for luxury brand items at reasonable prices. Apart from their large selection of accessories and skin care products, they also have brand-specific promotions throughout the year, and are a great place in the area to get pampered. Service is attentive with friendly staff only too happy to answer my personal styling questions whenever I'm looking for tips to look like a Hong Kong movie star.
No, the name of the restaurant is not the answer to the question "What happens to Gold after exercising too much?" It's actually a rather spacious and bright cha chaan teng, with European-style paintings adorning its walls. The menu here is packed with lots of daily specials such as the delicious and hearty fish fillet curry rice (with soup and a drink for $6). Located right across the parking lot from Richmond Court Restaurant, what better way to spend your Sunday morning than by eating a Western-Chinese breakfast while looking across the grounds at those eating a traditional Chinese one?
This small and unassuming new restaurant is the place to go to for hardcore Chinese snacking. The friendly owner here assured me that for Chinese purists, there is no better accompaniment when watching TV than a glass of cold Tsingtao beer and a handful of pieces of marinated spicy duck neck. Despite my initial apprehension, I tried said neck and am glad to report that the overall texture and flavour of this delicacy is not unlike smoked duck meat. GTOK also offers more mainstream Szechuan favourites such as spicy boiled fish (sui zhu yu) or spicy sliced beef.
A French-inspired bakery in the heart of Chinatown North? Why not? This small bakery offers a smorgasbord of French/European-style cakes and pastries made fresh on-site. Ruelo also serves afternoon high tea (just north of $15) complete with scones and cakes, all of which are delightfully light Asian takes on what are quintessentially European treats. Be sure to also try one of their many macaron options (the delightful Lychee Rose is my favourite). It truly is a rather interesting experience, and the recent opening of a second location near Yonge and Eglinton is a testament to the Time Square location's success.
Northern Dumpling Kitchen
Many have said that this place serves dumplings whose quality is only rivaled by First Markham's Ding Tai Fung and it's easy to see why. The xiao long bao (soup dumplings) are hand-made and very juicy with a delicious broth inside, while the onion pancake and sliced beef is tender and nicely balanced with the sweetness of the hoisin sauce within. All this for prices that are around $1-$2 cheaper than its fancier Markham counterpart. Also worth trying are their non-dumpling dishes. The crispy la zi ji (chili chicken) is a perfect illustration of what KFC's popcorn chicken SHOULD taste like, with its perfect mix of tender yet crisp meat with a slightly spicy coating.
Pun Cao Tong Herbal Tea & Desserts
Ever wondered what the Chinese had for dessert and late night drinks before the invention of bubble tea? While it may be hard to believe, Chinese desserts didn't always come in a tall glass filled with tapioca balls. Featuring a bright and cheerful interior alongside a rather formidable menu resplendent with options, this popular Times Square spot has provided me with a new appreciation for traditional Chinese desserts. In the mood for something warm? Try the simple and healthy stewed egg white with fresh fruit. Seating here is at a premium so be prepared to share a table with other customers.