Advantages Good food, excellent shopping prospects in all areas
Disadvantages Can be smelly in summer - different cultural values may dispense with Western-style manners
Chinatown is one of those places that everyone thinks they know so well and when they get there, boy are they surprised! Even Asian travelers will find this amalgum of cultures quite interesting, if not a bit off-putting.There are many reasons to visit Chinatown in Toronto - and believe it or not, Toronto actually has three Chinatowns - but the main one is along Spadina Avenue between Queen Street on the south and College Street on the north. The second Chinatown is located at Broadview and Gerrard while the third is in the northeast of the city in a district known as Agincourt's Dragon Centre Mall.
The downtown Chinatown is one of the oldest in North America and is a mix of peoples from all over Asia - Chinese, Japanese, Korean, South East Asian, and the restaurants and shops reflect this diversity.I have heard wealthier Asian Canadians who have all moved out to the suburbs talk about Chinatown as a dirty place populated by newly-arrived boat people - a view that is rather racist in my view. And while it is true that a certain amount of rudeness can be found on the streets, I think any tourist will find the majority of people to be friendly and welcoming, especially shop and restaurant owners keen to indulge the desires of visitors.
There is an atmosphere of energy and intensity in Chinatown that is really unmatched in the rest of Toronto. If you want good food at incredibly low low prices (I'm talking cheap), lunchtime meals along the strip are the best bets as several restaurants do a set 3 course lunch for as low as $5 Canadian (roughly £2.30). My favourite restaurants are as follows:Lucky Dragon: 418 Spadina Avenue (nearer to College on the west side) - best choices: General Tso's Chicken and anything in a black bean sauce. The interior is plain and not all that interesting, but engage with the staff and you'll find eating there a pleasant experience.
Asian Legend: 418 Dundas Street West (just east of Spadina) - best described as Asian fusion, this restaurant looks slightly out of place among the plain interiors of most establishments. However the food is incredible for most palettes, although I'm told that if you want authentic Chinese fare, this isn't the place for you - spicer foods are just around the corner. A lot of the food is dim sum and other Northern Chinese style foods, so try many appetizers. The only thing about Asian Legend is that it is always busy and you may find yourself sharing a table at lunchtime. Best to go there for dinner and if you are in a party of eight or more, private rooms are available downstairs.Bo de Duyen: 254 Spadina Avenue (on the west side as you head down to Queen Street). This Chinese restaurant is vegetarian/vegan and is a very interesting (not to mention tasty) introduction to the genre: even though the menu lists duck, shrimp, pork, chicken or beef, all of these are actually made from vegetable proteins (soy or wheat). The food is rather good, hearty and worth trying. Lunch or dinner time is perfect as there is plenty of room on two floors.
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