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Lee Chen Asian Diner

Posted by Staff / Reviewed on November 9, 2011 / review policy

Lee Chen Asian DinerLee Chen Asian Diner feels like Asia done Western-style and is a convenient spot to grab good-sized portions of Chinese chow near Yonge and Bloor. When we arrive at 8pm, the newly opened restaurant isn't very busy. The space feels shiny and pristine and lacks character. But our waiter is friendly and makes some helpful recommendations from the menu.

Drinks here include a small selection of domestic and imported beer ($4.49 Heineken bottles) and four house wines ($3.99 per glass). Not bad. There's also an extensive selection of smoothies and bubble tea.

Lee Chen Asian DinerWe begin with a classic Chinese appetizer - hot and sour soup ($3.99). The soup comes piping hot, and the mushrooms, egg, and tofu all taste delightfully fresh. But the broth could have used a lot more oomph. I like my hot and sour broth to punch me in the face, but all this soup wanted to do was talk about feelings.

Lee Chen Asian DinerNext, we try the shrimp lettuce wraps with sauteed shrimp, green peas, carrots, and pine nuts ($4.59). When the dish arrives, there's no pine nuts. Crispy noodles have been substituted instead making the dish a little dry. The presentation is thoughtful, however, and all the components are crisp.

Next up, the recommended signature soup dumplings ($5.99) and steamed veggie dumplings ($3.99). The soup dumplings are a fun and tasty textural exploration: little sacks of dough contain a gelatinous meaty broth that explode in my mouth when I bite into them. The vegetarian dumplings are uninspired, but a good slathering of nameless red vinegar sauce brings them to life with a pleasant sour zippiness that makes us pucker.

Lee Chen Asian DinerFor our entrees, we share the Thai green curry with shrimp and vegetables ($13.99) and Chinese broccoli with oyster sauce ($10.99). The Chinese broccoli is a hit. The oyster sauce compliments the greens perfectly which aren't overcooked, as Chinese broccoli often tends to be.

Lee Chen Asian DinerThe Thai curry dish is fine but not fantastic. The sauce seriously lacks spice and is a little bland. The shrimp is plump and juicy, but overall this dish is not worth the money.

Lee Chen Asian DinerLee Chen's Asian Diner knows what it wants to be and nails it: westernized Asian cuisine. In other words, nothing too offensive or adventurous where flavours are concerned. But what Lee Chen thinks we want is what slightly misses the mark here. We covet authenticity and all of its idiosyncrasies - heat, tang, and zest. Now will someone please pass me the hot sauce?

Lee Chen Asian DinerWriting and photos by Carli Vierke

Discussion

16 Comments

Maria / November 9, 2011 at 12:08 pm
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Sounds like Spring Rolls.
The website doesn't have hours of operation, is it open for lunch?
Cynthia / November 9, 2011 at 12:09 pm
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"I like my hot and sour broth to punch me in the face, but all this soup wanted to do was talk about feelings."

Hahahahaha.
aces / November 9, 2011 at 01:15 pm
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Maria- I work nearby and it is always open for lunch. Still haven't tried it though
Peter / November 9, 2011 at 04:27 pm
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Sounds like the reviewer really likes strong taste, I personally like subtle taste where I can taste the natural flavors of the dishes more. I have been to Lee Chen several times for lunch so far and have enjoyed all the different dishes I've tried. Their specialty is Northern Chinese Cuisine, so stick with those dishes for authenticity.
duncan / November 10, 2011 at 01:35 am
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uhh.... 10.99 for chinese broccoli and oyster sauce?!
jp replying to a comment from duncan / November 10, 2011 at 10:17 am
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peeves me to see expensive chinese food. this place will shut down faster than it would with cockroaches in the kitchen on inspection day...
Nick / November 10, 2011 at 04:23 pm
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Though overpriced and the quality isn't always there it is probably the best option for decent Chinese in the area. Service was a bit of a disaster but they may be getting things sorted after a quick opening.
Jay replying to a comment from jp / November 10, 2011 at 06:51 pm
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Why can't chinese food cost more? You think it's easier to cook? Obviously you've never been to this place, it's one of the cleanest restaurants in the city noob
duncan replying to a comment from Nick / November 10, 2011 at 10:45 pm
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I do agree with Nick that there isn't really any choice for Chinese in the area. I live in this area and am really looking for some good quality, decently priced Chinese but there's nothing worth going to so I always end up going to Spadina. Won't even bother trying this place as I pretty much know what to expect of it.
duncan replying to a comment from Jay / November 11, 2011 at 12:44 am
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It's clean because they just opened a couple of weeks ago... 10.99 for broccoli is a ridiculous price. pretty sure you're the noob to chinese food and chinese restaurants
Jay replying to a comment from duncan / November 12, 2011 at 02:25 am
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Your trying to compare price to Spadina? Ummm you do realize anything in Yorkville would obviously cost more. Cost of doing business is more. Sounds like your a noob to basic economics son
Mackenzie Chiu / November 22, 2011 at 12:20 am
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Been here.. nothing like Spring Rolls... More like a dummied down Asian Legend... I went 2nd day of opening and I would describe it as a satisfactory Asian flavor craving satisfier... soup dumplings IMO are better here than at Asian Legend too...
brian / November 24, 2011 at 01:28 pm
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Just had an AWFUL meal, horrible service, horrible food. The wait took forever, food came entrees first, apps last. Waiter finally gave up trying bring bill and told us to just go to the cash and tell them our table number. Tables around us fared no better. Brutal, never again.
Christine / December 8, 2011 at 10:47 am
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Hmmm it seems like the author of this article tried the wrong dishes at Lee Chen. Their bubble tea is by far the best bubble tea I've ever had my entire life (and that's saying a lot because I've gone all around the world to sample some). This place was opened by a Taiwanese couple who also happens to own other restaurants in and around the GTA that are all really successful. This place has SUPERB beef noodle soup (authentic Taiwanese flavour) and amazing chicken nuggets. But these chicken nuggets aren't like the ones you'd get at McDonalds. They`re super crispy and they taste like something you'd get from an authentic Taiwanese night market.

The author obviously went and ordered the wrong things here. Why would you go there and order a Thai curry dish? Be more adventurous. The lackluster food you ate was a result of your poor decision making.
D33ps / March 27, 2013 at 03:21 pm
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Shrimp and Chicken Shao Mai was awesome, as was the Sesame Pillows Filled with BBQ Chicken. However, the broccoli and beef dish was so bland that my friend I didn't touch it after our first bite.

The service was terrible. Our waitress was in a rush to leave as her shift was ending and relentlessly came over to take our orders when we were still perusing through the menu, then asked us to pay our tab during dinner because she was rushing out.

I would not go here again.
Jenny / November 22, 2013 at 11:41 pm
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Their xiao long bao tastes like what you will get in Taiwan, very authentic. However, the foods are overpriced.

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