How hard can it be to define Toronto’s food scene, when we take into consideration that fifty per cent of the city’s population are actually foreign-born people? It seems like the crowded College St of Toronto simply cannot take any more people walking by. However, each year, more and more new residents seem to be piling up.
Naturally, traffic jams can be harmful to our nervous system, but there are some good sides to this issue as well. For instance, for all of us food lovers, with more cultures coming each day, some new cuisines will emerge. This makes us very happy because what better way to truly know one nation than to try their delicious traditional recipes? Asian food is the prevalent one, and not just in Toronto, or Canada, for that matter. This Asian food frenzy is a global trend.
Even if a restaurant isn’t technically Asian per se, it is highly likely that Asia had some influence on the chef. The Chinese, for example, are one of the most prominent nations in the whole of North America. Fried rice, red beans, noodles…oh God, we bet everyone reading this began to drool on first thoughts of these beloved flavours. Thus, it is no surprise that the number of excellent Asian restaurants in Toronto, as high as it already is, just keeps on growing.
Toronto is the city which hosts two Chinatown neighbourhoods. The first one is located in the east part of Toronto. The other one is slightly more popular, and larger, and is centred in the middle of the city. If you decide to explore these streets, you will find a great variety of tastes. From the ducks hanging in the windows of popular restaurants to Chinese bakeries offering steamed precious buns.
Banh Mi Boys will take these delicious little buns and fill them with just about anything your heart (and your tummy) desires. From pork belly to a sandwich to house-made kimchi you will crave in the days that follow, the list just keeps on growing and growing. David Chang made his signature and his mark with a Toronto based Momofuku and those crowded communal tables filled with noodle-slurpers.
On the other hand, Susur Lee is better known for his street title, the king of Asian fusion. He takes the traditional dishes and creates unrecognizable masterpieces, not just in one, but two restaurants from our list — Lee and Luckee. Clearly, the reputation of Toronto as being one of the greatest cities with Asian food has a worldwide reach. And now, to provide the thing you came for — here is our list of top 10 best Asian restaurants in Toronto.
In case you belong to that kind of person whose palate refuses to accept anything less than exceptional, or you just happen to have allergies to bad food, here is some excellent news — Bazara knows no such terms. This is the whole East meets West, Asia meets and hugs Canada’s hungry bellies kind of vibes.
Freshness and deliciousness are the two imperatives and necessities which the owners of Bazara hold very close to their hearts. The menu prime superstar dishes range from yellow curry soft shell crab with sticky coconut rice to nori seaweed wrapped ravioli.
Sushi is served with black rice for that wow effect. If you just ignore that typical tacky North American decor of massive mirrors and giant chandeliers, the very important part — dining— will take over, and you will be amazed.
Don’t we all have that annoying friend in our crew who has just come back from the trip, claiming how none of the food served in a local restaurant isn’t authentic enough? If you choose to pay Nana a visit, you can be that annoying little friend without even having to take that exhausting flight to a distant location. How fun is that?
Nana happens to be the Khao San Road’s cousin. For those among you who don’t know this restaurant, it is a very popular place on Adelaide Street, which is currently in the process of moving. There are plenty of choices, and all done in the Bangkok street food style. From slurpy noodles teaming with vegetables to curries which will have your mouth burn for days, this is as authentic as it gets.
If this sounds a bit too spicy for your taste, Nana allows you to choose the amount of seasoning in your chosen meal.
Blowfish Restaurant and Sake Bar — Downtown
Most western people think that a wine bar serves a variety of sparkling, whites and red wines. However, if we turn our attention to the eastern hemisphere, to the land of the rising sun — Japan, wine is actually sake over there.
Just like most of the Japanese cuisine, the production of sake is a form of art. And the Blowfish restaurant and sake bar will let you sample sixteen sakes if you order small tastes, or sip a glass or the whole bottle. If you can take it, that is.
Try this combination, truffle oil or drizzle and avocado topped with a clove of garlic, tiger shrimp with spicy albacore tuna paste with a glass of sake — the closest thing to nirvana you’ll ever find on this earth.
Luckee — Downtown
What is the place that makes every nickel worth it if you are in the search to extinguish those fire cravings for some fantastic dim sum? This restaurant is just about everything we described previously. Luckee is located at the base of the Metropolitan Soho. It delivers that kind of a meal which will make you think and talk about it for days.
As we have already mentioned in the intro part of this article, the innovative and ambitious chef Susur Lee took on another restaurant to try and repeat the success. It is no surprise that he managed to do so. His dishes represent the modern art of noodles and meat lip-smacking style.
At Luckee, the decor is designed to match the Far East mood. The restaurant’s theme is in deep red shades, truly representing the Chinese good luck symbolism. In fact, the theme resembles China so much, that if you don’t look outside, you may even think that you are right in the middle of Beijing.
Jabistro Modern Japanese — Downtown
Jabistro Modern Japanese has a food philosophy. It believes that each and every ingredient has to be shown to the world to shine at its best. Jabistro restaurant is capable of finding the perfect amount of each component to make its menu noticeable in an endless sea of Japanese restaurants out there.
We recommend you to indulge yourself with a bowl of sushi rice and assorted sashimi. Just in case you decide to visit this place more frequently, don’t worry about their dishes ever getting boring — the menu changes on a daily basis. By the way, Jabistro lobster miso soup is simply to die for.
If you want to taste their sushi, the employees will blowtorch it, in order to get a light char taste. For those who prefer to abstain, there are some non-raw fish options.
Kinton Ramen — Chinatown
Any restaurant with the “ramen” in the name seems unlikely to make it to any top ten list. However, this is not the case. Many think such restaurants are meant for college students running on a tight budget, but Kinton Ramen elevated the level of their service to the roof.
This is the perfect example of how a Chinese restaurant can be fantastic. The bowls and portions are hot and ready to set new trends, setting the bar sky-high. You can choose to make your broth rich, regular or bright. You get to choose if you want the pork shoulder or the belly. Kinton Ramen offers you the pleasure of garnishes, from egg to chills to heaps of minced garlic.
Their noodles taste like paradise and are served incredibly fresh. It is our firm opinion that there is nothing more satisfying than slurping them right from the bowl, steaming and smelling tempting.
Also, here is a little heads-up — even though the food is incredibly tasty, the place itself is pretty small. We suggest you come without heavy luggage and prepare yourself to wait for a table.
Lee — Entertainment District
Susur Lee arrived in Canada way back in 1978, arriving straight from Hong Kong. Since then, Lee has built quite a reputation for himself. He is best known for his inventive modern cuisine, which is a unique fusion of the taste of his homeland along with other significant global influences.
Lee is his flagship Toronto restaurant. It contains a menu which is built around tapas-sized shareable plates. This makes Lee the best choice if you wish to impress a more massive crowd. What to expect once you visit Lee’s? Well, the unexpected mixture. What else could the top-notch chef provide?
Mashups of Asian and Mediterranean flavours, such as ravioli lobster and the cheeseburger spring rolls, comes from the marriage of two favourite fast food countries — Italy and China. Of course, save up some space for an inventive dessert. We recommend black rice pudding with coconut creme caramel, an explosion of taste.
Guu Izakaya — Queen West
Two words here — tapas and Japanese. Guu Izakaya is a drinking establishment, which serves food so that you could drink some more — well, at least, according to Izakaya. This is the man who does it all.
The energetic and modern restaurant opened its doors back in 2011. This happened after Vancouver’s high acclaim for this new location. The tables are designed in the communal style, encouraging strangers to become more friendly with each other after sharing the experience of Japanese comfort food.
Beef tongue, almond tofu, sashimi salad, bibimbap, and baked oysters are just some of the options the Guu Izakaya offers. In case you still didn’t get this, all of them are exquisite. Aside from the food being too delicious, you get to witness its preparation. You shouldn’t miss the sake and the cocktail list. There is nothing like a few drinks to put you in the exact Guu mood.
Momofuku — Downtown
Here is yet another Japanese gem. The name quite literally means “lucky peach.” After this free linguistic lesson, let’s go back onto amazing food choice that this lucky peach has to offer. After the significant New York’s popularity, Toronto decided to be as competitive, so the fact that they get to host David Chang couldn’t come in a better moment.
The prime location is the only place Shangri-la Hotel could settle with. It’s either go big or hit the road with Momofuku. In fact, their noodle bar has received several prizes for its noodle ramen and pork belly buns. David Chang introduced interesting twists on traditional recipes. He made them different enough to keep you interested.
Momofuku’s homemade kimchi is just perfection. If you decide to pay this lucky peach a visit, you will be placed at the community wooden tables. Make sure to sweeten your visit by a quick stop at the Milk Bar and order some crack pie.
Banh Mi Boys — Queen West
And there you go, we have finally reached the final restaurant on our Asian western Toronto culinary gems. If you are in the search for a one-of-a-kind twist on a Vietnamese sandwich’s filling, go ahead and visit Banh Mi Boys.
This isn’t just Vietnamese cuisine though. It represents a mixture of multicultural Asian twists, from Japanese to Chinese, Vietnamese, and Korean, right on Queen and Spadina for you to enjoy. People start lining up by the door in anticipation while the instant grab-and-go is served.
This restaurant represents an overnight sensation in the vivid Toronto’s food stage. Banh Mi Boys serves their famous sandwiches on a retro checkerboard paper. Other than these favourite sandwiches, there is plenty of other food choices to satisfy even the most demanding ones among you. Try duck confit, crispy kimchi fries in mayo, or kimchi in combination with roasted pulled pork.
That’s it, people, we believe that this covers pretty much everything there is to know about Asian food in Toronto. Now, it’s your turn to jump right on the Orient Express and enjoy these fantastic top ten restaurants. Bon appetit!