Lee Chen Asian Bistro on King
Lee Chen Asian Bistro has two locations in Toronto including this one in a subterranean spot near King and University. They serve modern takes of classic Chinese dishes along with a smattering of Asian fusion.
While the ceilings are low, the modern and uncluttered decor make the space much more welcoming than I expected.
The Pork Belly Bao ($7.95) is a fantastic dish to start. It's a freshly steamed bun with juicy pork belly, mixed with shredded lettuce and a dab of spicy mayo.
The Soup Dumplings ($6.95) here are excellent. It's one of the best xiaolongbaos that I've ever had, with a very flavourful soup. The miniature size make it a one-bite indulgence.
The Almond Fish ($7.95) is fried white fish encrusted with almonds. It's nicely crisp without being too oily.
The Salt & Pepper Chicken ($6.95), often dubbed Popcorn Chicken at other restaurants, features white meat only (most other places use dark meat) and is amazingly tender.
The Spicy Beef Tendon and the Braised Bamboo Shoots ($6.50 each) are chewy and could have been spicier.
I'm very happy to see that a dish that I have previously only eaten at my in-laws is available here. The Sparerib Bites in Rice Powder ($7.95) is a lightly spiced dish of tender small spareribs, served over a small bed of sweet potatoes. It's a humble dish that satisfies.
If you like ribs, be sure to try the Wuxi Spareribs ($18.95). This entree feature ginormous cuts of pork spareribs that fall-off-the-bone.
And don’t forget the Braised Short Ribs ($22.95). Smaller beef prime rib is cooked with various herbs inside a claypot and served to the table over a small open fire pit. It goes great with steamed rice.
The Szechuan Scallops and Shrimps ($22.95) might be one to pass on. The reddish seasoning features hints of fermented rice and is probably an acquired taste.
Drinks-wise, the bubble teas here are solid if not spectacular ($5.50), but my recommendation is the Unfiltered Ginger Ale ($4.50) which is made with real ginger.
For dessert, don’t overlook the humble Tang Yuan. Available both in clear ($5.95) and wine soup ($6.50), they are made in-house and are some of the most delicate versions of the dishes I’ve ever had.
The Passionfruit Custard ($4.95) is a light pudding-like dessert which mixes passionfruit with mango. The result is a very fruity flavour combination that's perfect for finishing off the meal.