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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!

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        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!!!

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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: 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?!

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                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!