Ten Mile Aroma
Ten Mile Aroma, a quiet, simple eatery in the heart of Toronto's Chinatown, is entered by red carpet. Appropriate, not because a fancy, haute interior greets my entrance, but because this little restaurant is authentic Northeastern Chinese cuisine, meaty and hearty, red to its core.
I remember the first time I ate at Ten Mile; I definitely felt a couple of those "foreigner" stares that I experienced in China. This time, we sit near a young couple, middle-aged women, and some small families - without any stares. The tables are covered in plastic, and the visual/sound focus is the television, which plays seemingly non-stop news from the mainland. Red lanterns hang above, alongside netted soccer balls - possibly a hangover from last year's World Cup.
We sit down; tea greets us. Which is great, except that the drink list reveals a Toronto goldmine: $1.75 beer. It's Sun Draught, a mediocre lager brewed in Mississauga, but still - it's the novelty, right?
Ten Mile's menu is, like most Chinatown restaurants, quite extensive. Options include various dishes of tofu, vegetables, dumplings, steamed buns, noodles, pork, chicken and beef. All cuts and parts are up for grabs: liver, kidney, feet, ear, intestine. Mulling over the menu, we finally settle on vegetable, dumpling and pork dishes to share.
First arrives the Shredded Pork with Sweet Peking Sauce ($7.99), a heaping plate of thinly-shredded pork on a bed of sliced green onions. Just slightly oily, the pork is doused in a sweet sauce that, combined with the pungence of the scallions, is flavourful and charming.
We next receive our order of twelve Dumplings with Lamb ($4.99). Homemade and steamed, these dumplings shelter small pieces of braised lamb, which are tender and moist. They are perfect when dipped in vinegar.
Last but not least: Deep-Fried Lotus Root ($6.99). My menu had "stuffed with pork" written beside this line item, while my eating companion's did not. When we ordered, we weren't sure if this would be our vegetable, more meat, or, as it turns out, our dessert. Upon its arrival, the plate reminds me of Italian frittole, a rich doughnut-like pastry. It tastes markedly different.
Covered under the thick, breaded coating are two pieces of sliced lotus root, with a ground pork/onion mixture between them. Heavy but rich, the unique crispy texture of the lotus root is preserved, its usually subtle taste complimented by the meat filling.
Total bill for the evening? $30.65, which includes tea, four beers and three large dishes of food. While not quite as cheap as China, Ten Mile Aroma is an authentic Chinese experience in the heart of Toronto, a perfect escape from the city bustle any day of the week.
Hours: Open 11am to 11pm 7 days a week.
Writing and photos by Jenna Lianne