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Mar 25, 2009 01:14 PM

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 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