Succulent dumplings and glistening stir fried noodles are by now a mainstay in many Torontonians’ diets — they are everywhere and affordable, unselfconsciously delicious despite their stints as American-Chinese food. In the precarious food world where trends bubble over, these classics seem somehow eternal. We’ll be slurping up versions of glistening noodles long after toasts become toasted bread again, terms of authenticity are redefined, and the kingdom come. And if there is a place to slurp, slurp as the world pirouettes out of orbit, Chop Chop on Dundas West is the place to do it.
The tall windows, the white walls, and the high ceiling of Chop Chop would put one in mind of a hip brunch place with colorful hollandaise sauce and ‘creative’ takes on French toasts, if it weren’t for the subtle nutty smell of woks being worked in a small open kitchen. The simple menu, divided into three short sections, ‘Dumplings’, ‘Appetizers’, and ‘Mains’, feels like a bridge between a menu at a corner takeout joint and one at a place marked authentic. Ginger beef, Shanghai Noodles, and General Tao chicken sit side by side with mapo tofu, Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup, and spicy cucumber salad. The daily specials menu that includes braised eggplant and pig ears continue the theme. Chop Chop does not cater to the shooters in search of the authentic, nor does it fall back on the comforts of the simulacrum. It’s truly welcoming, in the way eating at a friend’s place is: Come eat what we like to eat.
If you luck out and find the pan-fried vegetable dumplings on the daily specials, start there. The thick and chewy skin that’s absorbed the nutty oil lead the way to the sweet fillings of cabbage and other veges I was frankly too absorbed in eating to decipher. The Shanghai noodles is unsettling as it reminds diners of how good this simple dish can be: vegetables sautéed to be soft with a hint of crunch, slivers of pork and small shrimps swimming in the tangle of oil-glistened, perfectly seasoned noodles. The mapo tofu, more mellow and tangy than it would be in a Sichuanese restaurant, is silky and comes with just the right amount of kick to offset its own sweetness. The braised eggplant makes the apostate believe in vegetables again.
Among the fortune cookie-like aphorisms written in crisp red letters throughout Chop Chop, every syllable of “Happiness begins from within your stomach” rings true like a self-fulfilling prophecy.