I don’t know about all of you but Chinese food is very addictive.
Even on the next day after Chinese New Year, I look towards the leftovers knowing that I can fill my plate with what I still had the night before. There are times when I am simply watching television and this overwhelming urge to drive to the nearest Chinese restaurant will fill my mind. It’s the craving for a Yang Chow fried rice, noodles, and a mixed veggie dish.
Every spoonful of fried rice is full of small parcels of veggies, meat, and egg. It’s as if it has a small buffet in every bite.
I like to chew on some noodles every now and then. This plate is the soft noodles but the really good one is the crispy egg noodles otherwise known as Cantonese Chow Mein. That dish you can get stir fried beef or seafood added on top and completely eat it on its own.
Chinese food wouldn’t be complete without some crispy broccoli with mushrooms. When it’s sautéed with a light corn starch and soya sauce mixture it just makes the entire craving go away.
I can eat it in the morning, day and night. As a light snack or a full meal. It’s so versatile that I can mix it with international foods and use it as a main or side dish. What can I say, I love Chinese food.
Visiting a Walt Disney theme park is one of the most enjoyable destinations in the world for families and friends to spend time with one another. If you want to bring back memories from when you were a child and pass them onto your kids then this is definitely the place to visit. For me, I just wanted to feel like a kid again.
When my wife and I had the opportunity to visit Hong Kong Disneyland on our flight in to see my in-laws, we just couldn’t pass it up. We wanted to find out if a Walt Disney theme park outside of the USA could be a completely different experience.
I had heard about the differences between HK Disneyland and Orlando Disney World such as some Disney characters talked a little differently only because of some translation issues with a slight Chinese accent. Some are the same like the fireworks and electric parade still light up the evening skies. But what I was looking forward to was the food experience. This is Hong Kong, China so I knew that our foodie trek would be quite different.
After looking over Disney’s website, we found the Crystal Lotus restaurant inside the resort we were about to stay in. We discovered that we had to make reservations in advance to dine at the restaurant. So just to be safe, we made our booking three months prior.
We arrived a little early for our 12pm reservation so we had to wait in the front lobby for only 10 minutes until they opened their doors. We didn’t mind waiting at all so we took our time taking some pictures.
I remember telling my wife that I wanted to walk slowly into the dining area. I wanted to take as many pictures as possible so I could just take everything in. I mean the whole space was so grand that you just wanted to stand in one place and turn around 360 degrees and stare at how much effort was put into decorating the restaurant.
When we had made our reservations a few months before, there were a few choices. They offered a la carte Chinese cuisine and other gourmet food but since my wife and I are such big fans of dim sum, we chose their “Special Dim Sum” lunch menu as our Disney dining experience because we were curious to see how they would present the food. When we had called them to inquire about their portions, they explained that the set menu was good for 1 person. After looking at some online photos, we saw there were a few pieces in each dim sum box so we decided to order 3 sets to accommodate our party of 6.
After a few moments of sitting at our round table our dishes started to come out. Three dishes of Scallops Salad with Pomelo arrived at our table.
After a few bites of this dish we were finished. The portion was small but it had great flavour since it was sprinkled with a light taste of a vinaigrette dressing.
Then the soup arrived and what I really liked about this soup was that it was simple. It fused both seafood and tofu together really nicely. Nothing better than chewing into pieces of crab with every bite!
What’s really cute and unique about eating at a Disney restaurant is that they shape as many pieces of food to a Disney theme as close as possible such as the next dish below. It’s absolutely crazy how the carrots are shaped like “Mickey’s head” and the zucchinis are “Mickey’s hands”.
Our next dish was the sesame chicken with lemon juice. Lightly breaded chicken with a tangy lemon syrup is probably close to a “Sweet and Sour Chicken”. This is a common dish with Chinese food and it felt close to home having this as part of my meal.
The waiter brought out a few dishes of a rice topping of abalone with a small garnish on the side. Rice perfectly shaped in a cylinder topped with a well-cooked piece of abalone. This was only my second time having abalone and luckily both were cooked very well. It’s slightly chewy but the sauce that it is cooked in brings out the seafood flavour. It might be an oversized snail but it was really good!
Then the Signature Dim Sum came out. Let me tell you how impressed I was with the amount of detail and work put into each dish. As soon as each dim sum was placed in front of us, we all couldn’t help ourselves taking photos with our smartphones.
Each dim sum dish had its own unique flavour. They were all cooked just right inside and out. None of them were undercooked/overcooked. But what I want you to see is the time and effort put into each dumpling and pancake. The choice of colours to create each character. The small shape of the pig’s nose and ears. The little antennae on top of the little green men’s heads. This sort of detail made our eyes lit up because it was so well made with such intimate detailing that it really brought out the Disney kids within us.
When Duffy the Disney Bear dim sum arrived, we were still impressed. Some of you remember the preview I showed a couple days ago. Well one serving actually came out on a single steamer tray with two small pieces of pudding. Look how absolutely cute and adorable Duffy is! Look closer at one of the puddings: One of them is shaped like Mickey’s hand!
The final dim sum tray we had to order when they offered it to us at the table. It was an additional fee on top of our set menu but we didn’t care because we wanted to see for ourselves what it was.
In one serving of a steamer basket came two dim sum pieces of Baymax. Something so simple as two hand rolled balls of white glutinous dim sum pieces looked so unique! Baymax may not have been one of the most well marketed Disney characters but to be honest with you, I absolutely love him!
I can’t tell you how much fun I had at the Crystal Lotus restaurant. From beginning to end, I couldn’t stop smiling. If you are reading this and you are considering eating at this restaurant, there are a couple of things you need to know:
Decide on whether you want the Disney Special Dim Sum Lunch Menu or the other special menus that are available.
Reservations are required and I suggest you book well in advance. Although there weren’t too many people there when we first arrived but when we were near to finished eating, the entire restaurant was completely filled.
For the Disney Special Dim Sum Lunch Menu, one order of the set menu is for only one person. My pictures, and other pictures on the internet, you might see a few dim sum pieces combined in one steam basket but really it is only one dim sum piece per order/basket. We made the mistake of ordering 3 sets for 6 people because of the online photos but I suggest that if you are going with a party of 6 adults, then order 6 sets.
The Dim Sum Lunch Menu is not cheap (I think it was about $40USD per order at the time we went). So if you are really hungry, be prepared to still buy some food after you finish your meal as the portions are rather small. This was more of a Disney-themed experience for us rather than a buffet.
The staff did their best to accommodate for our needs considering their English was very limited. But if you find one person who speaks English better than anyone else, get their attention as much as possible.
Even though it is not common to leave a tip in Hong Kong, or Disneyland for that matter, we still gave a tip. The staff worked hard for our smiles and we enjoyed the entire experience.
Hope you enjoy your Hong Kong Disneyland dim sum experience like we did!
I have added Cabalen as a new listing on both Yelp and Google Maps. Yelp is available on the above link, however due to character limits, the link for Google Maps will redirect you here for you to click on the Yelp link. Tripadvisor, as always, takes up to one week to moderate so when the link is available I will post it.
Update as of March 6, 2017: My review is now available on TripAdvisor. The link is posted above. Photos will be on soon.
By the way, if they end up becoming the best Korean resto in Iloilo City, I take full credit for being the first person to review their restaurant and putting them on the map with Tripadvisor and Yelp 🙂
Update: My Tripadvisor link is up but they forgot my photos. Oh well!
In the past few weeks, I have been to a few AYCE (All You Can Eat) sushi buffets in the Greater Toronto Area.
Each and every one of these restaurants had their own menu and style that may have included in one way or another different types of asian food such as Chinese, Korean, or Thai. After checking out each restaurant, I found this to be a great opportunity to compare notes on what I look for versus what I am paying for.
1. Sushi vs. Sashimi
What is the difference between the two? Originated from Japan, sushi consists of a special bite-size portion of cooked vinegared rice topped with a slice of raw seafood, vegetables, or even tropical fruits. Makis and Hand Rolls are types of sushi that have the fish and veggies rolled or wrapped inside a layer of rice or seaweed. Sashimi is commonly thin slices of raw seafood.
At many AYCE sushi buffets, I have seen sushi and sashimi served in different sizes, and girth. Yes, GIRTH. My biggest pet peeve is being served with a huge chunk of sushi rice with a small shave of fish. These sort of restaurants overfeed you with rice so they can save more money by holding back on the fish.
The best bang for your buck will always be the sashimis. I always order makis sparingly because I don’t want to fill myself up with rice.
2. Lunch vs. Dinner
At many AYCE buffets, the price is very different during lunch or dinner.
At an AYCE sushi buffet, the standard is having sushi served for lunch while sashimi is served for dinner, but when the price is $10 more per person and you eat the same number of sashimi as you do with sushi, then you might as well eat sushi for lunch.
Although in some AYCE restaurants, dinner menus may be served during lunch but of course, at a dinner price. Only your wallet and stomach will determine which one to choose.
3. Weekday vs Weekend
This comes down to price. The base price is lowest on weekday lunches (Monday – Thursday) and increases at dinner. Some consider Friday lunch as a weekday but Friday dinners are always at a weekend price. At most places, weekend lunch and dinner will skyrocket to a much higher unexpected price.
Other than serving sashimi for weeknight dinner or on weekends, usually there are no special reasons why they are charging more only that they know families and couples are most available to feast at these times.
Go for the weekday lunch if you can make it. You will get better service, pay less, and it won’t be so crowded.
4. All You Can Eat but not All You Can Drink
Better ask if your soda drink refills are unlimited and/or if it’s included in the AYCE price. Otherwise you might be paying much more than you think.
I usually order some Chinese tea or green tea solely because I gave up soft drinks a long time ago and also they refill hot water for free. Besides, carbonated drinks fill up my stomach and I like to consume more of the food than the drink. Most places provide a small pot with loose tea/tea bag steeping in hot water. They either charge one price for the number of pots or the number of people. So if you have a party of 8 and they all want tea, either you will be charged for 2 pots that can serve 8 people or pay the individual price per person even if you are given 2 pots. At one place my wife and I actually paid for our own separate tea bags in separate cups.
If you don’t need anything special, tap water will always be free.
5. AYCE Sushi plus other foods and fusion
Most sushi places are now mixing up their menus by offering Chinese, Korean, and Thai.
With Chinese, I try to stay away or limit my steamed rice or fried rice. I figured if you’re eating sushi, you are already having good portions of rice. Do try their dim sum (steamed dumplings) as they are slowly making their way into the sushi restaurants.
Most Japanese AYCE buffets mixes in several Korean dishes. If they offer kalbi (small strips of marinated short ribs) give them a try. Koreans know that it can be difficult and expensive to make kalbi so make it worth your while to have some. It’s delicious!
Tom Yum Soup is my go-to Thai dish. I have always enjoyed a little sour taste in my mouth to warm me up for a sushi fest. Any noodle dish such as Pad Thai should be ordered with caution because it usually tastes either very bland or very sour.
6. Types of Sushi and Sashimi
I used to eat a ton of red tuna. As time passed by red tuna became less available and salmon started to be the norm. Now I’m hooked on white tuna (or butterfish). Just thinking about the butterfish melting in my mouth makes me want to go out for sushi right now. Yum!
I have also started to love octopus and surf clam sashimi. They have a slightly rubbery texture to it but the flavor is starting to grow on me.
White Tuna Sushi
Some maki rolls make its way onto my plate. I love dynamite rolls (tempura inside), spicy salmon crisp, and Red Dragon with salmon toppings.
Spicy Salmon Maki
Hand rolls are the biggest flop in my book for AYCE buffets. So much rice and veggies are stuffed into the seaweed wrap that you can barely taste any fish at all.
7. Fresh means everything
Once you bite into any sushi, it should not have a fishy taste. Nor should it smell fishy either. Sushi and sashimi is meant for you to enjoy the moment without having any difficulty of forcing it down.
With any fish sushi, not only should it be chilled but it should also be easy to chew. If you find that you are chewing non-stop, then it is far from being fresh.
8. Price can make it or break it
How much are you willing to pay for an AYCE lunch or dinner buffet?
For lunch, I am willing to go between $15 – $20 and that’s if they are offering sashimi for lunch on the higher end of the price range. I find that even with higher prices, the quality is still the same.
Some restaurants will give you a 5% discount if you pay the bill cash. It doesn’t hurt to ask your server before you order if a discount is available.
9. Old style/New style menu ordering
Pen and paper menu ordering is slowly being phased out. Most of these places don’t have a picture what each dish looks like. Unless you have eaten at this sort of place several times and ordered everything on their menu, then you really wouldn’t know what to expect. Also, it is so hard to get your server’s attention if they don’t check up on you from time to time.
iPads now made their way into AYCE sushi buffets. Order the quantities of dishes by tapping away at the pictures on their slide bar menus. Food should arrive within 5 minutes as this system is supposed to increase efficiency. If they don’t serve your food within a good amount of time then either the restaurant is busy or the iPad is broken.
Most AYCE have credit card machines with preset amounts on how much tip to add onto the bill. I will tip depending if I have to go up to get my own food or if they will deliver it to me. Factor in if they bring my food quickly, take away my empty plates before I return from the tables. I always consider if I am treated like a paying customer.
Most importantly, the food has to meet my expectations.
So I hope my list helps all of you decide on what you will look for at any AYCE sushi buffet.
If you love sushi as much as I do, it is always satisfying to walk out of a sushi restaurant smiling saying that I ate well and having that ‘Life is Good’ feeling. If you can say that, then you definitely achieved the most value out of your sushi meal.
Heart Sushi Unit 2, 815 Britannia Road West, Mississauga, Ontario
Want to get your sushi on? If you feel the need to satisfy your appetite for Japanese food then I know the place.
In one of the west buildings in Mississauga’s Heartland area is an AYCE (All You Can Eat) restaurant named “Heart Sushi”. They share the building with a few other tenants but if you find the Heart logo you can see they are placed at the very end. Grab a parking spot as quickly as possible because spaces are very limited on the weekends.
Like most AYCE sushi places today, their pen and paper ordering system is replaced with the iPad menu. Make your choices from a range of edamame beans to red dragon rolls or Korean kalbi slices to Chinese fried rice.
What I like about this place is the sushi and sashimi are fresh. For lunchtime sushi, they don’t stuff each piece with a fistful of rice. The same can be said for all of their maki rolls. At dinner, the thickness of each sashimi is cut just right. The best part is the presentation. When your appetizers arrive one dish at a time, you can’t wait to sink your teeth into some sashimi. But when it arrives in an illuminated bowl of ice with some fancy decor, it totally makes the experience so much more enjoyable. I used think “meh, just feed me the sashimi on a plate and serve it to me as quickly as I order it” but my outlook changed when you see all your sashimi light up! And when you sink your teeth into a cold fresh piece of fish doused with soy sauce and wasabi? Whoa!!! You cannot help but order more!
Like many other asian restaurants, there are some minor downsides. Sitting down in the booth seats often leaves feeling the impact of the person moving around behind you. Some of the Chinese dishes are a little bland. Besides, why would I stuff myself with rice or noodles when I’m there to eat sushi??? For the most part your dishes come quickly, but even the iPad system might leave one or two items lagging behind.
There are a few unexpected dishes I particularly like. Available during lunch and dinner, order up the Tom Yum soup. It has a piece of simulated crab, slices of mushroom and one shrimp swimming in a slightly tangy soup base with a small garnish. No coconut milk, so it will never taste like the original in Thailand. White tuna for sushi or sashimi melts in your mouth and tastes far better than other types of fish. Available for dinner only, you must try the chopped spicy salmon sashimi on top of a Pringle chip! I ordered it thinking how crazy it was to eat but surprisingly it was really good! Just think, fish and chips right?
I’ve eaten at several sushi restaurants but this one surpasses a lot of them. Some have their own unique features, much like Heart Sushi, that makes them different from other places like their service or their decor.
So after eating here, I have a pretty good idea how to satisfy my cravings. Stay tuned for my next blog about the DO’s and DON’Ts on eating at AYCE sushi restaurants.
Dynasty BBQ Restaurant
1550 S Gateway Road
Dixie Park Mall is a building full of Asian (mainly Chinese) office tenants just 1 block north of Dixie Road and Eastgate Parkway in Mississauga. Tucked away in the corner of the main floor is a food court lined with asian food vendors who serve Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese, and Chinese food.
One of those food vendors is a place I usually order from called Dynasty BBQ Restaurant. They sell mainly Chinese food but have recently added on a couple of items on their menu to attract the Filipino market. Like many of the other food vendors, their menu consists of either a list of food with prices on a large poster board or pictures with a small description and price that is hung or taped all around the face of the unit. Many stores like these are the style in Toronto Chinatown or even back in mainland China and Hong Kong.
I have tried other food vendors in this food court but my wife and I always gravitate towards Dynasty. They are the only restaurant that sells BBQ, displaying several pieces roasted duck and pork on meat hooks in a huge showcase. Their specialty is the BBQ but they also sell the usual rice or noodle topping dishes with a variety of veggies, meats and seafood served on a cast iron grill.
While waiting in line, make your order and make it quick or else you will upset the people behind you. If you have ever ordered a pizza in Manhattan but haven’t figured out which one you want by the time they ask for your order then you know what I mean. The owner, a very short Chinese lady, is very fun to talk to but keep in mind of the queue and the orders she needs to fill.
I always get the roasted pork and soya chicken on rice while my wife orders up the roasted duck and soya chicken on rice (sorry no picture yet for this!). Get a drink combo 2 for $1.50 and the total bill comes out to just over $15.50. Can you believe that? $15.50 for two people!!! In most shopping mall food courts in Canada, you are looking to pay way over $20.00 for two.
These combinations come with a side serving of veggies, soup, and a teaspoon of ginger and scallion mixture. Before the veggies used to be a couple of large pieces of bok choy but recently it’s been switched to broccoli. It’s a large portion of food for great value. The taste is probably as good as you can get close to real Cantonese style bbq food.
Sometimes we get our food fast depending on the line up but more often now the service is slower only because we can’t get there before the crowd. But you will not be disappointed with their selection. Parking can get just as crazy but they do have enough spaces for the lunch crowd. It all depends how far you want to walk to satisfy your hunger. By the way, Dynasty BBQ is closed on Tuesdays. They need a day off too!