Toronto Day 3 : The “Chinese Turkey” Thanksgiving

With the arrival of Fall, the promise of colours was too much to pass up during our trip up to Canada. It was also a great excuse to use my new fixed lens!  Family suggested that we make a trek up to Blue Mountain to catch the changing colours.  The drive up was a bit longer than I remembered, but it was worth it. The Village reminded me a lot of Mt. Tremblant’s (but on a smaller scale of course), with Beaver Tails and Apple Cider making appearances.  The trails were open (and FREE!). It was a strange feeling walking up the trails I used to regularly snowboard down. Blue Mountain provided a beautifully maintained trail through the Glades, including stairs and a bumbling brook.

After spending a half day wandering the slopes of Blue Hills, we descended into The Village. It was a nippy day, so we went in search of Hot Apple Cider. Friends bailed in the search early on by hitting up the resident StarBucks. I held out and was rewarded with a nice creamy, and richly flavoured Apple Cider from Royal Majesty Espresso & Bakery.

It’s a new little bakery/coffee shop in The Village and I think it’s a nice, welcome addition. As with everything else on the mountain, the prices are just as elevated as the peaks themselves. My little cup of Apple Cider set me back about $6(!!). It was tasty and spicy though and really hit the spot (it was freezing outside).  The baked treats also looked tasty, so I’d recommend stopping in if you’re in The Village and looking for a tasty little something.

That weekend was the Fall Festival, so we were treated to free music, a roaring outdoor fire in the pit, and a Pumpkin Pie Smorgasbord (bakeries in the area all offered their take on the Fall Favourite).  We just took it easy and soaked in the sounds and sights.

After spending the day running amok in the hills, we hit up a family favourite: The Pearl of Asia. Torontonians all know about the scandal that was Ruby’s located in Scarborough (McCowan & Finch).  Turns out, their head chef and a bunch of the staff moved and set up shop at The Pearl (Sheppard & Brimley).  My ‘adventurous’ family decided to loyally follow their beloved Chef to his new place of employment. And they haven’t tried any new restaurants since.  (Thanks for all the tips on the Toronto dining scene guys.)

It was Thanksgiving, so we decided to do it “Chinese-style” by having an equivalently carved bird – The Peking Duck.  Yes, we cheated, but I planned to make a grand Turkey Dinner later in the week.

What a beautiful bird if I do say so myself! It’s been a while since we’ve been treated to Chinese BBQ meat. I’ve certainly been refraining when in Boston (their birds taste like roadkill and look even worse), so I was really looking forward to the shatteringly crisp skin of this luxurious duck dish.  Always one to suggest to ‘splurge’ on the $4 supplement to get the ‘second-course’ of the Peking Duck meal (lettuce cups), I finally got my way after about 20 years of pleading.

We rounded out the meal with an assortment of seafood dishes, including a shrimp and roe topped silken tofu, a yummy conch dish, and a crunchy gourd with Thousand-Year-Old-Preserved-Eggs. The tofu was exceptionally tasty and smooth. E didn’t appreciate the heavy ‘fishy’ scent, but I attributed that unique flavour to the roe that peppered the top of the dish. The conch was light and had a great texture. The crunchy conch pieces bounced nicely in my mouth as I chewed.  It was sweet in every way a conch should be.  The gourd was a bit of a disappointment and wasn’t the buttery, soft melon I was used to getting when ordering this type of vegetable. I still have visions of my run-in with this gourd in Hong Kong. It was revelatory.

Pearl of Asia is a solid, new addition to the Toronto Asian dining scene. It’s great value, especially now with its opening discount of 10% on top of its already ridiculously cheap prices. Is the food fantastic? No, I’d have to reserve the designation for best Chinese Food in the Toronto area for Grand Chinese Cuisine (for their Dim Sum). I’m still in search for a comparable, reliable Chinese Dinner Service.  When comparing China Pearl to Ruby’s – I’d have to declare Ruby’s the Champion and rate China Pearl at about a 75% level of the original.  The shortcomings lay in the stocks used to prepare the dishes, which is so important in Chinese cuisine (being that most dishes incorporate the House Stock, especially vegetable-based dishes).

All in all, it was a great way to spend Thanksgiving with family and close friends. Sometimes, you just have to think outside the box and you’ll be treated to an exceptional meal for a mere pittance (meal for 6 : $70). No prep, no dishes to wash – just laughter, great conversation and soul-nourishing food.

Pearl of Asia

4438 Sheppard Ave
Toronto, ON

(416) 609-8338

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