China House closed for dinner

Redevelopment forces closure of iconic dining room

After more than half a century Forest Hill’s iconic China House dining room has served it’s last meal.

The space that has been a tradition for so many families will be torn down to make way for a new condo development.

However, that doesn’t mean that the community will be saying goodbye to the China House’s food.

“The arrangement that we’ve made is that we’re closing the dining room and giving that space back to the landlord, but we are able to keep the kitchen open and the staff the same,” said China House’s owner Jonathan Wise.

Wise said these changes would remain in effect until he relocates the business and that all of China House’s memorable decor, such as the bridge in the entryway, were going to be stored for safekeeping until then.

“We have to stay in the neighbourhood,” he said. “That’s where our constituents are, that’s where families have grown up over the last 53 years with China House.”

However, since Wise isn’t sure how much time he has before the developer takes over the kitchen as well, the move could potentially not come fast enough.

“I don’t know what the plans are for the developer,” he said. “As I said we don’t look at worst-case scenarios, we don’t think negative thoughts. Always think positive.”

When Wise took over the restaurant in 2009, he undertook a major renovation where he restored the interior and exterior to their original state.

One of the things Wise said he was going to miss the most about the dining room is meeting those who came back since the facelift was completed to put pennies in the fountain, like members of their family had before them.

“I will miss the families that each night tell us how great it used to be when they were growing up and now they have their own kids to do what they were doing,” he said.

Wise said he was also going to miss the popular weekly jazz series he introduced in May of last year, which he started in honour of his late father Ben Wise.

“It’s been an overwhelming success,” he said. “It turned into the hottest jazz club in Toronto.”

Steven Petroff, chair of the Upper Village BIA, said China House has been a pillar in the community.

“There’s no question that having a history that China House has on the street has been a real sort of leader when it comes to restaurants and the ability to make an impact in an area, for restaurants to have the confidence that they can be successful and be rooted,” he said.

Although Petroff said he has concerns about the construction issues, he said he’s looking forward to the development because many small business in the area, including his own, could use an influx of customers.

“We as a business community really are excited about new condo developments in general with regards to a number of more people living here who are going to be frequenting the businesses,” he said.

As for the future of China House, Wise said he is planning on moving in a much healthier direction once they are under a new roof.

“People are looking for healthy alternatives for Chinese food and this represents really where we are going,” Wise said.


About this article:

By: Ann Ruppenstein
Posted: Aug 16 2011 2:58 pm
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto
Tagged: