Ring­ing in the Lu­nar New Year

Yonge and Shep­pard is where the party’s at

Richmond Hill Post - - Food - By David Ort

Out­side of China, the eighth of Fe­bru­ary is prop­erly known as Lu­nar New Year — not Chi­nese New Year — as a num­ber of other Asian coun­tries also mark the day with cel­e­bra­tions. Tai­wan is on the list along with both Koreas, where the three-day fes­ti­val is known as Se­ol­lal. Though not a pub­lic hol­i­day, Ja­pan’s Setsubun shares a his­tor­i­cal con­nec­tion and falls in the same week.

The ’hood at Yonge and Shep­pard de­serves more credit than it gets. North of the 401 and the ter­mi­nus for a re­mark­ably un­der­used sub­way means it’s def­i­nitely not on the cut­ting edge of Toronto’s food cul­ture, right? Not ex­actly. In the last few years, the in­ter­sec­tion where Wil­low­dale and Lans­ing meet has be­come re­mark­ably at­tuned to T.O.’s con­tem­po­rary food cul­ture. There’s still a Firkin pub in the area, but a large num­ber of eater­ies from South­east Asian cul­tures are now com­pet­ing with it for cus­tomers.

JOONS

Joons has been in the area for over a decade and is show­ing its age to an ex­tent. The still-very-solid menu has plenty of fa­mil­iar items from the Korean cannon, but the un­miss­able spe­cialty is the dak galbi. This re­gional bar food is built around stir­fried chicken and a spicy sauce. A dou­ble por­tion is manda­tory, and it gets bet­ter with add-ons like rice cakes, cheese and ra­men noo­dles.

It’s one of the only spots open for lunch in this crawl, so is a great place to start. 4852 Yonge St., 416-840

0589

TEA SHOP 168

How bet­ter to rep­re­sent the chang­ing times in North York than a co-lo­ca­tion for Tea Shop 168 — one of T.O.’s pop­u­lar bub­ble tea chains — and Sub­way, the world leader in fast-food fran­chises? The core bub­ble tea menu here is per­fect for a quick tapi­oca fix. 5193 Yonge St.,

416-224-9168

THE FRY

There are things other than Korean fried chicken on the menu, but re­ally, who are we kid­ding? Or­der the spe­cial half and half chicken, which al­lows you to have your chicken two ways. Make sure one of the two op­tions is sauce-free, ei­ther fried or crispy, for the truly ex­cel­lent tex­ture. 4864 Yonge St., 416-546

6159

HAN BA TANG

A rel­a­tive new­comer to the strip, Han Ba Tang has a cool, con­tem­po­rary de­sign and an on­trend menu to match. Drinks run from a few good craft beer choices (Am­s­ter­dam Bone­shaker and Junc­tion Con­duc­tor’s) to $19 flights of soju and a var­ied cock­tail list.

The food is made to match, and Korean tacos are def­i­nitely pop­u­lar. The so-called spoon pizza (mainly kim­chi and sweet pota­toes) with a nos­tal­gic-tast­ing sauce is quite the ex­pe­ri­ence. 4862 Yonge St., 416-5468218

KINKA IZA­KAYA

The chain that con­vinced T.O. to line up for beer and Ja­panese bar snacks has changed its named from Guu to Kinka Iza­kaya. They still have an en­er­getic at­mos­phere, made louder by the oblig­a­tory greet­ings for ev­ery guest.

If there’s any place to set aside faux sin­cere devo­tions to au­then­tic­ity, this is it. Have the baked oys­ters with mush­rooms and cheese, yaki udon and the deep fried brie cheese. Don’t for­get the kabocha korokke, a pump­kin cro­quette. 4775 Yonge St., Unit 114, 647-346-6246

BAKE CODE

Yonge and Shep joins Malaysia and L.A. as one of the only in­ter­na­tional out­posts for this pop­u­lar Tai­wanese bak­ery. Grab a tray and browse the bins filled with op­tions that fit roughly into the bun cat­e­gory, but by this point in the crawl it’s mainly dessert we’re af­ter. The mille crepe cake and mango mousse are re­mark­ably well made. 4910 Yonge St., Unit 101, 647-346-3888

Clock­wise from left: korokke at Kinka, Bake Code’s Earl Grey mousse cake and the Fry’s KFC

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