Friday, February 15, 2008

In the Garden Of Eden...(The REAL Garden)

Spadina Garden - Bay & Dundas

The one and only...

For all occasions, this Spadina's for you. They must know us by first name, as we are there, daily.

Spadina Garden has recently renovated their restaurant, as their decor is elegant yet simple. This is not by any stretch a fine dining establishment, but at the same time it's no hole-in-the-wall. Subtle touches of lanterns and artwork give Spadina just enough ethnicity to feel Asian, but not overbearing. There is a private room on the side, that gives us enough space when we have large parties, and more importantly, when Winson lashes out obscenities we can somewhat contain him. We also saw minor-yet-regular-celebrity "funny guy" Russell Peters there with his family. Every brown person who knows food, knows Spadina is the spot.

There's nothing better than being greeted by an Asian man in Hindi. Kiddah? Always recommending Singha beer, and taking down our orders in our native language. Character at Spadina Garden is in overdrive. It's great. Welcoming, friendly and warm are all signs of a place one would frequent.

Soup It Up
I'm such a fanatic of soups, you can call me the soup knotsy. My favourite one in particular, no, not plasticine shrimp bisque (see- Waitress Makeover), is Hot & Sour. I've had many a Hot & Sour soups in my day, and I make it a point to always try H & S at every Asian establishment possible (the ones I trust, that is). A good Hot & Sour soup can generally dictate the quality of the rest of the food in a restaurant. Since some/many Asian restaurants are known to be shady, and thus have a bad reputation, try the soup first. If its bush, leave immediately.

It is in my Culinary opinion, that Spadina Garden makes the best Hot & Sour soup in Toronto.

Whenever I'm downtown, which is quite often as our friends who live adjacent to Spadina, conveniently, always force us to "reach". Whenever I'm even remotely in the area, my tastebuds' radar start to salivate for Hot & Sour. Spadina has perfected their soup, as the owner states "There's two recipes, one is mine, and the other is my sister's". His sister's stuck.
The makings for a proper Hot & Sour are complex yet simple, but in this case, more is less. The proper combination of raw and cooked vegetables, the thickness, of course the right spiciness (sorry 40), are all key factors that make or break the soup. Spadina earns top marks as they exceed all categories, and their soup is phenomenal. Most times I will eat at least 3-4 bowls of soup before our meal, and I am truly satisfied to just eat soup.

On top of their amazing soup, there is an array of famous dishes, 'staples' as we call them, that cannot go unordered.

Here's the thing...don't be too adventurous, even though Spadina has a HUGE menu, and everything sounds great, a word of advice is to stick to your guns. Order what you know, and don't be too brave. Tried and true is always best, saving yourself from disappointment. Spadina's portions usually feed 3-4, so we usually all order one dish and run some share-age. That always works best. Our ordering method usually incorporates:

1- Hot and Sour (a given)
2- Spring Rolls
3- 2-3 'staples'
4- 1 newbie

This gives us the chance to come across a new found classic, and still does not ruin our meal if the newbie turns out bushy.

A few of our usual 'staples':
- Chili Chicken (dry, saucy)
- Chicken w/ Hot peppers
- Crispy Ginger Beef
- Curried Shrimp
- Garlic/Spicy Eggplant (it's Bangin)
- Chili Paneer
- Shanghai Noodle

A few 'not so much':

- Shanghai Beef- in a red sauce- nothing special

- House shrimp - way too much batter, shrimps are minimal

Spadina Garden comes into a class of it's own in my opinion, and shares the spotlight with the Top 3 Hakka establishments in Toronto- sharing company with the likes of China Cottage and Tangerine. These three definately put shame to places such as Lee's Wok, Lin Garden, etc...Maybe its because their food takes longer than 3 minutes to prepare...

All in all Spadina tops the market in the Hot and Sour Soup category by far- no contest. Their other dishes are great but at times can be hit or miss. Here's a tip, don't go after 9. If you see the chefs eating in the back corner, you know you've come too close to closing time, where food may be sub-par. Apparently at lunch you cannot get a table. Which means that's the best time to go.


Decor/ Atmosphere: 3.5/5 -There is something to be said about a simple, yet classy restaurant. One in which you don't feel overwhelmed but at the same time you're not eating on a brown paper table cloth. The walls are a bit sterile- white is not the best colour for a large square room in my opinion, but that's just me. Remember- you're here to eat, for the most part.

Service: 4/5 - Great friendly people make the service here top notch, except that one time where they didn't refill our water. Again, the later you go, the less you're gonna get. Go at decent times and you'll feel special. What I like the most is that the owners are also the workers/servers, giving you that extra touch of "I care". There's something to be said about the true owners who really put their all into their establishment. Kudos to that.

Food: 4.5/5 - The soup really gives Spadina that extra .5, but in general we are never really disappointed with their standards of food. Quick yet flavourful food is a sign of confidence you can trust. Their kitchen staff knows what they are doing. Again, don't stray too far from the usual suspects.

Price: 4/5- Nothing is overpriced at Spadina, in fact, more so things are under priced. Usually $20 will get you a full meal including a drink and tip, which is decent in my book. Can't complain about that.

Overall: 4.5 STARS 5

Spadina, we love you.


Navin Vaswani (@eyebleaf) said...

i want it.........i need it.......

Sanjay said...

I "heart" Spadina Garden's hot and sour soup. The best in the city.. a good second is Szcheaun Gourmet at Bathurst and Steeles. Same family as Spadina Garden.

Definitely add Sizzling Plate Chicken to one of your staples. bunsy-approved..

Navin Vaswani (@eyebleaf) said...

BUNSY-APPROVED!!! we gotta check out the layout, alz star.