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Aug 31, 2009 09:56 AM



has anyone ever done the prix fix menu at lai wah heen for dinner? i have read a lot of good things about the dim sum, but i am looking for a great chinese dinner. i live downtown and do not want to travel to richmond hill or anywhere in burbs. is this a worthwhile dinner destination for great chinese food?


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  1. The quick and easy answer is that yes it is. Lai Wah Heen has a very good kitchen for Cantonese style Chinese food, the decor is comfortable, service is excellent and the place seems very clean. The downside is that it is relatively very expensive and you might wonder if you would be just as happy with another destination and paying a lot less. Great Chinese food (like all foods) will depend a lot on the diner's palate....we are all so different and "Chinese" food has evolved in Toronto to include a larger variety from different regions. It would help if you could express your opinion of some places you have tried in Toronto...good or bad, then it would allow others to better gauge what might suit you. Otherwise, just go to Lai Wah Heen.

    2 Replies
    1. re: T Long

      i have pretty much hit every place on spadina. nothing has "wowed" me though. some meals have been hit and miss. i have never actually tried a "fancier" type restaurant for chinese. would you say it is almost better to have dim sum there than a dinner? it's for a birthday meal, so i guess the extra $ can be justified.

      1. re: rafer madness

        Given a choice, I would choose dim sum over dinner at LWH.

    2. I was at LWH for a wedding in August and didn't find the food that great to be honest. But i''m not sure if the quality is any different for a wedding banquet compared to normal dinners. Roast suckling pig had burnt skin that i was served. Not only that, but when we got served the second course for the suckling pig, my friend was served the pig snout. Most shocking was the fried rice dish. The rice was uncle bens rice, it wasnt' even Asian rice that was used!

      13 Replies
      1. re: PrincessStress

        Even in Hong Kong, quality of 'wedding banquet' food always tend to suffer under the pressure of time constraint and mass production approach. Here in Toronto, I've attended wedding banquets at Ambassador, Casa Victoria, Casa Imperial, Dragon Dynasty, Ruby and LWH to name a few. Some menus were priced in excessive of $1000 per table of 10-11. However, for every one of them, ingredients might be expensive and exotic and commensurate with the price tag but the quality of the food was always below par!

        1. re: Charles Yu

          I've attended banquets at Casa Victoria, Dragon Dynasty, Ruby and LWH as well. Food usually comes out lukewarm and waste of the ingredients. Just had banquet at Casa Victoria last week. Very disappointed in comparison to dinner when food came out piping out.
          Sure miss the old Bayview Garden. Never had a bad meal there.

          1. re: caitlink

            Do you mean wedding banquet ? Wedding banquet usually has more tables than say birthday banquet. The quality is harder to keep as the number of table in the party increased. I have also attended wedding/birthday/others banquet at these places, I would say it is not always bad but inconsistent. Even the same wedding banquet menu, the food is delicious on one night but bad on the other night. The quality also tend to be better as the price of the banquet gets more expensive.

            Regarding the tasting menu at LWH, I think it is some of the best and most consistent cantonese style chinese food you can get in Toronto if you don't mind the high price of it, especially for non-chinese who does not have a "good" idea on what to order when looking at the 'hugh' menu of a chinese restaurant.

            1. re: skylineR33

              You make a good point, skylineR33, about non-Chinese not knowing what to order from huge menus at good Chinese restaurants. I shy away from pre-set menus because they tend to be very meat-heavy with lots of deep-fried items. However, when trying to make selections from a massive menu, I always wind up with a very similar spread, which is becoming a bit tedious. Typical choices for me are: gai laan with one of either shrimp or chicken and garlic, perhaps snow pea leaf and king mushroom, possibly a hot pot that contains vegetables, tofu and possibly meat or seafood, possibly fresh fish or seafood with green onions and ginger. Somehow, we always seem to gravitate to these types of dishes. Granted, we're trying to make a healthy meal, so some of the super fatty pork dishes or fried fish/seafood dishes are off the radar for us, but I must admit, I'm getting a bit bored and want to branch out, but don't know what dishes are among the best Cantonese choices and which ones go well together. Can you make suggestions for a two-person dinner (with leftovers) or a four-person dinner, please? We're pretty adventurous, so don't hold back. I see that Chinese families often gravitate to sizzling plates/platters, though I never know which ones they're choosing. Is it only the non-Chinese folks that order hot and sour soup or wonton soup? I must admit, I like hot and sour, but wonton is pretty flat and boring to me. I ordered a seafood soup one day, that was supposed to contain seaweed. It arrived in 2 minutes flat and was thick with cornstarch. It was salty, but had no other discernible flavour. The seaweed was a few flakes of nori that had congealed into a small, chewy seaweed ball. The seafood was scallop and shrimp, possibly with conpoy. There was tofu. It had potential, but was missing some depth of flavour. Do Chinese families pay any attention to soups on the menu, or do they just go to places where that meaty house soup is automatically served (I like that one too, by the way)? What can I order that will make my server realize that I mean business and that I'm not a fork and knife using, duck sauce loving, egg roll, s&s chicken ball and fried rice combo-ordering round eye? I want to go into a Cantonese restaurant and have chopsticks and a bowl delivered to my table automatically, rather than a large dinner plate and that fluorescent combo menu for one, even though my table may consist of four diners. I want to penetrate the great wall and learn what the specials written on the wall are. Servers are reluctant to even divulge what animal is served in those specials, let alone what the dishes really are. I feel like I'm being kept out of the club and I want in!!! It seems all my xie xies and m'goys are falling on deaf ears. I spent 6 weeks in China a few years ago and still can't convince servers that I can stomach XO sauce, preserved egg, red bean curd (fermented) or stinky preserved fish.

              1. re: 1sweetpea

                Unless you speak Cantonese/Mandarin to them, as a whitey they will give you the knife/fork and english menu. I don't think you should let that get to you, it's not going to ruin your meal.

                Any reason why seafood is off the radar? Seafood is very healthy and packed with flavour. Have you ever ordered a steamed whole fish, crabs, lobsters, black bean clams, steamed scallops in shell, steamed oysters, boiled spotted prawns etc.......Fresh seafood is one of the trademarks of Cantonese cuisine, geography related.

                Have you tried ordering your veg stir fried w/ preserved bean curd, or shrimp paste?

                I must admit I rarely see Chinese people order hot and sour soup. The free meat soup you see often is called "lai tong".

                1. re: 1sweetpea

                  I have a good sense of what to order when looking at a chinese menu, but even it is sometimes hard for us (Chinese) to pick the dish out from such a big menu. Food mentioned in aser's list such as Lobster, steamed scallops in shell, boiled live spotted prawns are usually good, but those are the more expensive items that people do not always order all the time. It is not easy to pick out the good one, to pick the right amount and good variety from the Meat/Seafood/Vegetable section of the menu.

                  Most of the time, there is a smaller menu (sometime it is only one page) which listed out the chef special dishes, there is a higher chance of getting a good dish by picking from that list. Some of the chef special menu are only in Chinese, ask the server if there is such a list and ask for some recommendation from them if you don't know what you want. I always pick items from the chef special list.

                  To ask for recommendation from the server is good and bad, good is they can usually point you to the good stuffs, bad is they usually point you to the expensive stuffs.

                  I like ordering hot and sour soup, but rarely order it from a Cantonese restaurant, usually order it from a Szechuan/Shanghai restaurant.

                  Chinese loves soup and my family makes soup every night for our dinner at home. There are mainly two kinds of soup, thick and sticky soup which is called (羹) in Chinese, just like the one you mentioned. The other one is the normal soup which is like the house soup you see in a restaurant. The soup which Chinese people usually make at home is the normal (no corn starch) one, and there are hundred of different kinds of it! When dining out, people order the thick soup such as the fish mew soup or the more expensive braised shark fin soup,etc.. To make it more complicated, there are also double-boiled clear soup with shark fin and other kinds. There are restaurants in Toronto that provide double-boiled soup like the Winter-melon soup and Four Treasure Soup, but the good one always requires advance booking. All these are very popular.

                  It is hard to suggest you what to order in general as there are different style of food and every Chinese restaurant has it's good and bad dishes from its 'huge' menu. But to show you mean business, for typical Cantonese style dinner, maybe one day you want to call Maple Yip to reserve a "Eight Treasure Duck" as they need one day notice on this one, when arrive to the restaurant, order a steamed whole garoupa fish with Soy sauce and Gai Lan with dried fish. It is more for a 4-person dinner.

                  1. re: skylineR33

                    Thanks for the tips, Aser and SkylineR33! For the record, Aser, I never said that I shy away from fish or seafood. Those are my favourite foods by far. I merely said that I shy away from deep-fried fish and seafood. Nothing makes me happier than a whole fish, steamed with lots of ginger and green onion. I'm one of those people who eats the whole fish (digging for cheek meat, eyeballs, sucking on sweet tail meat, etc.).

                    What I've found when asking a server to explain items on a menu that has no English translations is that they only tell me what a few of the choices are and not much detail other than the type of meat involved. Occasionally, a server will say something like: "only Chinese people like it", then not tell me what it is. This is frustrating.

                    In foreign countries, I'll walk around the restaurant and try to look at the dishes on other peoples' tables, but here in Toronto that might not be so well received by other diners. In China, people were amused that I was looking for inspiration on their tables. A kind man took pity on us and helped us order our Sichuan hot pot ingredients.

                    I will write down your suggestions. I usually order gai lan with garlic. Dried fish is taking it in a totally different direction. I will definitely make it to Maple Yip one of these days, with a few friends. I will definitely take your advice regarding ordering the duck in advance. For 6 of us, what might we add to your recommendations for a delicious meal?

                    1. re: 1sweetpea

                      I would think the generic translations are due to their language skills, or lack thereof.

                      When dishes involve things like sea cucumber (hoi som/海參), wood ear mushrooms, white lotus seeds, or when dishes have creative names like typhoon shelter crab, buddha jumps over wall......I'm sure a lot of the waitstaff aren't aware of the english translations.

                      You should try gai lan w/ chinese sausage too, John's BBQ does a good rendition of this. Try veggies like tung choy (water spinach) with preserved bean curd or shrimp paste. Maple Yip is most known for their steamed fish, ask for a suggestion of the fish you'd prefer, or simply browse in the tanks if you're not squeamish.

                      Asking for recommendations is a good idea, or at least cooking method. A lot of times I'll tell the waiter I want "insert ingredient", then they'll suggest the best cooking methods. This is especially done for seafood.

                      Because menus tend to be large, restaurants will try to include dishes from various regions of china. My suggestion is try to learn of the origins of certain dish. For instance you wouldn't want to order xiao long baos (Shanghai) or mapo tofu (Sichuan) at a cantonese restaurant. Just like you wouldn't order a tomato based dish at a Northern Italian restaurant.

                      I don't want to speak for Skyline or Charles but I'll be happy to find the Chinese name for any particular dishes you might be interested. For now, go through this list and see if anything appeals to you.


                      You should also read wahooty's post for inspiriation.


                      Finally make friends w/ someone that speaks Cantonese/Mandarin, haha.

                      1. re: 1sweetpea

                        Hi 1sweetpea, I do not have other particular suggestion for Maple Yip. As you know, the menu of these chinese restaurants are huge, I may be able to recall when I look at its menu again, haha. But in general, the food is good there.

                        1. re: skylineR33

                          Maple Yip has live shrimp in a tank, so if you need an extra thing to order, get some shrimp. Obviously super fresh, with that crispness you usually only find in a coastal city.

                          And remember to bring directions to Maple Yip! I think it took me three trips there to finally have a meal! :) I don't even think I'd remember where to enter the next time I go, and I'm usually good like that.

                          They sure know what to do with a whole fish.

                          1. re: SocksManly

                            plaza on SE corner of Midland & Sheppard, in the southwest end of the actual plaza.

                          1. re: Chester Eleganté

                            Thanks, CE! I'm glad I looked in on this thread today! I'll go through the older thread, pen in hand.