Over the past couple years, I’ve eaten at almost all the restaurants near UW. Here’s my review of the most well-known Asian restaurants in the UW Plaza. For some restaurants, I included names of their notable dishes, along with their Chinese names for extra clarification. Hope this helps!
This is the default restaurant I go to because it offers decent food at reasonable prices. Their lunch specials are pretty good deals: unlimited pop, egg/seaweed soup, and cheap combo meals ($7.99). This is also the only restaurant in the Plaza that sells live fresh fish (they’re in the fishtank next to the TV): steamed fish for $18 or hotpot fish for $22. However, neither are on the menu so you’ll need to tell the waiter/waitress directly. Other highlights include their hot-and-sour-soup (although lately, I noticed it’s not as spicy as before), spicy fish fillets, and pig stomach (猪肚腐竹).
Price: Reasonable, $8-12/dish
Pretty decent noodle place, although rumour has it that it’s not very clean (though better than Paninos, that’s for sure!). I usually order the fish noodle (酸菜鱼) or the spicy noodles(酸辣米粉) because they taste nice. The dishes are all 1/person so this is a good place to eat at if you’re eating on your own. Other notable dishes include their crepes and cumin lamb dishes (if you’re not Asian, give this a try. It’s quite different from other types of Asian dishes!)
Price: Reasonable, $10/dish
Fun fact: the owner of Waterloo Sogo also owns Shinwa (formerly Empire) and 大百汇!
This restaurant somehow reminds me of a particular Japanese actress. Anyways, this is mostly a ramen shop that’s around the same price as Kenzo. I particularly appreciate that they add a strip of Bok Choy with the ramen dishes and their lemon-flavoured water is surprisingly good!
Price: Same as Kenzo
Get ready for diarrhea and MSG! Jokes…well, not really, this restaurant served my friends and I many cases of diarrhea. However, their noodles aren’t that bad and the service time is really short (small latency between time of purchase and time of food delivery). This is also one of the few places on plaza that accepts Watcards, even though very few students use them. Notable dishes include their beef noodle broth and their MaPo tofu. Eat at your discretion.
Recommendation: Don’t eat here…unless you have to
Some people like it; some people don’t. I came here once and rarely came back, but then again, I’m sometimes a picky eater so don’t let my review taint this restaurant for you. Baba Grill offers many flavours of chicken and because they’re pre-made, there’s virtually no wait time. Give it a try! ~~I miss Panda King though…those serving sizes were awesome…RIP~~
Very meh, high price, okay quality + low quantity food, although the pork bone soup is worth a try. During lunch and dinner time, many diners frequent this restaurant, so perhaps there’s something special about Seoul Soul and my evaluation is incorrect. With that said, Reddit users claimed that Seoul Soul includes the tip in the bill but won’t tell you about it…so enjoy at you own discretion.
Price: Expensive, especially if they try to rip you off
Tried this a couple time back in first year. Can’t really recommend because the food tastes so bland that I didn’t even finish it. PRO-TIP: if you’re looking for Chinese food and a restaurant says it sells “Canadian & Asian Food”, then it won’t be selling real Chinese food.
A Taste of Taiwan
Home-style food with exceptional service! The cashier is the owner and he really cares about his restaurant. While I personally don’t come here often, many Chinese friends enjoy eating here. Their egg-drop soup is good.
Price: Acceptable, $12/dish
Fine noodles with medium portion sizes, but no air-conditioning. The ramen bowls are enjoyable but if you’re a big eater, the only way to feel full is to eat its Spicy Bowls (Chasu Ramen, IIRC). Kenzo’s Spicy Bowl @ 3-star spiciness is truly a formidable foe and not one for the faint-hearted. Would recommend giving it a try as it’s probably the spiciest dish on Plaza!
Price: Higher than usual ($13-15)
Chong Qing Xiao Mian (重庆小面, next to Asakusa)
Expensive but spicy. If you eat a lot, make sure to order the Level 3 serving size because it offers unlimited noodles. The side dishes taste pretty good. If you’re non-Asian, I recommend giving this place a try because it tastes somewhat authentic. But if you’re Asian and have eaten really good noodles, do be aware that this place is a mere shadow of Hey Noodles!
PRO-TIP: pay with cash because the lowest tip you can give on their debit machine is 15% IIRC
Price: Expensive, $15
Mr. Yin (Chinese sandwich + dumpling)
The newest addition to the plaza, Mr Yin is several stores away from BK. The décor is cute and the food is yummy, although its quantity is less than at other restaurants. Mr. Yin also offers Watermelon juice for $2/glass.
This is the only decent AYCE hotpot place in the plaza. After eating a meal of hotpot, I feel like my body grows fatter…and my wallet grows skinner! Moral’s Village also has a lunch menu (麻辣烫), which is much more affordable (not AYCE, pay-per-item). The lunch menu’s ecstasy bowl is extremely spicy and around the same level as Kenzo’s Level 3 Bowl.
Price: Hotpot is expensive ($30+/person); lunch menu is usually $10-15.
Reasonable price and acceptable food. I’m going to take some flack for saying this but here goes: if you like watered-down Westernized Asian food, this is the place to be. For some positivity, their lunch specials are at reasonable prices.
Shinwa replaced “Two Ox Heads”, which was a crappy hotpot-ish place, earlier this year (my friend and I might have gotten food poisoning there once). Before that, the restaurant was called “Empire”, which actually served descent Chinese food. RIP Empire ~~ The kingdom has fallen.
Price: Reasonable, ($8-12)
The lunch specials are disgusting meh but the group combo dishes can be enjoyable. I used to come here often until a new waitress arrived who consistently delivered abhorrent service and terrible dining experiences. Will not be coming back in the future.
Recommendation: Be prepared for exceptionally bad service and negligent staff.
These restaurants are closer to Laurier but deserve to be mentioned.
Excellent authentic taste! Its dishes are also much more expensive than at other restaurants (around $15/dish). If you’re looking for good Chinese food, this is definitely at the top of the list! Strongly recommend! You get 5% discount if you pay with cash.
Price: Expensive, $15+/dish
Recommendation: Come with a group since the dishes are meant to be shared.
This used to be at the same location as China Bowl several years back but have since relocated to Spruce Street, near Sage 2. This might be the only restaurant that offers decent dim sum and various seafood near UW/Laurier.
Price: A little expensive
Bogda Uyghur Cuisine
This is a hidden gem next to Bao’s Sandwich Bar that serves delightful Xinjiang and Tibetan food! Expect lots of beef and lamb, along with exotic spices. The price is not cheap, but the taste is…different from your traditional Asian food. Would recommend trying at least once.