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Lei Wa Heen

I'm thinking about this place as a potential birthday spot for my wife. Two questions:

1) Is there enough choice for two non-seafood-eating vegetarians?

2) Is it really worth the money?

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  1. Seafood is tough to avoid at a dim sum. I've been to Lai Wah Heen and their dim sum is great. However I don't think the experience is worth the price because you'll have a very limited selection. With that kind of money, you'd want more freedom and choice.

    1. I'm looking for something Asian-themed as part of a bigger gift thing (involving, for example, The Tao of Pooh and maybe a Shiatsu massage).

      I'm very flexible on the price point. We've done Susur and Lee, and frequent our local Thai take-out joint. Any other recommendations?

      4 Replies
      1. re: Webdude

        How about Indian food? It's not fancy, but I was at Cuisine of India recently and it was very good.
        I go by Bombay Palace on Jarvis at Adelaide all the time - don't know if it's any good - maybe someone else can attest to whether it's any good? Or if there are any good Indian restaurants downtown?

        1. re: pescatarian

          re Bombay Palace. I don't know if it's "good" by real Indian food aficionados. I am not one of them, plus I'm a spice wimp so only have mild things. So my palate may not be in tune with those truly in the know. However, I adore their chicken makhani (butter chicken) and their onion bhajia. Love the naan. My friend is a big fan of their dahl and korma. So I'm always happy to go, but YMMV.

          1. re: Smalph

            Again - we're looking for Asian. Thai, Chinese, Japanese - that part of Asia (as opposed to the subcontinent).

            As much as I loves me some Indian grub, it's not my birthday. It's my wife's.

            1. re: Smalph

              Thanks, I might just have to try it. I go by there all the time.

        2. okay, not even on the same planet, ambience-wise. But if you're both vegetarian and doing the asian theme thing, what about going for a buddist vegetarian restaurant?

          My favourite is the Buddhist Vegetarian Kitchen (definately get the dimsum (gluten) and the pan fried (not deep fried) bean curd skins)
          3290 Midland at Finch(416) 292-7095

          There's also a buddahist vegetarian restaurant on Dundas, north side, almost to Bathurs.

          it'd be more of an adventure type meal.

          btw, huge points for putting together such a thoughtful birthday experience

          3 Replies
          1. re: orangewasabi

            Thanks for the props, orangewasabi.

            We've done a couple of the Buddhist places in Agincourt and points north in Scarborough, with mixed success. I find some of the food a little bland, to be honest, although I do understand that it's related to the need for modesty (i.e., nothing too over-the-top in any area).

            We'd even be open to sushi - as long as there's a good selection of veggie options and the quality's good enough. I've had enough food court sushi (as in, once is too many times) to last me a lifetime.

            Although we're in the east end (Danforth/Woodbine), we're mobile and have wheels.

            Does that help?

            1. re: Webdude

              If "susur money" is doable, I would call Sushi Kaji and ask if they would accomodate. He should be able to make anything and it will always blow your mind.

              Otherwise I would challenge Perigee.

              1. re: Webdude

                man, this is a total stumper.

                We're all basically saying that LWH isn't really good value for money for two non-seafood eating vegetarians: AS-IS. However, the food IS excellent. And you'd get huge points for that, plus the elegant ambience. Have you called LWH to see if they can do a special all vegetarian tasting menu for you? That'd be a WOW option.

                There's also the newly re-opened Bangkok Gardens. I haven't been yet, but it'd be the place to go for a birthday Thai meal, since it's new.

            2. I say got to LWH

              If you are vegetarians, no high-end place is going to have what the others are perceiving as value.

              You are going for the nice setting, atmosphere, attention to detail etc.

              Price is obviously not your highest concern.

              Definitely call ahead, tell them its a special occasion and that u are vegetarians.

              Sushi Kaji is also a good option

              1. Good ideas all. I've just called LWH and asked - they're going to fax me a sample veggie tasting menu. Letcha all know how that goes.

                Chowhounds rock!

                1. LWH didn't have much on the official menu for my veggie/vegan wife, but were more than happy to make something for her, and she loved it.

                  Mind you, that was our first valentine's some six years ago, so the information's quite dated, and she hadn't eaten at many upscale restaurants then, but ... the service, food and ambience were all excellent.

                  I've been there before and after -- but I don't have the same dietary restrictions, and I love their (expensive, but excellent) Dim Sum.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: diathesis

                    Like some of the above posts noted, LWH is super-pricey but at least the quality is excellent. Dim sum by tradition is all about meat (and shrimp is everywhere!) which typically makes it a terrible choice for vegetarians. BUT - the great thing about a high-end restaurant like LWH is they may be willing to go the extra mile to come up with a veggie menu for you if you call in advance & arrange.

                    You could also try Lai Toh Heen, LWH's sister restaurant on Mt. Pleasant. It's a slightly more informal, slightly less expensive, but still high quality food & modern/sleek setting. The food is more towards the traditional there, they have tasting menus and dim sum and might also be willing to do a veggie menu for you.

                    1. re: balthazar

                      Thanks, balthazar. The dinner was actually this past Saturday night. But a fellow foodie at work also mentioned Lai Toh Heen, so I'm happy to add it to the mental list of restos we'd like to visit.

                      Thanks.

                  2. Here's what they're offering - I think we'll take the plunge. Thanks again, everyone.

                    I'll repost afterwards with a mini-review.

                    Rainbow chop in crystal fold (assorted veggies w/egg noodles)
                    Aromatic sour bisque studded with minced fish, julienne of mushroom and shredded scallions
                    Braised assorted seasonal veggies with deep forest mushrooms and funghi in oyster sauce (may have to tweak that one)
                    Pan-seared roulade of filet of cod, topped with egg white sauce and fish roe
                    Braised tofu with shiitake mushroom and veg
                    Assorted diced mushroom with veg fried rice
                    Dessert: sweetened soup of the day

                    All this for a (seemingly) paltry $40 a head, plus tax & tip.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Webdude

                      Fish on the menu? isn't that seafood? or do you mean you don't eat shellfish?

                      There are vegetarian versions of "oyster sauce", made with black mushrooms.

                      1. re: Teep

                        Yes, I did mean shellfish. Sorry - that part was unclear.

                        Does this open up any other options, restaurant-wise?

                        I'm actually quite curious, and inclined, to try this place.

                        1. re: Webdude

                          The price is great, however most of the items do not seem gourmet-y enough. Except for the roulade (I am guessing the sour bisque is a fancy version of Hot and Sour soup), most of the items can be had at other Chinatown restos. Of course you get much higher quality at LWH, but I'm not sure it would be a WOW experience.

                    2. The price is great. It would be worth a try. However, if you do eat fish, then I'd go for Sushi Kaji (the one in Etobikcoke, right?) I have a feeling they would be able to be more adventurous. (I'm not a big fan of Chinese vegetarian, unless it's Buddhist vegetarian food)

                      1. Quite an experience.

                        The only real service glitch was that we had to ask for water. But the good news is, the host knew exactly who we were when we arrived, seated us immediately and informed us that our meal was already being prepared.

                        All the rumours were true. The room had an elegance about it, with fine china and a real silver rest for the soup spoon and chopsticks. At first the lack of background music was a little disconcerting, but then I realized - that's what you want: to be able to focus on the food.

                        Wait staff were attentive and pleasant. They moved around the room with a quiet grace, ferrying and serving some mighty intriguing-looking food.

                        While waiting, we ordered upscale martinis - lemon drop for my wife and purple haze (with a shot of blue Curacao) for me. Tasty, but a tad pricey - $12.50 each.

                        Our food began to arrive shortly thereafter, and in exactly the order promised.

                        The crystal fold was actually one of the highlights. Hoisin is one of my favourite flavours, and this one had just the right amount. In a very nice touch, the server brought the head of lettuce to the table first to show us, presumably, its quality and freshness. Then she faded over to a table beside ours to assemble the dish while watched.

                        The soup was subtle and delicious. After years of hot cornstarch in a bowl, it was refreshing to have one with ingredients you could actually taste. Really good.

                        The only change, in fact, from the menu promised above was that the cod somehow morphed into sea bass. It was probably the best dish of the night - six little fingers of fish, done almost like a salad roll, in a delicate rice wrapper and complemented with crunchy dark green lettuce (maybe romaine?).

                        Only one slightly odd note for the night. The sweetened red bean soup just seemed out of place. Maybe it was the texture - kidney beans can be sandy at the best of times - or the timing, coming at the end of the meal. You don't really want to be facing another bowl of soup at that point. So we both tasted it, and left most. (My wife said a teacup rather than a full bowl likely would have been better, and as usual, she was probably right).

                        I had the jasmine bud tea, which is served in a clear cup so that you can watch it bloom when the hot water is added. Quite the theatrical experience. And a lovely, fragrant and refreshing drink, to boot.

                        One slight nit: We were never asked if we wanted a second drink. We would have said no, but the point is, the question wasn't asked.

                        Total damage for dinner, including the extras (alcohol and tea), tax and tip: $150. Not bad, considering that it's seen as one of the city's tonier - and therefore more expensive - eateries.

                        All in all, a lovely experience. I'd certainly recommend it to anyone in the same boat.

                        Once again, thank you to all my fellow Chowhounds. You came through again. I may never eat in another resto without first asking your views.

                        1. About the red bean soup, the "sandy" texture is actually sought after. I am sorry it was unpleasant for you.