When we used to live in Yaletown, there were so many places to eat. You could either walk out into downtown or a short drive would yield a plethora of restaurants. One place we frequented nearby was Toko. It is definitely off the beaten path, right amongst warehouses, collision repair shops and offices. In fact, Toko itself is mainly a noodle manufacturing plant. They use the narrow storefront as the dining room for the restaurant. It is hard to categorize Toko because you can't really say it's Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Malay or Thai. Rather, it's a combination of all of them (then it could be an Asian restaurant I suppose). It's really strange that we went there so often before since in retrospect, it wasn't authentic in any of the aforementioned cuisines. The problem with having a menu that is so diverse is that nothing will be spot on. Instead, you'll have versions of ethnic dishes that are close, but somehow are either missing something or may not taste like it should. Now, this may not be necessarily a negative since variations of traditional dishes can be good.
So we paid Toko a visit today on our way back from Science World. It has been awhile and we noticed that the menu had changed. One of our favourite dishes, the Moo Shu Chicken Wrap had disappeared. It is now replaced by a similar dish that is a lettuce wrap instead of using steamed flour wraps. If they still made it like they did before, this dish was pretty good. Today, we ordered the Tan Tan (Dan Dan) Noodles, Beef Udon and Chicken Green Curry. The Tan Tan noodles came swimming in peanut sauce with a chili oil slick on top. Either I am used to the traditional version or the version at Toko was terrible. The traditional version does not actually have peanut sauce, the one at Toko was mainly peanut sauce with a bit of pork and lots of chili oil. That wasn't the only problem, the noodles were very mushy and glutinous. I really didn't like this version of Tan Tan noodles. The udon was a bit strange too. The soup base was nothing like the mild Japanese version (dashi, soy and mirin); rather, it was very robust and flavourful. Actually, I didn't mind this, it tasted quite good. In addition, the beef was very tender and flavourful as well. Not being authentic didn't hurt this dish. The same cannot be said about the green curry. Although the chicken and various veggies were cooked perfectly, the eggplant was a horror show. A quick way to cook eggplant in stirfries, hot pots and curries is to deep fry it first. That's not a problem because many restaurants use this with a lot of different vegetables. However, the eggplant in this case was heavily battered in something that resembled tempura. Imagine this fried eggplant soaked in a curry. Yes, the batter became gummy, not the best texture if you are eating curry. The curry itself was quite mild and creamy due to the coconut milk. It was pleasant to eat, but the eggplant destroyed it.
So, was my meal at Toko not good? Well, based on my previous visits, I don't think I've ever had a "terrible" meal here; but in hindsight, the food is not very authentic. However, I don't think Toko makes excuses for not being authentic. They seem to do their take on many different ethnic dishes with varying degrees of success. The service and ambiance is pretty good, so that probably put me in a good mood already before I actually ate the food. With that being said, the food isn't cheap here, so I guess if you're looking for authentic, this would not be your choice.
- Fresh noodles, they make em in the back
- Extensive menu
- Service is good
- Nothing seems to be authentic here
- Dining room is a bit tight
- Prices are a bit high for this type of food
223 West 7th Avenue
11:00am - 6:00pm (Mon - Wed)
11:00am - 9:30pm (Thu & Fri)
5:00pm - 9:30pm (Sat)