Toronto is home to many culinary delights, with an abundance of Asian-owned restaurants that serve up delicious dishes with origins from across the continent.
Behind every dish, and restaurant, is a story. Independent restaurants are the backbone of local communities, and supporting them allows them to continue showcasing recipes that have been passed down through generations.
Although only a select few have been recognized with culinary accolades like the prestigious Michelin Guide, these six Asian-owned restaurants in the city have won over the palates of both locals and discerning gastronomes alike!
The food speaks for itself, as the old adage goes, so come and experience these edible experiences for yourself!
778 St Clair Ave West (Hillcrest Village)
Harsh Chawla is bringing the flavours and heart of his homeland to Toronto’s Hillcrest Village through his restaurant Pukka, which he co-owns with his business partner Derek Valleau.
Pukka’s culinary team hails from different regions of India and has been with the restaurant since opening day. “We have not had a single turnover in the kitchen in 10 years, so the same people we started the kitchen with are all still here,” said Chawla. “I’m very thankful that we have all been working together for so many years.”
Pukka’s menu is comprised of reimagined classic Indian dishes, including Sweet Potato Samosas, Okra Fries and Eggplant Tartare. Chawla’s favourite dish is his mother’s Punjabi Chicken Curry recipe, a “taste of home” made using chicken sourced from small purveyors. For a fresh starter, choose the Pukka Chaat: a zingy slaw of vegetables, sprouts, pomegranate and mango tossed in chutneys and yogurt. The Vegan Tikka Masala is an aromatic delight for veggie lovers, complimented perfectly with a whole wheat roti.
858 Bloor St West (Bloorcourt)
Nestled in the heart of Bloorcourt Village, the menu at Vit Beo is rooted in a fascination with the complex and storied history that food embodies.
“I have to understand the origins of a dish, and perhaps other iterations from other regions, before turning it into something else,” said co-owner David Huyn. “You got to know where you’ve been before you know where you’re going.”
The thoughtfully reimagined legacy dishes include a new take on crispy turnip cakes, succulent shaking beef, three types of bánh mì and juicy pan-fried vegan dumplings made of tapioca and rice inspired by Huyn’s grandmother’s technique. The vegan pho is a knockout, comprised of fried lemongrass tofu, crispy scored king oyster mushrooms, baby bok choy, thin rice noodles sopped in chili oil, pooled in an aromatic, restorative broth.
Through the careful creation of each menu item, Huyn says the qualities that distinguish his restaurant from the rest organically emerged. “Before we say a dish is good, [my team and I] think about the dish and talk about it a lot. Accidentally, we’ve been able to find our identity through that process.”
216 Close Ave (Parkdale)
Though unassuming from the outside, Loga’s Corner in Parkdale pumps out the best momos in town seven days a week.
Eponymously named after the owner, Loga, this neighbourhood hot spot serves up traditional Tibetan dumplings in many meat options, and there is a potato for vegan/plant-based dumpling lovers! The chewy, soft momos are freshly made in-house daily, steamed upon ordering, and served with spicy pickled daikon radishes and chili oil — all for $8.
As momos have become a staple food for Parkdale residents, Loga has expanded his space twice since opening up shop to keep up with his loyal following.
794 Dundas Street West (Trinity Bellwoods)
The fun fusion of Caribbean and Chinese flavours on the menu at Patois is the brainchild of Chef Craig Wong — a restaurant adored by many, including Michelle Yeoh! When Yeoh stops by Patois, Wong says she specially orders the crispy jerk butter-fried lobster, which is chopped in-shell and then stir-fried in Ritz crackers. “The crackers are like Thanksgiving stuffing, sopping up all the flavours and juices,” said Wong.
The celebrated chef fuses his international culinary training and Jamaican Chinese heritage to create many more inventive dishes like the Jamaican Patty Double Down, Jerk Pork Belly Yakisoba, and a Chinese Pineapple Bun Burger.
Wong credits his inventive gastronomic creations to early teachings from his grandmother while she cooked up her “resourceful” culinary creations. “When she lived in Jamaica, she cooked Chinese food with Jamaican ingredients. And sometimes, she would cook Jamaican food using Chinese ingredients,” said Wong. “Ingredients don’t need to be tied to a specific cuisine. Food is like a painter’s palette, which is never limited in options because you can start mixing colours together.”
192 Augusta Ave (Kensington Market)
When King’s Café opened in 1997, vegetarian restaurants were still somewhat of an anomaly in Toronto. Over two decades later, the restaurant has become a Kensington Market institution, satisfying a broad spectrum of palettes with classic Chinese dishes — all made from plants.
The menu boasts vegan renditions of dim sum favourites like siu mai, har gow (crystal shrimp dumplings), barbeque pork buns and lo mai gai (sticky rice in lotus leaf).
And after your meal, you can bring the goods home! Almost everything on the menu is available for purchase at the side of the restaurant, mostly manufactured at King’s Café’s own facility in Mississauga.
Soos and Fat Choi
94 Ossington Ave (Ossington)
In the heart of trendy Ossington Avenue, Soos is the spot to go for a refined take on Malay and Nyonya street food. The restaurant is named after its founders, the Soo family (Zenn, Tricia, Lauren and Zack Soo), who are veterans of the Toronto restaurant scene. “We think of Malaysian food as the original fusion food, there are so many different cultures intersecting; a huge Chinese population, a huge Indian population,” said Lauren, who works as the restaurant’s manager. “It’s been occupied by the British, the Portuguese, the Dutch … it’s a melting pot.”
The Prosperity Slaw is a head-turner, packed high with a colourful and crisp medley of 20 ingredients tossed in a yuzu plum dressing. The Winter Tofu is another standout, steamed and topped with preserved vegetables, Mapo sauce, shiitake mushrooms and cilantro. If à la carte isn’t your vibe, the restaurant also offers a ‘feed me’ menu so guests can sit back and enjoy the experience of flavours and textures Soos’ chefs cook up.
This post was sponsored by Destination Toronto. Views and reviews are the author’s own.