New restaurant gets a rise out of local diners

Phoenix is easy on the wallet

THE NEW PHOENIX restaurant entices patrons who like plenty of Chinese culinary choice at wallet-friendly prices — almost everything costs less than $10.

We sip complimentary warmed lemon water as we try to take in the 28-page menu, which breaks down into Yunnan vermicelli in fish broth; Malaysian curry; snacks; sandwiches; baked or fried dishes of rice, spaghetti, macaroni, spaghetti and other noodles; Hong Kong–style rice dishes; fried rice dishes; Hong Kong–style noodle in soups.

Offerings from other regions pervade the extensive menu, too— such as Mexican French fries, Japanese toast, Korean spicy rice, Thai minced pork fried rice and Spanish coffee. But the groups of friends and multi-generational families don’t seem to mind the mishmash.

Two vegetable spring rolls ($2.50), halved, require a bit more time in the deep fryer. The pastry wrapping the watery contents (carrot and sprouts, mostly) remains mushy inside. A dipping sauce of some kind — any kind — might have improved things.

“Popular” king prawn and crab roes with salad ($5.99) brings a tall, shaped mountain of goopy potato salad with cooked carrot over dry, shredded iceberg lettuce.

Long snips of nori, squiggles of more mayonnaise, cucumber slices, parsley sprigs, roe, and two small, butterflied shrimp top the lot. Is this salad having an identity crisis? Things pick up with main dishes.

Squid in black bean sauce on rice ($6.50) could sate two people or serve as two meals (doggy bagging available).

Only a few toughish squid morsels (of many) detract from the pleasure of this dish, which also stirs together diced onion, garlic and red and green pepper in a black bean sauce that is blessedly light on the salt. Well-timed rice accompanies.

Generous, tender beef morsels play a starring role in fried spaghetti with beef ($7.50), tossed with sprouts, green onion, green and red pepper and soft-but-notsoggy noodles in a thin, sweet-salty sauce. No oiliness here.

Plates come so fast (and in no particular order) that we barely have time to appreciate the modern, cavernous room.

White wall panels, with recessed outlines of delicate birds in flight, add elegance; larger metallic birds hang from the middle ceiling, seemingly caught between two dramatic, archlike parallel panels creeping up walls and inward. Plenty of real and faux woods (floor, chairs, tables, pillars, lighting over the open bar) and red paint sections ground the overall atmosphere.

Despite the language barrier and the fact that we were tucked away in a back corner away from other guests (and given forks instead of chopsticks — grr), service was pleasant and competent.

No alcoholic bevies served here, but a wide, hodgepodge variety of non-alcoholic drinks, such as sesame milkshake, bubble tea and red bean ice with vanilla ice cream float, keeps things feeling festive. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Cash only.


Article exclusive to STREETS OF TORONTO