Sherman's Food Adventures: North Garden Cafe

North Garden Cafe

A long time ago, we had dined at North Garden Cafe up on the corner of North Road and Cameron.  My memory escapes me, but I do believe that location used to be Lone Star BBQ.  Anyways, we thought the food was fine, but the actual location was in a bit of disrepair with the laminate flooring coming apart underneath us.  Furthermore, the service was really poor.  After it shut down awhile back, I thought it was gone forever, but to my surprise, it showed up again in the plaza right next to the new Safeway on Clarke Road near Como Lake.  It is not a much smaller spot run only by the husband-and-wife team.

We decided to check it out again in its new home with the whole family including my parents.  Unlike the old location, the menu trends more towards Cantonese dishes rather than HK-style cafe ones.  Hence, we went for the build-your-own-dinner for 4 (and added some other dishes to supplement).  This included a choice of soup and we had the Egg Drop Corn Soup with Chicken.  It was quite good with just enough starch to have a silky thickness and there was plenty of chicken in it.  Soup was sweet and could've used a bit more salt, but that didn't make or break it.

Now the pictures don't do it justice, but the plates here are enormous!  The Sweet & Sour Pork was easily 1/3 to 1/2 bigger in size than most other restaurants.  In terms of execution, it was also quite good.  There was a lack of fatty pieces, which meant it was mostly meat.  With that said, the meat was still tender and juicy due to the slight marbling.  Batter was not too thick and in fact, was still crunchy in spots.  We found the sauce to be tangy enough with balancing sweetness.

Again, the picture of the Gai Lan with Beef doesn't illustrate the amount of meat piled on top of the veggies.  We kept eating it and it didn't seem like we were making a dent.  We found the gai lan to be a touch old, but it was cooked in enough wok heat that it was crunchy while mostly tender.  The beef was a bit overtenderized by baking soda, so it was in smaller pieces, but as a result, it was super tender and nicely caramelized from the wok fry.

At this point, we were being overwhelmed by the portion sizes as the Beef Brisket Hot Pot was briming with meat.  Sure, there was some veggies underneath, but make no mistake, this was mostly brisket.  There was a good mix of leaner pieces with fattier ones.  Yet, all of them were tender and stewed perfectly.  The starch-thickened sauce was flavourful and stayed thick even mixed with the veggies underneath.

Going in a different direction, we had the Mixed Seafood with Snap Peas next.  Just like everything else, they did not hold back on the seafood consisting of squid, fish and shrimp.  Due to the high wok heat, everything was cooked just enough and there was no moisture on the bottom of the plate.  Fish was tender and flaky, squid was soft with some chew while the shrimp had a snap.  Veggies were crisp and vibrant with just enough seasoning.

To get a sense of their limited HK-style cafe offerings, we got the classic Baked Pork Chop Rice.  Yep, they decided to use a large Pyrex plate and hence, the portion size was massive.  Underneath the tangy and balanced tomato sauce, we found many pieces of tender fried panko-coated pork chops.  Beneath that, there was a fried rice base that was nutty and chewy enough to accept the sauce without being soggy.

Lastly, we had another HK-style cafe staple in the Spaghetti Bolognese.  Now this dish was a bit weird.  It resembled more of a "Ja Jeun Mein" sauce rather than a HK-style Bolognese.  Now if we look at it from that view, the dish was tasty with al dente noodles coated in a meaty and savoury sauce.  It just wasn't what I was expecting.  So as you can see, this meal was super good value due to the enormous portion sizes.  With inflation these days, it is harder and harder to find good deals while eating out.  This is definitely one of them and great for takeout as well.  Yes, there are superior restaurants out there, but for the price, North Garden does an admirable job in providing decent eats that are a good value.

The Good:
- Decent eats
- Gigantic portions
- Nice people

The Bad:
- There is better, but not at this price and portion size
- Small restaurant, would get full easily if it were busy


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