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Apr 2, 2010 10:30 AM

Lai Wah Heen for dim sum -- what to order?

In a few weeks I'm taking my wife to Toronto for the weekend to see our favourite jazz pianist on a Saturday night. I've already asked fellow chowhounds to suggest places for an early dinner Saturday -- thanks for all the help!

Now I'm planning where to eat Sunday and am leaning towards dim sum, which I prefer to Western-style brunches. We're staying downtown at the Sheraton, so while I really want to try some of the dim sum places out in the burbs, that will be for another trip, because we will be without car -- we're traveling by train.

I've eaten at several Chinatown dim sum places, my favourite being Rol San, but this time I'm leaning towards Lai Wah Heen, in part because I've never been, and in part because I'm looking for more of a "special occasion" feel since it's not often my wife and I eat out without the kids.

Which dishes would be on your:
(a) Must-have list
(b) Over-rated and to be avoided list.

Thanks for any and all suggestions!

Lai Wah Heen
108 Chestnut St, Toronto, ON M5G 1R3, CA

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

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  1. Personally, I'd just go for the innovative dum sum tasting menu, if the $45 price tag doesn't scare you off. It was one of the most memorable meals I've had in Toronto, and it definitely has more of a "special occasion" feel, since it's not your typical har gow/siu mai/etc. dim sum.

    7 Replies
    1. re: Wahooty

      Thanks. I would like to try things that go beyond typical dim sum. Do you recall some of the highlights?

      1. re: CookatHomeinLondon

        Some of the highlight in LWH's dim sum :

        Zucchini basket with chinese ham and shrimp - re-freshing, light, delicious, nicely-streamed and prepared zucchini

        Steamed lobster dumpling - it comes in the shape of a lobster, a well-balanced dim sum from ingradient used, to skin wrap (which can be done a bit thinner) to the stuffed ingradients

        Eel baked mini turnover - very juicy with good flavour eel taste wrapped with smooth crisp, soft turnover

        Seared dumpling with crabmeat - goes well with the soy based sauce, nicely seared, but non greasy

        Bad one :
        Szechuan spicy broth with fried shimp roll - strange taste broth ...

        Pan-seared cake of red wild rice with crab meat - kind of boring, tasteless...

        1. re: skylineR33

          Thanks for the specific suggestions. I especially love eel and haven't had it some time. How recently were you there?

          1. re: CookatHomeinLondon

            I was there last week. Actually you can take your kids to LWH, it is kids friendly. They have high chair, many people do that there. Enjoy !

            One more thing, there is no restaurant in the burbs can match with dim sum quality of LWH, eventhough it is not top-notch, it is the best Toronto can offer for dim sum.

            1. re: skylineR33

              Thanks -- I'm getting increasingly excited abut the trip and the meal. The kids will have to join us another time my wife and I wanted a weekend away, the first in a long, long time, but it's nice to know we can take the kids on a return visit.

              Some have recommended the tasting menu of innovative dim sum but you prefer ordering a la carte?

              1. re: CookatHomeinLondon

                The tasting menu is good too, it just that I prefer to order a la carte to try out more variety and some of the item in the tasting menu is not my preference.

                1. re: skylineR33

                  A la carte makes sense, especially our case, since we don't get to Toronto as often as we would like.

    2. a la carte is the way to go. if you can manage it, order the moo shu pork and the peking duck! you have to order the duck 24hrs in advance. it's fantastic!

      1 Reply
      1. re: JJLOVESFOOD

        Thanks! I love Peking Duck but it's only going to be two of us and that wouldn't leave much appetite left for dim sum so the duck may have to wait for another time.

      2. Skyline's given you some good choices for what to have at LWH. Here's a snippet of the dim sum we had at LWH back in Oct 09 (things may have changed since), and a few things to avoid:
        - fancy tea: don't bother w/ the expensive $8 stuff unless you're really into chinese tea.
        - har gow shrimp dumplings, skin soggy and totally broken
        - steamed rice roll w/ shrimp was completely bland
        - chicken feet w/ chinese herbs was swimming in soup, skin was soggy
        - fish w/ peppers and tofu pocket, one of the few interesting dishes we had
        - wagyu beef dumpling in spicy sauce was totally strange, You really couldn't taste that it was wagyu beef
        - steamed beef balls very standard
        - fried rice w/ egg yolk/dried scallops very dense and overly dry (last time we had one with egg fried rice which was done perfectly).
        - pan fried buns, totally brutal, bun was 2x thicken than the meat and lacking any flavour at all
        - pork ribs, one piece my mom had was quite bitter, my parents guessed that the chef probably used some sort of baking soda to soften the meat and wasn't rinsed off properly
        - 1000 layer cake, done well

        Here's the link to the previous post

        5 Replies
        1. re: Royaljelly

          i went for the first time around the same time as you and found that many of the basics were very poorly executed, i may go again to try the tasting which was certainly unusual but am hardly motivated to return for an a la carte experience. not sure if it was an off month or some such.

          there was a special dim sum that i think was a scallop and asparagus wrapped in something else, total fail. the asparagus was thick and woody and so impossible to bite through. this thing was massive and needed at least 3 bites to consume politely, also oversalted. it doesn't seem to be on the current menu. the lobster dumpling, while cute, was just too much chewy dough... i don't recall the flavour of the filling to be very prominent either. agreed that the cheung fun shrimp was bland though we did like the bass one. classic items like the har gow and steamed beef balls disappointed. we did get a cake, i think it was the 1000 layer one.. it arrived dried out all along the sides. speaking of which, half the food arrived cold (we were 1 of maybe 8 small groups dining), none were covered though many came at one time and so got cold quite quickly and the service was rather meh considering the cost involved. what irritated me the most was that the servers running food between the kitchen and the tables would form a line straight through the centre of the dining room to wait for a maitre'd/official waiter or some such to serve the food to a table. at one point the line was stacked 4 food bussers deep and i had a great view of watching my food get cold.

          i think the only items i enjoyed were the puff pastry dishes. they were flaky, tender, well balanced between salt and sweet.

          1. re: pinstripeprincess

            I was there around the Oct 09 timeframe as well, at the time they have a change in the kitchen team. The dim sum experience at that time is also very average for me. The dim sum is better now, at least with my latest visit. For example, har gow is better now, still too big, skin a bit too thick, but can stay as a whole after I hold it up with my chopstick, which is rarely found in many dim sum places in Toronto. Also, they use bamboo shoot and is finely diced with well seasoning shrimp. I think it is very good for Toronto standard.

            But as I said many times before, dim sum in Toronto is often inconsistent.

            1. re: skylineR33

              well a change in the kitchen would explain a lot. i can understand inconsistent, but i would hope that at the prices lwh charges one would get merely good at worst whereas i thought some of the food was the same quality as the cheapy places on spadina charging 1/4 the price. i'm encouraged to try again and to sit in the middle of the room right by the kitchen bussers.

              1. re: pinstripeprincess

                That's also why I always say LWH 's dim sum "overall" is the best in Toronto area. And you don't have to take a number to wait for a table. It is not surprising to see other cheaper places, whether it is in Richmond Hill or Spadina, which can do certain items better, after all there are many many items in that dim sum list. But I agree with the price they charge, it better provides consistent good dim sum and service.

          2. re: Royaljelly

            Sounds like they really hit a bad period in October; I agree that a change in the kitchen shouldn't lead to such problems in the dining room, especially at those prices. Thanks for the detailed breakdown; hopefully things have improved as skyline says.