Qin Tang Taste
Qin Tang Taste is where to go in Toronto for authentic Northwestern Chinese (Shanxi) cuisine. The dishes here incorporate various types of bread and noodles with nary a bowl of rice to be found on the menu. Carb-galore? Yes. Delicious? Absolutely.
Occupying a space previously home to several short-lived Asian restaurants, Qin Tang is located on the ground floor of a modest mid-rise condo. Space is a bit tight, but that doesn't dampen the enthusiasm of the patrons here.
The modest space belies the fact that this is, in fact, a rather popular chain restaurant in China, especially around the Beijing area.
I start with the House Special Vegetable Salad ($4.99). A massive bowl of leafy vegetables and peanuts, it is a harmony of fresh greens drizzled with a generous amount of delicious sesame oil vinaigrette, which is both salty and sweet.
I then order a few bread-based dishes, including the Chinese Pancake ($6.99). It contains leek and chunks of omelette and is satisfyingly rich if a bit greasy.
The house specialty, the Biangbiang Noodles ($8.99), is an impressive sight, with enormously wide hand-pulled noodles enveloping a delicious mixture of eggs and vegetables. The sauce has hints of tomatoes and a slightly spicy kick. It is definitely a dish to share.
Another drool-worthy dish is the Shanxi Sliced Noodle with Stir Fried Pork Slices ($7.99). The pork flavour permeates the sliced noodles, giving them a rich, meaty taste. Served with hot peppers and slices of tender pork, it is a tad oily, but undoubtedly one of the tastiest noodle dishes I've ever had.
Those in the mood for something a bit more adventurous should try the Lamb Stew with Chopped Chinese Pancake ($8.99). Also known as Paomo , this rich and satisfying stew contains thin glass noodles, quail eggs and chunks of chopped bread, which somehow maintains its consistency without becoming a soggy mess. It's one of the best dishes on the menu and comes highly recommended.
Be sure to order some grilled skewers. From the amb ($0.99 each) to chicken wings ($2.59), they are delicious, as long as you don't mind the prominent and spicy cumin seasoning.
Unexpectedly, my personal favourite among these grilled goodies turns out to be the bullfrog legs ($1.99). They taste just like chicken (honestly!) and are ridiculously tender. These juicy, well-seasoned morsels go great with the carb-heavy dishes.
For dessert, the Glutinous Rice Balls in Osmanthus Soup ($2.99) fits the bill nicely. Chewy on the outside with a sweet black sesame filling on the inside, it's like the perfect warm hug to end your meal. And let's be honest: isn't more carbs in the dessert just so very apt given the preceding dishes?
While it's far from the fanciest place around, for the uninitiated Qin Tang Taste provides an excellent introduction to Northerwestern Chinese cuisine. The best part? Though most of the dishes here are spicy, they can be customized to better suit your palate. Just be sure to let the servers know.
Photos by Hector Vasquez.