Wednesday 27 July 2016

Restaurant Review: Chinese Halal Restaurant (Toronto, Canada)

This must be the fourth or fifth time we've been to this restaurant, and we always leave with smiles on our faces and our tummies satisfied. Chinese Halal Restaurant is a traditional restaurant serving Northern Style Chinese food, which is much different from the Hakka fare you get all over the GTA.

They feature a lot of lamb dishes, and features all of the traditional Chinese dishes but packed with flavours like cumin and chili. When we visited Shanghai and Beijing last year, we ate exactly these dishes with these exact flavours from the Muslim restaurants there, so these guys are pretty authentic.

This time we wanted to take my mom out to this restaurant because she's only used to Hakka style Chinese food that you get at the multitude of restaurants in Toronto in Mississauga, and we wanted to introduce her to the authentic Northern-style stuff. She's not a fan of lamb either, but I convinced her that she definitely has to try the lamb here, because it's unlike anything she's tried before.

First thing's first, when you sit down they will give you a complimentary pot of tea (ours was Jasmine, mm!) and the table is set as traditional Chinese restaurants are, with small dishes, small soup bowls and soup spoons, and a pair of chopsticks.

Learning to eat with chopsticks definitely enhances the experience of eating authentic Chinese food in my opinion, but if you aren't used to them, don't worry, the servers brought us forks and spoons without us even asking.

On the side of the table you'll find something that you commonly see in Asia but never see in Toronto: a device to call your server over! Yup, with a push of a button your server will come over immediately to serve you, and we've used it with immediate service the last two times we were here.

Little things like these always brighten my day. They make the dining experience so convenient and fun! Your server will not explain this to you when you sit down, so be aware of it before you head over for lunch or dinner.

You'll be handed their lovely hardcover menus. (I get so excited when I see the Halal symbol and graphics used so loud and proud!). You'll also be handed a small paper and pencil, where you will jot down your orders, just like a traditional Chinese restaurant.

This is the intro page to the menu, which isn't translated into English, but using my handy dandy Google Translate App, I learned that it talks about the history of Halal food in China originating from the Qing Dynasty, the popularity of halal food in Beijing, and the contribution of Halal food to Chinese cuisine, especially with the use of lamb and natural herbs and spices.

Be forewarned, there are A LOT of dishes in this menu. If you aren't familiar with these types of dishes listed, I would suggest sticking to the pictures you see along the sides of the menu so you know exactly what you're getting. For example, the "BBQ Bun" may sound like a barbecue sandwich, but it's most likely a steamed rice bun with barbecue meat inside.

This is one of the lamb dish pages. We didn't order anything from this page this time, but we've had the Lamb on Sizzling Hot Plate and it was awesome, it was like lamb skewers rolled in cumin and other spices. Another important thing: When a dish says spicy, take it seriously. My pepper-loving mom ate with us this time and agreed that the spicy dishes we ordered were actually sufficient for her tastes (any other time she'd be drenching her food in hot sauce lol).

The other lamb page. Yup, these guys do lamb in all forms, it's the speciality dish here. Definitely order something with lamb, you won't regret it!

Since we had my mom with us who was hesitant about the lamb, we decided to go with D13 Cumin Diced Chicken as one of our dishes.

This is one of the noodle pages. It's not shown on this page, but if you like soup I would definitely recommend their bowls of soup with hand-pulled noodles, which are as delicious, flavourful, and refreshing as the ones we had in Shanghai and Beijing. Unfortunately this was a scorching hot July afternoon, so we skipped the soup this time.

And then there's my favourite page, the dumpling page. This restaurant's dumplings are extraordinarily made, and are fresh and super flavourful. Since we wanted to introduce my mom to both steamed dumplings and to lamb, we chose H06 Lamb Dumplings (15 PCS). I would also recommend the pan-fried lamb dumplings.

There were a few other pages that I didn't take pictures of, that included Beef dishes and Vegetable dishes, so be sure to look out for more stuff if you didn't see something here you were expecting.

Since we were there for lunch, they also had these super cool lunch specials! We didn't have anything from this side but I would recommend the hand made soup noodles, or the lamb wontons in soup. I LOVE wonton soup and gosh that was delicious and warming in the winter.

On the other side my mom decided to order the Chicken with Spicy Sauces and Peanuts plus a Cold Dish from the top.

Not pictured: We also ordered the Spicy Crispy Beef, which we were expecting to come out like the Crispy Beef from hakka restaurants.

And then the food arrived! This is the Chicken with Spicy Sauces and Peanuts with a Cold Dish of Edamame Beans. Alright this looks like your pretty standard chili chicken but it wasn't anything like that. I think it used hoisin sauce or maybe black bean sauce and chili sauces. I can't put my finger on which sauces it used but it was very different and very good. My mom loved it.

We were expecting a salad instead of the Edamame Beans, but I still love those, they're buttery and slightly salty and really good! Just pop open the pods and eat the beans.

This is the Cumin Diced Chicken. Okay I don't know where to start with this. It was so good! The chicken is slightly battered and fried, and the whole dish is covered in cumin which has clearly been fried with everything, making every bite very fragrant. I wasn't expecting much but I really liked this.

This is the Spicy Crispy Beef. Woah it was completely different from the Crispy Beef we've had at restaurants like Royal Jasmine. First of all, they're large chunks of beef, and all pretty tender, and they've been battered and deep fried with crushed chili, garlic, and spices. I really liked this. The only thing was that it was a little too salty, so if you order this I would suggest asking your server to request less salt with this, just in case.

But also, this was SPICY! For my mom and I it was an agreeably spicy level, but for my husband it was a little too much. Be careful if you order this for kids!

Then the star of the show arrived, the Lamb Dumplings.

Ughh these are so amazing. The lamb inside is really well seasoned and juicy. If you attempt to cut it in half, you might just get juice flying out. It really isn't plain lamb in there, I'm pretty sure they've put cumin and coriander and the usual spices. The wrapper was cooked well and tasted really fresh, too. We've had dumplings were the wrappers were clearly stale and hard and chewy, but these ones were soft and fresh, the mark of being handmade.

But here's the real test: Did my mom like it? SHE DID! She even asked for seconds! There you have it, folks. The lamb here pleases people who don't even like lamb. Definitely order this or some other lamb dumplings or wontons. It's really good.

After paying for your meal and heading to the exit, you'll come upon quite possibly the best part of this restaurant, The Capsule Toy Machines.

Being the nerd that I am, I would never turn down cheap merchandise from shows or series that I love. For some reason you'll never find real anime merchandise from series like One Piece, Naruto, Bleach, Attack on Titan, or Pokemon anywhere else in Toronto, but this restaurant always has some, and they're quite up to date toys, too!

So what did I get?

With the current Pokemon Go craze I decided on a Pokemon Capsule toy, and I got Litleo, from Pokemon X/Y (Generation 6)! So cute!

Listen! I'm an adult, okay. I can buy toys any time I want! Hahaha.

This restaurant boasts numerous awards and recognition from the city and the province. We've met the owner, who also sometimes works as a server, and he's a very nice older brother who excitedly conversed with my husband in Chinese. May he and his family be rewarded for this awesome restaurant, ameen.


Address: 101 Ravel Rd, North York, ON M2H 1T1
Phone Number: (416) 498-9800
Hours: Every Day from 11:00 AM to 11:00 PM
Lunch Specials: Mon-Fri (except holidays) from 11:00 AM to 4:30 PM

Be sure to visit this restaurant and give it a try! If you've never had authentic Northern Style Chinese food, now's the time to try!



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