I have hungrily followed the career of chef David Schwartz, the wonder kid who opened up Omaw Restaurant in Ossington several years ago, where the food was carefully thought out and executed. He was in his early twenties at the time but was creating many memorable dishes. Just before Covid hit he started a new concept that would become the upscale Mimi Chinese. In the meantime, he operated a pop-up take-out called Sunny’s Chinese out of the back door of the soon-to-open Mimi’s restaurant. It was a godsend during the pandemic and one of the best take-outs on offer. I am assuming it was so successful that they decided to revive it and open a brick-and-mortar restaurant which is now located at 60 Kensington Avenue.
This new 75-seat restaurant is located at the far end of the Kensington Mall, down a narrow unmarked walkway. You know you found it when you see the neon sign and a cardboard sign on the door written in pen that you have arrived at Sunny’s. Unlike its more upscale sister restaurant Mimi, Sunny’s is more casual and playful but no less delicious.
A warm greeting at the door as we entered this mint green and rose colour room, with checkered linoleum floors. It has a cool vibe, with a great soundtrack played at a perfect level, black and white vintage photographs adorn the walls with scenes of Chinatown and Kensington Market. There is an open kitchen on one side and a bar on the other. (And what sets this restaurant apart from other Chinese restaurants; clean washrooms).
Here executive chef Schwartz, along with Braden Chong and Keith Siu, has a great team in place under chef Joseph Ysmael where they grill and work in their spotless kitchen.
The menu was divided into cold and hot dishes as well as charcoal. Our server Amanda recommended some of her favourites. Just a warning, some dishes have quite a kick to them. Here they serve more of a home-style food but with glorious tastes, textures, and flavours. The silver needle noodles were hand rolled and served with a shiitake mushroom and soy sauce blend. The signature cold dish (husband and wife beef) was a mixture of 13 spices that created a mouth-numbing and eye-tearing sensation. The typhoon shelter squid was a standout for us, made with garlic, shallots, chili, and crispy crumbly bits and lightly dusted and deep fried to perfection. It was possibly the best calamari I have ever had. The garlic shrimp was another great dish. The orange chicken was reminiscent of my childhood forays into Chinese food, except these were more expertly cooked than the China House or House of Chan ever did. The sticky beef ribs with sesame and rock sugar were finger-licking good, although I would have preferred them a touch sweeter.
For dessert, there were two selections; a Blackbird Hong Kong French toast sandwich made with a wonderful black sesame jam, condensed milk, and butter and a soy milk soft serve with soy caramel and honeycomb toffee (great for people who are lactose intolerant). It was similar to what you get for dessert at Cote, a one-star Michelin Korean restaurant in New York and Miami.
The bar serves new and old-world natural wines and beers, and Chinese liquors. There are some interesting craft cocktails, some using Chinese flavours, and fun takes and twists like the pear vesper.
Chef David Schwartz has created another winner with Chinese food at its best, using complex regional flavours of salty, spicy, tangy, sweet, and savoury to create a casual, fun place and a great addition to Toronto’s ever-flourishing dining scene.