There’s a world of flavours to enjoy in Chinatown — as well as plenty of places that now sell beer, wine, and cider to accompany those delicious meals. Here, four reliable dishes and suggestions for picking up a drink along the way.
726 Somerset St. W.
Maht, meaning “flavours’’ in Korean, serves up big flavour from its small spot in Chinatown. Japchae, a bowl of stir-fried glass noodles with a tangle of bright vegetables, comes served atop purple rice and with zippy homemade kimchi. The bowl is amped up with your choice of Maht’s house sauces: sweet and spicy gochujang, tamari ginger sauce, or toasted sesame mayo. Although this is a filling vegan option on its own for $18, you can also opt to order the “japchae bundle” for two ($48) with your choice of protein (organic tofu, smoked shrimp, or bulgogi beef ) atop the glass noodles, along with two kimchi pancakes and miso soup (both also vegan).
Pair with: Pop a couple of doors down to Spark Beer to pair your japchae with one of their hoppy brews, maybe the Ovington Electric Pale Ale.
Cô Châm’s bánh mì
780 Somerset St. W.
Cô Châm’s bánh mì is a takeaway sandwich ($3.50) built for picnics or to enjoy after you’ve hiked a rugged trail. Cilantro, pickled carrots, and daikon are tucked into a baguette-style bun to accompany your choice of meat: roti chicken, assorted meats, pork meatball, or shredded pork.
Served to-go only, the subs are prepared to order, ensuring a good crunch with every bite — the freshness of the vegetables, the richness of the meat, and the crusty bread with a soft crumb all come together to make a hand-held meal that is more than the sum of its parts. Buy five and get the sixth free!
Pair with: These simple sandwiches pair really nicely with a cold and crispy pilsner from Flora Hall, just a short urban hike away from Chinatown.
Harmony’s Hot Dry Eggplant
769 Gladstone Ave.
Gladstone’s Harmony Restaurant has an extensive menu of Chinese and Canadian-Chinese cuisine and a handful of Szechuan specialties (“all spicy” the menu tempts, or warns, depending on your tolerance for heat). The region’s eponymous peppercorn finds its way into most dishes, providing a numbing and cooling sensation not often found in other cuisines. The vegetable dishes punch above their weight and shouldn’t be relegated to the side of your plate. The Hot and Dry Eggplant ($12.55) is listed under their House Specials — it’s a textured flavour bomb, the eggplant almost seems caramelized, with a crispy exterior. The heat is nuanced with a subtly sweet, garlicky ginger sauce. It’s great over steamed rice or alongside one of Harmony’s many noodle dishes.
Pair with: Grab a bottle of Mosel riesling from nearby Fauna for a perfect night in.
Huong’s Vietnamese Bistro: the bánh xèo
359 Booth St.
A staple in the city’s Vietnamese food scene, Huong’s Bistro moved away from Somerset Street and into its larger location on Booth almost a decade ago. Their bánh xèo ($9.50) is a Vietnamese pancake stuffed with shrimp and pork and is an essential starter dish. The fried rice-flour pancake has a crispy exterior that shatters into its fillings, and Huong’s offers a sidecar of accoutrements to make your own lettuce wraps: fresh greens, basil, bean sprouts, chili peppers, and a generous amount of fish sauce. Loaded with texture and umami richness — you may be better off ordering two!
Pair with: Try a funky cider or natural wine from Corner Peach at the end of the block