Lucky Koi Express
- 1100 Portage Avenue, 943-9933
Readers often write to recommend their favourite take-out Chinese foods, but in a city with so many Chinese restaurants it's hard to decide which tip to follow. But Lucky Koi Express, which does take-out and delivery only, had too many recommendations to ignore, all fervent, all saying much the same thing -- fresh, non-greasy food; generous portions; dependable pick-up and delivery times; a charming knowledgeable staff; and most dishes under $10.
Even by non-Chinese standards the menu is short, and there's nothing exotic on it -- just the familiar old standbys, some Cantonese, some Szechuan, the kind of food you may have cut your teeth on. Satisfying, well-prepared, Chinese comfort food, as good as my correspondents had claimed.
Shrimp can be an acid test, and these pass with flying colours -- plump, juicy and plentiful, whether paired with lovely chunks of daikon and carrots (not the usual wee dice) and topped with almonds, or in a less aggressive-than-most black bean and garlic sauce -- a little soupy due to the lack of cornstarch (not a bad thing in my book). They turned up as well in the fried rice, along with cubes of barbecued pork and other usual suspects, and in the curried Singapore noodles, both dishes well above average.
The chef has an admirably light hand with sugar -- ginger beef was crisp and not in the least cloying, and the chicken with ginger and peanuts was tender and moist (a mere nip of heat in both, but you could probably ask for more). Pan-fried beef ho funn (flat rice noodles) was a tad stodgy and bland. The hot sour soup wasn't bad, albeit under-seasoned (mercifully free of cornstarch thickening though). The spring rolls and dumplings (fried wontons, actually) are house-made, with so-so fillings, necessary only for those with a desperate need for crunch.