The Best Chinese Restaurants in Toronto
The best Chinese restaurants in Toronto will always carry the term "arguably" with them, which in most cases will just end up in full-on bickering. In a city chock-full of excellent Chinese restaurants, not just in terms of quality but also in terms of variety, it is almost impossible to have a definitive list of what constitutes the "best". That's not going to stop us from trying though, so put your pitchforks (or pitch-chopsticks, har har) down, relax, and check out these must-visit restaurants.
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If this is what China is supposed to taste like, then it gets my vote as the most deliciously edible country ever. No, it tastes nothing like fortune cookies - more like delicious General Tao Chicken and soothing seafood congee instead. The food is yummy, cheap, and satisfying, if mostly unhealthy.
If you've got a hankering for old-school Chinatown feasting, it's impossible not to include Rol San. Chaotic environment, indifferent service, delicious food, and large portions (the spicy fried squid is fantastic). They have cheap dim sum too, which is of excellent quality, and open late. Don't go here expecting elegance. Instead, expect subpar environs masking a smorgasbord of deliciousness.
The only chain restaurant on this list, Asian Legend is a godsend for those who love authentic Chinese food but prefer service in more "orderly" fashion. With multiple locations in Toronto and the GTA, you're never far away from their delicious soup-filled dumplings, beef rolls, or the always excellent Peking Duck, which easily feeds at least four. For those who love a challenge, try their flamingly spicy mapo tofu (not one for the faint of heart).
Having been in operation for almost 40 years, the restaurant knows exactly how to satisfy hungry customers, as evident from the long lineups during mealtimes (which sometimes FEELS like it can take 40 years just to get to the head of the line). The food is salty, savoury, and delicious. Top of my list? Sweet and sour chicken, and beef with avocado. A rather odd combination, but a surefire favourite every time.
The whole restaurant is a bit unassuming and understated, as is common with many Chinatown spots, but clearly people don't care, given the snakelike lineups that often appear during mealtimes. Service level is definitely inversely proportional to the number of people in the restaurant, but they usually speak decent English, which is a plus. Their tender beef with black bean sauce is definitely one of the best I've had in Toronto - try their wonton soup too.
All these years and I still haven't figured out how to properly pronounce this restaurant's name, which probably would make my Chinese ancestors very unhappy. The General Tao chicken is lovely, and for meat eaters, the black pepper beef with rice is a sure-fire crowd pleaser. Portions here are generally massive, which is great for a lifetime on your hips, especially late at night (when the restaurant is at its brightest and best).
Apart from noodles, my favourite dish to order in this insanely popular Chinatown establishment is the old-fashioned BBQ pork and roast pork rice. Delicious and rich with a touch of sweetness, it's the perfect panacea on a cold winter's day. They also have an equally comforting BBQ duck on soup noodle. Service can be rushed, and the environment is nothing to write home about. Love the cute touch of having their name printed on their bowls and chopsticks - something many more Toronto restaurants should feature.
Susur Lee's relatively-new downtown spot may not be the first name on people's mind when it comes to Chinese food, but it's perfect for a modern upscale twist on old classics. Featuring a cacophony of culinary varieties which include all-day dim sum set among a backdrop of pseudo-garish Chinese decorations, a meal here is an experience. Try the interestingly yellow-coloured (and succulent) shrimp har gow dumplings, or the slightly sweet Wuxi spare ribs.
Another longtime mainstay of the old-school Chinatown dining scene, House of Gourmet is a bit of a jack of all trades, featuring a wide variety of Cantonese Chinese favourites (the beef satay noodles are delicious), with much of the focus being on their awesome congee. I'd recommend the lobster congee every time, with tasty chunks of fresh lobster beautifully complementing the smooth, unadulterated taste of the congee itself.
Crown Princess is a sister restaurant of the uptown Crown Prince (where I happened to get married) and shares in the chain's penchant for overly elaborate marble-and-faux European decorations as backdrop to your mealtime. Thankfully the food is as fancy as its interior decoration, with tasty dim sum offerings such as my all-time fave the scallop shu mai dumplings, a fragrant concoction rarely seen in run-of-the-mill dim sum establishments.
This three-year-old restaurant offers all day dim sum (probably the sweetest four words in my books) and also AYCE dim sum (damn son!). The shao mai dumplings are savoury and delicious, while the egg yolk buns are creamy and sweet, with tons more to choose from. Sit on the second floor mezzanine if you can, for a bit of peace and quiet, and a nice vantage point from which to people-watch.
A welcome addition to the oft-forgotten (when it comes to high quality Chinese food, anyway) midtown area, Kwan is the place to go to for awesome Cantonese Chinese food in a classy contemporary setting. Go for the delicious seafood fried noodle, with so much fresh shellfish you'd think you accidentally hit a fishing boat. Or if you're in the mood for a little twist on an old favourite, try the fragrant truffle fried rice, which comes with a side of wontons.
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