Hong Kong’s cha chaan tengs (which I first wrote about when this site was still called Prospere Magazine) are very unique, offering fare not typically found in a “normal” Chinese restaurant such as baked pork chops and rice with tomato sauce, creamed corn and chicken as well as drinks like Hong Kong tea (strong black tea and condensed milk) and yeen yeung (Hong Kong tea mixed with coffee). There are many in Toronto, mostly located in the Chinese communities in Markham and Agincourt. There are also some in Chinatown, such as the Hong Kong Bistro Cafe, which I went to yesterday with several Toronto area food bloggers/Twitterers (Food Junkie Chronicles, The Vong Choice and Jylui). Also, a special thanks to J’s Little Place of Girly Heaven for writing about it as it took me a while to find a cha chaan teng that’s NOT in the suburbs!
Located on the second floor, the restaurant is pretty typical Chinatown – a little bit run down, yet still some charm. Many of the mains are “set,” – meaning that it comes with a soup (Hong Kongers aren’t big on salads). There were three soups on the menu, including vegetable soup, which we all had. For mains, we ordered:
The food itself was fairly decent (cha chaan teng food never claims to be gourmet), though many of the restaurants in Markham or Scarborough are a bit better. The Macanese chicken was a little bit on the watery side for my tastes, but the tomato pork chop and rice was good. The oxtail and spaghetti was okay if you’re into overcooked noodles. and the Hong Kong style French Toast was very interesting as it had peanuts in it rather than peanut butter. The Hong Kong tea wasn’t too bad either.
Hong Kong Bistro Cafe, unlike those “uptown” really did have a “real” chaa chaan teng feel – the places in the suburbs are just too…suburban. In Markham, you get a parking lot when you walk outside. In Chinatown, you get hustle and bustle, just like Hong Kong. So, if you’re looking for something with more of a Hong Kong vibe, this is definitely the place to go. If you’re just going for the food, stick to the suburbs.