Bubble Tea, Chinese Food, and Memories of a Melting Ice Cream Birthday Cake – Destiny Cafe, Part I

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You know a cafe holds a special place in your heart when you’re happy to go back for eats even after a mortifying experience.  On your birthday.  In front of other people.  And by mortifying, I mean having your special circus-themed ice cream birthday cake completely defrost, deflate, collapse, and flood the dinner table with your dinner guests watching, laughing hysterically, and then helping you mop up the goopy mess afterward.  And that, my dear friends, is the fondest memory I have of eating at Destiny Cafe until now.  Which is somewhat unfortunate considering I’m in love with their menu, their decor, and their drinks and food!  Let me start from the beginning though and turn the clocks back to the summer of 2008.  

Enter the reunion of yours truly with a childhood friend through the magic of social media.  Said friend suggests grabbing a bite at Destiny Cafe in Scarborough.  Yours truly, not yet the savvy food adventurer she is now (humour me with that one), has no prior knowledge of what Destiny Cafe is or what food and drink they serve.  However, she is highly intrigued and jumps on the chance to try a new place and to catch up with an old friend.  Yours truly is happy to find out that Destiny Cafe is a lovely place with traditional Chinese rice and noodle meals and snacks, and vows to come back in the future.  

    

When she does so in 2009, she is shocked to see the cafe has undergone a complete makeover in both appearance and in menu, making it one heck of a gorgeous and delicious space to eat in!  Goodbye wooden and bamboo accents and furniture; hello sleek and shiny gunmetal and olive green!  The scrapping of the traditional Chinese food menu made way for the more modern and hip bubble tea and tea drink cafe with fried rice and noodles dishes, dim sum appetizers, and Hong Kong diner style fare.  Yours truly is hooked and vows to eat and drink her way through this luscious Chinese cafe.

And eat and drink she did as she enjoyed afternoon tea time food with her family (scrumptious crispy shrimp and mango dim sum rolls!  Mango peach bubble tea!) and a birthday get-together with friends and boyfriend.  She decided Destiny Cafe would be a lovely place to hold a birthday dinner – large space, large menu.  With circus themed goodie bags and special ice cream cake in hand (or rather, hands), the birthday girl made her way Destiny Cafe for what hoped to be a memorable birthday celebration with great food, drinks, and friends.

Oh, it was memorable alright, as unforseen circumstances took hold.  The food gods must have chosen her as the next target to poke fun at because before anyone could say, “melting cake!!!”, disaster struck as the birthday girl’s entire cake caved in, melted, and spread like evil molten lava.  Mortified and nearly choking on her Portuguese chicken and rice, she lunges for the stack of napkins and tries to salvage what is now a circus freak show mess.  The birthday girl’s friends and boyfriend help to clean up by eating any and all unmelted remnants, shoving the leftover goopy mess into the cake box, and using ice cube water and leftover guava juice to mop up the evidence.  All the while giggling uncontrollably and soothing the birthday girl’s wounded spirit. 

And that, folks, is the last memory I had of Destiny Cafe until now.  Under the circumstances, I actually took the incident fairly well and snorted about it on the way home.  That incident occurred two and a half years ago and I look back it ruefully and fondly.  My last trip to Destiny may have ended on a mortifying note, but I look back and only remember the good because all my food experiences here in the past have given great food and memories.

If not for my old friend, I never would have known about this Chinese cafe and I never would have had the pleasure of tucking away another delicious Chinese food spot into my list of Chinese cafe mainstays.  Destiny played a part in my family’s afternoon tea time meal phase during a difficult time in my life, and it gave my friends and I one of the most ridiculous, hilarious memories ever.  No matter what, food brings us together and it’s what anchors many of fondest memories. 

Aside from the crispy dim sum rolls, what you see up top are photos taken from the Markham location as opposed to the Scarborough one.  I’ve barely made even a tiny dent in the food and drink department since, but I have a yummy post to share with you all tomorrow that’s sure to get you eating and drinking here.  Minus the melting lava cake. 

*****

Destiny Cafe is located at 165 York Blvd. in Richmond Hill, Markham.  The large space is housed within a complex of restaurants and eateries and can be accessed via East Beaver Creek Drive and Highway 7, just off the 404.  Destiny Cafe has two locations in the GTA.  The other location is located in Scarborough off Silver Star Blvd. and Steeles Ave. East.  The markham location is open for business at 11am.

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Committed to Food, Committed to Friendship – A Scrapbook Snapsnot of the Breakfast Club Girls

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Eating breakfast classics, drinking cups upon cups of tea and coffee, and catching up with friends during a weekend or holiday brunch is one of the best feelings in the world and making this breakfast scrapbook layout made me so happy.  I’ve been down in the dumps lately and even though I know how much I love to write, scrapbook, and design, it still catches me by surprise when both of these loving pastimes calm me down and give me a little piece of mind.  Writing and scrapbooking function as both my creative outlets and my stress relievers and they have been so therapeutic for me. 

This scrapbook layout served as yet another reminder of all the reasons why I love food, story-telling, and the time spent with friends.  I feel so lucky to have a sweet boyfriend who humours me, supports me, and is up for anything when it comes to my blogging and photography escapades, and I love having different friends with whom I can enjoy different food activities.  I have friends who love to go on sushi lunch dates, friends who are just as obsessive about cupcakes as I am, and friends who are my vegetarian and vegan partners in crime.  Finally, I have my group of breakfast and brunch girl friends!

Friends since our first year of high school (and beyond for my other three girls who have known one another since sandbox and playground days), the four of us have formed a lifelong bond and tradition over breakfast get-togethers and have coined ourselves Team Commitment as an ode to our friendship and our commitment to delicious food.  This year we celebrated our 5th consecutive year as a group (our 3rd here at T&T Bakery & Cafe!) and each and every single our breakfast club gets together, there’s always fabulous food involved!  Not only have we noshed on waffles, poached eggs, bacon, sandwiches, bagels, and French toast, but we’ve also exchanged food gifts.  I baked cookies for my dear Lindsay over Christmas, Laura surprised us all with chocolatey Tim Tams and hot cocoa two years ago, and Lisa shared some of her fabulous homemade caramel, nut, and white chocolate bark and homemade cinnamon sticky buns!  Even some of our non-edible gifts have been food-related! 

Food has quietly (or maybe not so quietly) played a starring role in our get-togethers over the years.  It has anchored us, giving us a little stability and a lot of excitment and anticipation.  Over tea and coffee and plates of food, we have celebrated graduations, weddings, break-ups and heartbreaks, new loves, new jobs, new schools, and even a new country to temporarily call home.  Every breakfast get-together is, simaltanously, a sign of change and growth on the one hand and comfort and familiarity on the other.  The scrapbook layout is a snapshot of several moments frozen in time of four very different young women who, despite having their own aspirations, dreams, and goals in life, always make the time and effort to eat, laugh, and cry together.  We look forward to our breakfast meals as we reminisce and catch up on each other’s lives and this scrapbook layout is my way of capturing the story of four girls who come together to celebrate food and friendship.

*****

T&T Bakery and Café is located at 35 Main Street Markham at the intersection of Highway 7 and Markham Rd., just north of Highway.7 and on the east side of Markham Rd.

Scrapbook materials used: Cornflower blue, watermelon pink, pale lemon yellow, and textured beige cardstock (Recollections); breakfast waffle patterned paper (MMMMM Waffles – Mom’s Diner by Recollections); blue journalling tags (Darcy collection by Anna Griffin); glittery breakfast pancake and waffle adhesive embellishments (Waffle Baking stickers by Martha Stewart Crafts); floral and garden gold foil stickers (atd by Momenta); strawberry sticker (Sticko); sapphire alphabet stickers (Recollections); circle paper punch (ek success); deckle edged decorative scissors (Provo Craft).

Golden Brown and Fluffy – The Strawberries and Whipped Cream Waffles at T&T Bakery & Cafe!

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It’s waffle time on the blog!  I raved about T&T Bakery & Cafe’s breakfasts and home fries yesterday so today, I’m shining a spotlight on their wonderful and delicious strawberries and whipped cream waffles!  This works out perfectly because I’ve wanted to feature more waffles on Ate by Ate for some time now, having only Cocoa Latte’s amazing giant banana and nutella waffle and Lady Marmalade’s savoury aged white cheddar and spinach waffles to represent the beloved breakfast and brunch staple. 

I know it seems like I enjoy pancakes more given how many Aunt Jemima pancake posts I made last year but in all honesty, between pancakes and waffles, I actually love waffles more and get more excited about them in all its forms!  I just discovered Christmas tree waffles this past Christmas thanks to my friend Amanda over at Fake Ginger and my Lady Marmalade brunch was the first savoury waffle meal to make it into my tummy!  Not to mention I just think it’s cute and fun when toppings get stuck in the little waffle squares.  I can’t wait for the day I buy and have my very own waffle iron in my own kitchen because there are so many flavour and topping combinations I want to play around with.  And I am very giddy about the possibility of introducing a Hello Kitty waffle iron to the kitchen crew of appliances and tools as well!

Now, I know I said I preferred savoury breakfast items over sweet ones (which is hard to believe since I have such sweet teeth), but after seeing my dear friend Lindsay order T&T’s strawberries and whipped cream waffle on more than one occasion, I knew it was her favourite and I knew I had to have it.  I loved waffles, I felt like a waffle, and I really wanted to a part of the deliciousness, so I caved and ordered myself one during a recent Sunday morning breakfast outing with a friend and was rewarded with one of the best waffles I have ever had in my life.

The waffle breakfast ($5.89) is comprised of one large fluffy and crispy waffle ladled with juicy and sweet strawberries in syrup, four mountains of fluffy whipped cream, and several thick slices of scrumptious extra crispy bacon.  I go through stages where I truly believe I’m a sausage type of girl (me and breakfast sausage are dear friends and you should see me go to town with Italian, Polish, and Oktoberfest sausages!), but when I get around to eating some great bacon every so often, I’m reminded of how much I enjoy that too and come to the conclusion that I’m just game for either, any time.  T&T’s bacon is fabulous because of the crispyness and thickness and I’d say the taste and texture rivals that of cooked pancetta.  My mouth is watering just thinking about it too.

And then there’s the star of the show, the waffle!  What I love most about the strawberries and whipped cream waffles is how light and fluffy the waffles are on the inside and how they retain their shape and golden crispness on the outside.  We all know it’ll end up a bit messy and soft once you really dig into it mid-meal, but what you don’t want is a waffle that’s too moist and soppy from the get-go.  You can practically taste the golden browness of the waffle and it is just a delight to eat.  There’s lots of fresh strawberry slices and strawberry syrup in the middle and what I appreciate is the actual presence of strawberries as opposed to jam or preserves, and the four big swirls of whipped cream on each waffle quadrant makes the meal more fun and fluffy!

I’m a big lover of breakfast and brunch (I look forward to breakfast and lunch more than I do dinner!) and I’m excited to see what other fabulous waffle breakfasts I find!  I know off the top of my head there are a few great Belgain waffle places in the city so we’ll see how this year pans out waffle and breakfast-wise.  If it’s anything like the three I’ve featured on the blog so far, it’s going to be fantastic.

*****

T&T Bakery and Café is located at 35 Main Street Markham at the intersection of Highway 7 and Markham Rd., just north of Highway.7 and on the east side of Markham Rd.

Friends & Great Breakfast Food – Salmon Sandwiches, Home Fries, & Vanilla Milkshakes at T&T Bakery & Cafe

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Going to T&T Bakery & Cafe for breakfast turned into a holiday and winter tradition for myself and my friends several years ago when we gathered together for a meal to catch up with each other’s lives.  Since then, we’ve done coffee shops here and there when an early morning T&T breakfast wasn’t an option, but in total, T&T has made its way into our holiday and winter memories for three years and I find myself looking forward to every breakfast meal here during the gray winter months.  Like Winterlicious, it’s a beacon of light. 

I can eat breakfast here at any time and at any point in the year, but I love coming here during the winter the most.  Located on Main Street Markham, coming here with a little bit of snow and chill in the air feels quaint, magical almost.  T&T may not have pages and pages of menu items, but it’s the wholesome goodness and simplicity (not to mention fabulous portions!) that keeps me coming back for more.

T&T’s turkey pot pie, Christmas shortbread cookies, and crunchy, ooey gooey grilled cheese with veggies were both introduced on the blog last year and today, I’m finally read to post and write about some of their famous breakfast dishes!  Breakfast was actually what drew me in and what made me fall in love with the cozy smalltown cafe and bakery and judging by the crowds, I’m not the only one who adores their breakfasts and baked goods.  There are seven permanent, everyday breakfast dishes on their menu ($5.09-$6.87): 1) 2 poached eggs, bacon, home fries, toast, and beans; 2) 2 fried eggs, bacon, homenfries, and toast; 3) Peameal bacon on a bun; 4) French toast with bacon; 5) Pancakes with bacon; 6) Blueberry pancakes with bacon; 7) Waffle with strawberries, whipped cream, and bacon.  As you can tell, bacon is the name of the game at T&T and this is perfect for the MANY bacon lovers and fanatics out there and you know who you are!

I'm having a blast with my food up top!

Even though I haven’t blogged about their breakfast until now, trust me when I say that I’ve had their breakfast four times on four different occasions.  Where are all the photos?!  Well, I have two sets for you all today and tomorrow and the other two sets won’t be making it to the blog because 1) I didn’t take photos of one of them (shocking, I know!  It was years ago, before I started doing food photography full-time, and 2) the other meal was taken with my camera flash on and although the photo was okay a number of years ago for a photo album on my bookshelf, it’s not something I’d use as the main attraction.  Not to worry though, I see myself cycling through the breakfast menu eventually so the two meals I had from before will be eaten again in due time!

First up: home fries and a salmon salad sandwich!  Okay, so the salmon salad sandwich is actually part of the sandwich menu and not the breakfast menu, but what’s great about T&T is that you can order a sandwich any time you want!  The best thing about T&T sandwiches is the crispness and freshness of ingredients and the generous portions and fillings.  Sandwiches are super thick, simple, and delicious and prices range from $3.55-$5.19.  Their sandwiches aren’t exclusive to lunch and/or dinner hours and since I’ll eat a sandwich at any old hour, I had myself a salmon salad one.

It reminded me of my university days during the 2nd year of my undergrad when I used to order a salmon salad bagel sandwich with pickles for my early morning Children’s Literature class at the nearby coffee shop.  One of my friends used to roll his eyes and snicker at me whenever I brought my “weekly” sandwich into class; I swear it’s not as disgusting as it sounds!  This one was sans the pickles though.  Mine was a thick sandwich stuffed to the nines with salmon salad with some lettuce and tomato with a generous side of my favourite home fries!

Their home fries are what I look forward to the most when I’m here and I love that I can order a side of them for $2-$3 and get a plate of delicious crispy-on-the-outside, moist-and-tender-on-the-inside potato coins that are exactly like scalloped potatoes.  It’s great for sharing among friends and they are just the best because they’re not overcooked, overseasoned, or dry.  Some home fries, although great, need a little sauce or a little something to go with them.  Not these.  These are perfect the way they are because they maintain their starchy meatiness while at the same time tasting tender and soft.  They are so delicious and between friends, incredibly easy to scarf down!

And finally, no meal is complete with something to wash it all down so in addition to my favourite homefries, I ordered another one of my favourites: a milkshake!  Aside from King’s Cafe, T&T makes my favourite milkshakes because they’re so creamy and sweet with just the right amount of thickness to it.  A runny, diluted milkshake is gross while a milkshake that is too thick ends up being goopy and undrinkable (you might as well just give me a spoon for it because it ain’t going anywhere in a straw!), and I’m delighted to say that T&T’s milkshakes are neither. 

They come in the neapolitan flavours of vanilla, strawberry, and chocolate ($2.38) and so far I’ve had their chocolate and vanilla and I love them both.  Although some may not care for the styrofoam cup, I know many will appreciate the tallness of it.  They serve giant milkshakes that are deliciously sweet and they give the cafe that hometown diner feel that everyone feels so comfortable in.

 

*****

T&T Bakery and Café is located at 35 Main Street Markham at the intersection of Highway 7 and Markham Rd., just north of Highway.7 and on the east side of Markham Rd.

Breezing into Markham in True Fuschia, Bright Pink, and Lime Green Fashion – Menchie’s is Now in Markham!

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Aside from some great books, beautiful lip glosses, sweet cards, and fun times with friends and family, I received one other fabulous Christmas gift this past December: the gift of yummy frozen yogurt!  In true bright pink, fuschia, and lime green fashion, Menchie’s breezed into my neck of the woods in Markham just in time for the holidays.  I know, I couldn’t believe it either when I found out!  To my fellow Markhamettes (I just made that up, so humour me): we have a Menchie’s now!  I’m so used to making trips downtown or into the 416 to visit most of my favourite shops, restaurants, and bits and bobs that having one of them open up another location so much closer to me feels so surreal! 

I was so excited when I found out Menchie’s was going to have a location in Markham not only because I adore indulging in frozen yogurt and toppings bar heaven when I’m there (pulling down those frozen yogurt levers makes me feel all sorts of happy), but also because both my mum and dad have taken quite a liking to the self-serve frozen yogurt fun!

I introduced my brother and my mum to Menchie’s on Bloor St. this past fall and at the beginning of December, I took my dad there and had the funnest time showing him the ropes, pointing out the different stations, flavours, and sweet toppings.  My dad has always had a soft spot for soft-serve ice cream, so naturally, frozen yogurt fit the bill.  What’s not to love?  Over 12 flavours every day, the ability to create your own flavour combinations, and the fun in choosing sauces, fruits, boba, cookies, sprinkles, chips, chocolates, candies, and every other sweet confection under the sun to outfit your cool treat.

The new Menchie’s frozen yogurt shop is located by Warden Ave. and Hwy. 7 right beside the Future Shop and I have to say, this location is fabulous.  I don’t know how long this is going to be around for, but I can’t get over how insanely adorable the giant inflatable Menchie’s frozen yogurt dessert cup is on top of the shop!  It sits there, beckoning and flagging everyone in town and it’s cuteness makes me giggle.

It doesn’t look very big from the outside, but geez louise is it ever large and spacious on the inside, even more so than the one on Bloor St.!  There’s an ample amount of seating with large windows (hurray for natural light streaming in!) and plenty of space around the self-serve station areas.  This is especially important for when it gets busy!  The last thing you want is to end up with the toppings on you as opposed to in your belly when you start elbowing others just to get to the chocolate fudge sauce. 

I love the location of the shop.  For starters, it’s accessible by public transit.  I know, I know, YRT/Viva are both on strike right now, but we know they’ll come back eventually (I’ve certainly done my sharing of grumbling over the holidays about this predicament!)  and there’s fortunately the option of getting here via Warden Ave.  As well, the outdoor ice rink unveiled its shiny surface in December, across the street at the Markham Civic Centre.  Finally, from Menchie’s perspective, the presence of a high school down the road and across the street equals big business.

My family and I went all out, each one of us grabbing a bottomless pit frozen yogurt cup (really, these cups are huge!) to fill with whatever our heart desired.  Before I get to the actual frozen yogurt flavours and toppings, I have to gush about the spoon.  I was absolutely smitten with the lime green spoon with the Menchie’s smiley face and logo on the handle!  I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned this on the blog, but I love collecting colourful utensils and kitchen accessories.  I have a small collection in our utensil drawer at home of bright coloured spoons from different ice cream and frozen yogurt places and I happily added Miss Menchie to the mix.

Now, onto the froyo.  I swirled myself some cake batter, frozen hot chocolate, and green frozen yogurt and topped it all off with chocolate sprinkles, mini marshmallows, graham cracker crumbs, and crushed Oreo cookies.  Can you tell I was going for a hot chocolate and cookies type of combination?! 

In hindsight, I shouldn’t have added the green tea flavour because it didn’t exactly mesh with the theme I was aiming for and although it taste bad, the green tea one wasn’t my favourite.  The cake batter I love to death and the frozen hot chocolate frozen yogurt was absolutely delicious, but the green tea one didn’t do it for me.  For whatever reason, I tasted a little too much citrus in it and it didn’t have that punchy matcha taste that I enjoyed.  The nuances were just a little off for this one.

The frozen hot chocolate one on the other hand, nailed it.  It wasn’t fudgy in a chocolatey, brownie kind of way (which wouldn’t have been true to frozen hot chocolate), but instead, it was like a rich, chocolate slushie in flavour.  It was great and it went really well with the cake batter frozen yogurt.  I much prefer the green tea frozen yogurt from Ninka in the underground PATH downtown, but I enjoyed my holiday froyo dessert very much nevertheless!

 

Menchie’s in Markham is special to me because it’s hard finding something that everyone can enjoy and take part in.  I’ve mentioned my family’s different palates and tastes for food on more than one occasion on the blog and it makes me happy knowing that this is something all four of us can agree on!  My mum and dad adore it so much they suggested going once a week!  Can’t say I blame them.  And I certainly don’t plan on arguing with them on this point 😀

*****

Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt in Markham is located at 3828 Highway 7 East, at the northeast corner of Hwy. 7 and Warden Ave. beside Future Shop.  Check out my Menchie’s on Bloor St. blog post here and take a peek at the Markham location’s Facebook page here!

Light A Candle, Blow It Out, and Make a Wish – Today is Ate by Ate’s 1st Birthday!

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Every celebration calls for cupcakes!

Eat some cupcakes, light some candles, blow them out, and make a wish – it’s Ate by Ate’s 1ST BIRTHDAY today!  I’m so happy and excited that I made it this far and that I actually have a “blogiversary” to celebrate.  I spent a relaxing day reading another one of my favourite Joanne Fluke foodie murder mysteries, taking photos of scrapbook layouts, watching The Chew, and watching the first snowfall of the season float through the sky as I reminisced about all the wonderful things the blog has gone through.  One year ago today, I went live and launched this blog after spending weeks and months planning out the perfect entry into the blogging world and here we are now, 343 posts and 63 scrapbook layouts later! 

Even though the aspirations I’ve had for myself have always been different from the ones my parents have had for me, I have my dad to thank for this.  He gave me that nudge when he said to me, “you’re always taking photos of food, you need to share this with the world!”  I hemmed and hawwed for months before taking the plunge and finally, I decided I would start a food and scrapbooking blog.  I started making lists of food categories in my doodle notebook, I put the pedal the metal on the scrapbooking, and I spent hours fiddling with wordpress picking out background colours, header images, and learning the ins and outs of widgets, codes, and tags.

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Bring On the Chinese Street Food and Diners – Curry Fish Ball Spaghetti!

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Break out the Chinese street meat because it’s curry fish ball time!  Curry fish balls and I have a long history and we’ve made some wonderful foodie memories together over the years.  In a nutshell, curry fish balls are a popular snack in Chinese street food culture and they are often served on a stick in sets of five or any other number the vendor happens to be selling them at.  They are covered in spicy curry sauce that is absolutely delicious, and depending on the consistency of the sauce, you’ll usually get a little container to hold them while you eat them off the skewer so the sauce doesn’t drip all over the place.  And by that, I mean all over your hands and clothes! 

In addition to fish balls, there are beef, pork, crab, and lobster balls and they’re all available to buy in Chinese supermarkets.  I’ve enjoyed them in their traditional Chinese street meat form on a skewer (and we all know how gaga many of us are over food served on a stick!), I’ve ordered these on a whim in Chinese malls as my afternoon snack (and loved every minute of it), and have even witnessed some high school friends selling homemade ones at school for a business project!

Even though I’ve never experienced Chinese street food culture in Hong Kong or China firsthand, I have had the pleasure of enjoying many of the foods in the comfort of my own home since I was a little girl.  I would eat them whenever my family and I would do Chinese hotpot, and my mum would go grocery shopping at some of the Chinese supermarkets and pick up fresh fish paste and fish balls.  She would either make them into crispy fish cakes or put them in soup broth to hang out with my soup noodles.  One of my favourite Chinese comfort foods growing up was a warm bowl of ramen noodles in soup with green onions, and dumplings, wontons, or fish, beef, or pork balls with a little red vinegar drizzled over top.  This meals still makes me feel all warm and fuzzy till this day.    

Even though I’m no stranger to the Chinese fish paste and fish ball market, I don’t eat curry fish balls very often and I almost always take advantage of the opportunity to have them when I can.  Enter my beloved Chinese and HK style diners, specifically the one my family and I have grown to be quite fond of over the past couple of months: Ho Garden Chinese Restaurant located in the plaza at Woodbine and 16th Ave. in Markham.  From the outside, Ho Garden looks completely unassuming.  I can say for a fact that unless you went right up to the front window and saw the large poster advertising some of their HK style dishes, you wouldn’t know what was inside.  Often times, diners will have big front windows so that those from the outside can easily see how busy it is inside with customers eating, dishes of food on the tables, tall glasses of drinks, the whole bit.    Ho Garden is a little different because their front window is much higher up which doesn’t allow you to see customers inside enjoying their food, and for another, the restaurant signage up in thr front isn’t flashy and could easily be missed.

Hainanese Chicken Rice (Ho Nam Gai Fan)

Baked Seafood Spaghetti

Ho Garden is often very busy though and one of the draws is its location.  Being a part of the large plaza with a number of dining options, at a busy intersection (it’s literally seconds away from the highway exit), and surrounded by a huuuge residential neighbourhood, has attracted a local neighbourhood which just continues to grow.  You would think that the other dining establishments would pose some stiff competition but the beauty of it is that the plaza’s offerings are so different and multi-faceted that they really don’t step on each other’s toes.  You have a Greek restaurant, an AYCE sushi restaurant, a wings and ribs sports bar, an ice cream shop, a pizza shop, a Chinese congee, rice, and noodle restaurant, and a coffee shop, literally all inhabiting the same space.  Which works perfectly for me because this foodie paradise isn’t too far from home! 

Another one of the enticing draws is the price range of food.  Now, Chinese and HK style diners aren’t all that expensive to begin with (ordering a dinner meal and a drink that comes up to less than or around $10 is awesomesauce in my book), but Ho Garden does one better by offering plenty of meals for $4-$6 and combo meal sets that come with a main, a drink, and a soup for around $7-$8.  Granted, of course there are more expensive menu items, but those cater to the large family crowd with dishes such as multiple course dinners, whole steamed fish, and several others.

I saw curry fish ball rice/spaghetti on the menu and for the first time in goodness knows how long, I didn’t need to pull my hair out over deciding what I wanted to order.  Done and done.  Finally I wasn’t the last one to decide what she wanted to eat!  I love spaghetti to pieces and this meal didn’t disappoint at all.  It was so delicious and satisfying and I am so happy I had it.

The curry sauce was savoury and spicy (not tears-streaming-down-my-face spicy, but definitely “Ooo, my tastebuds just got punched and my cheeks feel a bit warm now” spicy), the fish balls were super soft and moist with great flavour (they can have a tendency to taste rubbery), and the chunks of potato mingling with the fish balls were fantastic.  Many Chinese curry dishes include potatoes (such as my classic favourite Chinese Portuguese chicken dish, and my dad’s classic favourite, curry beef brisket) and I absolutely LOVE it when they use nice starchy potatoes because they hold up really well in sauce.  They were yummy and they absorbed and sopped up the curry sauce real good!

Even though Phoenix will always hold the number 1 spot in my foodie heart, the food at Ho Garden is great and I have yet to be disappointed with anything that I’ve eaten here.  The portions and prices are terrific, there’s a good selection of HK style and Cantonese dishes, and it’s a great local place to have a wholesome good meal.

*****

Ho Garden Chinese restaurant is located at 9255 Woodbine Ave. at the corner of Woodbine and 16th Ave. in Markham.  They serve and are open for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea time, and dinner.