What kind of hole-in-the-wall strip mall restaurant requires reservations? On a Monday!?
When I recently visited Silk Road, a tiny Chinese restaurant in a strip mall in Etobicoke, I was shocked to find out that not only were there no tables available, but waiting wasn't an option—they were fully booked all night. A week later I booked a table (the waiter warned me the tables have a one hour maximum) and I headed back out to Silk Road to see what all the fuss was about.
The sign outside the restaurant is faded and unreadable and the tiny parking lot seems designed to provoke accidents, but this is the place to be if you like northern Chinese food. People waiting for a table stand awkwardly in the centre of the restaurant, and even a reservation isn't a guarantee that you'll be seated promptly. As you wait, you can watch huge troughs piled high with noodles and meat being placed before large groups of trendy looking Chinese 20-year-olds, adorned with pink nail polish and iPads.
The food is worth it. Blending influences from southern Chinese food and the dishes of Muslim people to the north, the food is heavy on lamb and spice.
The excellent lamb and noodle soup ($9.99) is a salty, savoury broth with chili and cilantro chunks that float to the surface. Underneath are impossibly long handmade noodles and ribs with tender lamb meat that easily falls off the bone.
The spicy chicken stew ($28) is a gargantuan plate best shared amongst a gang of friends. The platter is weighed down with hefty, blunt chunks of leek, ginger, whole garlic cloves, red chilis, green peppers and tangy dried jujube fruits. Underneath are handmade sheet noodles that are thick like lasagna noodles and whole chicken legs, saturated in a dark, intense gravy.
The lamb skewers have a wonderful cumin smell that wafts all the way out the back door and to the suburban streets a block away. But the meat is fatty and chewy—for better lamb skewers check out BBQ Store or Chinese Halal Restaurant. Stick with the noodle and rice dishes, and you'll go home happy and very well fed.
Silk Road is located at 438 Horner Ave., Etobicoke. Tel: 416 259 9440. Hours are Monday to Saturday 3pm to 10pm; Sundays and long weekends closed.
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