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Wow! What recession? - Another high end Dim Sum restaurant in Richmond Hill!

Based on our resident Chinese food expert SkylineR33's suggestion, my family and I gave the new Regal Palace on 350 Highway 7 East, Unit 101 in Richmond Hill a try this lunch time! Nice, sleek and open space, its like a cross between Yang's and Casa Victoria?! Apparently most of the staff were from the once favoured Full House Restaurant across the street!

On skylineR33's advise, upon sitting down, we immediately ordered two plates of their acclaimed ' Best bun under the sky'. Not on the regular menu, this 85% rendition of the famous Hong Kong Fu-Sing version arrived piping hot after a 15 minutes wait. These 'kid size hamburger' buns was lightly glazed in honey, the sweet dough bun smothered in a most delicious, thick and runny B-B-Q pork stuffing! Very tasty and ultra addictive! This must be one of the best Dim Sum dish I've come across in Toronto! To save room for the rest, I only ate two of this delicacies. The first time I came across this nouveau varietal of a B-B-Q pork bun in Hong Kong's Fu-Sing, I gobbled down 5!!!! BTW, the Michelin 3* Lung King Heen inside Hong Kong's Fourseason hotel also make an awesome version!! So, in a way, we are fortunate to savour a close clone of this 'star calibred' dish.

The rest of the Dim Sum dishes included the usual regular favourites like Har Gow, Steamed glutunous rice wrapped with lotus leaf, Steamed spare ribs with black bean and olives, Abalone puff, Pan fried turnip patties, Deep fried taro croquettes, Steamed rice roll with jumbo shrimps, Deep fried chicken wings and Lychee/Goji seed jelly pudding! Of the above captioned list, the stand out was the mouth burning, piping hot Abalone puff. Lots of juicy filling in a light, flaky and crunchy shell. The seasoning of the spare ribs was also very bold and delicious. Overall, a very satisfying experience. Total bill comes to around $55 for the 3 of us before tax and tips. Pretty good value for the quality!

Within a span of less than 6 months, in the middle of a so called recession, I've noticed the opening of at least three top end Chinese restaurants in Richmond Hill alone! Emperor, Yang's and Regal Palace come into mind. On the other hand, downtown has seen its share of closings and restaurants down sizing like Boba, Perigee, Susur, Splendido, Atelier Thuet , Rain to name a few! Most interesting scenario!!

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  1. That bun sounds incredible. Looks like I know where I'm going next!

    1. Having eaten there twice (light dim sum lunch 6 weeks ago and birthday dinner just this week) so far, I like the food at Regal Palace as well, especially since Chinese restaurants in Toronto tend to salt their food more heavily than the preferences of my family and we find Regal Palace willing to tone down the salt level. However, the service needs serious improvement before I frequent this place again, which is like shooting myself in the foot, or rather, taste buds.

      Maggi lobster, composed from a 5 lb-er, was surprisingly tender, sweet, cooked to the appropriate doneness, and best of all, not too heavy on the salt. I normally don't like Maggi lobster, preferring it steamed or stir-fried with ginger and scallion, as I find the seasoning is often too salty or masks the sweet flavour of the lobster itself, but this was not the case at Regal Palace. The "white cut" chicken was remarkably tender and flavourful even without the scallion/ginger condiment. Fried rice with egg white and conpoy was executed nicely.

      However, the roasted pigeon is no longer what it used to be at Full House, which was a real disappointment. Maybe it was an off night, but I'm quite sad about it, especially since I considered it even better than the renditions I've had in Hong Kong. This isn't to say it wasn't a decent execution of the dish, just that it wasn't like how good it used to be at Full House.

      Also, the service is not impressive. My aunt, when ordering her birthday dinner, specified she wanted "sau bao" (birthday buns) instead of the assorted jellies on the set menu for dessert. The assistant manager (?) even promised to throw in an extra bun since the set menu was only for twelve instead of thirteen.

      However, when the time came for dessert, the waitress set down jellies and wore a look of confusion when my aunt told her she had ordered buns instead of jellies. There was no apology from the waitress or the assistant manager/head waiter on duty that night even though the waitress did say, after asking the kitchen, that the buns were not written on the menu that the kitchen received.

      If this was at a Chinese restaurant with a lower price point, this matter would not be such an issue with me. However, when considering the prices one is paying and the plethora of high-end Chinese restaurants in the area to which we could take our business, one would expect some sort of acknowledgment of mistake and apology. There was none and from the very beginning of the night, the service was gloomy to say the least. The waitstaff have airs and facial expressions more appropriate for a funeral.

      The restaurant is perhaps understaffed at this point and needs time to get used to things and polish the service as it has opened only a few months ago. I will also say that the manager (?), Peter, with whom we normally deal, wasn't on duty that night. However, the assistant manager with whom we've dealt repeatedly at Full House didn't come over and acknowledge his mistake. Maybe I'm asking too much of a restaurant, especially one in Toronto, but a simple "Sorry" could have gone a long way to remedy the awful impression my family and I have of this nascent restaurant. I'll try Regal Palace again, maybe in a few months, for this "best bun under the sky" (my mouth watered whilst reading CY's description), but right now, I'm less than impressed with Regal Palace's service.

      1. Hi Charles,

        Glad you like the 'Best bun under the sky'. Thanks for the review. I agree with you and Isk that their service is really not up to par.

        Their 5 spice cuttlefish tentacle is also some of the best in Toronto, I think it is better than the one at Casa Imperial and Yangs. And the Abalone puff as mentioned in your post is excellent !! However, other dishes I have tried there such as the cheung fan, clear broth beef tendon .... are mediocre IMO.

        Isk, I have also tried their banquet dinner set. Here is a review which I have also post in another thread. I found their pigeon still one of the best in Toronto based on the one I tried there, do you have other suggestion for a nice pigeon in Toronto ?

        For the dinner at Regal Palace, we had the Buddha jumps over wall banquet set dinner which need to be reserved in advance.

        The buddha jumps over wall double-boiled soup is one urn per person. It has a very strong flavour clear chicken soup base with Shark fin, a whole dried abalone, sea cucumber, fish maw, whole dried scallop, etc...

        The roasted pigeon is excellent as the chef is from Full House, very juicy, some of the best in Toronto area, if you like roasted pigeon, this is the place to go to.

        The Maggie sauce lobster has very good soy aroma and wok hay.

        The dried sea cucumber with dried shrimp roe sauce is ok, the dried shrimp roe flavour is not strong enough.

        The deep fried whole sole fish is so crispy that eating the bone is like eating potato chip, not all the cantonese restaurant in Toronto can make it that crispy.

        Regarding service in HK as mentioned in Isk's post, just want to add it can be much worst depends where you go, the service at some of the old fashioned "famous" chinese restaurant in HK can be quite arrogrant.

        1 Reply
        1. re: skylineR33

          Unfortunately, Full House used to be my favourite until it slid downhill and I've been away for a while in HK, so I'm not yet up to date on what's good. However, I'm willing to give Regal Palace another shot, since I would love to recapture the taste of their roasted pigeon.

          I remember having the Buddha Jumps Over Wall double-boiled soup back at Full House a few years ago; it was executed very well -- almost too well, as it rendered most of my table unable to finish the dishes that came afterward.

        2. Are you referring to Fu-Sing's 酥皮叉燒包?

          What's the name you used to order it as? 天下無敵叉燒包?

          This is in the old Bayview Garden location right?

          2 Replies
          1. re: aser

            Good Morning Aser!
            Fu-Sing's version is 'Pineapple B-B-Q Pork Bun'
            In Regal Palace, I just asked for the ' Number 1 bun under the sky - Tin Ha Dai Yat Bao )
            Location is exactly what you said!

            1. re: Charles Yu

              ok thanks, I'll be checking it out. I've driven past it a bunch of times and noticed the sign.

              The culture of eating out is just more prevalent w/ Chinese. Although everybody lives in big houses now, back home they were stuck in small apts w/ tiny kitchens. The cheaper price points of Chinese restaurants sure helps too.

          2. For me the price of entry to a really good Chinese dinner is easily more tolerable than a mediocre/average meal at a Western cuisine restaurant. Dim Sum for 3 for $55 at a very very good restaurant?!? Compare that to lunch at $30-$40 per person, not including alcohol at say Nota Bene or brunch at Thuet's bakery.

            Maybe that's why Chinese restaurants can thrive while high-end Western restaurants are suffering.

            2 Replies
            1. re: CoffeeAddict416

              We enjoy eating out at western restaurants as well but we tend to do that only when we are on vacation in NYC, LA or Vegas.
              In toronto, $15/person at Judy's cuisine can get us a very good meal. Same goes for Magic Wok. We are stuffed and will have leftovers.
              $50/person at Casa Victoria will get us fancy dinner with shark fin and lobster. So in TO, we tend to stick to great tasting Cantonese feasts.
              The only thing is I keep reading about the recession specials at Robuchon in Landmark, Spoon, Felix and other restaurants in HK. think it's time for another business trip.

              1. re: caitlink

                A $50/person meal at Casa Victoria won't get you too far with shark fin. However I agree, the price range of an expensive chinese restaurant is so big that a meal can run from $50 to $500 per person ! As CoffeeAddict416 said, the price of entry to a really good Chinese dinner is more easily tolerable.

            2. Is it fair to compare the Chinese places that are doing well with the ones you mentioned downtown? I don't think that a typical dinner for two in most of those higher end Chinese places is in the $250 plus range is it? The three of you ate dim sum for $55, that won't buy much of a lunch for three in the other restaurants and that's probably why the Chinese places survive. I'm curious why Splendio is mentioned in the same sentence as places that closed, such as Boba and Perigee.

              4 Replies
              1. re: foodyDudey

                Based on information from the media, Splendido will be closed from July onwards for renovation and subsequent ' tone down' from high end fine dining to more affordable pricing 'bistro' type fare! Another example of 'sign of the times"?!

                1. re: Charles Yu

                  Most certainly. I mourned the end of fine dining in a not-so-recent blog post when I'd heard that Spendido was changing.

                  Also, Splendido is technically under new ownership too - the sous and sommelier will be helming it.

                  http://www.foodpr0n.com/ -- food. is. love.

                  1. re: Charles Yu

                    I knew about that but don't find that surprising. I bet this was all part of the plan when Note Bene opened. Plus I think Spendido priced themselves too high in the end. It was getting too easy to spend $600 plus on a dinner for two, and I saw reports here that people had spent even higher.
                    What could you spend per person if you went "all-out" at one of the high end Chinese places? Even if it is $125 pp, they still survive on the volume of the dim sum sales.

                    1. re: foodyDudey

                      Just to give you an idea of how expensive chinese food can be. A dried Yoshihama abalone alone costs $280 at the new cantonese restaurant WuYi Villa of Markham , cost more than the tasting menu for 2 people at Splendido. And that is only one course.

                2. i was looking forward to eating that teen ha di yat bau, i tried to order it but the hapless waitress had no idea what i was talking about, i even showed them this post on my bb, they couldn't help me.

                  in any case lunch yesterday was good, went after a round of golf in the am so was hungry. as rec'd by Charles Yu and Skyline I ordered the abalone puff which was piping hot, flaky with excellent abalone flavor, not to mention generous chunks of abalone. the crust was very filling however, i can't imagine how much shortening/lard is in it!

                  har gow and shiu mai were also well above average, as were the steamed pork ribs. the 5-spice deep fried chicken wings were gigantic, juicy and very flavorful. we also got the deep fried pumpkin which was a pleasant surprise (i.e. good!)

                  booked for my bday dinner in 2 weeks as they have a set dinner with the maggi lobster and pigeon, really looking forward to it. corkage is free if negotiated, so will be bring some wines from my cellar waiting for a worthy meal! i think will bring a rose champagne for the lobster and a nice burgundy for the pigeon.

                  can't wait. and thanks for the recs

                  btw i had lunch and dinner at Yang's recently, both very good. haven't dined chinese in a while in toronto, so was pleasantly surprised at the calibre.... recall the glory yesteryears of fondly departed Grand Yatt and Bayview Garden.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: doctorandchef

                    Hello doctorandchef!
                    You are most welcome! Glad you had an enjoyable meal!
                    For a new additional choice, you should read my latest posting on 'Emperor'! Ha! More decisions...decisions!
                    Ah! Burgundy to pair with roasted pigeon! Yummmm! If you bring along a Romanee Conti or just a La Tache or Richebourg and let me take a sip, I'll treat you to the pigeon?! Deal? Ha!!
                    Happy Birthday!

                    1. re: Charles Yu

                      Thanks Charles!

                      No, I haven't reached the financial freedom of indulging in a Romanee Conti, it was just a treasured bottle I brought back from a Burgundy trip some years ago. Unfortunately they didn't have a decanter and the wine was completely asleep as I frantically tried to swirl it before the pigeon arrived. Unfortunately the pigeon couldn't wait as it was cooling down so I just recorked the bottle.

                      Pigeon was a little underwhelming, memories of the fat pigeons in Sha Tin flashed.... alas we can't get such a seasonal regional ingredient here.

                      If I get my hands on a Romanee Conti for sure I'll round up some wine and food lovers, you're a perfect guest in my books!

                      BTW the closest I got to touching a Romanee Conti (besides the bottles at Duty Free in Chek Lap Kok) was actually in the vineyard. I touched the soil and the grapes as I took some panoramic shots of the vineyards. What breath-taking beauty.

                      Next lunch I'm going to ask for the #1 bun from one of the suited guys. BTW did you notice the skinny guy in the suit had extreme B.O.? Gross!!!!

                    2. re: doctorandchef

                      For Charles and Skyline's reco of the #1 bun, don't bother asking the waitresses, go straight to one of the more important looking guys in suits working there. The one I asked knew right away and came out 5 mins later carrying a tray full of them, asking me how many I wanted. Incredibly tender and hot, nice that the bun part wasn't too thick like some places so it. I haven't tried the HK versions yet (haven't been back in such a long long time...).

                      The abalone puff we got was hot on the outside, but cold on the inside, argh! My wife and I both quite enjoyed their shrimp dishes (ha gow) and shrimp rice roll. There was another shrimp dumpling which looked like ha gow but was yellow colored. They included some pumpkin in it, which tasted odd. The deep fried shrimp w/ seaweed was blah. The pigs feet was interesting (similar to chicken feet sauce). Couldn't find the 5 spice squid tentacles for some reason.

                      We ordered so much, that I there were a few dishes I didn't even try before leaving. Oh well, lots of take out for snacks at home. BTW, we showed up around 11:30am today Sunday and got a seat immediately, so if the surrounding Richmond Hill dim sum places are having lineup outside, might want to skip over to Regal to try it out.

                    3. Had dinner at Regal Palace a week ago. Excellent steamed fish (perfectly cooked, only a touch too much oil) and massive and beautifully cooked Maggi lobster (two five-pounders). I have to commend Regal Palace for executing seafood dishes so well because it's difficult to find a place which will consistently turn out (near) perfectly done steamed and stir-fried seafood dishes each time.

                      I finally ate roasted pigeon that was almost like Full House's as I remember it, maybe 95% as good? (The 5% may be because imagination is often better than reality when it comes to food.)

                      Except I have to halve that percentage because of the two roasted pigeons we ordered at the same time, one came early on in the meal, overcooked and dry, and the second one, which I rated 95%, came after everything else had landed, including the lobster, the steamed fish, the gailan with yellowing chives and dried flattened fish pieces (the dried fish pieces tasted of frying oil past its prime), and the water spinach with shrimp paste.

                      The delayed delivery originated with the kitchen portioning the pigeon into four pieces instead of six as we'd requested (staff communication? kitchen error?). So it went back into the kitchen and what emerged was a slightly bizarre waiting game for roast pigeon for half of our table.

                      Also amusing was the red bean sweet soup. When the server ladled it out, it looked thick and inviting like it had simmered for a long time with lots of burst beans providing viscosity instead of the watery mess with sediment one usually gets. I didn't partake, but my family found clumps of undissolved cornstarch or flour in some portions and even the most devoted red bean sweet soup fan at the table (the one who usually partially eats three bowls of watery red bean soup just for the beans alone) was deterred from finishing her bowl.

                      1. Had dim sum yesterday, restaurant was quite busy. The kitchen was backed up at around 2pm, surrounding tables looked impatient waiting for food. A manager came by asking about the delay and gave a 10% discount to tables in our section. Prices are s/m/l = $2.90/3.90/4.90.

                        Didn't order the "special" bun as we had ordered too much food already. I did however order the abalone puff (sp=$6.90), definitely the best item we sampled. Excellent savoury abalone filling w/ a flakey tart crust. Recommended.

                        I would avoid the har gow as the skin disintegrated, it soaked up too much moisture during steaming. There was no way to remove it from the parchment w/o breaking.

                        Black bean spareribs was good, flavour was rather mild but the meat was quite tender.

                        The five spice squid is a special order dish at the bottom of the menu at $7. A much larger portion than what you would normally get. Taste wise it was nice and tender, although I still think Yang's version is superior.

                        BBQ pork rice roll was rolled with skill, with the pork finely diced. Good rendition but again I feel Yang's rice rolls are stronger.

                        Deep fried king prawn rolled with seaweed was nothing memorable, not bad, but not great.

                        Steamed taro patties w/ preserved meats was another ok dish, but not exactly dying to reorder again.

                        I did get extremely thirsty post meal, usual indicator of heavy msg usage for me. Haven't gotten this thirsty in a while. I will revisit to try the special pork bun, but Yang's will continue to be my 1st choice for dim sum.

                        Service was brisk but effective, very similar to most Chinese operations. When we arrived the server was in a rush to set the table so she threw everything half-hazardly around, generating a racket w/ the cling clanging of plates. I don't really mind at all, I grew up accustomed to this style, but for a N. American chowhounder this can be construed as "rude". She meant no harm, she was simply swamped in her section, had a lot of tables to look after. If this is the type of thing that would "ruin" a meal for you, then be forwarned.

                        ps: tea quality at Yang's is better.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: aser

                          oh ya a recent dinner got me the same experience of the waitress almost throwing down the dishes onto the table. must be shocking to NA'ers.

                          Thirstiness more likely due to high salt content on all the stuff you ordered.... black bean, squid, bbq pork, seaweed, taro patty etc. I know of fewer and fewer high end restaurants resorting to the crutch of MSG anymore.

                        2. Ya, I had some pretty average dim sum items here (like the ha gow, beef steamed rice roll, and a poor fried turnip cake). By the by, if you're there for that best bun under the sky, it's only available on weekends.