Empire Court - A worthy Dim Sum alternate to the Grand?!
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?image=00img0811gh6.jpg
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?image=00img0812uw9.jpg
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?image=00img0813on7.jpg
Cut view http://img136.imageshack.us/my.php?image=00img0814jn3.jpg
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?image=00img0815ic1.jpg
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?image=00img0818gr9.jpg
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?image=00img0820qa5.jpg
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?image=00img0823la3.jpg
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?image=00img0825tw5.jpg
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
Taking a group of 6 to dim sum on Saturday afternoon and wondering which is the best of the best in Markham or east side of GTA. I've only eaten at City Inn and Dragon Dynasty in recent memory. Would you say Empire Court is the winner? Is there a minimum number of people required in a party to make a reservation? Any "happy hour" discounts in the afternoon? It would be a bonus if the "best of the best" was also fairly close to the 401/404/DVP. Thanks.
re: Food Tourist
I would say yes. It is the 3rd best dim sum IMO in Toronto. (top spots go to LWH and Grand). The place was empty on my last visit except for our table, but weekends are usually a bit more busy. I have been able to make a reservation for a table of 3, so I would assume there is no minimum. No happy hours, unfortunately.
Cheers and do enjoy yourself. Please report back!
Royaljelly, I will try to get back to making my posts!! Please do forgive me! Sounds good about the Grand meet, we should do that sometime. Did you manage to call them about a party? Or has that boat sailed..?
Hi Bokchoi, 3rd best dim sum in Toronto ? You mean you have tried all dim sum restaurants in Toronto area ? How about Lai Toh Heen, you tried it and you never want to return to it too ? I think the dim sum at Lai Toh Heen is also great.
Hey Food Tourist, it is really hard to say what is best of the best in Charles and your list above, each restaurant has it's own better dim sum items, similar style and I do not really see a big gap of quality among them, but Empire Court is one of the better one in overall and also with an more expensive pricing. Hope you have a good time there.
You are correct skyline, I have not tried all dim sum in Toronto. I had hoped that most CHers would interpret my "IMO" comment to mean that as much, but I will put a more distinct disclaimer on my comment above - I have not had all dim sum in Toronto. Sorry to cause any confusion!
I will rephrase and say it is one of my 3 favourite dim sum places in Toronto.
re: Food Tourist
Yes, it only has menus for dim sum. It is a very small restaurant but nicely decor. There is a special item list which is around $7 per dish where there is a few pieces in each dish (like a XL item). The pricing of Grand and Empire Court are similar, depends on what you order, and it is the most expensive restaurant for dim sum in Richmond Hill/Markham area.
re: Food Tourist
Our total bill was $231.65 for 10 people so with tip we spent $26 each. Only 8 of us were charged for "tea" at $1.50 each. Two people ordered pop ($3 per drink) and were not charged for tea. They "accidentally" served us 3 orders of stuffed bean curd roll with mushrooms which seemed to be the only upsell at an extra $14.25. Service was up and down. One order of crab parsley dumplings arrived at the start, and the remaining 3 orders arrived at the very end. Unfortunately they were chock-full of cilantro so I didn't try those. 1 out of 4 orders of pork pastry with pinenut & pineapple (this was everyone's least favourite dish) arrived at the very end of the meal. "Steamed supreme shrimp dumplings" fell apart immediately with their too-delicate skin. A popular favourite was mongolian beef with satay sauce though I found the meat too low-quality. Empire's turnip cake with minced fish and preserved meats was of higher quality than Grand's version. To their credit, nobody offered us forks, knives, or spring rolls.