Location: 171, 1518 Centre Street NE
So many restaurants have been located here over the years. The two I can remember most vividly is Tropika, a Malaysian restaurant where we got spicy food for like the first time in my life and I nearly died and a really good Chinese restaurant for dim sum, the name of which has since slipped from my mind.
This restaurant is located at the base of the Madison apartment building, a place my grandma used to live and where I used to go for driving school. Located across from it is the “headquarters” of The Chinese Academy, which was the school I used to go to on weekends (Chinese School).
When we arrived, there were only about 4-5 tables of diners. It took a while before we were noticed and seated. It didn’t take long for my parents (dad) to decide what to have; we went with the $100 set course meal that included a three course Peking Duck.
So, of course, because we ordered the Peking Duck, the first dish to arrive was the soup. However, it was different from the typical tofu, siu choy, duck, and soy milk based soup that comes with Peking Duck. This did have duck in it, but it was a thicker broth with julienned bamboo shoots and wood ear mushrooms. I prefer this soup over the traditional soup because it’s much heartier. Interesting fact, this soup is thickened with tapioca flour.
The next course was the Peking Duck with the scallions, cucumber, hoisin sauce, and pancakes. These are the thinnest pancakes I’ve ever had the pleasure of enjoying, but because of that, they are oilier (so the pancakes don’t stick). My sister thinks that that’s the normal amount of oil found between the pancakes at most restaurants, and she might be right, but I felt these ones had more oil. The seasoning on the duck was good; the marination went beyond just the skin, making the meat also very flavourful. I like when they slice the scallions into small strips, it makes it easier to incorporate into the wrap, as well as not biting into part of the giant piece and pulling the entire thing out of the wrap because you can’t bite through it. This is the first time there were more wrappers than filling.
The next dish was supposed to be crab, but my dad was saying that crab was more expensive than lobster, which is what they gave us instead. I didn’t mind though because I prefer lobster over crab anyways because of the slightly chewy texture lobster has. I never know what the sauce is, but it has onions, corn starch, and ginger among its ingredients, but it’s one of my favourite sauces for lobster, especially when it’s served over crispy noodles. This is the first time we’ve ever finished this dish without packing home the messier pieces. I think after the Peking Duck, I was at the point where I was like I don’t care how messy this gets, I’m already past that point.
Normally when we order Peking Duck, it’s a given that things are going to get messy, so it’s not unreasonable to be requesting more napkins. We asked for napkins three times and they never ended up bringing us any. My napkin became torn in several places and was beginning to come off all over my hands so I balled it up and tossed it. My dad ended up sharing half of his napkin with me and my sister stole another napkin from the adjacent table to share with me and my mom (I’m clearly just a very messy child, haha).
After the lobster came the fried grouper. We probably should have started on that sooner than we did because when it first came out, it was a lot crispier and we could have eaten more of the bones. There will always be a few bones that don’t fully crisp up, but they wouldn’t have gone as chewy as they did and made it as hard as it was to eat. This is probably one of my favourite ways of eating fish because I really like foods with a crunchy texture. However, the inside of the fish was perfectly cooked and deliciously moist.
The penultimate dish was beef with bok choy, which was interesting to say the least. I’m sure beef can be paired with any vegetable, but having seen it being paired with gai lan for so long, this just seems an odd choice. The same can be said about the bok choy, but I’m more used to bok choy being paired with shitake mushroom caps and enoki mushrooms. This dish just seemed to be a little disparate.
The final dish was duck in udon noodles. The udon noodles, as my sister pointed out are the kinds kept in a vacuum sealed plastic bag filled with liquid preservative that has a distinctly sour taste. Though it was clear that the noodles had been rinsed, the acidic flavour of the preservatives have leached into them, leaving a subtle aftertaste that was not altogether unpleasant or pleasant.
There was also a dessert, described as “daily dessert” on the menu, but we all know that means some kind of sweet soup, the most common being red bean (because it’s one of the cheapest ingredients). It was decent, but not the best I’ve had.
We pretty much ate everything and there wasn’t much to pack home. Considering the price and how much we normally spend when we go out for dinner as a family, we usually have twice as much packed away.
Near the end of the meal, pictures were getting hard to take because my hands/fingers were covered in oil, hoisin sauce, lobster, grouper, etc., so I do apologize if the quality of the photos suffered because of it.
Overall, the meal was pretty decent. By the time we were mid-way through the meal, the restaurant got very busy. Service wasn’t spectacular, even for a Chinese restaurant, where I don’t expect very much, it wasn’t very good. I’m not sure I’ll be coming back here.
Based on this experience, I’d give it a 2/5.