Living in Toronto is expensive and there’s no denying it. But there’s one thing that makes the hustle and bustle of the city bearable: good food. Luckily for us, there are plenty of cheap eats around to try if you’re looking to slim down your wallet.
It was time for a break from a month’s worth of clean eating and that’s when Rui and I decided to try something more naughty. One of our friends’ favourite cheap eats is Deer Garden Signatures, which there are in many locations around the GTA.
They have one in Toronto, North York, Vaughan, Scarborough, and Richmond Hill. We live closer to the Scarborough location, so we decided to drop by for a noodle adventure with one of our close friends, Darrin.
Since Deer Garden Signatures is known for its famous noodle bowls with bubble tea, the three of us ordered this with a variety of different toppings.
At first, we were a bit skeptical about the quality of the food because the price point is on the lower side, but we were going in with an open mind. And with some wishful thinking, we were all hoping for a budget-friendly meal that would satisfy our noodle cravings.
It’s been at least a month since Rui and I had our noodle fix! So, here’s what we all ordered with our noodle and drink combo.
Bubble Tea Drink at Deer Garden Signature
Before I review their food, I wanted to talk about their bubble tea.
All of the noodle combos come with a bubble tea drink, which can be served hot or cold. Rui and Darrin opted for the cold bubble tea, while I decided to go for the hot version without sugar. I specifically asked the server to not add any sugar to my drink.
Unfortunately, there wasn’t any special instruction for this on the piece of paper when you mark down your order.
Darrin didn’t think his cold drink was sugary (he didn’t think anything actually) probably because he chose the milk tea with coffee. I am guessing the coffee flavour must have offset the strong taste of sugar.
However, Rui found that his bubble tea, the classic cold version, was too sugary. He didn’t like it, so he tossed it out after sipping on half the cup. He thinks the hot version even without sugar tastes better.
If you’re looking to reduce your sugar intake, I would recommend going for the hot bubble tea and asking them to forego the sugar.
I tried a few sips of Rui’s cold bubble tea, and I have to say that it was probably the worst bubble tea I’ve ever had. I don’t know what it was, but it had a very artificial sugary taste. All bubble teas come with artificial and added sugar, but this one was just too much. Compared to these best bubble tea joints in Toronto, their classic milk tea does not compare. Fortunately, I was okay with Deer Garden Signature’s hot version since it kept my body warm! 🙂
Oh, and by the way, it costs extra for the cold version. I think it’s because you get to take it to-go in a plastic cup whereas the hot version is served in a mug that you must consume while dining in.
Deer Garden Signatures Menu
Before we jump into our honest review, here’s a glimpse of their menu that we took at the restaurant:
Chicken Broth with Beef Slices and Fish
Rui was super indecisive and wanted to try the whole menu!
There are so many different combinations to choose from to customize your noodle bowl, but he finally decided on the chicken broth with beef slices and fish.
The chicken broth is an additional $1.50 compared to their signature fish broth, and he decided to go with the poulet because I ordered the fish broth. We usually order something different, so that we can both try each other’s orders.
When his bowl arrived, the aroma of the broth was heavenly. It probably smelled really good because he was getting hangry as usual. Lol.
Rui thought the beef slices were not the highest quality, but it was decent and edible. And to be fair, it was thoroughly cooked to perfection despite the moderate quality of the meat. Here’s a close-up picture of it:
The fish, on the other hand, was just fish. It wasn’t terrible but obviously not as nice and fresh as the sea bass you steam yourself at home.
At the end of the day, the beef and fish are good enough and you can’t complain about something as fast and cheap as this.
As for the chicken broth, it was savoury and filled with flavour. Spoiler alert: he enjoyed my fish broth noodle bowl more because it had a naturally sweet taste of fish, which was quite addicting to drink.
One complaint we have is that they give you way too many noodles! Like seriously, are restaurants trying to kill us with all their refined carbs?
A bad thing with noodles is they can also get addicting, and you’ll probably finish it just because it’s in front of you, so you won’t likely stop yourself from eating because of the intense flavours inside the broth — it’s seriously like crack!
Overall, the chicken broth with beef and fish was good. Rui said if he’s feeling for something that’s good-tasting and cheap, he would come back again. But if it’s for quality, he probably won’t.
Original Fish Base Broth with Pumpkin Slices and Mushroom
Since I am trying my best to limit my meat intake (other than fish because I do love fish), I decided to go with the original fish base broth with pumpkin slices and mushrooms as my choice of toppings.
I tried Rui’s chicken broth, but I 100% prefer the classic fish broth. I personally think it tastes better overall, and I’m pretty confident that most will think so especially if you enjoy fish. Rui agreed and said he regrets ordering the chicken broth after he had a few sips of mine.
The fish broth was sweet and somewhat lighter than the chicken flavoured broth. I am a huge fan of pumpkins not only because of their naturally sweet taste but also because they are healthy for you! I just wish they were more generous and gave out more pumpkin slices. I will have to say they overdid it with the noodles and cheaped out on the toppings, so that wasn’t enough for me!
I didn’t want to overconsume noodles, so I made sure I gobbled down every piece of vegetable they gave me! The mushrooms were also decent and cooked properly, so I didn’t have anything to complain about.
Would I come here to eat this again?
I don’t know. The price point is good and the amount of food (or, should I say noodles?) they give you is very generous, but I always make it a habit to go for less processed carbs by replacing them with complex carbs, vegetables, and/or lean protein in my meal.
So, maybe, if a friend called me out and asked to hang out at this specific place… then I guess I would come back just because I thought their fish broth soup is good.
If it weren’t for their fish broth-based soup, I wouldn’t come back here with just Rui and I, or with my family.
And yes, I’m going to complain again – they give you WAY TOO MANY noodles! Guys, we don’t need that amount of noodles in the body! We need more nourishing foods!
Tom Yum Goong with Beef Slices and Beef Balls
Our friend, Darrin decided to go for the tom yum goong soup base with beef slices and beef balls.
He thought the same thing – a big bowl with lots of noodles! And to be fair, they do give a reasonable amount of meat mixed with some veggies. Still, the portion is a bit out of whack and not very balanced if you ask me. But then again, that’s with all restaurants, so there’s no escaping that when you eat out.
Anyway, Darrin said the bowl was okay with a hint of spice. It wasn’t overly spicy but just the right amount to give you that nice little kick.
The beef slices were tender and flavourful, and the beef balls were cooked well just like any other beef balls you consume whether you’re eating at the best Vietnamese Pho restaurant or a Chinese food joint in Toronto.
As mentioned, the soup base had a tangy and spicy taste that was unique and satisfying, but very different from the best Thai cuisines.
Overall, Darrin said it was okay, but wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.
But do take what Darrin says with a grain of salt but he’s a very picky eater and never really gives a decent or high score to any places. Even with the best places, he gives it a 3 out of 5 max, so keep that in mind. He just prefers more popular, upscale, and trendier restaurants. Whatever you want to call them, he likes to keep up with trends. He only decided to come here with us because again, we had two friends who told us this place is one of their top picks for cheap eats.
I’m going to try to remain as unbiased as possible.
It’s hard to say because as mentioned, Darrin prefers more upscale and trendier places. Never ask him to rate a restaurant because he gives them a lower-than-expected rating even though he likes them.
I, on the other hand, prefer homemade meals since no restaurants meet my standards of healthy recipes that actually contain REAL food in them. If I had to be honest, there isn’t any restaurant that truly satisfies me and I only go out to eat for social purposes – it’s better for your mental health too.
Lastly, Rui prefers to eat healthy 80% of the time and “dirty” with the remaining 20%. If this is his cheat day, he would say it’s not really worth it. But, he admits that Deer Garden Signature’s fish broth is really flavourful and yummy. Had they given less noodles and more meat and veggies, he would be more likely to come back and give it a higher rating.
But here’s our conclusion by combining the 3 of our opinions: Although the food at Deer Garden Signatures was decent for its price, it was not the highest quality for obvious reasons. The taste was packed with good flavour (thanks to MSG – and most restaurants use MSG without letting you know), and we’re pretty sure that most people will like it. The noodles were plentiful, but a little too much refined carbs for our taste. However, the plus side is they give a lot of selection of toppings for you to customize your noodle bowl!
The service was quick and efficient, but the servers were not as friendly as we would have liked. They are just like any other server at a typical Chinese restaurant, which is quick, speedy, and efficient. One thing that I really appreciate and admire is they came out to let me know I left my sunglasses there. Phew, thank goodness!
The ambiance at Deer Garden Signatures was clean and modern, which was a pleasant surprise for a budget-friendly restaurant. The decor was simple yet stylish, and the lighting was just right. We went during lunchtime, so the restaurant was not too crowded compared to dinnertime.
We have to say you get good bang for your buck here. The portions are big and it comes with a drink too. If you don’t mind eating a big bowl of noodles, then this is the place for you!
Overall Rating of Deer Garden Signatures: 3.4/5
They get a rating of 3.4 for their big portions, good-tasting soup base broths, a good selection of toppings, along with a bubble tea drink. It’s definitely a place that you must try at least once. If you don’t like it, don’t come here again. But if you love their food, you’ll be totally satisfied with the price point too.
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