I find myself going down Provencher Boulevard, both on foot and on bus, quite frequently. One restaurant that has often caught my eye is Singyun Chinese restaurant. Two things about it really catch the eye. The first is the exterior of the building which is a bright, lemon yellow, with signage that looks like it has seen much better days. The second is they advertise a lunch buffet, which for the longest time was $8.99 including a canned drink, but by the time I got around to trying it was $9.75.
Stepping inside the interior isn’t that much more inspiring. On the bottom level, where the buffet table is, there are three or four tables up against the window(I didn’t bother to count). Upstairs, which I didn’t visit until my third time here, it looks like you’ve stepped into an attempt to recreate the ambiance of a Mediterranean beach cafe. It appears like something out of the Cognitive Dissonance school of interior design.
Of course, I primarily go to restaurants for the food, and as it turns out, Singyun does that quite well. Which is also a reminder to not let the decor throw me off.
Singyun Lunch Buffet
I’m starting with my buffet visit, even though it was the middle of the visits that I took. The lunch buffet seems to be Singyun’s most popular feature.
On the whole, the buffet is not all that remarkable. I wouldn’t say that there is any item on the table that stands out. However, first and foremost, the price is right. Including you drink, the bill comes to about $11.00 dollars after tax. While the selection isn’t huge there are about as many choices as you would find at your typical food court Chinese establishment.
There are a couple of things worth noting. Even though I arrived towards the end of the buffet period, the vegetables still contained a reasonable amount of firmness. Plus, they offer a consomme soup with the buffet that you can add onions, and dry noodles to as you see fit. One other good thing is that most of the dishes in the buffet are not over sauced.
There were no chopsticks at the buffet, but I received them on asking. Another thing I liked about the buffet was that I was in no ways rushed. The staff were quite happy to let me eat at my leisure.
Rather than describe each of my meals I’m going to break this restaurant down by dish type. In addition to the soup I had with my buffet meal, I also ordered soup as part of my meal on my two other visits. The first time I ordered the wonton soup,, and the second time I ordered the hot and sour soup. Both of the soups were well above average.
I was quite surprised by the Wonton soup that came to my table on the day I ordered it. I’m used to Wonton soup with two or three dumplings, and a few desultory vegetables. As you can see from the picture, this soup is packed full of solid ingredients. They are hard to see in the photo, but there were half a dozen Wontons, each quite well filled. In addition, the vegetables still had quite a bit of firmness to them when I bit in.
As good as the Wonton soup was, the hot and sour soup was that much better. I ordered this along with a couple of entree dishes on my third visit. My favourite Hot and Sour soup has always been the one from North Garden. This one replaces it. First of all, it leans more to the hot of the hot and sour. Second, the substantial ingredients are indeed substantial. There was plenty of meat, and several shrimp dotted throughout along with the other ingredients. The broth was a little thicker than some, but the flavours were great and I would definitely order this again and again.
My first visit to the restaurant I ordered the Szechuan Beef, and told them to make it as spicy as they wanted to. It didn’t quite reach the overwhelming level of spice that I would prefer, but there was plenty of heat which lingered after my meal was over.
The meat in the dish was quite tender, and the coating was not overly thick. The one thing that really impressed me about the dish was that the sauce was quite light. I often find sauces on Chinese dishes to be quite cloyingly sweet, but this was not the case with this dish or with any of the dishes I tried from Singyun.
The next time I ordered entrees, I decided I would ask my server for recommendations. The young man serving on that visit suggested both the Shanghai Noodles and the Ginger Beef as good options. He said the Ginger Beef was his favourite. It turned out both were very good choices.
The Shanghai Noodles, were well sauced, and had a good mixture of meat, shrimp, and vegetables to go with the noodles. They had a bit of kick to them, and the portion that I took home with me made for a nice, cold breakfast the next day.
The Ginger Beef was also very good. Again, the sauce was not overwhelming. and the meat was not overly coated, and quite tender. What really stood out for me about the dish was when it was brought to the table and I caught the first whiff, it reminded me of ginger snaps and a sense of home and well-being.
The other couple of items I tried over my visits, were the spring roll and the egg roll. Neither particularly added anything to my dining experience. On the other hand they didn’t take anything away from it either.
One of the other really good things about Singyun is the service. The service is always friendly and accommodating. The dishes arrive in good time, and yet there is never a feeling of being rushed. I spent almost an hour there yesterday before my server came to ask if I would like the rest of my meal packed up (I did). I will definitely stop in again and again at Singyun.