It's no secret we've never been impressed with the suburbs. They might be well-suited as places to raise children, but otherwise suburbs have little to offer. You'll never see a good band outside of downtown, nor will you find much in the way of culture. Community theatre is NOT doing great things.
But when it comes to food, it turns out there are exceptions to the rule.
Here in Ottawa, for example, the best Indian restaurant is Rangoli – all the way out in Orleans, 20 minutes drive out of the core. It truly is better than any of the downtown Indian eateries and, that being the case, we're forced to make the trek every now and then out to the suburbs for a meal.
As you can imagine, being as big as it is, Toronto must have more than one hidden gem on the outskirts. This past weekend we were in Toronto – to see Margaret Cho: comedienne extraordinaire – and spent a surprising amount of time outside the city limits.
On Saturday afternoon we made a pilgrimage to Pacific Mall out in Markham. And yes, we've had more than one person look at us quizzically asking, "why would you come to Toronto to spend time in Markham?"
Pacific mall is an Asian mall. It's full of small stores carrying electronics and truckloads of bootleg DVDs. It's run and patronized by Asians – so much so that it feels like many of the malls in Malaysia. It's easy to forget, when shopping there, that you're still in Canada. If you're white and you want to feel like you're part of a minority, head to Pacific mall.
In any case, the food court at the mall is chock-a-block with Asian food stalls. We grabbed a snack at Sun's Kitchen, where they make their own fresh noodles. Lex took this video and wrote this blog post about the food court, so no need to duplicate. We share her high opinion of the place.
But the real prize was in Richmond Hill – even further out of the core.
It's been a real challenge finding good Malaysian food outside Malaysia. In Ottawa we only have one or two Malaysian restaurants and, while they present a reasonable facimile of Malaysian food, it just doesn't quite match up to the flavours you get in Ipoh. Part of the reason is that food prepared by the Chinese Malaysian population generally tastes better than that prepared by the ethnic Malay population, and most of the restaurants we've found have been run by ethnic Malays.
We've tried a few in and around Toronto – one in Chinatown and one out in Mississauga – but they haven't been any better than the Ottawa restaurants. Then we found Restauran Malaysia in Richmond Hill, run by Chinese-Malaysians, and the clouds parted and the light shone down.
It doesn't look like much from outside – it's in a strip mall – but inside, it's a beautifully decorated restaurant that has one of the best Malaysian menus available in Canada. It's definitely a commitment to go for dinner at a place like this. You've got to be willing to wait for a table once you've driven 30 or 40 minutes to get to the restaurant, but thankfully, Restauran Malaysia is well worth the wait – which was 30 minutes in our case.
For the most part, SuburbanEats still tend to focus too much, for our taste, on copy after copy of restaurant chains – Denny's, Kelsey's, Montana's, Claimjumpers – but places like Restauran Malaysia help make the suburbs just a little less soul-crushing. No, we won't be moving out of the core any time soon, but this does give us another good reason not to get rid of the car!