Fav spots insauga: New China Village
New China Village is a true Mississauga relic. Although the restaurant is average in appearance, sitting quietly in a tiny plaza next to a strip club, it's got staying power.
It's stood its ground for over 30 years, weathering multiple management shifts and the departure of its most legendary employee - a dedicated long-time waiter named Sam who remembered everyone's name and order, and legend has it, can still be spotted gallivanting around the city long after this much-mourned retirement.
I think I first sampled China Village's perfect barbeque pork slices ($6.95) when I was still in the womb. My father frequented the restaurant years before I was born (and I'm an Old in the high-20s range) and took my mother there while I was gestating. Me and this restaurant go way, way back.
While much has changed at ChinaVillage (now, for some reason, called The New China Village), much has stayed the same. The interior, which once boasted floor-to-ceiling deep reds (the colour of the insular People's Republic itself) and faux brick, has undergone a subtle facelift that's managed to preserve the resto's classic bones. There's a partition and lunchtime buffet now, and a ground floor washroom for guests with disabilities (and a great fear of the downstairs toilets).
The basement washroom, which sits across from a large banquet room, has an eerie late 80s horror movie quality to it. I can't quite pinpoint the specifics of my unease when I open the creaky mint-green door, but I've been more wary there than in any other underground lavatory.
It's the perfect hiding spot for an 80s movie terrorist or velociraptor. When you look outside the washroom and see closed wooden doors across the way, you can't help but imagine the kitchen scene in Jurassic Park and the knowledge that an animatronic dinosaur might jump out and maul you at any moment propels you up the stairs and into the safety of the dining room.
Perhaps being a regular Friday night customer in 1993 - the year the movie came out and the year Friday night dinners became a Thing - contributed to this fear. But who's to say any fear is irrational or an inappropriate holdover from childhood.
But for many, ChinaVillageis a childhood throwback, and lots of west-end Sauga dwellers make the drive every once in awhile to chat with the new-ish but incredibly welcoming staff (namely Kim and Rachel) and enjoy the ever-evolving menu.
When I was a young and picky eater, the most exotic food I'd consider eating was steamed rice, breaded shrimp ($8.95) and pork slices. That meal was my Friday night mainstay from the early 90s to the early 2000s. My palate underwent a renaissance in my early university years, and I dabbled in the resto's newly introducedCaribbeanmenu (an odd addition, to be sure) and took a chance on the chicken and potato curry ($7.50).
The walls ofChinaVillagehave heard all my stories. They know what I did and didn't like about my horseback riding lessons in my pre-teen years. They know what my favourite child TV shows were, and they were introduced to all of my old and new friends at various points. They saw me choke on a famed pork slice in my very early childhood (I survived and didn't need the Heimlich). And I've seen them grow up, too.
I saw them change their name and menu, much to the chagrin of the old faithfuls who feared their treasured Chinese restaurant would become unrecognizable. I've watched my beloved breaded shrimp subtly change taste, shape and texture as cooks have come and gone. I've seen old owners replaced by new ones. I've brought new faces to my old favourite restaurant (all of whom have been impressed).
And for proof of a rock solid Sauga connection, look no further than the picture of the current owner shaking hands with Hazel.
My favourite dish there, at this moment anyways, is the tofu with Chinese mushrooms ($7.95). The massive pieces of tender tofu are rivaled only by the tofu I experienced inChinaitself. If that's not reason enough to tryChinaVillage(if you aren't a regular already, of course), I don't know what is.
1850 Dundas Street East
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