The corner of Broadview and Gerrard is home to a vast array of tiny Vietnamese restaurants, but Mi Mi Restaurant is definitely noteworthy.
Owner Tan Phat Trieu opened up shop in the vibrant neighbourhood in the mid-1990s and has been in the same location ever since.
His daughter Ni has worked at the restaurant for the last 12 years, and she attributes this little (but packed) restaurant’s success to “the fact that it’s all local [people], it’s all clients from within the neighbourhood.” And sure enough, while sitting eating dinner and people-watching, Ni seems to recognize at least half the diners in the restaurant, some seemingly as close as family, and others young Toronto hipsters.
At some point, Mi Mi’s probably catered primarily to local Asian families with their varied authentic Vietnamese dishes, but it's now a destination for all sorts of locals — especially as the neighbourhood expands and becomes an increasingly popular place to live for young adults in the East End.
Ignoring my initial thought not to order too much food, we started off with deep-fried pork spring rolls ($3.95) and shrimp dumplings ($7.95). The spring rolls would have been enough for two to share as an appetizer, and they were delicious. The deep-fried pork gave them more flavour than most spring rolls, and they had a nice crunch to them. The shrimp dumplings were also good, and again would have been enough for two to share.
The two servers, one being Ni, were extremely kind, and our food arrived quickly. The vegetarian pho dish ($7.95) had a lot of tofu, with Chinese broccoli and a choice of egg or rice noodles. The barbecue beef and pork spring roll vermicelli dish ($7.95) was not only flavourful thanks to the beef but also came with a few more of the starter spring rolls, which were arguably the best part of the meal.
Ni laughed when I asked her why she thinks people love Mi Mi’s. She answered,
“It’s a casual restaurant… and everybody loves barbecue pork!”
True to that, the restaurant is very laid-back, and although it can get busy pretty in this small space, the atmosphere always seems relaxed. Brightly lit, with as many tables inside as possible, the restaurant definitely welcomes guests to its full capacity. The light in this space bounces off the somewhat outdated walls and reflects in the mirrors throughout the restaurant.
Because of this brightness, it always seems like the restaurant is full, and the best part is that you can spy on your neighbouring table to see what they're eating if you’re having a hard time deciding. The restaurant could do with a few renovations, as the room's a little stuffy, and the light fixtures and art work a bit outdated — but this is half the charm of this energetic little place.
If there's any downside to Mi Mi Restaurant, it's the lack of vegetarian options on the menu. But they have incorporated veggie broth for the one pho dish, which is much appreciated, and the staff will make vegetarian spring rolls with avocado for less carnivorous guests. But true to what Ni says, the barbecue pork dishes are a staple and almost every table in the restaurant included some variation of pork.
If you’re looking for a quick and filling bite, any of Ni Ni's dishes will work, and they'l likely cost you less than $10 and be ready in under 20 minutes. The service here is friendly and the prices are low — you can spend $45 on two appetizers, two entrées, and two beers. Mi Mi is a vivacious and satisfying restaurant.