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Restaurants

Is Salad King Overrated?

Posted by Tim / Listed on September 28, 2007 / review policy

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I've always been a fan of Salad King. I've lost count how many friends rate it as their favourite Thai restaurant in Toronto; and it's always packed every time I eat there. But on a recent visit I was less than overwhelmed with the food, and chatting amicably with the diners beside me at our long, steel communal table, I discovered they didn't feel their meal was anything to rave about either.

The dinner started out ok. We each ordered the Ton Yum soup ($2.95 - photo above) which I suppose is their version of the more traditional Tom Yum. This soup is hard to mess up and their's tasted fine. Not the best I've had - by far - but certainly passable. It's hard to mess up a soup with such simple ingredients although I'd personally prefer if they swapped the button mushrooms for enoki.

20070908_mangosalad.jpg Next, the mango salad ($4.75 - photo above). We should have ordered this for dessert. Instead of what we were expecting - sliced green mangoes, tomato, lettuce, cucumber with fish sauce, lime juice, palm sugar, peanut dressing (this is what it reads on the menu) - we were served sweet sliced, ripe yellow mango. Normally tasty on its own or in a fruit salad, ripe yellow mango just doesn't go as well with fish sauce. Very disappointing.

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For our main, we decided to share something called the Evil Jungle Prince ($6.25 - photo above). Now, I know what you're thinking. We deserve what we get when we order something with a name like Evil Jungle Prince. But I'm a big fan of stir-fried eggplant and the menu's description of eggplant, baby corn, peas, carrots, onions, chilli sauce, lemon grass, bamboo shoots and steamed rice seemed promising enough.

Unfortunately, as soon as the order arrived we knew we probably chose the wrong dish. As pictured above, the Evil Jungle Prince was swimming in a pool of liquid, and the veggies had shrunk so much that the dish looked simply sad and puny. Even the eggplant couldn't save it. Only a few scant pieces. The flavour, texture, substance - it was all MIA.

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With the soup, yellow mango, Evil Jungle Prince and a bowl of white rice behind us we still weren't quite full, so we ordered a couple of shrimp skewers off the menu of the day. Now perhaps at this point I was just looking for something to complain about - and, granted, each skewer was only a few bucks - but still, in the annals of shrimp skewers these wouldn 't get any marks for size or flavour. Definitely give them a miss.

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And with that, we decided our meal was over. But as I mentioned before, we did have a nice conversation with the couple beside us. They thought their meal was a bit hit and miss, but we both agreed (and based on my satisfying meals at Salad King before) that the best strategy is to avoid the rice dishes and go for the noodle ones. If I ever go back that's what I'll be sure to do.

Discussion

51 Comments

Jerrold / September 28, 2007 at 11:53 am
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Every tiem I go, I order the Penang curry. For $8, it's delicious bang-for-your-buck value. It's not fine dining, but it's satisfying.
Zorbs / September 28, 2007 at 12:21 pm
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I always order the Bangkok stir fry, chili level 5.
lachlan / September 28, 2007 at 12:32 pm
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Weak article. Salad King is amazing for it's price and my favorite place for thai in the city. But I'm sure if it was located on Queen West in a little narrow space with an extra $10 on every dish you would have said it was amazing. I smell a hater.
Tim / September 28, 2007 at 12:43 pm
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Like I said Lachlan, I've been there many times before and have always been a fan. I just don't think it is was it used to be and has gone down hill.
uwajedi / September 28, 2007 at 01:15 pm
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I wholeheartedly agree with you, Tim. I went to Salad King a couple weeks back while waiting for a film to be processed. I ordered spring rolls and the golden curry tofu.

I often wonder why some restaurants list appetizer/starter items only to bring everything to you at once. Salad King did this. The spring rolls were barely warm, leading me to believe that the two trips to the kitchen were combined for the staff's convenience.

The golden curry was overly sweet and not even my 5 chilies could mask that. The vegetable content was weak, with extra onions (I love onions, however) to make up for other vegetables of substance or colour. Amazingly, I even found a piece of chicken in my broth. Though I'm not a militant vegetarian, I think Salad King should be concerned that it happened.

To top things off, the <i>sticky rice</i> was, well, not the least bit sticky.

When they renovated, I feared things would go downhill. They had so much to lose other than their great food... the short chat with Linda at the cash, the camaraderie in deciphering the numbers called over the PA, in finding yourself a place to sit, in chasing extra glasses of water, in doggie bagging for yourself the leftovers from the Ponderosa-sized servings that would feed you into tomorrow...

Honestly, I miss the pink.

And to Jerrold... it may no longer be fine dining, but when I was a Ryerson student, I always felt well fed if I managed to eat to "The King" once a week.
Gloria / September 28, 2007 at 01:38 pm
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I think Lachlan is the hater. Queen West? Narrow little space? What?
louis papa / September 28, 2007 at 01:45 pm
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finally! I discovered this little dirty secret a while ago too, but have been too afraid to come out with it. good on you.

Salad King is overrated.

now don't get me wrong, it's good and cheap. on some days it's even really good. but people make it out to be mecca. it's not. there are very good, (read: much better) thai restaurants around town.

just sayin'
Cassandra / September 28, 2007 at 03:47 pm
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My Ryerson classmates and I have often popped in on a lunch break from a full-day class, eaten lunch and been out in under an hour -- even if it was packed.

A few weeks ago, it was a different story. It only took about five minutes for the three of us to be seated (upstairs, where we had never been before). That was the best part of our experience, though. It took almost 15 minutes for the waiter to show up and just take our drink orders. Then about another 10 for those drinks to appear and for him to take our food orders.

That was already half an hour eaten up. We waited another 20 minutes for the food and realised that we had to be back to class. We asked how long our food would be and if it was ready maybe we could get it to go. They said it would be at least another 10 or 15 minutes! We said we had to leave and paid for our drinks.

The waiter called the manager out and he yelled at us, saying how we can't just come into a restaurant and order food and then leave 20 minutes later. We explained how long we had waited to even place our orders and he yelled at us even more, so we just shrugged and walked out.

I think it'll be a long time before I go back there again. Sure it's cheap, but the service is terrible and clearly they don't want customers that bad if they're willing to yell at the ones who get fed up with terrible service.
ctl / September 28, 2007 at 05:46 pm
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I've found that the service at Salad King has gone waaaay downhill. I've been a loyal fan, especially of their seafood rice and thai isalmic noodles (which is not on the menu) but the surly, couldn't-care-less-if-you-never-came-back-here service we got the last few times we were there has definitely soured my love for this place.
jordan / September 28, 2007 at 08:55 pm
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About a five minute walk away: Golden Thai, Richmond and Church. <i>Less expensive</i>, pretty digs, incredible food, great service.
Zach / September 28, 2007 at 09:54 pm
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I used to love the Salad King (especially back when it WAS a whole dirty little hole in the wall), so I'm sad to hear it was no disappointing.

I haven't been in maybe a year or so, but last time I was there I got the yellow curry and it was the same as always (smaller since the renovation though).

This won't keep me away, but I'll be paying more attention next time I go.
Breanna / September 28, 2007 at 10:20 pm
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Unfortunately, I feel as though Salad King is comparable to a good indie band. When you discover first discover it, you feel like you discovered something amazing (and back when it was a little sh*t hole with yummy food I felt like I discovered something amazing). But then it gets renovated (or like an indie band, put on the OC) and then EVERYONE knows about it, it starts making money, changes their look and they start it ignore their fans..er customers.

In the end, Salad King is about getting people in and out and making money... if you want a first class meal with first class service, you have to shell out the cash. You don't go to McDonalds expecting a gourmet meal... you pay a couple more dollars for a meal at Salad King than a McChicken Combo.
Breanna / September 28, 2007 at 10:22 pm
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Whoops typo. *When you first discover it
jerold / September 29, 2007 at 04:14 am
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salad king is overrated, the service is incompetent and downright rude on many occasions with the attitude to boot. This city can do so much better. Please set a higher standard for yourself Toronto. This sense of entitlement should not be tolerated!
jordan / September 29, 2007 at 11:48 am
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Ah, the attitude at Salad King is still nothing compared to the attitude at Fresh!
Michael / September 29, 2007 at 01:23 pm
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Sad to say that it has gone downhill. I used to put this place on a pedestal. But yes after the reno it was slowly deteriorating. My visits became far from frequent and sorry to say I'd rather go down the street to Spring Rolls. A restaurant looses its touch when the food isn't consistent. Nothing is more disappointing than hyping a friend up to the place to have the place serve you shit on a plate. I remember back before the reno the dishes were amazing everytime you went. I hope someone at Salad King reads this article and starts cracking the whip. Bring back the good food!!!!!
Diana / September 29, 2007 at 01:57 pm
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PROPS to you for coming out and saying this to all the legion of loyal blind Salad King Fans. SPRING ROLLS is wayyyyy better for Thai/Pan Asian Cuisine. My fav though has got to be the one on Major Mackenzie and Bayview in Richmond Hill - Restoran Malaysia. TONS of food super cheap.. and it tastes amazing.
AT / September 30, 2007 at 08:52 pm
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Last winter I took a friend from out of town there, telling him how great the food is. Well, the food sucked and I ate my words (couldn't resist that pun - sorry).

The mention of Spring Rolls makes me shudder. It's the McDonald's of Thai food.

My favourite Thai restaurant is Just Thai on Church St. just south of Wellesley.
Michael / September 30, 2007 at 09:34 pm
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Yeah Spring Rolls is the Mc'ds of Thai Food and there are definitely alot more Thai restaurants to choose from. But back to the topic of Salad King, it has pretty much pushed me away towards places like Spring Rolls and Green Mango. Which is sad because Salad King was the KING of it all. I hated on Spring Rolls for the longest time, but when SK flopped I was forced to try different places.

I say we start a petition to bring back the Real Salad King!!
Ron / July 12, 2008 at 05:50 pm
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I was seriously underwhelmed by my first and last visit today. I had the Ton Yum soup as well; flavorful but generally unsatisfying. The Pad Thai dish featured reheated (or at least chewy) shrimp. The dish itself was rather dry and uneventful. So for this meal of meh with the tip for the waiter who probably didn't string two words together in one sentence came to $15.00, in which I could have fed myself and a friend for the same amount at any other of my favorite lunch spots. This place serves no better than what you find in most food courts. Don't waste your time here people, there's got to be better Thai somewhere in Toronto.
Jackie / July 24, 2008 at 05:02 pm
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Salad King HAS gone downhill. Every time I go there I hope that the last experience was just a bad day. Unfortunately, it is now consistently poor food. It used to be good before the reno and now it sucks. I am sad. I miss the Thai Fried Rice.
Elly / September 4, 2008 at 01:31 am
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Salad King has gone way downhill since the reno. It seems more like the Ryerson cafeteria than the fun little restaurant it used to be. The last time I was there with my wife, I ordered a few dishes including the green mango salad. They brought a shameful dish of sweet yellow mango on tomatoes which looked like hell. I asked the server to take it back and exchange it for something else, but he **refused**. Our discussion got increasingly heated until he threw us out of the restaurant!!! No problem.
Joe / September 10, 2008 at 12:27 pm
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I went there September 2007 and the service was lousy, the manager was rude.

After placing my order, a waitress came by with a small soup. Having had complimentary soups at other restaurants i proceeded to drink my soup.

The manager comes out and berates me for a $1.50 soup. I explain that he has a staff and service problem and that i have received free soups from other restaurants and i will not pay.

He did not budge, finally i tell that i was will to purchase a helluva lot more than a 1.50 soup and he agrees to wave the price.

I order my food and he gets mad that i order the hottest number for pad thai.

I insist on my order. The food was a 6/10 but i will definitely not go back.
Joe / September 10, 2008 at 12:29 pm
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"he gets mad that i order the hottest number for pad thai."

Should read "he gets mad that i ordered the hottest number for pad thai"
Laura Bee / September 11, 2008 at 06:55 pm
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I don't get it, I don't get it, I don't get it.

Having heard over and over again how lovely salad king is, I tried it. The first time, my partners green curry did not arrive for 45 minutes after which we had to leave and take it as takeout with us. I ordered one of my usual favourites elsewhere, a pataya salad, which was tasteless and boring at salad king.

The second time I went for a golden tofu curry, and again was disappointed with the overload of sauce and small portion size (well, there was lots of rice and very little of the topping).

The food is crappy, and the noise levels are ridiculous. Why is this so well loved? There are surely better places to get cheap thai food in Toronto.
ThaiCanuck / September 26, 2008 at 06:44 pm
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Terrible place to have your meals here. Poor service. The foods is far from being authentic. The place has a cafeteria feel. I also don't get it why it is busy and popular.
Wendy / October 15, 2008 at 07:16 pm
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On October 14, 2008 my 16, daughter and I drove from Mississauga to Toronto to eat at the Salad King, We were really excited because we had never eaten at The Salad King before and were really looking forward to dinner. We arrive at the restaurant at 4:00 pm and requested a table for 3 because my eighteen year old daughter who was already in Toronto was joining us for an early dinner. The hostess then proceeded to a table at the back of the restaurant close to the wall with an air vent directly over it. I requested another table because it was cold. To my shock, and amazing surprise the hostess told me I could not have a different table because the other table in entire the restaurant had a bigger table and they were meant for 4 people not 3. However 4:00 pm not being the dinner hour there were 8 empty tables without reserve signs on, which I believe she could have seated us at, without trying to excuse the Salad King Restaurant for having small tables. If Salad King has a reserve policy, then the hostess should have informed me of it. I was truly surprised at the level of customer service of this hostess. Whatever happened to pleasing the customer? So they will retur bringing their friend and family members? My dinner plans was interpreted by me walking out of the Salad King Restaurant a very disaffected customer. I will never attempt eat at the Salad King Restaurant again.
Quads / November 12, 2008 at 10:40 am
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Okay, so after a few months of exile (I was thrown out for daring to complain about the mango salad), I found myself in the area and decided to try again. Big mistake. Ordered the Green Curry Chicken. They brought me the curry in a dirty bowl (stained with another sauce from another dish). The curry tasted as if it came from a large container pre-cooked hours ago and slammed in the microwave. Dry chicken and nowhere near the heat level I ordered. To top it off, it was barely warm. As well the manager just stood at the front of house and scowled at everyone. Never, ever, ever again. They don't need our business.
horizoncarrie / June 20, 2009 at 11:57 pm
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This place is amazing. i have never had any problems for the last three years that i have eaten there. now Linda has her own place in the new Don Mills mall complex. a little pricey for Thai food, but the atmosphere is super nice!

Foodhogger / July 14, 2009 at 10:31 am
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Haha, my sentiments exactly! Salad King is totally overrated...the dishes were all watered down and bland.

My review sounded pretty much the same as this...it was a very disappointing meal.
Foodhogger / July 14, 2009 at 10:33 am
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Haha, nicely said! My experience exactly! We ordered the Evil Jungle Prince too and what a joke! It was all very disappointing..the dishes were watered down and bland, to say the least!

jtoller / August 5, 2009 at 03:10 pm
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Stay away from this place! People rating this place as good must not know what Thai food is supposed to taste like.

Try Mengrai instead.
Frank / September 16, 2009 at 05:23 pm
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Went to SK this weekend. Haven't been in years after finishing university and moving further west. Was really feeling like this old stand-by and decided to go after a day of shopping. Well, the place looks nice. The food left me wondering if this is what it was like when I used to frequent there as a cash strapped student. Which is exactly what the place was full of, students and a few middle aged TAs. Ordered the Cashew Nut Chicken, Shrimp Pad Thai and Rice. The pad thai reminded me of why I always disliked their mushy tofu pieces, the cashew nut chicken was a plate full of watery something or other with a few morsels of chicken and some shriveled up veggies. I will not fully knock this place as it is obviously still doing great business, this is definitely a case of location, location, location. I won't be making another SK visit any time soon. But, if you're craving some Pad Thai and you're in the area, it's not so bad to just hit the spot. Otherwise, not a crowd pleaser for us.
Brian / October 5, 2009 at 12:56 pm
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I've been to SK a couple of times and found the service excellent, very polite and very efficient. Sure, you have to wait in line and the noise level is ridiculous but you kind of know that going in, right? As for the manager, he does stand there and scowl like an idiot but I like to think he is scowling at the help. He was always on the hostesses a** about something as she sat people during a busy supper hour on the Nuit Blanche night. Maybe someone should speak to whoever owns the place.
As for the food, I had the Thai Fried Rice which had lots of shrimp and was kind of tasty, dense but tasty. My family had noodles and loved them, both bean and rice noodles as I recall. I'd go back anytime, no problem. I think if you treat the waiters/waitresses with respect, you'll get better service. I've found them to be polite, helpful and patient.
Jack the Food Expert / November 8, 2009 at 05:25 pm
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Now, I do agree with the majority, here, that Salad King is over-rated. It is not even authenthic Thai food.
I live don the street from the location and started frequenting it after they renovated. It used to be good in the beginning but now sad to say, has gone down hill.
Oh, I really hate the loud cafeteria noise that is constant.
Well, on 2 occasions now:
Ocassion 1
We got there at 5pm(2 of us), we placed our order, always the same, 2 Bangkok Stir Fry's.
At 5:20, I called the waiter over and asked what happened to the food, his attitude, nothing I can do, but I can get the manager. So I asked what could the manager do? No one cam back so I proceeded to walk to the cash where the skinny tall manager wors, probably related to Linda.
His attitude, I am sorry but we are shortstaffed in the kitchen, we will get your food. The food finally arrived at 5:40pm.
Ocassion2:
3 of us arrived and the same skinny manager proceeded to show us to the cafeteria seating, I of course cannot set at those darned tables as most of t has a divider between and my leg is bad. There was a table next to the cash for 3 so i asked if we could sit there and the manager just pointed and walked away without saying anything at all.
Boy oh Boy, service and food quality is ceucial for the existence of any restaurant. I hope they clean up their act.
me / March 31, 2010 at 07:37 pm
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Perhaps everybody has a point.

Still a mean chicken penang. It's the only thing i order from salad king and it's not disappointed.
Me / June 17, 2010 at 01:00 pm
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Uhm, everywhere you go, they will always use button mushroom for Tom Yum soup... :s
Me / June 17, 2010 at 01:00 pm
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Everywhere you go, button mushrooms will always be used for Tom Yum soup. Unless you make your own Tom Yum soup.
arti / August 4, 2010 at 03:15 pm
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i really miss salad king and spicy tofu!
caroline / August 11, 2010 at 04:09 pm
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anyone know when salad king is re-opening? i am in dire need of some panang shrimp curry & golden chicken curry!! i don't normally eat in, so no comment on the service... i just get take out and eat at home.
Carrie / September 10, 2010 at 10:43 pm
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I found the new salad KING !!!
Real Thai / March 23, 2011 at 04:18 pm
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Not authentic at all!!! There's never bean sprout or a whole slice of lime in authentic Thai Tom Yum soup!!! If you like their style of food, you might as well go to your local Asian grocer and pick up your own sauces on the shelf (ie. Tom Yum paste, or Pad Thai sauce).
Tanya / March 23, 2011 at 04:23 pm
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This is NOT authentic Thai food, and definitely not Thai taste. You might as well go pick up your own Tom Yum paste or Pad Thai sauce at an Asian grocery store. There is never bean sprout in Authentic Tom Yum soup!!!
Julla S / May 5, 2011 at 01:31 pm
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Most definitely one of the most OVERRATED resto's in the city. It is OKAY food and decent price....but I will never get why so many people obsess over it. There are a SOOO many other (more delicious) thai places in the city.
ding dong / May 6, 2011 at 05:53 pm
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good.. keep the negative comments coming! stay away, people! I don't like waiting in line!!!
Audrey / July 16, 2011 at 11:30 am
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The new Salad King is a heart break :( their padthai tastes like baby vomit and their mango sallad was amature - I mean how the heck do you mess up mango salad? I'm not sure if it's because they spent all their money on trendy decor and thus were not able to hire people with even the most basic cooking skills but.... Me and my lady friend have never returned a meal - until we visited what was once a staple to our student life.

PLEASE DON'T GO THERE ~ our city has lots of great spots (just nothing around Young and Dundas [aka] Tacky Times Square)
Restos in TO / October 10, 2011 at 12:38 pm
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We don't think so at all. How can a place this affordable and flavourful be overrated? It may not be the best thai food in the entire city, but don't you love a bunch of places that aren't the best in the city at what they do?

Check out our full review Salad King below. We like it...a lot.
http://restosinto.tumblr.com/post/10600554999/saladking

Cheers,
Restos in TO
mirta / January 29, 2012 at 07:42 pm
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I have no idea what was the old SK like since we moved here 1.5yr ago but we have been at many places of this price range since and this is my go-to every saturday, for either bangkok stir fry or hot thai noodles.
I have one complaint, once I ordered a medium hot meal and they made it much spicier so I could barely eat, when the guy asked if all was ok and I told him, he just shrugged. We left no tip and didn't come back for few weeks but we're going again every week now and apart for occasional oscillation in spicyness, we both love it! Food is warm and there in 10 minutes or less, our glasses get refilled with water as soon as they're half full and the prices are great so I'll just be ordering mild in the future, true, last time the girl gave my husband my mild dish and his medium to me but that's a minor objection :)
Steve / April 20, 2012 at 02:15 pm
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We went there yesterday and our waiter took our order, delivered our food, and then dissappeared. We found him sitting in the corner counting his tips. We had to wait quite a while for someone to refill the water, and we actually had to ask the hostess who was kind enough the give us a refill. When it was time to pay, our waiter was once again nowhere to be found. We had to ask another waiter who told our waiter and he eventually bought us a bill, and we obviously didnt leave a tip.

He started getting offensive and telling us that the bill doesnt include the bill, then he had the nerves to follow my pregnant wife and I down the stairs to hassle us about not leaving a tip after providing us with horrible service. If you want a tip then stop counting tips and get off your lazy ass and actually do some work.

Terrible service, wouldnt recommend this place at all.
Nick b / November 15, 2012 at 08:04 pm
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Worst, blandest interpatation of Thai food ive had, crowded because most Torontonians dont know real thai food, a lot of Thai restaurants are not even run by Thais... (Thai community in TO is fairly small).. Green papaya salad was the worst I've ever seen, no dried shrimp, no spice, only lime juice...., then the chicken with basil used Italian basil.... Won't be going back. There are a few good Thai places in TO, this ain't one of them..
Matthew T / July 30, 2014 at 09:28 pm
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They seem totally unable to accept that some people are allergic to peanuts. I love Thai food, and everyone warns me against it, which is why I'm perfectly clear and up front about my allergy. They say they understand, they smile and nod and tell me they'll explain it to the chef, but two for two times, the meal still comes back laden with peanutty bits.

Again, I know Thai food is big on peanuts. But this is literally the only restaurant that has ever told me they would hold all peanut products, and then not do that.

And they did it twice. [second chance, right? no third.]

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