You don’t have to travel overseas—these restaurants serve dishes that are as good as the original.
By Raymond Cua
Love Asian food? You can try a wide variety of Asian cuisines in Toronto, from Chinese and Indian to Vietnamese and Filipino.
With over 50% of the population being immigrants and 60% of them being Asians, Toronto is one of the cities with the most diverse Asian communities in the world. You’ll find not only Chinatown but also Little Tokyo, Koreatown, Little Manila, Little India and more.
The best part is, since immigrants brought their cuisines along with them, you can get some really authentic Asian food in Toronto. And I’m here to share some of my top restaurant picks in different Asian cuisines.
When I have visitors who want Chinese food, I always bring them here. Consistently delicious food, good portions and reasonable prices. It’s not surprising that Congee Queen is one of the go-to Chinese restaurants for the Asian community, including mine.
With an extensive menu, there is something for everyone to enjoy, from smaller snacks and comfort food like dim sum to more fine dining dishes like stir-fry lobster. Their restaurants are usually busy, but luckily the service is fast and efficient so you normally don’t have to wait long.
Must-try dishes: Whenever I visit, these three are always a sure order: Congee, Spice & Pepper Salt Squid and Fried Chili Turnip Patties. You should also try their BBQ Duck, or do what I do and get the Chicken and Duck Congee, which uses BBQ Duck too.
Nestled in Little Manila, this family-owned restaurant is one of my favourite spots for Filipino food and is a staple among the Filipino community. You’ll find common traditional dishes here so it’s a great place to get a starter on Filipino cuisine.
Along with the inviting smell of Filipino food when you enter and being surrounded by Filipinos speaking in Tagalog, the inside is very reminiscent of restaurants in the Philippines: the sparse decor, a cashier station, simple brown tables and chairs, the service station (being in the dining area), the statue of Buddha (a symbol of blessing as influenced by the big Chinese community in the Philippines) and the cramp spacing (to fit as many diners as possible). As someone who was born and raised in the Philippines, I always feel like I’m transported back to whenever I dine here.
Must-try dishes: They have the best Lechon Kawali (deep fried pork belly) in Toronto with a nice crispy skin and the most tender and moist meat, which is not an easy feat considering it’s deep fried. Be sure to also try other Filipino favourites like grilled chicken, Pancit Palabok (thin noodles in seafood sauce), Kare-Kare (oxtail in peanut sauce) and garlic fried rice.
My first time trying Mayur Fine Indian Cuisine was for delivery during the lockdown. Here you’ll find Northern Indian specialties like tandoori, biryani, curry and fried food like pakoras and samosas.
They’ve become my go-to for Indian food since then, having ordered multiple times throughout the pandemic. I can happily say they’ve been consistently good all the time, which is not an easy feat for delivery.
Must-try dishes: They have the best Lamb Korma I’ve had in the city with tender pieces of lamb in a rich and creamy cashew sauce that has a strong taste of cashew, something I found typically lacking in most restaurants. They also have a Tandoori Momo, a unique take on momos (steamed meat-filled dumplings) by cooking them in the tandoor, giving that flavourful charcoal taste.
Other favourite dishes are the Veggie Mixed Platter (paneer pakora, onion bhaji, veggie pakora and veggie samosa) and the Goat Curry, tender morsels of goat in deeply flavourful, aromatic and spicy curry that takes me back to my trip in India watching chefs use more than ten fresh herbs and spices to make such flavourful curries from scratch.
Gyubee will always have a special place in my heart because it was the first all-you-can-eat Japanese barbecue restaurant in Toronto. Being a heavy meat eater, I was in heaven when Gyubee first opened.
Expect premium quality meats, which is surprising in an all-you-can-eat, with beef, chicken, pork, lamb and seafood, along with other sides and vegetables to choose from. But be sure to save room for desserts too—they have an awesome creme brulee!
Reminiscent of my time in Tokyo, a familiar scent of grilled meats welcomes you as you enter Gyubee with a bustling scene of people cooking, talking and enjoying their meal. Gyubee is usually packed and has a waitlist so be sure to make reservations.
During the pandemic, they expanded their menu with takeout-friendly offerings like bento, sushi, baos, yakisoba and sukiyaki.
Must-try dishes: From the all-you-can-eat menu: Prime Kalbi, Sweet Soy Marinated Short Rib, Pork Cheek, Shrimp, Butter Corn, King Oyster Mushroom, Enoki Mushrooms, Bibimbap and Creme Brulee.
Located in uptown Koreatown, Finch JungSooNae is a small family-owned restaurant offering authentic Korean food in a homey atmosphere. What makes Finch JungSooNae stand out is that it’s one of the few restaurants in Toronto that offers the exotic Korean dish called GanJang Gejang.
GanJang Gejang is raw crabs marinated in soy sauce. At Finch JungSooNae, they make their own special soy sauce. They also have a spicy version called YangNeom Gejang but, if it’s your first time, definitely try the GanJang Gejang first.
It’s one of the iconic Korean dishes that people travel all the way for. So if you are feeling adventurous and looking for a unique taste of Korea, you will want to try this!
Must-try dishes: Ganjang Gejang! The best way I can describe GanJang Gejang: if you eat sashimi, the tomalley tastes like sweet and creamy uni (sea urchin) and the meat has a taste and texture like amaebi (sweet shrimp).
Whenever I get asked for downtown recommendations, Pai always comes to mind. Hip vibes and relaxed atmosphere coupled with delicious Thai food with authentic flavours, Pai is one of my most frequented spots in downtown Toronto.
It’s a great place to eat where the locals hang, but be sure to come early or make a reservation because Pai always gets a lineup when the doors open.
Must-try dishes: Pai has the best Khao Soi and Pad Gra Pow I’ve had in the city. Fresh egg noodles in a homemade golden coconut milk curry topped with crispy noodles, coriander, green onions, their Khao Soi is so aromatic and packed with flavour. If you want curry as a noodle soup, this is it!
Don’t let the humble looks of the Pad Gra Pow (Holy basil stir fried with pork) fool you because this rice dish packs quite a flavourful punch especially with the nam prik nam pla sauce (fish sauce, garlic, chili & lime). What I love to do is break the fried egg apart, and mix everything up so all the flavours and yolk make it to the entire dish.
Other favourite dishes include Chef Nuit Pad Thai, Gaeng Panang (Panang curry), Thai Ice Tea.
This is one of Toronto’s food gems. If you’re looking for authentic banh mi in Toronto, you’ll want to visit Banh Mi Nguyen Huong.
This unassuming no-frills Vietnamese bakery sells traditional banh mi for as low as $3.50. I cannot remember having a sandwich this cheap in Toronto, especially in downtown.
The sandwiches have such great flavour with generous fillings. And it’s perfect when you’re hungry because their service is so fast and efficient that you can place an order and get your banh mi within a few minutes.
Must-try dishes: Grilled Chicken Banh Mi
Byblos is not your typical Middle Eastern restaurant. With cozy upscale vibes and a tapas-style menu, Byblos is a great place to have a special meal or a date night.
Don’t expect the usual shawarma and kebabs, but instead inventive dishes and twists to other Middle Eastern food with bold daring flavours.
Take their lamb ribs for example. The tender fall-off-the-bone lamb has such a unique Middle Eastern flavour profile: a nice crunch from the dukkah, spiciness from the red chili zhug and sweetness from the date molasses and buttermilk.
Must-try dishes: Turkish Manti Dumplings, Lamb Ribs, Black Truffle Rice
See it. Snap it. Share it. In every neighbourhood, around every corner, through every door
there's something that begs to be discovered in Toronto.
See it. Snap it. Share it. In every neighbourhood, around every corner, through every door there's something that begs to be discovered in Toronto.#OPENYOURCURIOSITY
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