Skip the fifteen-hour flight to Southern China and head straight for Richmond Hill. Toronto’s north-end is firmly establishing itself as a destination for authentic, sophisticated Chinese cuisine.
Entering the dining room of Yu Seafood at 11:00 a.m. on a Saturday, we could be forgiven for thinking we’ve landed somewhere in Guangdong. We are here for Dim Sum. Formally attired waiters, skilfully balancing trays, hustle to serve a packed house of hungry patrons. Clearly this dining spot has already been long discovered by a loyal clientele. The kitchen is huge, and there are over 30 professional chefs preparing the diverse, health-conscious Cantonese dishes of their homeland, catering to diverse taste and dietary needs.
Larger groups such as ours, are seated in one of ten VIP private dining rooms around a huge round table. Servers place the now familiar dim sum dishes like plump shrimp dumplings and mushroom and vegetable dumplings on the “Lazy Susan,” which slowly turns automatically as we admire and partake of each selection. Delicately folded purses burst with freshness and flavour. It is always a treat to have well made Congee. Chock full of lobster and fish, with a clean splash of citrus from lemon shavings, this is one of the most soothing, almost therapeutic dishes in all of gastronomy. It is the special intricacies of the dim sum chef that amazes us all. One part skill, one part imagination goes into creating one more basket. Dark pillow-y bamboo charcoal buns are decoratively brushed with a stroke of gold, and break open to a sweet flowing egg yolk. I can imagine an Empress in ancient times complimenting the chef on these delicacies.
For some, the dim sum delights would be enough, but there are more spectaculars to come. Succulent Malaysian Lamb Chops, aromatically spiced and paired with curry, are charcoal-grilled to perfect caramelization, tender and juicy. However, Seafood is the specialty here. It is sourced from Nova Scotia and Norway, and immediately transported to self-purifying Italian-made tanks in the fishery room. The bounty of Yu Seafood’s selection is unrivaled. Should we try the colossal king crab, steamed with egg white and duck yolks, or with garlic, and served with butter and lime? A range of lobsters up to 18 pounds steamed in sake, or with garlic and truffle? Maybe next time. For now the piece de resistance is placed on the table with ceremony, and I have a strong desire to applaud. A veritable Jenga Tower of Lobster of meaty, deep fried lobster chunks and crispy fried garlic is the signature dish of Yu Seafood. According to the owner, Tony Chen, this is the first restaurant in North America to serve this dish. This is why we came here. We are offered soft plastic gloves to slip on our hands while we devour this luxurious dish.
Dessert? Traditional and fanciful creations are offered and though my brain says, no room, no room for more, I decide to try just one bite of a delicious sesame ball and warm sweet honey cake.
We make a visit to the fishery room. I’m asked, “Would you like to hold an 18 lb lobster?” These huge, lively creatures are the largest I have ever seen. The tanks are teeming with fish and crustaceans. By the look of the zealous guests in the dining room, these tanks will be empty in short order.
There is a great generosity of spirit here; a sense of joy in serving and eating these elegant dishes. Statistics show that Chinese is the world’s favorite cuisine. No surprise there. Yu Seafood offers a unique feast in the Toronto dining scene.
Yu Seafood, 270 West Beaver Creek Rd, 905-881-1688
Adam Waxman is an award winning travel journalist focusing on food, wine and well being. As well as an actor in film, television and formerly, the Stratford Festival, he is the Associate Publisher and Executive Editor of DINE and Destinations magazine.