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Jul 3, 2004 10:23 AM

Dim Sum best and second best

  • p

We will be spending several days in Toronto and love dim sum. Years past we had great dim sum at a large upstairs place on Dundas. What is the best dim sum right now?

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  1. If you can get out of the city and drive a little further uptown, then I have some places to suggest. I don't know many people who still venture to 'old' Chinatown (Spadina/Dundas) for good dim sum. All the good places have moved uptown to Markham and Richmond Hill...mostly for taste, but also since they are cleaner (certainly an issue with Chinatown restaurants if you read recent T.O. news).

    First at the North end of the city in Agincourt, there is a place called "New World" (North of McNicoll, South of Steeles, on the West side of Victoria Park) -- they have a cart system so you can choose your own food, they have a wide selection and of course the food tastes good.

    Next, further Kennedy & Denison (in Markham), there is a restaurant within the plaza called "Dragon Boat" (yellow & green sign). Excellent flavour, but slightly pricier. Small place which is always crowded, so expect to wait. Also, you have to order by checking off a menu paper.

    Last if you can get up to Highway 7 and Leslie (in Richmond Hill), there is a restaurant called "Times Dynasty", which is on the second floor of the West side of the giant 'Times Square' plaza...again, ordering off a sheet of paper, but fast service and great tasting food, cost may be a little pricier as well, but worth it.

    Hope you get to explore the vast choices in Chinese food offered in Richmond Hill and in Markham. Good luck!


    8 Replies
    1. re: foodie

      I hope that you enjoy the time that you spend in Toronto.

      One place in Scarborough that I like is Fisherman's Villa on Glen Watford Drive, in the Agincourt neighbourhood. You order what you wish and then it is brought to your table.

      Another place is Jade Villa on Don Mills Rd. at Barber Greene. Again, you order what you desire and have it brought to your table. It is pricier than the average mom and pop place but if you pay your bill before 11.30 a.m., there is a 20% discount.

      The name of the third one escapes me but it is located at a mall called Forest Hill North (a misnomer really), located on the north side of Steeles, just across the street from Centrepoint Mall. Great food and inexpensive.

      A previous poster mentioned how there have been issues with restaurants in Chinatown. I do take issue with that comment as it was one food court mall in Old Chinatown that was completely shut down by the health board for multiple, ongoing infractions. This place got what they deserved. I do not feel sorry for anyone but the customers who patronized this food court.

      However, I would hate to think that one casual comment like that has the potential to create havoc for businesses in the area that have always been good about maintaining a clean kitchen and dining room for their customers. If an entire shopping mall's food court area had been shut down, one would not comment on the sad state of affairs for all fast food outlets so please do not create a panic state with comments about the cleanliness of Chinese food restos.

      Besides, what does one expect from a kitchen that charges less than $5 for up to 4 items of food?

      1. re: Eva

        Our family is Chinese and we still don't like the Chinatown scene for dim sum. It has nothing to do with sanitation (we have noodles there) it's just that most often the places are crowded and lack standards in service or quality of food. Still they're excellent value if you're looking to dim sum on the cheap.

        Our favorite place is Dynasty, that's just overlooking Bloor street, before the ROM on Bloor. Service is impeccable and the dim sum is top notch, clearly made fresh and with great care. The seating is also thankfully well-spaced, which along with the large window along the whole front of the restraunt makes for a pleasant dining atmosphere.

        Dynasty: 131 Bloor St. W., 2nd flr., 416-923-3323.

        1. re: ArtificialButter

          It was my post that mentioned the sanitation issue with the Chinatown Centre food court...although that was not meant to generalize and paint the whole Chinatown scene as being dirty, I agree with the previous poster in saying that the lower quality and lower standards in service are two good reasons to get out of the Spadina/Dundas area for food.

          I agree with the recommendation for the Dynasty Restaurant at the Colonnade on Bloor...high quality food and a great view overlooking Bloor St.

          Baldwin Street is another great area for cheap and quick Chinese food eats. There is a buns place there that is top notch!


        2. re: Eva

          last summer my girlfriend and i were walking south on spadina on the west side. we passed a bakery (name escapes me, but the sign is in a maroon-purple kind of colour) and noticed a couple rats/mice running around inside! we called the authorities but i guess they didnt get caught. we told everyone we knew not to go back, as we have been there.

          thus, i dont think its an isolated incident around that precise area, but wouldnt think that more than these two (few) would be dirty.

          1. re: Eva

            4 items at less than $5
            T & T a Chinese grocery store has just that in their food court.

            There's one in Promenade Shopping Mall on Bathurst south of Hwy 7 and a new one opened at Warden and Steeles. Extremely clean, brightly lit, everything labelled in English, and the staff also speak English.

            A prime example of the differences between Chinatown north vs Spadina.

            1. re: acca94

              It seems that a number of issues are being raised in these posts, some of which I'd like to take exception to. I agree with the person who has warned of the repercussions from casually damning the whole chinatown. The news yesterday already reported a 30% drop in business for restaurants in the area as a result of the food court closure. The attitudes expressed here certainly contribute and some expressly confirm the idea that chinatown is dirty. Frankly, I think not only is that wrong but also offensive. The whole old Toronto has a problem with rats, mice and cackroaches. These vermin can be found throughout Toronto, especially in areas that have a high concentration of old houses and food establishements. All residents and businesses in the city can do is try to control it. Most businesses in chinatown do just that, as is proven by the fact that the area has had the same ratio of warnings by the health inspectors as other areas, since the programme started (that's according to the official interviewed for the news report). Given the amount of garbage that is thrown out in the area, it is amazing how well cleaned up it is after the stores close. so let's not exaggerate about the health risks of chinatown.

              secondly, this hierarchy between good suburban food versus low quality downtown food is fairly artificial. I know plenty of people who visit places in both areas, and like some in each. There are good places downtown (like Rol San mentioned earlier, but also all the places mentioned earlier in the year - ex. traditional chinese buns), and there are bad places in the suburbs (some of the dim sum places I visited in Marham relied much too heavy on fried items and the new trendy Hong Kong dishes that use mayo, in my opinion). To respond to an earlier post, yes there are plenty of people still going for dim sum downtown, which is clear by the lineups.

              Finally, I am not sure what the point of the last post about T & T was. Yes, T&T has some cheap items and yes it has English signs. The store is a chain so hardly a good comparison to independents. In fact, I know quite a few Chinese who are upset about the new store because it most likely will displace the established family-owned Chinese grocer in the area. As for the English signs...not sure who you're writing to, but I think the survival and popularity of downtown chinatowns as a shopping district proves that the lack of English signs has not been a problem for either the stores or the shoppers.

              1. re: Kasia

                I was simply replying to the previous comment associating low cost to low quality, which can be true and in other cases untrue. I could have listed Chinese food courts all over that are good and bad. T&T was used as an example, and to get the word out about this store that I'm sure not everyone has heard about. And no I have nothing to do with T&T. :)

                The audience regarding the English comment, IMO is obvious. And I also know plenty of Chinese people who are very happy about the new store - case in point the packed parking every large Chinese grocery store.

          2. re: foodie
            Peter from Virginia

            Thank you all for the very thoughtful responses. You have all helped to insure a much better trip.

          3. Lai Wah Heen is the best dim sum restaurant in Toronto, but a wide margin. Many professionals consider it the best in NORTH AMERICA.

            Enjoy your stay in Toronto!


            Lai Wah Heen Restaurant
            108 Chestnut Street
            Toronto, Ontario M5G 1R3
            (416) 977-9899


            3 Replies
            1. re: Pixelchef

              See my post in the "Saturday lunch" thread about Lai Wah Heen. Truly excellent. I also ate at Times Dynasty a couple of weeks ago and would concur with that recommendation. Less grand than Lai Wah Heen and probably less expensive.

              One place I have not been to (but plan on soon) is Cha Liu on Yonge just north of Eglinton. It has been well written up on this board. Easy access from the Eglinton subway station.

              1. re: Pixelchef


                I always get a laugh when someone actively markets Lai Wah Heen.

                Certainly - the most expensive
                - the most showy and pretty decorations
                - the most available seating, any time of the day

                Some dishes are so pretty that you feel guilty eating them. When the bill arrives, you realize that the guilty feeling is not totally unfounded :-)

                If you want "real" dim sum with taste, look elsewhere. But if you have cash to blow, a hot date who likes pretty dishes, and couldn't care less about taste - Lai Wah Heen is designed just for you.

                1. re: westsider

                  That's a sweeping statement. Yes, it's expensive, but what other places change their dim sum menu seasonally as different ingredients are fresh? And everything is made fresh - nothing is frozen (I'm sure there are other places that do this too - but there's an awful lot of prepackaged about).
                  I've yet to have better dim sum anywhere - when Lai Wah Heen is on top form. But there have ben times when it wasn't that great - Summerlicious (last year)is a perfect example of the downside.

              2. if you do happen to be in Spadina Chinatown, I would say try Rol San, which is on Spadina just north of Dundas on the east side. They have fantastic fresh dim sum, everything is to order, no carts. Do expect a line though, and keep in mind there are two dining rooms, the front one where you just wait, the back one where you can get a number.