search

Lacking in Passport Stamps? Visit Toronto's Best Asian Restaurants for Exotic Flavors



Almost 50% of Toronto's population is foreign-born, so it is no surprise that it is difficult to pinpoint exactly what defines Toronto's food scene. Even if a restaurant is not distinctly Asian, it has likely been Asian influenced, with one of the largest populations of Chinese ex-pats in North America. It is little surprise that the number of great Asian restaurants in Toronto is large and constantly growing.

The city has two significant Chinatown neighbourhoods, one in the east end and the other (larger and most popular) in the middle of the city. Explore the streets of these areas and you're sure to find a wide variety of things to eat, from ducks hanging in restaurant windows to Chinese bakeries serving steamed buns. Banh Mi Boys will take those buns and fill them with everything from pork belly to house made kimchi for a sandwich you will rave about for days afterwards.

This is not to say that many of the great Asian restaurants haven't expanded beyond this geography. David Chang made his mark with a Toronto based Momofuku and the communal tables are always jammed with satisfied noodle-slurpers (yes that is the technical term). Susur Lee is the king of Asian fusion, taking traditional dishes and making them unrecognizable (but inarguably delicious) in two restaurants that we have added to our list: Luckee and Lee

Toronto's reputation for great Asian food clearly has global reach.


Advertisement



If the only food allergy you have is to bad food, don't worry, Bazara has none of that. And contrary to the way it sounds, there is nothing "bizarre" about it. It is east meets west, Asia meets Canada. Deliciousness and freshness are two of the "nesses" they hold close to their hearts. Dishes range from nori seaweed wrapped ravioli to yellow curry soft shell crab with coconut sticky rice. Sushi can be rolled with black rice for a striking effect. Ignore the kitschy North American decor of chandeliers and huge mirrors and get to the important part: the eating.

Recommended for Asian because: If you can't travel to a giant Asian bazar filled with incredible street food, this restaurant is a good plan B.

Courtney's expert tip: Try the pre-fixe menu for lunch.

Read more about Bazara →


Nana


We all have that annoying friend who comes back from a backpacking trip claiming that none of the food is "authentic" enough. Now you too can be that annoying friend without having to buy a backpack. Nana is the cousin of Khao San Road, which was a popular restaurant on Adelaide street currently in the process of moving. There are a ton of choices all done in the style of Bangkok street food, from curries that will have your mouth burning for days to slurpy noodles teeming with vegetables. Even better is that you can be as specific as you want with your meal, choosing everything from the spice level to the amount of gluten in your food.

Recommended for Asian because: Loud music, cramped seating and the most delicious "real" Thai food.

Courtney's expert tip: A few seats are available for walkins, but if you want to ensure a seat, email info@stnnana.com to secure it.

Read more about Nana →




Jabistro has food philosophy. It believes that each ingredient must be "brought out to shine at its best." They find the perfect amount of each ingredient to make each menu item original in a sea of Japanese restaurants. Indulge in a fish bowl with assorted sashimi and sushi rice. Or get the Jabistro platter, which changes daily. You may catch them on a day when they are overloading the plates with lobster (or get your lobster fix with the amazing lobster miso soup). This platter can also be designed for the number of people that you have at your table, if you are lunching with the sort of people who love surprises. The sushi is blowtorched for a light char taste, and there are lots of non raw fish options for those who prefer to abstain.

Recommended for Asian because: JaBistro provides imaginative dishes that result in some of the most melt-in-your-mouth sushi in Toronto.

Courtney's expert tip: A lot of the plates are meant for sharing and offer inventive cuts and types of fish. The $100 sashimi platter is a reasonable splurge when split by a group and will astound you as soon as it comes out of the kitchen.

Read more about Jabistro Modern Japanese →


Advertisement
6
Queen West


Japanese restaurant. Tapas restaurant. Drinking establishment which serves food to accompany the drinks (at least according to the definition of Izakaya). Guu Izakaya does it all. This lively and energetic restaurant opened in 2011 after receiving high acclaim for its Vancouver location. Communal style tables encourage strangers to get friendly as they share the experience of eating Japanese comfort food. Baked oysters, beef tongue, almond tofu, sashimi salad and bibimbap are some of the options, and all are exquisite. Dishes are great for sharing, and you can sit at the bar to watch the food being cooked. Don't miss the cocktail and sake list. A couple of drinks will put you in the right Guu mood.

Recommended for Asian because: It's loud, cramped, fun and delicious. How many low-cost evenings can say the same?

Courtney's expert tip: The menu is extensive and prices are cheap, which means you'll likely want to try a bunch of dishes. Think of eating "hara hachi bu," which instructs people to eat until they are 80% full.

Read more about Guu Izakaya →


Blowfish Restaurant + Sake Bar
Photo courtesy of Blowfish Facebook page


When they think wine bar, most people's minds conjure up a restaurant that serves a variety of reds, whites and sparkling. But in Japan, wine is sake, and like so much of Japanese cuisine, sake production is an art form. Blowfish restaurant will enable you to sample 16 sakes by ordering small tastes, or enjoy by the glass or bottle. There is also a long list of red, white and sparkling wines from around the globe by the glass or bottle to enjoy with incredibly inventive sushi offerings. Consider the truffle albacore roll: spicy albacore tuna paste, tiger shrimp and avocado topped with a garlic chip and truffle oil drizzle.

Recommended for Asian because: Wagu beef and lotus steamed lobster will blow your past sushi dreams well out of the water.

Courtney's expert tip: There are two seating times, so it is good to plan accordingly. The first seating goes from 5:30pm and 7 and the second is from 8:30 to 9:30. You will be given two and a half hours to marvel at astounding Japanese creations (and hopefully eat some of them too).

Read more about Blowfish Restaurant + Sake Bar →


4
Downtown


Momofuku in Japanese translates to "lucky peach." Now that we have the linguistics lesson out of the way, let's get to the details. With the surging popularity of New York's Momofuku scene, Toronto couldn't have been more thrilled to welcome David Chang. The prime downtown location in the Shangri-la Hotel has four restaurants in one. Go big or go home. Momofuku noodle bar is prized for its ramen noodles and pork belly buns. David Chang introduces twists on authentic recipes, making them just different enough to keep the eater interested. Slather the amazing house made kimchi on everything. Eat at communal wooden tables and make sure to make a stop at the Milk Bar for some crack pie, which has a "toasty oat crust and gooey butter filling."

Recommended for Asian because: Before Momofuku came to Toronto, you had to travel to New York City to sample David Chang's famous food. Enough said.

Courtney's expert tip: There is a lot of selection, so consider going with the ramen for your main and splitting other dishes. Save some time and stomach space for the Milk Bar for dessert, which is like stepping into a giant freezer of sugar.

Read more about Momofuku →


3
Chinatown
Kinton Ramen
Photo courtesy of KlintonRamen Facebook page


At first glance, any restaurant with the word "Ramen" in the title doesn't seem like it would make a 10 Best list. Although ramen may be the choice of college students with the stringiest of budgets, it has been elevated as of late. Kinton Ramen gives a solid example of how fantastic ramen can be, with bowls and portions that are steaming hot and made to order. You can order your broth light, regular or rich. You can have pork belly or shoulder. You can enjoy garnishes, from chilis to egg to heaps of minced garlic. Noodles taste incredibly fresh. In our opinion, there is nothing more enjoyable than slurping from the bowl. This place is small, so come unencumbered from your heavy bags and be prepared to wait for a table. Get on this food trend while its hot (sorry, we couldn't help ourselves).

Recommended for Asian because: Rich, Japanese ramen with chewy noodles and lots of enthusiastic patrons and five locations to choose from.

Courtney's expert tip: The bowls are so big, that if you manage to eat the contents (meat, noodles and broth), you get the title of Kinton Bowler. This comes with a pin, a reward card and a photo on their Instagram account. The lesson is to come hungry.

Read more about Kinton Ramen →


2
Queen West
Banh Mi Boys


If you are looking for a unique twist on a filling Vietnamese sandwich, you certainly can't go wrong with Banh Mi Boys. Right on Queen and Spadina, the sandwich shop takes the Vietnamese construct and gives it multicultural twists, from Korean to Japanese. People line up out the door in anticipation, serving the grab-and-go style quite nicely. It is a skinny, hip and modern restaurant which serves its sandwiches on retro checkerboard paper. Banh Mi Boys was an overnight sensation for Toronto foodies who had no idea how great five-spice pork belly could taste (now they do). Other mouth-watering choices include duck confit or kimchi fries slathered in mayo, kimchi and slow roasted pulled pork. Now it's your turn to get on the Banh Mi train.

Recommended for Asian because: If you think a sub is a sub is a sub, you couldn't be more wrong. Don't hold back on toppings.

Courtney's expert tip: A secret menu item that will keep you in the know is the Club Bao. A steamed bun with fried chicken and pork belly? Yes please.

Read more about Banh Mi Boys →


Lee
Photo courtesy of Lee Facebook page


Since Hong Kong-born chef Susur Lee arrived in Canada in 1978, he's built a reputation on inventive cuisine that fuses the dishes of his homeland with other global influences. Lee is his flagship Toronto restaurant, with a menu that is built around sharable tapas-sized plates. Expect the unexpected with a mashup of Asian and Mediterranean flavours. Lobster ravioli and the popular cheeseburger spring rolls combine two favourite fast food dishes and successfully marry Italy and China. Save room for an inventive dessert, such as coconut creme caramel with black rice pudding and watch your taste buds do the happy dance.

Recommended for Asian because: Susur Lee has been on Iron Chef America and Top Chef Masters. His food sparkles with originality and personality.

Courtney's expert tip: Chef Lee's Singapore Slaw has been a fixture on the menu for years and is well worth the splurge. The presentation is impressive, with the salad mixed at the table and sculpted into a tower. Inventive ingredients range from daikon to fennel seedlings and edible flower petals. Divine.

Read more about Lee →


Map

Meet Courtney Sunday

Courtney Sunday has lived in England, Switzerland, Canada and the US, finding her way into the professions of freelance writing and yoga teaching in between travel opportunities. She learned...  More About Courtney

×