Margarita’s Authentic Mexican Cuisine 4 King Street N, Waterloo 519-747-7800…
King Tin Restaurant
#101-318 Spruce Street
Waterloo, Ontario N2L 3M7
Cost for two: $50
The dim sum aficionado, transported a decade or so back in time, would likely head to King Tin Restaurant on the east side of King Street between University Avenue and Hickory Street. There and then was some damn good dim sum.
Part of that was the way those “heart’s delights” were rolled out with their own method of transport — stainless-steel trolleys which clanked and winged along and from which you would select the delicacies as they passed. You’d have to wait a round or two to get what you wanted, but that was half the fun.
That was then: top-notch cooks and restaurateurs from Stratford once visited for King Tin, but that stopped several years ago when things went from trolley terrific to box-car basic.
This is now: a new location has sought to correct. King Tin is now in rez in the university sub-city or annex bounded by University Avenue and Albert, Columbia and King streets. Recently, it was an axle-cracking, crevassed and undulating pot-holed minefield of construction. That’s cleared up now except for a lot of spring-melt mud.
But there’s this: a groggy, spindly university student, dressed in bedraggled pajamas and with dishevelled mop-top hair dragging a suitcase on wheels. Behind, a friend, or room-mate, pushing a pair of stacked 36-litre containers. It makes you kind of want to buy them a meal, though they have good choices in the area — and all within 36-litre container-pushing distance.
King Tin inside has a certain open-air plainness. The clientele on one visit includes a four-top of university professors sipping red wine with their sweet-and-sour pork; on another, it’s a motley crew of suit jackets and folks dressed in hockey jerseys for Humboldt. There’s a small buffet near the back of the dining room. Dim sum is most plentiful on the weekend.
Set unceremoniously on the table, a red thermal jug of tea is among the best you’ll find; many, in their watery, flaccid character, pale compared to this.
Spring rolls are hot, plump and crisp with savoury filling but swoon under the grease.
Beef satay on a hot plate pops and sizzles — cover up or don’t wear your Sunday best: you’re in the splatter zone. At-table service pours the veg on sputtering iron but causes an inelegant cascade of sugary sauce to escape the sides of the skillet and onto the table. The flavour is muted with smothered beef beneath. Chinese broccoli tastes fine but is an odd mix of overdone greens and too-chewy stalks.
E-Fu noodles, strands of chewey, flatish wheat, carry to the senses rich, heady mushroom earthiness and a pleasing springy and salty bite.
Deep-fried chicken Cantonese-style is glorious — on two occasions. Wonderfully crisp yet juicy and tender, it’s a rustic chop, bone and all. The bird goes through poaching, vinegaring, drying, sugaring, deep-frying; it comes out a revelation. The anise, five-spice salt and pepper mixture adds to superlative.
Outside, a pair of baggy grey Laurier sweatpants is talking volubly on a cell phone. You know where you are.