It feels like it’s been forever since I wrote an article about something local, so I decided to take a quick break from reviewing Indonesian places to write a little something about a charmingly odd (but awesome) restaurant in Mississauga.
Attending a wedding in the city’s western hemisphere, WW and I were trapped in that void of time awkwardness: the 3-4 hour break between a marriage ceremony in the noontime and the start of the reception at night. This is a bit foreign to us as the only weddings we’ve ever been had agendas right after one another. In any case, we were hungry and hot at 2 pm, and were looking for something to eat that wasn’t called McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Tim Horton’s, or Harvey’s (or anything with an apostrophe, really).
So in a random moment of impulse (I’m such an exciting fella), I literally took a left turn while driving into a random and rather quiet strip plaza, just one of countless similar places that dot the landscape of this fine city, and took a chance on a small restaurant that seemed to be shoehorned to one of the mall’s end. The sign said Thai Royal York, the banners say that they serve both Thai and Chinese food, and since WW loves her pad thai as much as I love a good old-fashioned faux Chinese restaurant, we decided to come in after quickly doing a Yelp consultation on her mobile phone.
Walking in, I gotta tell you, we were a bit unsure. The place was a bit small (though spacious and bright on a sunny day), the decor frankly feels a bit kitschy, and we were basically the only ones there. These are usually not good signs. But a quick glance at the menu, and an equally fast analysis of Yelp reviews, revealed that this place had potential. So, undaunted (or perhaps just a bit daunted), we decided to take a seat and give it a shot. After all, the lady who welcomed us was very friendly and seemed enthused to engage us in some light conversation, which we felt was a nice touch.
So after reading that everyone and their mother seemed to recommend the crispy beef, I had to quip and ask as I didn’t see it on the menu. Turns out, we only got the Thai menu. The crispy beef is on the Chinese menu, which is an entirely separate reading material to itself, with many Indian Chinese Hakka food items popping up everywhere (which the lady smilingly said was due to “local demand” despite the restaurant not having any Indian associations). Thus started the big menu discussion, whereby we dart from items on one menu to those in the other, and the scene at our table must’ve looked like a project management meeting from across the restaurant (had there been anybody sitting there, mind you). We ended up getting a rather confused-looking combination of the crispy beef, pad thai, and some Manchurian chicken. Three items that I’m pretty sure have never been served together at the same time on the same table before.
The food came quickly enough, and they all looked perfectly delectable. First, WW’s favourite dish in the whole world (may be a slight exaggeration): the pad thai. I personally found it to be a little too ketchup-y and therefore a bit too sour. I’ve long struggled with the question of what makes a good pad thai, as I’ve read some articles that say the use of ketchup is perfectly acceptable even in authentic pad thais. I personally prefer those that use a tamarind-based sauce as I find ketchup to only be good with fries (and sausages), but that’s just me. The shrimp pieces though were huge and juicy, and overall I have to say that it was alright. WW certainly seemed to enjoy hers and she’s much more of a pad thai connoiseur than me.
But when I tasted that crispy beef for the first time, oh man I was a believer. It may not appeal to some carnivorous purists out there that crave a strong beef-like taste in their meat, but this to me was fried perfection. The batter was very light and crispy, while the beef was so tender I could’ve eaten it forever. The texture was almost like dark meat chicken, which I know probably just offended about 90% of you, but it was so smooth that it was ridiculous. The flavour had just the right amount of sweetness, and the dish went great with the steamed rice. Truly worth of the praises sung to it by Yelpers.
The Manchurian chicken was also very good. Granted, the consistency of the gravy was a bit off compared to most authentic Indian Chinese restaurants, but this one was still excellent in its own right. The sauce was a bit more liquid, but I found that the flavours were actually a bit more spicy than most other places, which to me is always a delight. This is yet another dish that went great with the steamed rice. The chicken itself was very tender, and had flavours that permeate the whole meat (as opposed to only being at the outer layers of the skin).
Speaking of the steamed rice, I love how it came in mini dim sum-like containers. I guess it kind of makes sense, given how many dim sum dishes are steam-based. But still, I’ve never seen it before and I like it. I think it’s freakin’ adorable and I’m only now thinking why haven’t more restaurants adopted this cute approach.
So all in all it ended up being a really nice experience. The service was friendly, the meals came out pretty quickly, everything was tasty and it cost us only around $45 or so for all of this (and we were in a party of 3!). I would heartily recommend this place to anyone that lives or is travelling around the area. It’s a bit far for me to come back here regularly from Markham, but you can bet that the next time I pass around the area, I’m gonna help myself to a nice huge serving of confused cuisine! It may not be authentic in any respect, but it sure as hell is delicious.
–Final verdict: Mari Makan!
Thai Royal York
848 Burnhamthorpe Road West
Mississauga, ON L5C 2S4