Where can we go for Chinese cuisine in Toronto? North, to Richmond Hill. Nowhere is China’s multiculturalism more prevalent. Here we can find regionality and authenticity in Chinese cuisine. Enter Yu Seafood to be greeted by a concierge. Be lead down the hallway past open tanks of lively seafood separated by weight. Ever seen an 18 lb lobster? Would you like to try one?
The main dining room is a hub of activity as captains with earpieces and watchful eyes direct the hierarchy of formally attired staff to expedite service. Each comfortable booth is designed to create a sense of privacy, although there are plenty of private rooms with personable service available. A massive kitchen matched with high end service provides banquet concept dining on an intimate level. No sooner are we seated then we are offered tea from a selection of pu-er, green, jasmine and slightly sweet and floral chrysanthemum.
We are here for Dim Sum, a diversity of health-conscious Cantonese dishes. The kitchen staff has arrived at 6 am to begin preparing this dazzling parade of delectables like plump shrimp dumplings, delicately folded into translucent purses, bursting with freshness and flavour, and dark pillow-y bamboo charcoal buns, decoratively brushed with a stroke of gold, breaking open to reveal a sweet flowing egg yolk. Bamboo charcoal tarts are filled with smooth durian custard. Our Lazy Susan turns slowly as we partake of each selection. Abalone cakes are served like mini-empanadas. Savoury barbeque pork buns are uniquely baked with a cookie-top of pineapple crunch. Sweet tofu, made in-house, is steamed and baked into a pudding with mango pieces and a sprinkling of brown sugar. Sticky rice, stacked and pan-fried with a centre layer of chicken, has a delicate crumble of duck egg on top.
It is always a treat to have well-made Congee. Chock full of lobster and fish, with a clean splash of citrus from lemon shavings, this is one of the most soothing, almost therapeutic dishes in all of gastronomy. It is the special intricacies of the dim sum chef that amazes us all. Not to be outdone, a Japanese-trained sushi chef presents a platter of thickly cut sashimi and freshly grated wasabi on an ice sculpture. Chu toro, octopus, hamachi, red tuna and mackerel with yellow roe are as tender to the palate as to the eye.
There are more spectaculars to come. Succulent Malaysian lamb chops, aromatically spiced and paired with curry, are charcoal-grilled to perfect caramelization. Seafood, however, is the specialty here, sourced from Nova Scotia and Norway. The bounty of Yu Seafood’s selection is unrivaled, and it is seasonal. Shall we choose the Dungeness crab steamed in sake, fried in garlic and truffles, or with Maggie Sauce? Or colossal king crab, steamed with egg white and duck yolks, or with garlic, and served with butter and lime? Loyal patrons want specific sized lobsters. A range is available up to 18 pounds. Ours is placed on the table with a slightly different presentation than usual. A veritable Jenga Tower of meaty deep fried lobster chunks and crispy fried garlic is the signature dish of Yu Seafood. According to the owner, Tony Chen, this is the first restaurant in North America to serve this dish. Donning soft plastic gloves, we devour each morsel.
Dessert? Traditional and fanciful creations are offered. We decide on a warm sweet honey cake.
Skip the 15-hour flight to Southern China and head straight for Richmond Hill. Yu Seafood offers a unique feast in the Toronto dining scene, and is firmly establishing itself as a destination for authentic, sophisticated Chinese cuisine.
270 West Beaver Creek Rd, Richmond Hill, 905-881-1688, yuseafood.com
Adam Waxman is an award winning travel journalist focusing on food, wine and well being. As well as an actor in film, television and formerly, the Stratford Festival, he is the Publisher of DINE and Destinations magazine.