Empire Court - A worthy Dim Sum alternate to the Grand?!
- Charles Yu Oct 13, 2008 11:31 AM
For those of you fellow CH who reside up north and might find the Grand, near the airport, a bit too far to drive, Empire court inside the Hilton Suite hotel is worth considering as a comparable alternative for fine Dim Sum.
With elegant decor, a cozy and quiet ambience, attentive service and surprisingly good Dim Sum, Empire Court has been overlooked by a number of us CH.
We went for Dim Sum lunch this holiday long week-end and was pleasantly surprised to find the place only 80% full! Apart from the traditional choices such as Har Gow, rice noodles, chicken feet... etc, we also opted for a few 'nouveau' items. The stand out being a 'pan seared scallops with mango compote and pine nuts, each of the three morsel served artfully in a porcelain soup spoon. Another interesting item being the miniturized sesame doughnut dessert. The piping hot sesame doughnut has a super crispy skin and a delactable soft custard / fresh fruit centre. A nice fusion creation. Other nice touches include surrounding the shrimp rice noodle with a bed of some al dente, shan tong poached, pea sprouts.
Of the few Dim Sum lunches I had up north within the past few months whicn included Casa Imperial, Casa Victoria, Full House, Golden Court,, O'Mei and Regal16, the Empire Court ,total experience , must rank on top. At $69 before tips for 4 person, its a mighty good deal as well!
Good afternoon, Charles Yu
I have been to Empire Court on a number of occasions and would agree with your assessment that it is better than Casa Imperial (I have not been to the other ones mentioned). However, I would unfortunately have to say it could not replace my weekly trek out to Grand for dim sum! But to each their own, and it would be the closest I have found in the area to the calibre of dim sum I have found at Grand. I neglected to bring my camera on each visit though, so unfortunately, no photos. I was hosting some out of town guests and did not think they would appreciate my constant photo taking throughout the meal, sadly. They have a wide variety of non-traditional dim sum items (nouveau preparations, as you have mentioned) that I appreciated. Their tastes are not too heavy, and not reliant on pork (I believe I suggested this on another non-pork dim sum thread), which is a great thing. The presentation is artful and carefully done. Service is also above standard. The space is quite small, so without a reservation, it is quite a wait.
Do try the eel roll they have. It was quite excellent. They have this Chiu Chow dessert that was really very different as well. I would not order it again, but it was quite an experience.
Thanks for the review.
Took the wife and kids to Empire Court this Sunday and was pleasantly surprised. Here's a few pics I took of the dishes and the menu (I forgot to shoot the specialty items menu):
2) Crispy Eel Roll http://img526.imageshack.us/my.php?im...
Bit of a Japanese twist to it, slightly sweet eel with cucumber plus an amazing ultra crunchy skin w/ embedded sesame.
3) Steamed winter melon w/ pumpkin & ham (and shrimp!) http://img293.imageshack.us/my.php?im...
not one of my favorite dishes, I just found it too light in flavour. The menu doesn't mention anything about shrimp, but it's there.
4) Steamed oatmeal bun w/ chicken http://img258.imageshack.us/my.php?im...
Cut view http://img136.imageshack.us/my.php?im...
Definitely for the health conscious customer. I found it rather dry and boring, would not order it again (my kid wouldn't touch it, and normally he loves steamed buns).
5) Chicken's feet http://img296.imageshack.us/my.php?im...
has a nice semi sweet and tangy plum sauce to it. My wife found the paws to be a bit less fresh than other dim sum places.
6) Steamed rice roll w/ shrimp and chives http://img404.imageshack.us/my.php?im...
comes with a small jug of piping hot soy on the side, aside from the very fresh bed of veggies, the roll itself was good w/ decent sized shrimps.
7) Scallops w/ mango compote & pine nuts http://img206.imageshack.us/my.php?im...
I'll have to disagree with Charles on this one (which I rarely do) since I found the mango sauce a bit overwhelming and took away any flavour from the scallops. I guess I just like my scallops seared nice and brown with little else on it.
8) Steamed sticky rice w/ taro skin wrap http://img112.imageshack.us/my.php?im...
very interesting taro wrap, adds a nice flavour depth to the rice. Only after 1 piece, it really fills you up.
9) Crispy sesame ball w/ fruit filling http://img171.imageshack.us/my.php?im...
Cut view: http://img407.imageshack.us/my.php?im...
I really enjoyed this one (I have a sweet tooth). The skin again is the highlight, so thin crunchy and full of flavour. Balanced well with the fruit/custard like filling.
Service was very attentive and we noticed 1-2 other tables with small and occasionally loud kids there too (we felt right at home with our 2 little ones). Our iron buddha tea was good, but not great. A bit less pretentious overall than LTH. Definitely does compare to Casa Imperial, LWH as well in terms of food quality on most dishes (I still haven't been to Grand yet). Nice mix of creativity as well, thrown in with the more traditional dishes.
Bokchoi, do you recall which dish was the Chiu Chow dessert you had?
You ordered almost exactly the same dishes my SO and I did a couple of weeks back - great photos! You beat me to posting them. I really have to get a move on getting some of my old stuff up...
Thanks for the review as well. I didn't see the taro last time, but looks great. I think I may have had it last year, but my memory is a bit fuzzy.
I'd might as well post just the photostream since you covered off everything and I have nothing much to add - http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
The Chiu Chow Dessert was the Taro Paste with Gingko Chiu Chow Style (hot) $7. It was okay, not great, but it was really different from anything else I've ever had.
I would say that Empire Court is 1 of only 3 dim sum places that I would return to: the others being LWH and Grand.
Royaljelly - judging from the menu items you have ordered, it appears we have similar tastes in dim sum and what we find intriguing. Do try Grand when you have a chance. I think you will be pleased.
Thanks for this tip. Took some family from out of town last week and we all enjoyed it immensely. Interestingly, our favourite dish wasn't from the dim sum menu, it was from the noodle menu. The rice noodle (which was ho fun) with minced pork and olive leaves was incredible. It was not greasy in the least and that awesome charred/wok flavour. They split it five ways for us and we all decided we needed a second order. Delicious.
I had dinner here once, I think it was decent, but I found the servers a little too attentive. is it because it was kinda empty in there or is that always the case?
I was just kinda uncomfortable with them standing around so close all the time and I forget what else, but left feeling like they should have given us a little more space...
Bokchoi, you're slacking on your photos posting, come on. :) Maybe I should hitch a ride w/ you to Grand one day!
Skyline, ya I didn't get a chance to try the har gow.. I wanted to try all the nouveau stuff rather than the traditional fare, but it seems like you and Charles and Bokchoi judge the quality of the dim sum chef by the more common dim sum dishes, which makes total sense.
I can't add a link to the place, but here's the address
Empire Court (in Hilton Suites hotel) - Warden & Hwy 7
8500 Warden Avenue, Markham, ON