- The Entrées:
- The Atmosphere:
I don’t know about you, but every time I finish a meal at a “new” Chinese restaurant, I often find myself wondering, “How was this any different than that last place?” With the typical sweet and sour pork and steamed fish dishes, nothing really seemed to differentiate the hundreds of Chinese food joints in Toronto. “Same same, but different”. When Sunday night dinner plans were made at North York joint called Fantaxia Restaurant, I didn’t raise an eyebrow or expect anything out of the ordinary.
Uniquely enough, Fantaxia was a surprise.
It was unique.
And its dishes did raise some eyebrows.
|3555 Don Mills Road, Unit 5|
North York, ON M2H 3N3
The signage outside the restaurant was not about to give Fantaxia any extra points. Located inside a rather old and run down plaza in North York, it looked like your typical place with chopsticks and paintings of goldfish and bamboo nailed to the walls. But the unique part of Fantaxia was its food menu. Fantaxia is categorized into a niche restaurant category called “private kitchen” cooking where the chefs cater a menu specifically for your party. Think of it as the Chef’s Special. This family dinner was planned a few weeks ago when I called the restaurant and asked for this type of meal. I let them know my party size and budget per person, which happened to be 10 people at $30 per person. Taxes and tips in? $300 for one family-sized soup and seven, rather large and intricately designed, dishes.
A piece of paper with handwritten Chinese was left on the table listing out each course. Each plate came out more unique than the last. Chinese dishes are usually ingredient-rich; often a soup will have 10-20 types of meats, vegetables, spices and other things jumbled in so it is difficult translating these names into English (please be aware that these are my own translations). Of the eight items served, the most unique and delicious were as follows:
Fried Seafood Balls – Each ball was the size of a hacky sack. There was a collection of shrimp, scallops and mixed greens inside. If you look closely at the top, you will notice the ingredients were placed inside a bag-shaped vegetable and tied at the top with a piece of spring onion. The name of the dish mentioned that the inclusion of pomegranate which I couldn’t find. Personally, I found this item a bit over-fried for my liking. They could have used less batter because the outer crispy shell masked the flavours of the rest of the dish.
Stuffed Chicken – The chicken was stuffed with fried rice, carrots, and onions and reassembled back into the shape of the chicken. The rice was soft and complimented the crispiness of the fried chicken skin, combining into a fusion of different textures as I took each bite.
Papaya Boat with Scallops – The chef spent quite some time on this one, carving a massive papaya into a rendition of a tiny boat. Needless to say this dish was the most photogenic of the night. The scallops were pan-fried and slightly seared and paired well with the gentle and fresh taste of papaya.
Quail and Lettuce Tacos – I came up with the name of the dish myself. It speaks for itself: a lettuce leaf was used as the outer layer of what seems to be the Chinese interpretation of a taco filled with diced quail meat and mixed vegetables. The lettuce balanced out the saltiness of the pork making a unique mixture of flavours.
Goldfish Dumplings, Mushrooms and Tofu – I honestly couldn’t think of a name for this one. By skimming the picture below, you will notice that the chefs designed for the dumplings to resemble fish swimming in a pond. The dumpling was made of fish, shrimp and duck meat. The pond itself was a vegetable soup, and sat atop a layer of tofu and egg whites.
Everyone was full by the end of the meal. To top it all off, a steamed egg came for each person as a dessert. That hit the spot. Overall the meal was great bang for the buck. Each plate was unique and appeared to have taken quite a bit of time to construct. It definitely wasn’t your typical “satay beef” or “stir-fried egg noodles”. These private kitchen restaurants are not usually widely known or popularized in mainstream media. Knowledge of such restaurants is often a well-kept secret within the community and is passed on by word-of-mouth. If you’re ever in the mood for authentic Chinese food, you can give Fantaxia a shot. The large round tables and food-sharing culture render it an ideal location for a family gathering. The food was good and cheap. Don’t expect any fancy upscale interior though – it’s fairly basic.
The Damage: $300 after tax and tip for 10 people