Monday, November 8, 2010

Fantaxia Restaurant - A Private Taste

Fantaxia is a Chinese restaurant located in a small strip plaza, "Skymark Plaza", in North York (3555 Don Mills Rd, Unit 5). The restaurant itself is pretty hidden so you may not notice it right away; it is between Subway and No Frills. 

Fantaxia is different than your typical Chinese restaurant because it is a "Private Kitchen" or "私房菜" ("Sze Fong Choy" in Chinese). Popularized in the late '90s in Hong Kong, the first private kitchens often had meals in the chef's own apartment consisted of one menu, a few tables, and one seating per evening. Diners had to book weeks ahead, sometimes even months. Nowadays,  private kitchens do not operate like that but rather have became more varied, more established, and operate as small restaurants. However, a few golden rules still remain for private kitchens: 

1) They do not prepare menus for customers to choose from;
2) They only offer one to two seatings per night; and 
3) They do not have any form of advertising - recommendations are largely word-of-mouth. 

Exclusivity is what makes private kitchens special. Private kitchens generally provides homemade dishes with a sense of being at home in a cozy, intimate, unpretentious, and friendly environment. 

Like I said, you gotta call ahead of time if you want the special menu. It was my Mom that called for the reservation. They will typically ask you how many people are coming, what your budget is, if there is anything that you like or not like (i.e. type of meat, allergies, more light dishes or spicy or fried foods etc.) and they will customize the menu for you. I'm not sure if Fantaxia take walk-ins.

That night we brought our own wine.  

Our menu consisted of 8 courses. All the menu items have really poetic names. For example, one of the dishes listed below translates to "Boat with Full Harvest". Good luck trying to figure out what that is =)

Soup with Fungi and Fish Belly - It was thick and hearty with lots of fungi & fish belly. Great start to the meal.

Fried Oysters - This was soooooo tasty!  One of my favorite dish that night. Each oyster is rested on a piece of small slice of bread, which in turn are on a bed of crispy leaves. The sauce was incredible.

Fried Chicken -  This chicken was basically sliced up, then de-boned, then stuffed with sticky rice, then put back together again to resemble a whole chicken. Talk about labor intensive.

Papaya and Scallops - Loved how the papaya was carved to resemble a boat / basket. The papaya was sweet, which paired perfectly with the stir-fried scallops.

Not sure what the name of this dish is but I believe this would be Fantaxia's "house specialty". Each dumpling is handcrafted with two eyes and a tail to resemble gold fishes. The rest in a "pond" that consists of enoki mushrooms and goji berries. Underneath all of that is smooth egg white. 

Stir-fried Pork Neck with Mushrooms - Very flavorful.

A very light and broth-y dish with veggies and a variety of different mushrooms.

Ginger Fried Rice with Egg White and Spring Onion.

Individual hot steamed Egg Custard with a hint of ginger for dessert. Goes down easy and very soothing.

Our 8 course meal, for 9 people, cost us $35 each, tax and tips included. I thought this was a really good deal. 

If you do go to Fantaxia, make sure you go with a big group (more than four people for sure) because the more people you have, the more unique dishes you get to try  (which is typical of any Chinese restaurant or tapas style places anyway). 

Next time I go, I will probably ask for less veggie dishes because I find them a bit too bland and light in taste (my Mom asked for "light and refreshing" dishes). Since my favorite dishes that night were the fried oysters, the fried stuffed chicken and the stir-fried pork neck with mushrooms, I'm sure "fried" is the route I wanna go next time =D

Fantaxia Cafe on Urbanspoon