Saturday, 11 February 2012

George's Fine Chinese Food - A Cambridge Institution!!!

George's Fine Chinese Food
21 Water Street North
Cambridge, Ontario


Image Courtsey: George's Website

In her opinion:  

As a little Portuguese kid growing up in Galt, George's was the "exotic" restaurant that I never ate at. At least not until I was in high school. My parents emmigrated to Canada in 1974 and George's was already a hot spot in Cambridge. If you ask anyone from my generation about their childhood and adolescence they will ultimately include George's in their memories.  There's a Facebook group called "If You Grew Up in Cambridge, ON You Remember" and I have read the memories associated with this Cambridge institution there. 

I didn't try George's until I was in high school and earning my own money.  The first time I tried it, I fell in love.  I even convinced my Portuguese parents to try it.  They too fell in love. And finally, in 1992 when I started dating my Portuguese boyfriend (who later became my husband),I convinced a picky eater (before he was a foodie)that George's was so good, that he had to try it. He too fell in love.

George's Fine Chinese Food was opened by George Seto in 1951. George was known for not only his Canadian Chinese food but his generosity and kindness. George passed away in 1993 and left George's to his son Paul (who passed away in January, 2012 after this post was written) and his boys, John, Roy and Don to carry on with his legacy.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to make George's something that it is not.  Is this really good Chinese food? No, not really. This is the epitome of Canadian Chinese food. Ask anyone of Chinese heritage if they like George's and they would laugh at you. Of course not! But ask any Canadian (and if you grew up in Cambridge you know I meant Newfie), Portugese or Italian kid and they would say yes.  

This is the home of 18 for 1...Soo Guy Almond Chicken, Sweet and Sour Chicken, Mushroom Fried Rice and Egg Roll.  Not just any egg rolls, but the best homemade egg roll you have ever eaten in your life.  There's no cabbage fillers in these egg rolls...just bean sprouts and a mix of secret ingredients. So good.

So on a snowy day in Cambridge with no intentions of leaving the comfort of our warm home, we ordered George's for lunch.  Our order was of course 18 for 1, an extra egg roll, an order of fries and gravy and a steam rice.  This is our usual order.

It is still good. Of course my food tastes has changed.  George's is no longer considered "exotic" in my culinary world.  It's comfort food of my childhood. It's the go to restaurant when nothing else comes to mind. It is still the best Canadian Chinese food in Cambridge. It's funny, recently I attended my friend's daughter's Confirmation celebration.  On the menu was George's Mushroom Fried Rice and of course, their Egg Rolls at the request of the celebrant.  The guests all ate it mixed with the majority of the Portuguese food on the menu. It was just natural. And I laughed to myself thinking the next generation is as hooked as our generation. It will only be a matter of time before John, Roy and Don's kids take over this Cambridge legacy.

Egg Rolls with George's Plum Sauce

No cabbage in these babies.

Soo Guy Almond, Mushroom Fried Rice
and Sweet and Sour Chicken

Fries and Soo Guy Gravy.

18 for 1 feeds two nicely.

In his opinion:

Every foodie has a "fast food/takeout" spot that no matter how bad, how greasy or how run of the mill it is for them, it becomes their guilty pleasure. Unfortunately, I have several...and George's Fine Chinese Food in Cambridge happens to be one of them. 

Oddly enough I share this guilty pleasure with one of Canada's top chefs, Jason Parsons from Peller Estates Winery and CityTV fame. He has personally assured me while I was dining at Peller Estates one day, that this was his go to place for "fast food" during his Cambridge days. If it's good enough for his high calibre palate, then it surely is good enough for me. I must admit that I have had this particular dish (18 for 1) way more times than I would like to admit. But, it always has been the favourite Canadian Chinese spot for many in this city, including me. 

Canadian Chinese food was the first commercialized way that many in Canada ever tasted anything that even resembled Chinese food. Unfortunately, these dishes are as far from real Chinese food as East Side Mario's is to real Italian food. Yes, sorry to bust your bubble but fortune cookies were invented in California and no resident Chinese person has ever heard of General Tao Chicken.

But on with the food. First of all, combo 18 for 1, it serves 2 people easily. We always get an extra steamed rice to complement the small regular mushroom fried rice that comes with it.

The egg rolls. Although I'm not much of an egg roll lover myself, I have consistently tried bad egg rolls in every "fake Chinese" place I have ever been to in my life. George's is the exception. No cabbage filling, just a simply made fresh egg roll with bean sprouts made by hand the same day! (I have witness them making them many times)!

The chicken is presented in 2 ways. First, the all too overused "sweet and sour" chicken. Boneless chicken strips drowned in plenty of sweet and sour sauce and a healthy portion for 1 person (even though the containers have gotten smaller with the years).

The other chicken dish is the "soo guy almond" and my personal favourite. It is again boneless chicken strips cooked and covered in a creamy gravy sauce with almonds, that tastes amazingly on top of the rice by the way.

We also always order the fries and gravy as a side dish. This really consists of fries with the exact same sauce as the "soo guy almond chicken", so if you are a fan of the sauce, go for it, if not skip it.

We pretty much stick to these combos 90% of the time we eat or take out from George's but there are many other favourites on the menu including: beef or vegetable chow mein, chicken chop suey, low mein and if possible, order the honey garlic spare ribs which I know that my good friend, cook John Seto hates to prepare due to the full wok cleaning required, but are very good.

The owners/kitchen crew are close friends of mine and it would be very easy for me to be bias in this review. But, if you ever have a chance to witness the volume of take-out/deliveries that happens daily from this place for a city as small as Cambridge, then you know that their food is a hot item.  Especially for the predominantly "Newfie" and Portuguese Cambridge demographic, not just for me.

Next time you are in Cambridge, anywhere near the Galt downtown core, give this restaurant a try. Try not to be put off by the overly Chinese themed  dining room and dated overall d├ęcor of the building; because trust me, the food does all the talking. 

Image Courtesy:  George's Website

1 comment:

  1. Great post on George's! I, just like alot of families in Cambridge, have looked forward to getting George's Chinese food on special occasions for decades. I have even taken dates out there as least if the conversation isn't good, we can agree on saying "..mmMMMmmm so good!" I have watched the restaurant change ever so slightly over the years, and it is with a certain sad twinge of sentimentality. I loved the darker, lowered lighting in the back & front dining rooms. It really made those red walls & decor pop out at me. The carpets are now well worn, but the original plates (I think??) are still being used. The aquarium at the back entrance has been around for awhile, but I am old enough to remember that huge detailed model landscape that graced the front window for years. It had running water, goldfish & small lighted homes. The coolest thing! I should find out what happened to it someday.. I always wondered if George's will just be a memory, but, after reading your blog on it, I feel reassured it won't. It's the food & the joy of sharing something you KNOW is unique, tasty & our own personal comfort food. As long as the loyal clientele keep bringing new diners in to discover the magic of that taste..then George's will never go away. It's been 66 years there any restaurant around town that has outlasted George's? I think not... (Note: went to that Facebook page you provided the link to for Cambridge memories, and the rule is..gotta know a friend in the group to get into the group. Remembers me of Glenview hahaha...