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Dim sum with carts

I've searched chowhound for dim sum recommendations in the GTA (Markham/Richmond Hill in particular), and the consensus best choices seem to be

- Yang's Fine Chinese Cuisine, 9665 Bayview S of Major Mac
- Dragon Boat, 160 E Beaver Creek near 404 and Hwy 7
- Full House, Hwy 7 & Chalmers
- Casa Imperial, Steeles & Warden
- Dragon Dynasty, 2301 Brimley btwn Sheppard and Finch

I will be visiting Toronto with someone who has never had dim sum, and I want to take her somewhere where you order off of carts and not from a menu. Which of the above places fits that description?

I am open to alternative recommendations as well.

Also, does Dun Huang do dim sum?

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  1. I think these days, except in New York, "best dim sum" and "dim sum carts" are mutually exclusive. (New York does not have much menu dim sum.) Certainly in Vancouver most of the dim sum is menu driven, and in LA and SF, while you have your choice of carts or menu, all of the cart places rank below the menu places. You can get cart dim sum at Sky Dragon in Toronto Chinatown, and it might be good enough for your purposes. But clearly the trend today is for the best dim sum to be ordered off the menu, because the food is fresher and the restaurant can stick in more tables if they don't have to have cart aisles.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Chandavkl

      Interesting that you mention New York, as it happens we will be heading there right after Toronto. How does cart dim sum in New York compare to cart dim sum in Toronto and to menu dim sum in Toronto?

      1. re: GoatsMilk

        The cart dim sum I've had in Manhattan's Chinatown is similar to the better cheap menu dim sum in downtown Toronto or Chinatown East (such as Rol San- which doesn't currently taste as good as it did 5 years ago) or the better cheap cart dim sum in downtown TO (Forestview, Yiu Wah, Sky Dragon). Haven't found any cart dim sum in NYC that would compete with the better dim sum in Markham, Richmond Hill or Scarborough (Casa Imperial, Empire Court, Ambassador, Yang's etc).

        I haven't had cart dim sum in Flushing, Queens- would guess that it might be better than Manhattan.

    2. I recommend Pearl Harbourfront. I was there on a Saturday a couple of weeks ago and was impressed with the quality and freshness of their dim sum from carts. I normally prefer non-cart service as waiting for a favorite to come around can be frustrating, but my recent experience at the Pearl was good as all my favorites made it to my table in a timely manner. The space is excellent and service was quite good. A bit expensive at about $50. for 2 (we are not heavy eaters). You might want to call ahead to see if the cart service is offered at the time you dine. Typically, these places go non-cart during off-peak hours or days. Of the places you listed, and I'm not that current on them, I think only the Dynasty might have carts...trust someone will comment here.

      15 Replies
      1. re: T Long

        I would second the Pearl Harbourfront. Nice room, particularly if you get a window table; tablecloths on the tables. The food is not greasy and the carts come by regularly. You can also book in advance so that you're not stuck standing in line.

        1. re: sloweater

          Stay away from Pearl Harbourfront. I'm going to bet any of you that recommend this place aren't Asian. It's an absolute tourist trap. First sign is the plates and forks by default on the tables. My one and only time there with a friend we got hosed for $90!!! $10 for sticky rice!!!! No alcohol. Just 12 different dishes of dim sum which would have cost half even at a top end chinese restaurant.

          1. re: sbug206

            So recommend a better place. Pearl is higher end pricing, but its on a price level with most of the ones listed by the OP.

            1. re: T Long

              If you want carts with quality and better than average setting then go to Summit Garden at Dundas and Winston Churchill in Mississauga. NE corner plaza.

              Pearl is high price but it's not a high end chinese restuarant. No different than 360 at the CN Tower.

              1. re: sbug206

                Did a search of "Snow Garden" on this site, but no hits (5 years back). Wonder if this is a hidden "gem" that has been missed!

                1. re: T Long

                  Ooops, should be Summit Garden.

                2. re: sbug206

                  Yeah, I second Summit Garden - not bad at all. I've also been there for a chinese wedding banquet, and the food was excellent.

              2. re: sbug206

                Hmmm.... I guess I should make sure that Italian restaurant recommendations come from Italians and French restaurant recommendations from French.

                For someone who hasn't had dim sum before The Pearl is a great way to start. Yes, it's expensive, but it also overlooks Lake Ontario. Yes, it's a spot that makes accommodations for non-Asians i.e. forks on the table, but I would argue that they would be stupid not to given where they are located.

                I have been there many times and can't remember ever leaving for more than 60 dollars for two, feeling full and satisfied. There are better places out there, but for a rookie it's a great way to enter the dim sum world.

                1. re: sbug206

                  Pearl Harbourfront does serve authentic chinese food. We're Chinese and when it's my mom's turn to host a dinner for my uncles and cousins we'd order from their banquet menu and fill two tables of 10. Yes it's pricier but the location is convenient and the restaurant is more presentable than the ones in Chinatown.

                  1. re: sbug206

                    I would recommend Pearl Harbourfront and I'm 100% Chinese, born and raised in HK. It's not a tourist trap - decent food and friendly staff. Just because they cater to foreigners (with "a fork and plate" by default) doesn't mean it's a trap. Not the best dim sum if you compare it with The Grand, Lai Wah Heen and Casa Imperial but it's pretty decent.

                    1. re: Popdoggy

                      Sorry, but knife and fork means chinese food for tourists...would you eat in an italian restaurant that used chopsticks? Also dim sum isa breakfast meal...the good places stop serving dim sum by 12 noon. If someplace is serving dim sum at 6 p.m. I'd be wary.

                      Dragon Dynasty in Scarborough (Chartwell Plaza at Brimley and Huntingwood) is the real deal for authentic dim sum

                      1. re: Finnegan

                        I 'm sure the Dragon Dynasty will give you a knife and fork on request (they do have them) and their dim sum goes way beyond noon. I'm not aware of any dim sum place (good or bad) in the GTA that stops serving at noon. Like all good restaurants, the Pearl is simply demonstrating "know your customer" respect for their clientel by having the knife and forks available.

                        1. re: T Long

                          Available is one thing. By default on every table is another. It means their clientele is mostly westerners. Given average food at above average prices it's mostly definitely a tourist trap. I can't believe some of you are defending Pearl as if it isn't. Sure it has a nice view, so SOME chinese eat there. CN Tower has a nice view and the food isn't disgusting but it's still a tourist trap.

                          1. re: T Long

                            I have to agree wtih T Long. I haven't been to the Pearl but it is good marketting putting out forks and knives. Perhaps they got tired of bringing them to all customers that ask for them! Most Dim Sum houses in and around the GTA (including many "good ones") continue to serve with the carts past noon. I understand where your'e coming from sbug206. It's annoying hearing about the more popular restaurants when there are better and less expensive ones out there. BUT many seem to enjoy it and don't consider it a tourist trap.

                          2. re: Finnegan

                            Pearl Harbourfront serves dim sum at night?

                  2. Dragon Dyansty has carts. Stick w/ the menu sheet places, quality will be much better.

                    Ginger & Onion at Market Village also has carts on the weekend.

                    Then again, it's not in the same class as your researched spots.

                    The consensus on the board seems to be....

                    Lai Wah Heen, Yang's, Casa Imperial/Victoria/Full House, Grand Chinese, Empire Court

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: aser

                      Dragon Dynasty is the only one on your list that has cart service. I would agree on the list aser also provided as the best Dim Sum in the GTA. Dragon Dynasty is probably the best you are going to get with cart service. Be forewarned, I do not think they rank anywhere near the other places mentioned (except Casa Imperial - because I really do not enjoy them and think they are over-priced personally). Good luck and hope your friend enjoys it!

                    2. For some reason, with dim sum, I tend to gravitate towards the low price restaurants. I would say Tremendous in Missisauga on Hurontario/Burhampthorp. I am part Asian, if that makes my opinion more valid...although I barely know waht sui mai is.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: stonedtoronto

                        That's interesting, just wondering is it because you can not see the differences in quality, so you tend to gravitate towards low price dim sum in Toronto ?

                        BTW, Yang's, Casa Imperial are the way to go for high end dim sum in the list, Dragon Boat is the way to go for medium pricing dim sum in the list, with quality to match with price accordingly.

                          1. re: skylineR33

                            Dragon Boat has the majority of their choices in the small and medium price range, and you can certainly get out for around $10-12/person. Good value there for sure.

                          2. re: stonedtoronto

                            Tremendous is great only because it's still open at 3am. :)
                            For cheap dim sum in Mississauga, I like Happy Jade best.

                          3. If you're visiting, Pearl Harbourfront is a good spot with carts. It's on the second floor of the Terminal Building and overlooks the lake and harbour. I think you can reserve a window table. The best dim sum in the GTA? Not likely. But better than the cheap frozen stuff you get most everywhere else. Expensive? Instead of $15 a head, you'll spend $20 to $25.

                            If you want cheap downtown with carts, try New Treasure on Dundas in the old Chinatown behind City Hall near the Eaton Centre. The entrance looks a little (!) suspect, but inside its kinda cool 50s-style Chinese place. Go early — 11:30 — or you'll wait in line. They say that after the lunch rush, the food quality drops.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: ChalkBoy

                              Also for less expensive but still fresh and all home-made is the Yui Wah (may be spelled Yiu Wah?) on Dundas one half block east of Huron. It is in a small Chinatown Mall called the Maindale. It is family run and I know the owners son personally. If its not on the cart, the chefs will bring it out fresh, often making the dumplings etc from scratch and fresh steaming it. I especially like the Shrimp and celery dumplings they are steamed and gently pan fried. They have wonderful texture and crispy. It is incredibly cheap especially if you go Mon-Friday. Banquet style rooms with the stage for the wedding party and everything. Lot's of cute senior regulars too.

                              1. re: food face

                                I go to Yiu Wah regularly for Dim-Sum. Rol San is famous for its Dim Sum and it's generally good, but more expensive than Yiu Wah, at least on the weekday. Once you get to the weekend, it's the same price, but Rol San does not do carts at all. Yiu Wah does lack a view and the carts are only around at certain times of the day. Anything you want that isn't on the cart is easily ordered. I second that it's very frequented by Chinese seniors regulars.

                                Yiu Wah
                                421 Dundas W, Toronto, ON M5T1G6, CA

                            2. I looked at BokChoi's photoset from Lai Wah Heen, which I found linked from another thread on here. It looks amazingly delicious, but fancier than what I want this time around. I'm nostalgic for (and want my friend to experience) dim sum the way I'm most accustomed to it: a little bit chaotic and messy, with dishes strewn about the table in various states of eatenness (we'll probably be with a reasonably large group) and little tea puddles here and there on the plastic tablecloth because the teapot spout dribbles (or is that just my lack of pouring skill? :). And, of course, delicious food, but straightforward -- dumplings do not need to be in the shape of the animal they're made of ( http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-... ), nor do they need to each be served in an individual bowl with a colourful arrangement of garnishes ( http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-... ).

                              Don't get me wrong, I'm not knocking it, just clarifying what I'm looking for.

                              I'm getting the feeling most of my original list are probably too fancy too.

                              The Mississauga suggestions sound intriguing, but that will be rather far away. We'll be staying in eastern North York.

                              So, does Dragon Dynasty suit my needs? That's the way I'm leaning at the moment (though the downtown suggestions are also interesting).

                              Thanks to everyone who's replied, I appreciate the help.

                              7 Replies
                              1. re: GoatsMilk

                                From what you stated, you should be going to Forestview Chinese Restaurant Ltd 466-468 Dundas Street West Toronto, its better than most. I am SURPRISED no one has mentioned it or recommended it yet.

                                1. re: GoatsMilk

                                  Based on your clarification, Dragon Dynasty would be ok. However another place nearby to Dynasty called Ruby (inside Woodside Mall at Finch & McCowan) would fit the bill better (less expensive, ok dim sum). Actually I'm going this morning with a group of about 40...pretty sure they have carts (I will report back if they don't).

                                  1. re: T Long

                                    The great thing about Ruby is that it is huge and very ornate with a lot of Chinese ornamental displays inside and out.

                                    When in Markham/Richmond Hill I always go to Ambassador for Dim Sum - the have these incredible things that look like bread sticks, but they are like spring rolls with a wonderful shrimp filling - so addictive! Unfortunately Ambassador is menu based Dim Sum - but their menu has pictures!

                                    Overall I think Ruby is the type of experience you are looking for, it is in Scarborough, which is just a little south of Markham - and if you decide to go to Dragon Dynasty and can't get in, Ruby is a great back up choice.

                                    1571 Sandhurst Cir, Toronto, ON M1V1V2, CA

                                    1. re: T Long

                                      Further to my earlier post, Ruby does have carts. Definitely go for the experience, but the dimsum today was not that good...actually quite poor. Its been a few years since my last visit and I was expecting better based on what I remembered. However I must also say that no-one in our large party complained about the food (except me)...perhaps its because the price/quality ratio met expectations. This is not to suggest Dragon Dynasty would be a much better option as its been a while since I've been there too for dim sum lunch.

                                    2. re: GoatsMilk

                                      Dragon Dynasty sounds like what you're looking to me. And the closest to where you're staying. Gets busy fairly early - 11 - but it seats 200 or so. Always a lineup, otherwise, but it moves fast. Not a lot of English spoken but its fairly easy to tell what everything on the carts is. Nothing too weird.

                                      1. re: GoatsMilk


                                        Glad the photos helped you decide. Ruby or Dragon Dynasty would fit the bill for you I think. I believe Ruby even has the 'ha mm cha' during all hours M-F nowadays instead of before when they had it before 10:30 and after 1:30 M-F. Each plate is about $2. Dragon Dynasty is pricier, but I find their dim sum better than Ruby's. However, Ruby has a fantastic BBQ selection with noodles and soup/rice for about $4 that could supplement your meal. Both have carts.

                                        1. re: BokChoi

                                          Im not sure if anyone has mentioned Sun Sun in the Mississauga Chinese City Centre, im no chinaman but it satisfies me with a reasonable price tag. Its always busy on the weekend so that has to say something.

                                      2. Sun Sun Chinese Restaurant (Mississauga Chinese Centre, 888 Dundas Street East)


                                        1. We've had good luck downtown, at the Pearl Court in the Gerrard St. East Chinatown, south side, a short distance east of Broadview.

                                          1. Another with carts is Dynasty House, 1635 Lawrence Ave. W. (at Black Creek). 416-246-1771. Was there yesterday and Dim Sum items range from chicken feet ($2.20) to sticky rice ($3.50) and others (17) in between. All freshly prepared and delicious. Complimentry tea of course. Total bill was $40 with tax, for two. Have been frequenting this place for a few years and have never had a disappointing visit. Name has changed over the years, but same friendly staff always there. And yes, you can have a fork if it suits you. They also deliver from a 175 item menu if you live around there.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: NewtonSquare

                                              I just went to Dragon Boat @ East Beaver Creek & Hwy yesterday. Dim sum was very good. I live downtown and don't usually go so far for dim sum. But some friends wanted to experience dim sum...so I thought it may be better than just going to Spadina Chinatown.

                                              The skins for the har gows and dumplings were made very well. The sui mai was very tasty!! Even their sweet tofu...very smooth. Made very well.

                                              Are the items in the carts on the menu too. We ordered from the menu while we were waiting for a table.

                                              One thing is .. that the hostess was letting the regulars go first even though we had a number. That pissed us off. We were definitely hungry!!!

                                              Big thumb up except for the hostess. You have to eye her!

                                              And they gave us a small table for 4 which wasn't very good, becuz we ordered so much food there was no room. That was the thing, they gave 3 people a big table but us a small table. Next time I go anywhere I will eye those hostesses.

                                              Why the heck they think they never seen you before that you would not come back and not recommend someone. These restaurants drive me crazy!!!!!!!!

                                              1. re: Chocaholic

                                                Dear Chocaholic,
                                                Your judgement on the quality of the food at Dragon Boat is good, you obviously know a lot about Dim Sum.
                                                It is has an exceptional "rapport prix/qualite"
                                                One can argue that other restos in the area have as good or occasionally better, but generally at much higher prices.
                                                You were at Dragon Boat on Sunday, one of their busiest days ever. I was there too, also Friday, Saturday and Monday.
                                                I know that people who eat there every day get preferential treatment. That is the same at every seriously busy restaurant anywhere.
                                                I also know that if you do not appear to speak Chinese they will intentionally wait to put you in a section with servers who are more proficient in English.
                                                I know this is very irritating when you are hungry!!
                                                Preferential treatment is most quickly earned by being polite, respectful and patient.
                                                Showing up every day and tipping 20% (pretax) helps too!
                                                Charm works much better than "eying" the hostess.
                                                If I eye the hostess I usually get slapped!
                                                Don't do it.

                                            2. Rol San on Spadina at Nassau without a doubt...really excellent dim sum with carts plus is very clean....consistently postiive reports on dine safe website. Check it out.

                                              Rol San
                                              323 Spadina Ave, Toronto, ON M5T2E9, CA

                                              1. I know this is an older thread, but for those who are in the same decision-making mindset as GoatsMilk was when she started this post, I highly HIGHLY recommend Dragon Dynasty for an authentic dim-sum cart experience. Certainly better than Ruby, and my personal fave in the city.

                                                The food and the service are outstanding, especially for the price-point, which is at the more reasonable end of the dim-sum scale. I am one of those very regular regulars that gets shuffled to the front of the line despite being caucasion :-) because I return often, eat lots, tip well, connect with the staff in a friendly manner, and I've never been disappointed at DD.

                                                Note to those who suggest you should pay double to order off the menu: if you're at all familiar with the cart concept you know that you pay attention, and order when the cart first passes to get the hottest, freshest quality items, and you don't ever select the last order of something on a wildly mixed cart (especially fried foods which suffer most as they cool down).

                                                Personally, I've tried most of the high-end dim-sum places and while I enjoyed the food and whimsical presentation - martini glases and pretty bowls - dumplings shaped like fish, etc. - the quality wasn't vastly superior to Dragon Dynasty, and personally I enjoy the atmosphere of carts, and the lovely older ladies who push them (especially making them giggle when I order items in my poor phonetic cantonese).

                                                Warm, friendly service and excellent food all at a reasonable price - Dragon Dynasty is always a great choice in my opinion.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: TorontoTips

                                                  Sounds like you know how to enjoy dim sum! I prefer ordering off the menu, but I agree that the food quality is not related to the availability of carts. Dragon Dynasty has been one of the great more consistent restaurant over the years. Btw, I'm annoyed at those that get jumped to the front of the line...makes us feel so low;) You are aware that Ruby is closed..... I understand a restaurant under a new name/ownership will be opening in its old location shortly.