A friend of mine introduced me to So Good over a decade ago and, like so many others, I just keep going back! Without such personal guidance, this isn't the kind of place that you would likely find on your own, as it really doesn't look like much from the street and is literally just a tiny, non-descript place tucked in between an asian corner store and an alternative medicine shop. Decor is not the strong suit at So Good, for sure, but I think that it is still better to eat-in, rather than take-out, as some of their best dishes don't travel particularly well. Plus, they don't deliver. The place gets a fresh coat of paint every couple of years, during its annual two+ week summer closure, and there is no visible "dirt" anywhere, but it somehow always looks a bit dingy. Its famous pale pink half-curtains have now been removed, but little else seems to ever change here, except for their annual Chinese bamboo scroll calendar. The owner, Peter So, is an amazing guy with varied interests that run from food to real estate to health care; he is a great conversationalist, which comes in handy while you are waiting for your food to come out of the kitchen. He and Kitty run a friendly and very consistent place, recognizing returning customers by name and making newcomers feel welcome. Reservations are always recommended as I have learned that one can never predict how busy, or quiet, the place will be at any given time, and there are only a handful of tables that can seat maybe 50 people at once. There is one large, round table, equipped with a central lazy-susan, that seats ten. Oherwise, the tables are mostly for two or four diners, and are pretty tightly packed into the space. The bathrooms are clean but seem to also double as storage for the janitorial supplies and sometimes numerous cases of canned soda. The plastic duotang that serves as a menu is extensive and might initially seem overwhelming but, if you look at it carefully, there are a lot of "repeats" because several of the dishes fall within numerous section headings (Vegetarian, Beancurd, Thai, etc.). With the exception of the weekday lunch specials, most of the dishes are large and are best for sharing. The standard here is to serve the dishes with the traditional small bowls and chopsticks, but the servers readily accommodate neophytes like me with full-size plates and stainless-steel cutlery. Every dish comes served with a plastic bowl of cooked rice; the size is dependant upon the number of people in your party. While the beer they sell goes great with this type of food, their homemade iced tea always gets rave reviews. For appetizers, the hunan dumplings are to die for; the pork filling is flavourful and the accompanying brown sauce is thick and tasty, without being too spicy-hot, and the dish is served sprinkled with bits of fresh green onion. The cantonese spring roll is deep-fried, with a thin, crisp coating wrapped around a filling of chunked vegetables and pork. If you visit in the afternoon, you will sometimes see the servers hand-rolling them at a back table, deftly trapping a handful of fresh-made filling, scooped from a big central bowl, into the raw wrappers. A squeeze bottle of "mystery" (sweet and tangy, but too thin to be the standard plum) sauce arrives with the spring rolls that adds even more joy to every bite. I always keep an order of So Good's chicken-based wonton soup in my freezer so that I can quickly thaw it out when I start to feel a cold coming on. It seems to work as well as any medicine... and certainly tastes better! My absolute favourite main dishes are the Wu Se chicken and the pepper-salt tofu. The Wu Se chicken has the best peanut sauce ever, and is generously dotted with cashews and full of perfectly-cooked vegetables. I have seen former residents of Ottawa return for a visit and buy armloads of containers full of Wu Se to take back to their new hometown, as I understand that it freezes pretty well too... and it is definitely something that would be missed! The pepper-salt tofu is equally scrumptious. Soft pillows of firm beancurd flash-fried to the point where, when served piping hot, they seemingly melt in your mouth. (This is one dish that doesn't travel well for take-out.) The chili-flecked exterior of these plump cubes offers a nice kick of spicy heat. The pepper-salt squid is equally good, but it isn't always as tender as I would prefer since mere seconds in the hot oil can make the difference between "perfectly-cooked" and "rubbery". The crispy beef is another popular dish, with coated beef strips drenched in a deep brown sauce mixed with peppers and onions. And the cantonese chow mein (fried noodles) is really good too, full of soft noodles, BBQ pork, shrimp and vegetables. A friend of mine, who spent many years living in asia, swears by So Good's Singapore-style vermicelli. And a lot of tables seem to order a dish that is basically just green stringbeans, so it must be really good to be that popular, but it is just not something that personally appeals to me. I would be willing to bet that anything ordered from the menu would be great, but I so love the above-noted dishes that I never manage to get past them, and always go home with leftovers (and a full belly) because I can't resist over-ordering just so that I can enjoy at least three or four of my favourites during a visit, even when I only have one dining mate. I can personally attest to the fact that everything re-heats well and tastes just as good at lunch the next day! As noted, the food here is excellent but I am rating the experience as "very good" simply because it is definitely not fine-dining; the atmosphere is lacking and apparently that doesn't matter enough to warrant any changes because we all keep going back for the food regardless! Parking can also be an issue, as the street spots fill up quickly. There is a small covered pay-lot across the street, under an apartment building, next to the church, which is worth the investment if you don't want to keep driving around in circles looking for a spot to open up in the surrounding city blocks. Enjoy!
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