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recommendations for really good chinese dim sum

Hello,

My family and I will be visiting in a couple weeks and was looking for recommendations for a really great place for Chinese dim sum. It does not need to be in Chinatown.

Price is not a concern as we are on vacation and are willing in splurge.

Thanks.

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  1. Lai Wah Heen downtown.

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

    1 Reply
    1. re: Herb

      This really is the only option downtown for something other than the cheap and cheerful China town options.

    2. I think the best choice for you might be different depending on severl factors. I don't think there is one restaurant in Toronto that is clearly above all others. You said money is not a factor, what about location? if they have carts? a specific dish that your family really enjoys?

      1. If money is no object, I would suggest catching a flight from Pearson to Hong Kong and pay Fook Lam Moon or Sun Tung Lok a visit! Ha! Just joking!!

        I kind of agree with sweetie's comment, especially these days when there are so much 'inconsistency' amongst the supposedly good ones! May be the branching out and opening of new restaurants causes a 'dilution of talents' amongst the small pool of good dim sum chefs.

        IMO, the best one in the whole of Toronto is still Lai Wah Heen. Up north, I like both Empire Court inside the Hilton Suite on Hwy#7 ( good quality and nice quiet ambiance ) or Emperor on Bayview just north of Hwy#7 ( bigger but noisier ). Other previously good ones such as Yang's, Casa Imperial, Regal palace, Ambassador to name a few, seems to go up and down in quality depending on the chef's 'mood of the day'!

        Finally, due to the huge variety of dim sum choices, supposedly good dim sum restaurants might excel in certain dishes but falters in others. Hardest dim sum dish to perfect is the shrimp dumpling - Har Gow. So far, not a single restaurant in Toronto can come up with a good version!

        In short! Good luck, don't expect too much and keep your fingers crossed!

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

        Casa Imperial
        4125 Steeles Ave E, Scarborough, ON M1W 3T4, CA

        1. We will also be visiting Toronto in a few weeks and would like to have dim sum. Innovation is less important to us than good quality; we generally end up mostly with "standards" like turnip cake (lo bak goh), sticky rice in lotus leaf (nor mai gai), steamed tofu skin rolls, and so on. (Overall, we prefer steamed items to fried.)

          We'll have a car and are willing to drive.

          Any suggestions would be much appreciated!

          12 Replies
          1. re: nonaggie

            As fellow chowhounder 'Sweetie' eluded to above. Quality and standard of the so-called ' good dim sum establishments' are practically identical. Every one has its hits and misses. Really difficult to identify a ' stand out'. That said, I would take your pick on any of the following:
            Richmond Hill: Regal Palace ( Hwy#7 location ), Ambassador, Regal16, Emperor, Yang's, Golden Abalone and O'Mei
            Markham: Empire Court, Casa Victoria, Spring Villa
            Downtown/Midtown: Lai Wah Heen, Lai Toh Heen.
            Out West: Grand in the Double tree Hotel
            Good Luck!!!

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

            Lai Toh Heen
            692 Mt Pleasant Rd, Toronto, ON M4S, CA

            1. re: Charles Yu

              I can't understand why Lai Wah Heen, Lai Toh Heen still get good reviews - is the decor fooling everyone? Their dim sum choices are basic and they are so overpriced.

              Charles - help me understand this given your expertise? Thanks.

              1. re: wano

                Hello wano! I will TRY!

                If one uses as reference, Dim Sum standard pertaining to some of North America's top Cantonese restaurants ( ie. Vancouver, NYC, San Francisco ), then IMO. a lot of Lai Wah Heen's offerings are 'far from' basic! In fact some of Dim Sum Chef 'Terence Chan''s specialty dim sums are very innovative and sophisticated! Some of them can even rub shoulders with Michelin star kitchens in Hong Kong. Of course, overall quality is being constrained by the availability and freshness of the key ingredients, Especially in the area of 'shrimp/prawns' used! In the Orient, fresh non frozen ones and in some cases even live ones are being employed in the fillings.

                A lot of LWH's dim sum uses more exotic ingredients than the norm. Abalone, king crab leg meat when in season, lobster, truffles, salted duck egg yolk and even foie gras! These alone are worth the price premium. However, in addition to their use, its HOW they are used to enhance the flavour and texture that is the key. Currently, for example, one would find garlic butter infused broth being used with scallops in dumplings, which is a nice and exotic variation to your day-to-day Chicken Kiev.

                In addition, fine dim sum are not just fine ingredients alone! Simple things like the dexterity of the dumpling dough, the thickness of the skin wrappers and the 'timing' all play an important part. A great Har Gow for example, should, in addition to a great prawn filling, skin so thin that one can peer inside the dumpling and yet so well made that the skin is taute and will not disintegrate when being picked up by the chopstick. Majority of restaurants that offer this dish simply cannot get all the criteria right. The result, either mushy skin that falls apart or skin so thick that one would think its a Chicago deep dish rather than a thin crust Italian Napoletan. LWH's version closely meets these criteria.

                Another area I liked about LWH's dim sum is how the chef utilizes salty and yet exotic ingredients like Chinese Ham, Salted duck egg yolks , dried conpoy ( scallops )...etc to enhance the saltiness of the dish in a delicate way.

                I would suggest you get into LWH's website and take a careful look at their luncheon dim sum menu. You will find even their fried rice and noodle dishes pretty distinctive!!

                Hope my rambling helps?!

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

              2. re: Charles Yu

                Charles,
                Since you seem to be the expert, would you be able to suggest a less expensive dim sum place?

                1. re: Little T

                  Yang's, Regal Palace ( Hwy#7 flagship ), Regal 16, O'Mei, Golden Abalone, Empire Court, Casa Victoria, Grand... to name a few! However, in general, I've found quality has degenerated across the board!

              3. re: nonaggie

                Pearl Harbourfront.

                Upscale atmosphere, cart service, and great views of the lake (book a window table). Yes, there's better dim sum — and a lot, lot worse — but would you rather sit in a strip mall in the burbs?

                1. re: Herb

                  Definitely recommend this restaurant especially if you call in advance and request a table by the window. Beautiful view of the Toronto Harbourfront and delicious dim sum. What a great combo!

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                  Pearl
                  207 Queens Quay W, Toronto, ON M5J 1A7, CA

                2. re: nonaggie

                  Lai Wah Heen
                  Lai Toh Heen ( on Mount Pleasant)
                  The Grand at the Double Tree

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

                  Lai Toh Heen
                  692 Mt Pleasant Rd, Toronto, ON M4S, CA

                  1. re: froglegs

                    Grand Chinese Cuisine is inside the Double Tree Hotel @ 655 Dixon Road (very close to the Pearson Airport). Went there for lunch several years ago and thought their dim sum was delicious. Definitely comparable to the restaurants in the east end. The only downside is the location - far from all the 'tourist' attractions, but good if you want a nice dim sum before leaving Toronto :P

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                    Grand Chinese Cuisine
                    655 Dixon Rd, Toronto, ON M9W1J3, CA

                    1. re: happylnuts

                      I'll put my two cents in for Grand as well. Worth the trip!

                      WON
                      http://whatsonmyplate.net

                  2. re: nonaggie

                    Thanks for all of the recommendations! I think we'll try to visit Grand on our way to the airport, if timing works out okay. And we'll probably try to have dim sum at least one other time, as we are usually pretty dim sum deprived. So, it's great to have a long list of options!

                    1. re: nonaggie

                      I just wanted to report back and thank you all for your recommendations.

                      We had dim sum at Regal Palace, Casa Imperial, and Grand. Of the three, Regal Palace was our least favorite. The abalone puff was quite nice, and the jasmine tea was the best of the places we tried. However, some of the other items missed the mark; for instance, the vegetarian bean curd rolls were unnaturally sweet, and the sauce on them was solidified into a kind of jelly-like consistency. The steamed spinach and shrimp dumplings had a filling that was slightly oily, and the flavor of the ingredients really didn't come through.

                      We liked Casa Imperial much better; the dishes we ordered were executed very well (at least, much better than what we're used to in Boston). Standouts were baked chicken and abalone pie (very light and flaky pastry, tasty filling, overall nice mix of sweet and savory) and sticky rice in lotus leaves (excellent texture of rice). We enjoyed everything we had there.

                      Grand was the last meal of our trip, and it was a good one! Having read the long thread on Grand (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/557688 ), we made sure to order some of the dishes mentioned there; we loved the cod pastry and the turnip cakes. Although presentation is not that important to us when picking a restaurant, we did enjoy the lovely way many of the dishes were presented.

                      Thanks again for guiding us to some great food!

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                      Casa Imperial
                      4125 Steeles Ave E, Scarborough, ON M1W 3T4, CA

                    2. Dynasty on Bloor (Yorkville) does pretty good standard stuff - no carts, just menu. If you want to try "Northern dim sum" - Asian Legend (lots of locations, one on Dundas near the Art Gallery) is awesome.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: siki2

                        If one search this board, one would notice 'Asian Legend' as one of those 'contentious' eatery that has either a pro or a con following.
                        IMO, comparing to a lot of the newly open up 'authentic' northern dumpling places in and around Markham/Richmond Hill/Scarborough...etc. Asia Legend's version of 'pseudo authentic and mediocre' northern food and dim sum is simply not up to chowhounder's palette standard! I personally know of a few immigrants from mainland China who swear never to return after tasting their over-priced, over-rated ' pro-western palette' version of northern Chinese food!

                      2. Just had a chat with a foodie friend of mine. He just spend two weeks in the Orient eating his way through Michelin star ' dim sum' restaurants in Hong Kong and Macau....etc. In his opinion, currently. the dim sum at 'Casa Imperial' is rated one of the best if not the best in the GTA. Some of the dishes are even at par with some of Hong Kong's finest! This is quite a compliment! He should know, because his father used to own one of the best dim sum/Cantonese restaurant in Hong Kong!! However, in his opinion, 'Har Gow' standard in Toronto still has way to go!!! This I totally agree! Some how, no one seems to get the timing, skin texture and filling right?!

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: Charles Yu

                          Charles, when was your friend last tried Casa Imperial ? I just tried it a month or so before, same with some of my friends and we all agree the dim sum there is really bad !! There is a report on it earlier on this board, and posters of that thread have the same 'bad' experience with it.

                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/697426

                          1. re: skylineR33

                            Last week!
                            Also, Regal Palace on Hwy#7 is still good. But AVOID the Yonge/Weldrick and the Finch/McCowan ones!

                            1. re: Charles Yu

                              So maybe the quality of Casa Imperial is back again ?! I am getting tired on this quality issue with it, good restaurant is not suppose to be like this. I will give it a try when I have a chance.

                              1. re: skylineR33

                                May be Casa's dim sum chef took an eating trip to Hong Kong and came back with renewed energy and inspiration?! Ha! One would only hope?!!

                        2. I like Szechuan Legend at around Midland and Finch in Scarborough.

                          See, I like them because I wouldn't say anything in particular is mind blowing but they do every dish well which I don't find in other dim sum places. They have one or two really good dish and everything else falls flat to me. Also Szechuan offers all the dim sum basics-No! Scratch that, NECESSITIES (except har gow)!! You would not believe how many places don't have regular bbq pork buns anymore! Szechuan legend offers a wide variety of well done dishes at a very cheap price (most things are $1.80 per dish!) and they come out quickly! But don't get the mango pudding or ginger milk.

                          I don't care for Casa Imperial to be honest. I just don't see the justification for the price.

                          -----
                          Szechuan Legend
                          3280 Midland Ave, Toronto, ON M1V, CA

                          Casa Imperial
                          4125 Steeles Ave E, Scarborough, ON M1W 3T4, CA

                          17 Replies
                          1. re: AngelSanctuary

                            Which restaurant are you talking about that does not provide regular BBQ pork bun ? If you are talking about places which provide non-cantonese cuisine, it is normal for them not to have this item because BBQ pork bun is a cantonese dim sum.

                            1. re: skylineR33

                              Well um...Fisherman's Village (or something like that), that place at Pmall or at least I sat there for well over an hour and not one cart had it, another place called Full House or something like that, also at Midland and Finch, Best Chinese Restaurant, and Casa I remember not having it, they have the puff pastry version.which I'm not fond of.

                              1. re: AngelSanctuary

                                Really, Casa Imperial took it off its dim sum list ?! I had BBQ pork bun in there before. Oh well, no BBQ pork bun and a sub-par Har Gow, how good can the dim sum quality at Casa be ?! Charles, are you sure your foodie friend said it is Casa Imperial which provides some of the best dim sum in Toronto at this moment ?!! I really plan to re-visit it this weekend !

                                1. re: skylineR33

                                  They went during the long weekend. But again, they also know the staff and the chefs! Not sure whether that would make a different?! May be I'll join you and see! Ha!!

                                2. re: AngelSanctuary

                                  Just had some dim sum at Casa Imperial, they have BBQ pork bun there, I think they always have it.

                                  1. re: skylineR33

                                    How was the food at Casa Imperial today?! How does it compare to before?! Good, bad or so-so?! Or as some of the previous posting - Really Bad!!
                                    BTW, Rosy will be trying out northern dim sum at Ding Tai Fung in TST today. She's trying to compare with those she had at their Shanghai branch! Should be fun to see whether it deserves a Michelin star?!

                                    -----
                                    Casa Imperial
                                    4125 Steeles Ave E, Scarborough, ON M1W 3T4, CA

                                    1. re: Charles Yu

                                      The dim sum at Casa Imperial on Saturday is pretty good, I ranked it overall better than Emperor and Yangs. But still not as good as the better quality I saw at Casa Imperial before. I found the deep fried items better than the steamed dumplings such as Har Gow and Siu Mai. Especially the deep-fried crispy shrimp dim sum is good.

                                      Comparing to the Har Gow I tried at Lai Toh Heen today, it is just a level down. The one at LTH is well seasoned with chopped bamboo shoot, nicely wrapped unlike the giant broken 'dried' Har Gow at Casa Imperial !

                                      1. re: skylineR33

                                        Ah! Lai Toh Heen! Its been quite a while! Guess I have to make a trip there one day to try out the Har Gow.
                                        Wow! Dim Sum every day?! Just like your typical Hong Kongnese! Ha!! You better eat lots of veggies tonight!!

                                        -----
                                        Lai Toh Heen
                                        692 Mt Pleasant Rd, Toronto, ON M4S, CA

                                        1. re: Charles Yu

                                          Yeah, I wish, but it took me more than 30 mins to drive to LTH instead of taking MTR !!

                                3. re: AngelSanctuary

                                  Just out of curiousity...."regular BBQ pork buns" are the white fluffy ones or the yellow golden ones, that are usually a little shiny on top?

                                  1. re: sweetie

                                    Dim Sum usually includes the white ones that are steamed; the golden ones (baked) are found mainly at Chinese bakery outlets. A very experienced dim sum goer friend of mine says that the most difficult item to get right is the steamed BBQ bun, so for him the quality of the BBQ bun is directly related to the overall quality of the dim sum served....seems to be as good an indicator as any.

                                    1. re: T Long

                                      I have never tasted a bbq pork bun that I actually like. They're all just too filling, heavy, and tasteless. Just give me the pork please.

                                      1. re: haggisdragon

                                        I guess you haven't tried the Momofuku version yet. I'm on the hunt for that kind of bun in GTA.

                                        My grandpa used to order the steamed BBQ pork bun, and only eat the meat and sauce the toss out the bun. For me, it's the complete package that does it.

                                        1. re: Royaljelly

                                          Or the Hong Kong Fu Sing - 'Best bun under the sky' version! This 'oven-baked' version incorporates a filling oozing with a great sauce and semi fatty B-B-Q pork morsels inside a ' pineapple bun'. My wife's cousin once ate 8 of them before touching other dim sum ordered!!
                                          Regal Palace on Hwy#7 has a version very similar to the Fu Sing one. Its only available during the weekend and need to be ordered in advance. Just talk to the Captains when being seated.

                                          1. re: Royaljelly

                                            Not that I've eaten the Momofuku bun, but I was at Earth not too long ago and they had a pork belly app that reminded me of it.

                                            Looked like:
                                            http://www.flickr.com/photos/jlunar/4...

                                            The bun part was merely okay. Kimchi was extraneous.

                                            1. re: jlunar

                                              I have a very similar pork belly at Globe. Nothing to write home about. Not sure why it has anything to do with the chinese BBQ pork bun dim sum we are talking about here. They are two very different thing, different bun, different flavor, different preparation.

                                  2. "Very Fair Seafood Cuisine"...Finch and Kennedy @ 17 Milliken Blvd (in a plaza). It's always packed and they still use push carts.

                                    -----
                                    Very Fair Seafood Cuisine
                                    17 Milliken Blvd, Toronto, ON M1V1V3, CA

                                    14 Replies
                                    1. re: kerrig

                                      I really do not understand the fuzz, interest and hype behind 'cart service' for dim sum!! For the sake of nostalgia may be, but definitely not for the sake of quality!

                                      This ' ancient and 'dim sum UNFRIENDLY' practice' has been disbanded by almost all great dim sum restaurants in the Orient and around the world! One of the main criteria behind great quality dim sum is the 'timing', especially for those morsels involving steaming and a dough skin wrapper like Har Gow. The time those dim sum spend inside the close lid bamboo steamer is extremely detrimental to the quality and integrity of the product.! Either the prolong stay hardened the wrapper or it made the morsels mushy, due to overcooking by latent heat and/or condensation! Cart service was once popular because it was an efficient way to handle ' mass produced products'. However. individualized ' cook and made to order' is now the way to go. FYI. none of Hong Kong and Macau's Michelin star rated Cantonese dim sum restaurants employ this practices anymore!!

                                      1. re: Charles Yu

                                        I think the point is this, Charles: The majority of people don't get to eat regularly at Michelin star restaurants on even a semi-regular basis. Sad but true! The vast majority, including myself, eat mainly at 'family' places in HK and here. I'm much more likely to find myself with a group of old friends at Treasure restaurant in New Town Plaza, or some joint on a housing estate than at Fook Lam Moon, except for a special occasion.
                                        Given that the dim sum at such places always going to be pretty average, it may as well be average from carts, which are just more darned entertaining! Of course if I spend Lai Wah Heen prices, I want individualised presentation, but if I spend Pearl Court money, I am looking for a good time, with good friends and lots of noise. I think you lose that aspect when you have card service. It's too subdued and quiet. I think an important part of dim sum 'culture' is the atmosphere, and although I know it's a matter of preference, I like my dim sum served loud and lively.

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

                                        1. re: munchieHK

                                          My reply to your aforementioned posting was deleted for unknown reason.

                                          I'll try to reword it and keep my fingers crossed this time!

                                          What I said was that I too had a memorable dish of ' Fried Ho-Fun with goose intestine and black bean sauce topping' at the Chinese U's canteen. It was full of wok-hay, ultra tasty and cheap!. I wonder if there's any restaurant in Toronto that serves Stirred fry duck or goose intestine? Preferably sauteed with Chinese pickled vegetables ( Harm Suen Choi )? With so many B-B-Q duck being sold around town, there must be a supply of duck intestines somewnere?!

                                          1. re: Charles Yu

                                            Don't worry Charles, I saw your post before it was disintegrated, along with mine. I suspect it was because we were discussing HK rather than TO and somebody is a little touchy about that. I think we can get away with it as long as Toronto is mentioned somewhere in the post.
                                            I have never seen Harm Suen Choi in Toronto, although it is one of my favourites too and I used to eat it regularly in HK. A dim sum dish I used to have at Summer Palace, among other places, of duck's tongues in abalone sauce is another one I can not find here.
                                            Finally, the first person brave enough to open a Chou Dofu cart in downtown TO will have my lifelong admiration and unwavering custom. I think that is the street food I miss the most, although when I left, it was already becoming scarce in HK. I used to get my fix at Shatin KCR station.
                                            I think I feel a trip east coming on...

                                            1. re: munchieHK

                                              There are quite many restaurant that has Harm Suen Choi in Toronto, it is just that goose intestine is not seen here.

                                              Also, there are places in Toronto that has Duck's tongues in abalone sauce such as Omei in Richmond Hill.

                                              1. re: skylineR33

                                                Yeah, I meant to say " I have never seen it served with Harm Suen Choi in Toronto", but I was too lazy and Charles knew what I was referring to.
                                                I've never been to Omei. Do they serve it as a dim sum dish? I really don't get up to Richmond Hill much.

                                                1. re: munchieHK

                                                  Maybe, but I doubt anyone will know by looking at that sentence. It is good you clear it up now.

                                                  Omei has duck tongue in both their dum sum and dinner menu.

                                                  Also, not sure if you know, there are also Chou Dofu in Toronto, but not downtown.

                                                  1. re: skylineR33

                                                    You're kidding. I thought it would be illegal here or something, because of the fermentation process. I know that it is even produced 'underground' in HK because the government won't issue licenses to produce it.
                                                    Can you tell me where to find it? I would be eternally grateful. It's my favourite guilty pleasure.

                                                    1. re: munchieHK

                                                      Almost all 'Taiwanese' restaurants in the Markham/Richmond Hill area have them. Not 'stinky' enough though!! Ha!
                                                      BTW, best Chou Dofu I had in HK was a stall opposite Monk Kok police station close to the gas station. Just follow the smell! Ha!
                                                      Lastly, you should take a trip up to Richmond Hill and try out O'Mei! Must have is of course the giant lobster 3/4 ways!

                                                      1. re: munchieHK

                                                        You may be interested in going to the Asian Festival in Markham. They have it every year outside the plaza at Warden and Steeles at around the August timeframe. You can found some ok stinky "stinky" tofu there. You can smell the stink right from the parking lot. The ones there is more of the Taiwanese style than those in HK. The taste of those stinky tofu is not bad. There is always a hugh line-up for it every year. If you like loud and lively, it maybe something for you.

                                                        1. re: skylineR33

                                                          Thanks. I will definitely check it out.

                                            2. re: munchieHK

                                              I also think cart service is fun for people who are not experienced with dim sum. Gives them an opportunity to see the dish before ordering... Sometimes the menus are not clear about what to expect from a given dish.

                                              1. re: Full tummy

                                                Also speaking strictly about the Toronto dim sum scene, I've never equated cart or lack of carts with the quality of the dim sum...rather the places that don't have carts are likely the ones with lower volume or insufficient room/awkward architecture for carts....for example, Lai Wah Heen's volume is too low and their space is too small for carts and Emperor's tables are packed too close together (especially in the 2nd room) and Casa Imperial has too many stairs. For restaurants wanting to broaden their appeal to less experienced dim summers, carts can make a lot of sense.

                                          2. re: kerrig

                                            Enjoyed a family dinner at Very Fair last week. I thought the overall experience was very good -- food prep, presentation and service.

                                            -----
                                            Very Fair
                                            4002 Sheppard Ave E, Toronto, ON M1S, CA

                                          3. Just had dim sum at Grand. My tongue was dried out right after having the Har Gow and Hakka tea dumpling. I am sure they added something like a "soy protein" in their dim sum.
                                            For the price they charge, I will go to Yang's instead.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: smfan

                                              Hi,

                                              My family and I came back from our trip to Toronto and the food was great.

                                              We had dim sum at Casa Imperial and the food was lovely. The bbq pork bun was excellent. We can't wait to go back in a few months and try out other recommended places for dim sum.

                                              -----
                                              Casa Imperial
                                              4125 Steeles Ave E, Scarborough, ON M1W 3T4, CA

                                            2. Does Casa Imperial do dim sum take-out with the easier-to-transport/pack items on their menu?

                                              -----
                                              Casa Imperial
                                              4125 Steeles Ave E, Scarborough, ON M1W 3T4, CA

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: phoenikia

                                                ALL Chinese dim sum restaurants do take outs!