Sunday, July 22, 2012

Breakfast at the House of Gourmet

On the morning after Andrew’s open house at Wilfred Laurier University, Dad, Andrew, and I found our way to Toronto's Chinatown. It was weird seeing the streets in Chinatown so quiet. I think I’ve gone to Chinatown before ten in the morning, maybe twice?

There weren’t many stores open when we walked out of the parking garage. It was quarter past nine after all.

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Banh Mi Nguyen Huong was buzzing with activity though. People were loading and unloading stock. We picked up twenty regular sized banh mi (Vietnamese subs) to bring back to Ottawa. We asked for the herbs, pickled veggies, and peppers to be separately bagged.

If you find yourself looking for banh mi in Toronto’s Chinatown, I’d highly recommend this place. We’ve been buying their banh mi since I can remember. They have a couple of other locations around city too.

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As for Vietnamese desserts, the Banh Mi & Che Cali is the place to go. When Dad feels like something sweet, he always buys some dessert from this place.

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We dropped off the banh mi back in the car and then went to the House of Gourmet for breakfast. Doesn't that dragon graffiti look so amazing?

Dad and Andrew were both surprised when they walked through the doors because they haven’t seen the renovated interior (as of a few years ago). The restaurant is more inviting now and no longer looks like a hole-in-the-wall shop. The washrooms are nicer too.

The restaurant's three kitchen stations – two of them are in the front of the shop – have remained the same. On one side, there’s the BBQ area where you can get things like BBQ pork, BBQ pork on rice (cha siu fan), roast pork, and roast duck, marinated squid. The space across the BBQ area is where the noodle soups, cheung fan, youtiao, and congee are made. You can watch both stations from the stairs leading up to their door. The final kitchen station is the main kitchen, located at the back of the restaurant, where they handle everything else on the menu. Don’t be surprised if you get your food from all three areas.

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I glanced at the breakfast specials. The beef with macaroni looked familiar. Since the macaroni, instant noodles and vermicelli were the same price, I assumed you could just get beef with instant noodles. Should I order it and see if it was similar to the beef with instant noodles I ate in Hong Kong? I still wasn't sure what I wanted to eat.

Before my trip to Hong Kong, I used to think that the breakfast specials were made up. Little did I know, people in HK actually ate macaroni in soup and instant noodles with beef for breakfast. I mean, why eat that when there are so many good dim sum places?

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While looking over the menus, Dad went with the beef tendon noodle soup and Andrew decided to try something new and chose the Nanjing-style beef in noodle soup. Since it was too early to order my noodles (aka rice noodles with beef and Chinese broccoli), I got an order each of youtiao (aka zhaliang) and beef cheung fan.

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The two bowls of noodle soup arrived first. The beef tendon noodle soup looked good. Mom really likes the beef tendons here at the House of Gourmet. Last time we were here as a family, she just ordered beef tendons – without noodles, rice, or anything else. That’s how much she likes it.

Dad quietly worked away at his bowl. The tendons were really soft (but not over cooked) and flavoursome. He would’ve been able to finish it, if he didn’t help me eat the cheung fan.

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The Nanjing-style beef was served cold. It was a pleasant surprise to us all. The slices of marinated beef shanks weren’t tough at all. They were the exact opposite.  Tender is the word.

Andrew struggled to eat half of the noodle soup. I think he just ate too quickly. Either that, or it was just too early in the morning.

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I was offered some of both dishes. I obliged, since the two plates of cheung fan had not arrived yet. But before I even started to tuck in, they arrived with a glass of cold Hong Kong milk tea.

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Upon first glance, it looked like the beef filling was sparingly used. The noodles looked quite thick too. When I saw the zhaliang, I worried that I ordered far too much. They were quite generous with the portion. I was expecting the usual three of four strips.

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The youtiao on the plate were fresh and light. They were properly fried and didn’t absorb too much oil at all, although they did quick work with the sweet soy sauce. The trick was to take the bottom pieces first and give it a squeeze to drain some excess soy sauce.

It was beautiful. Carb on carb action… oh yeah! Commence the food porn music. The cheung fan noodle wasn’t too thick. The toasted sesame seeds were a nice touch. We really liked the sesame and hoisin sauce that came with it. Deeeeericious!

The glass of cold milk tea helped wash the cheung fan down. Although it wasn’t as rich, it did its job well.

In hindsight, I shouldn’t have ordered the beef cheung fan because the zhaliang was more than enough food. After all of the meals we've had at the restaurant, House of Gourmet never ceases to amaze me. It's still my favourite Chinese restaurant in Toronto.

~*~
Addresses:
Banh Mi Nguyen Huong
322 Spadina Ave
Toronto, ON
Banh Mi Nguyen Huong on Urbanspoon

House of Gourmet
484 Dundas St W
Toronto, ON
House of Gourmet on Urbanspoon

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