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Restaurants

Phoenix Restaurant

Posted by Beverly Cheng / Reviewed on July 20, 2009 / review policy

 phoenix restaurant toronto Phoenix restaurant is where my family congregates for a Hong Kong café food fix and a cool glass of their signature milk tea. Whenever we head out for a casual family meal, we join the masses at one of Phoenix's two locations in Markham. Their newest location just off of the 404 on Woodbine showcases a fresh new look, while maintaining a no fuss approach to simple, satisfying dishes.

Chicken balls, General Tso, Sweet and Sour pork and other items invented for western palettes are thankfully omitted from their extensive menu. Instead, there are innovative items bearing curiously familiar names: Spaghetti Bolognese, French toast, waffles... Welcome to western food adapted to Asian taste buds! A hodgepodge of colonial influences left an imprint on contemporary Hong Kong culture, where any typical café's menu can be easily interpreted as a history textbook. Pantry staples like ketchup, Worcheshire sauce, condensed milk, cheese and creamed corn are the base sauces of most meat- centric dishes, paired with Chinese fried rice or noodles.

Owners Carmen and Jack Lee care about what their patrons think. The couple often poses as common diners to ensure that the service is up to par and take note of any comments or criticisms that they overhear. With a third location in the works, Carmen continues to abide by the restaurant's original vision: "I want to make a place where everyone feels comfortable. Where we can attract fickle youngsters with new fusion dishes, as well as appeal to more mature clientele by offering fun twists on classic favourites," she says.

On this particular visit, we predictably stick to tradition. Curry beef brisket ($8.50) is deceivingly simple, but complex in flavour. Slowly braised, the brisket is remarkably tender. The creamy red curry has a nutty quality from their fragrant house blend of spices and complimented by the buttery coconut milk base. phoenix_curry.jpg

Similarly, the steamed chicken ($7.95) is a straightforward, yet highly sophisticated dish. The juicy, de-boned thigh paired with minced ginger oil and spicy fish dipping sauce is served with rice steamed in chicken drippings and accompanied with a broth made from the bones. Every part of the chicken is used in this dish. While it's starting to feel a bit like an episode of Iron Chef, every bite makes me reexamine the subtle flavours of chicken all over again. phoenix_chicken.jpg

I am slightly deterred by the fluorescent colour of the Tomato Pork Chop Baked Rice ($7.50), but the taste is authentic. The crisp pork chop over a bed of perfectly fried rice and doused in tangy tomato sauce brings back fond memories of sweltering summer nights in Hong Kong, spent at the air conditioned corner café. phoenix_porkchop.jpg

Our family lunch slips into afternoon teatime (served between 2:30- 4:30PM daily). Thick, golden French toast with a choice of coffee or tea is a bargain at $4.75. phoenix_tea set french toast 1.jpg phoenix_tea set french toast 2.jpg A "Pineapple" bun, named for the cross hatching over the top crumbly layer, is toasted and sandwiches a generous slab of melting butter ($3.50 including coffee or tea).

I shell over the extra dollar to have my milk tea iced. Arriving in a frosted glass, this smooth blend of black tea with evaporated milk is tart, yet oh so creamy. Traditionally, it is believed that the potent tea is boiled and strained through a lady's pantyhose to achieve silkier results. These days both the kink and stockings are set aside, but the tea blend used is still a highly guarded secret and varies greatly. phoenix_milk tea.jpg
As for my parents final verdict: My Mom is convinced that the same items taste better at the original location, while my dad seems content in familiar surroundings, as he quietly sips his iced coffee while glancing over his newspaper. Me, I'm just happy to be having good food with a side of family bonding time. 2009-07-15 phoenix_sign.jpg
Photos by Stephen Chung

Discussion

11 Comments

jack / July 20, 2009 at 11:10 am
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the "pineapple" bun with butter looks yummy and so does the hainanese chicken with rice...
Ryan / July 20, 2009 at 11:27 am
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Nice review. I'll have to try it out to see just how sophisticated steamed chicken can be.
Vince / July 20, 2009 at 12:22 pm
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Not sure why you would eat "steamed" chicken when Phoenix's signature chicken dish (full page advertisements in their menu) is hainanese chicken rice, very popular dish in South East Asia, but somehow adapted into the menus of many HK cafe style restaurants.. both here in TO and in Vancouver...

The hainanese chicken rice are not "steamed".. but boiled with stuffed herbs and spices and shocked in ice water.. the process is repeated several times to achieve a gelatinous quality between the skin and meat... read the limited info found in the wikipedia entry below.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hainanese_chicken_rice

I'm really questioning the quality of blogTO food entries lately.. quality has been slipping. If you're going for the average joe reporting back to other average joes about things they don't fully understand.. you hit the nail on the head... but then again, this is not the 1st post where reader post complaints.
Beverly replying to a comment from Vince / July 20, 2009 at 01:40 pm
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Hi All,
"Steamed Chicken" is the English name listed on Phoenix's menu. I agree that it is slightly misleading... However, for those who are not familiar with Hainanese chicken, they can simply refer to the menu. Thanks for sharing & the link to wikipedia.
ayl / July 20, 2009 at 01:43 pm
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From the picture, it looks like a 'hainan ji fan' (hainan chicken rice) to me. I enjoyed the variety of dishes ordered (brick toast looks delicious!), liked the photos and find the article absolutely worth a read in the restaurant section. Really, getting snobby about HK cafes? No thanks.
Jae replying to a comment from Vince / July 20, 2009 at 09:08 pm
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Don't you own an apology Vince?

How about bitching with a little bit of class next time?
jesse / July 20, 2009 at 09:14 pm
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Apparently Ketchup is Chinese in origin, coming from a fish sauce, approximately called, ket-siap, and was brought to the west in the 19th Century. ;)

Derek / July 20, 2009 at 11:21 pm
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Informative review, great pics. Thx!
ronnie replying to a comment from Vince / July 22, 2009 at 01:41 am
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There's a way to correct people without being such a dick, dick.
restaurant reviews / August 15, 2009 at 02:17 am
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The hainanese chicken rice are not "steamed".. but boiled with stuffed herbs and spices and shocked in ice water.. Everything is yummy!!!
an angry customer / August 30, 2012 at 06:30 pm
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the service at this restaurant (woodbine location) is the WORST i ever have in toronto!!

no apologize after pouring the whole cup of milk tea on my handbag and even blamed on me saying i was the one who mess up their place, what the!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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