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Where do Toronto expats go to get GOOD dim sum?

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Where is the decent dim sum hiding? I live in Cambridge but am willing to drive. My kids are getting older and need to be initiated into this important family ritual, but I want them to eat the good stuff. It doesn't need to be Lai Wah Heen good, but at least competent by Toronto standards. Please don't say China Pearl or Hei La Moon. We've already been and it doesn't make the grade. Shangri-La in Belmont is decent for Northern Chinese dim sum, but I am specifically looking for Cantonese style. We've been waiting for our Toronto trips to eat good dim sum, but we don't go often enough. Thanks for any ideas!

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Hei La Moon
88 Beach St, Boston, MA 02111

Shangri-La
149 Belmont St, Belmont, MA 02478

China Pearl Restaurant
288 Mishawum Rd, Woburn, MA 01801

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  1. Have you been to Chau Chow City?

    -----
    Chau Chow City
    81 Essex St, Boston, MA 02111

    1. Boston is not known for excellent dim sum. China Pearl and Hei La Moon is the best we've got.

      -----
      Hei La Moon
      88 Beach St, Boston, MA 02111

      China Pearl Restaurant
      9 Tyler St, Boston, MA 02111

      2 Replies
      1. re: nasilemak

        my chinese friends think that toronto is a great place for dumplings. So, i do not know if there is a place that compares with this except LA, and then Toronto is said to be better.

        1. re: nasilemak

          Yikes. OK, I guess we'll either have to visit Toronto more often or learn to live without.

        2. my suggestion would be ... keep going to toronto.

          gitlo's in allston was the only good traditional dim sum i've encountered in boston, but reports are that it's taken a serious nose dive in the last year or two. and it's not the full-on carts & chaos experience anyway. i haven't been to hei la moon, but have found china pearl and chau chow city (and i think maybe one other in chinatown) to be pretty sub par, at least compared to what dim sum can be.

          3 Replies
          1. re: autopi

            I loved Gitlo's. I will not go there again. Toronto has amazing Chinese food. Very little here comes close.

            1. re: kimfair1

              Yeah, I was afraid you were going to say that :( But at least I can stop searching for the impossible now.

              1. re: little.tiger

                You can drive to Flushings, NY like me which is a lot closer than Toronto; and also hit korean cuisine and bbq grill street carts while there.

          2. We don't have an equivalent to Mother's Dumplings, unfortunately, but on the other hand, I hear Mother's isn't what it used to be itself!

            1. As a former Torontonian myself I must say that the Dim Sum selections in Boston will probably never match up. My advice? Enjoy it on your trips back home to TO (I spend alot of time in Markham/RH when I am visiting family) and spend your eating time in Boston focusing on the many other cuisines that are better or equal to what you can find in TO.

              1. HLM is the best overall. If you want superb ham soi gok and daan taat/po taat I strongly recommend Great Taste. If these don't satisfy you then you should probably save your dim sum consumption for trips home.

                -----
                Great Taste
                201 Main St, Milford, MA 01757

                13 Replies
                1. re: Luther

                  Should I take from all the posts that Windsor Dim Sum isn't worth going to? I loved Gitlo's when they first opened. Shame.

                  -----
                  Gitlo
                  164 Brighton Ave, Allston, MA 02134

                  1. re: CookieLee

                    I think Winsor is currently the best in Boston mainly because it's ordered and not cart-based (i.e. hotter and fresher). As I mentioned in a different post, nothing we have here compares with Toronto (or Vancouver and Hong Kong for that matter).

                    1. re: gourmaniac

                      I recently went to Winsor for the first time and loved it. I don't eat all that much dim sum, so I don't have much to compare it to. Definitely liked it better than HLM by quite a bit, though.

                    2. re: CookieLee

                      I don't like Winsor at all. In principle a menu based place should have the freshest and best items but I didn't find this to be the case in this instance.

                      1. re: Luther

                        I didn't like Winsor either. For something that is cooked to order, it's not as fresh as you think it will be. Both the dim sum and the service was mediocre. All the dishes we had was lacking in something.
                        Definitely, not even close to the dim sum at the Red Egg in NYC.
                        We don't have anything remotely resembling the dim sum in Hong Kong.

                        1. re: Chocomom

                          You're entirely wrong on that last thing. Not only do we have plenty of options that "remotely resemble" typical dim sum in HK, we have several places (e.g. HLM) that are just as good as a typical neighborhood place. I'm not talking top tier places where a person might spend US$50 for brunch but some of these comments are just senseless Boston bashing.

                          1. re: Luther

                            Agree.

                            The big 4 in Chinatown probably serve thousands of customers in an avg weekend, mostly Chinese. They seem to be enjoying the food and I've never seen anyone gargle with listerine after their meal because it was so poor. Maybe they were all thinking, gee I wish I was in HK, Toronto, Vancouver, etc but I doubt it.

                            BTW, I had a very good meal at Winsor last week. 2 dishes tha I think are excellent are the Pan Fried Turnip w/ XO sauce and their Pan fried pork dumplings which our neighbors were kind enough to share. Very thin skin and almost a soup dumpling quality; cut above the usual. Overall I find them to be high quality.

                            1. re: 9lives

                              i would agree on their pan fried pork dumplings. also like their pan fried sticky rice which has a good "guo-ba" crunch to the outsides. one item i wish they would add is a good pan fried shrimp chive dumpling, and those "hollow" hockey-puck sized scallion pancakes

                            2. re: Luther

                              To further comment in this direction. A friend got back from Hong Kong last year after some serious chowhounding and basically said Boston holds it's own in the general Hong Kong food realm.

                              1. re: StriperGuy

                                Let's face it, people like to romanticize these things. The scale of food available in HK or NYC is enormous compared to Boston, but in terms of average quality there isn't a huge difference.

                                I am particularly dissatisfied with the quality of the roast meats available in Boston relative to HK but in many other regards you can easily get many foods here that would rank as average to pretty good in HK.

                      2. re: Luther

                        Hear hear. I like Great Taste's dim sum too, and some of the dishes I've tried are on par with Winsor. I think both offer good Boston dim sum, but as with many areas, pales in comparison to cities with really big Chinese populations (i.e., NYC, Toronto, Vancouver).

                        if you find yourself south of Boston, another of the better dim sum places is East Chinatown in North Quincy (the bigger restaurant around the corner on Billings - not the smaller original restaurant on Hancock St). It has better dim sum IMO than most of the places in Boston. It's cart-style dim sum, but I don't get the attraction of the carts. I much prefer ordering off an itemized list.

                        -----
                        East Chinatown Restaurant
                        415 Hancock St, Quincy, MA 02171

                        Great Taste
                        201 Main St, Milford, MA 01757

                        1. re: kobuta

                          thanks for this tip. the restaurant on Billings st (Grand Chinatown) does seem to have a wider selection than Winsor ("crispy chestnut roll w/ shrimp" (actually sesame rice paper wrapped around shrimp and water chestnut), "panfried fish and pork dumpling", small plates of crispy baby pig, small beef short rib steaks, tofu fa (warm custard), etc) and the freshness is about what one would expect for cart-style, not great but not bad. there was already a line at 10:30am on a Sunday.

                        2. re: Luther

                          i like the pan fried fish dumpling (not on their menu, a delicate wrapper under a soft fish cake, then folded into a crescent and pan fried) at Hei La Moon.

                        3. Now that we know that Boston dim sum lovers have been enjoying a sub par experience all these years, it would be helpful to know why Toronto dim sum is SO MUCH BETTER?

                          16 Replies
                          1. re: cassis

                            Much bigger Chinese population, and Toronto has been a attracting a high number of Chinese immigrants (from HK in particular) over many years. Same story with Vancouver. Simply put you have more experienced and skilled dim sum chefs emigrating to a Toronto, Vancouver or even NYC than to Boston.

                            1. re: cassis

                              Dim sum in Toronto uses higher quality ingredients, is more skillfully made, better execution (ie. steamed to perfection, then comes from the steamer to your table stat. Plenty of places don't do carts) and there are SO MANY places to go that there's really no need to put up with mediocrity. Which is all I've had here for years when it comes to Cantonese style dim sum. I thought I was just out of the loop on where to go, but it seems this is just not the thing to eat here. Now that the kids are a little older, hopefully I'll get back to Toronto more often and get my fix then. Let's put it this way, my sister who lived in Toronto all her life then moved to San Francisco visited me and went out to dim sum with us and our friends. She drank some tea, made conversation, but didn't eat a single piece, came home and made a sandwich. And kinda looked at me like "huh? you put up with this?!". Well, yeah, to be social because our friends are willing to put up with it and there is nowhere else to go...

                              When I first moved here over 10 years ago, I asked a Chinese co-worker from Hong Kong "so where should I go get some good dim sum"? His answer "Toronto". My answer "haha, you're funny. So where should I go, really?". His answer "Toronto".

                              1. re: little.tiger

                                You wont find anyplace in Boston that compares to Toronto or San Francisco. For the cart type place i like HLM the best. For non-cart Winsor or try Green Tea in Newton.

                                While not the variety or quality of Toronto i still enjoy it fine. If you want the best for everything you eat then you will eat nothing i think. Other parts of the world have better seafood, pizza, italian, steak, you name it.. There is nothing i can think of in Boston that is the best in the world.

                                I wonder how your sister can determine she didnt like anything without trying anything?? This makes no sense to me

                                -----
                                Green Tea Restaurant
                                24 Elliot St, Newton Highlands, MA 02461

                                1. re: hargau

                                  I was hoping you would chime in here.

                                  1. re: hargau

                                    I object - our molasses-flavored suet and grout filled coffee cans are second to none! And let none cast aspersions upon the majesty of our wide selection of mediocre roast beef sandwiches.

                                    1. re: nsenada

                                      Our fried whole belly clams are the best in the world but one cannot live on clams alone. I'm as guilty as any in flogging this point and I always hate the such as such is so much better in NYC... threads. Toronto is my home town and the dim sum is better there. For the OP who I believe is Cantonese, and visits Toronto, it is a better place to introduce her kids to dim sum. I agree with Hargau that we should eat the tastiest of what we have here.

                                      1. re: gourmaniac

                                        Thank you. I also get tired of the "why can't we find good xxx in Boston" threads. I've never felt particularly dim sum deficient until I read this thread about what I'm missing.

                                        Went to Bergamot recently and had striped bass that was delivered to the resto 15 minutes before it was on my plate. That's what I'm interested in.

                                        1. re: yumyum

                                          I have had dimsum in Toronto several times and what i noticed was
                                          1) There are many really large places the size of HLM and larger
                                          2) The places seem much cleaner/fancier/nicer to me
                                          3) The variety is much larger
                                          4) Main place we used to go to had carts but also had many servers carrying large trays of items.
                                          5) Cant recall the quality of specific items as it has been 15-20 years since i have been but i do recall everything as being really good. At that time however i was used to Rochester NY dimsum which is a joke compared to Boston dimsum, yet we still enjoyed it and went every week or two. So its all what your used to i guess.

                                          1. re: hargau

                                            Also in all fairness we are talking about what Toronto probably does best ("Chinese" food in general) so the comparison is not exactly fair.

                                            Its like posting on the Toronto board asking who does the best (stealing from Gourmaniac here) Fried whole belly clams on par with Boston, that thread probably wouldn't last very long.

                                            We should be happy that we even have decent Dim Sum and Very good Chinese restaurants here for us to enjoy.

                                          2. re: yumyum

                                            i'm surprised nobody in Boston offers a 100% lobster soup dumpling (like the 100% dungeness crab soup dumplings at Koi Palace near San Fran)

                                      2. re: hargau

                                        You don't have to put it in your mouth to see that dumpling skins are too thick, the dumplings are too large and clumsy, there are no real shreds of lo bak in the lo bak go, grease has congealed on the dish on the cart, etc. My sister noticed all that and simply chose not to partake.

                                        Nowhere did I say I want/need the best of everything. I am looking for some decent dim sum here, not having found any yet. I don't need it to compare to top of the line Toronto places, I said as much in my first post. I'm just looking for the sort of place which would be on par with where my family would go for your average weekend gathering with relatives/friends. If that doesn't exist here, then we'll find something else to eat.

                                      3. re: little.tiger

                                        Boston has pretty good dim sum overall so I'm happy. I was at Flushings recently and they do have way more interesting variety if that's what you're after. I had fond memory of Toronto/Montreal dim sum only because the exchange rate back then was $1USD/$1.5CAD; foodwise I don't recall anything out of the ordinary.

                                        1. re: little.tiger

                                          Feh!

                                          1. re: Alcachofa

                                            Boston has a great food scene, but I think this is a bit crazy. San Francisco (and Toronto) clearly has better dim sum than Boston, both in average quality and certainly in terms of higher-end places. Which is fine, Boston does some things better than San Francisco (and Toronto). Is there also bad dim sum in San Francisco? Well, obviously.

                                            What's the point of a pissing contest between cities, anyway?

                                            1. re: hcbk0702

                                              Indeed.

                                              1. re: Alcachofa

                                                Nope, the last part was directed to the thread in general.

                                      4. best recent dim sum experience I had in the area is Grand Chinatown on Billings Rd. in Quincy. Never had Toronto dim sum, but Grand Chinatown was in line with good, standard NYC (flushing/bklyn) and SF dim sum - not the elite places. Plus it was a super-fun classic family atmosphere and very cheap and friendly. I like the big chinatown places too, though mostly for sentimental reasons (esp. china pearl). but quincy is my current go-to spot for boston area dim sum.

                                        -----
                                        Grand Chinatown
                                        21 Billings Rd, Quincy, MA 02171

                                        11 Replies
                                        1. re: skordalia

                                          do they have dry rice paper (not rice noodle) wrapped shrimp rolls?

                                          1. re: barleywino

                                            Do you have a chinese name or photo of this dish?

                                            1. re: Luther

                                              unfortunately not...the wrapper is a delicate dry white rice paper, almost like a single ply napkin, not deep fried and not steamed, you can sometimes see some of the shrimp and cilantro inside. more common in the Bay area. if you ever went to Nobu, they used to do a version of this with unagi and avocado inside (for their omakase), but i guess it was too labor intensive and they discontinued it.

                                              1. re: barleywino

                                                I don't remember seeing that. If memory serves, the selection was pretty standard but the quality was above average. I think this place would serve the OP's purposes pretty well. Highly amusing thread...
                                                Folks should read this WSJ article on dim sum in HK-
                                                http://online.wsj.com/article/NA_WSJ_...

                                                1. re: skordalia

                                                  That article is really interesting - thanks for posting the link. Amazing what they went through - makes me wish I could visit Hong Kong just to sample the food of these masters - before they are gone!

                                                  1. re: skordalia

                                                    Thank you for sharing this article. When we were in Hong Kong, just one look and then taste you can tell the dim sum is superior to the ones we have here. Their wrappers are definitely more delicate and definitely works of a master.

                                                    I've only found the Red Egg in NYC and Hong Kong Lounge in San Francisco came close to what we had in Hong Kong.

                                              2. re: barleywino

                                                Yes I have seen thin rice paper wrapped shimp rolls at Chow Chow City Chinatown; this was eight years ago and I haven't been back since.

                                                1. re: joebloe

                                                  thanks, will check if they still have it!

                                                  1. re: barleywino

                                                    Yes, they do have them and they are delicious!

                                                    1. re: Science Chick

                                                      i checked with Chau Chow city and they do not have this item, unfortunately.

                                                      1. re: barleywino

                                                        Dim sum chef in the Super 88 food court in allston has it.

                                            2. Is there a big difference between China Pearl/Hei La Moon and Emperor's Garden? That's where all my dim-sum-eating friends go (admittedly, not a very big number of people).

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: scratchie

                                                Hei La Moon used to be the best of the lot, maybe still is. China Pearl is kind of the grand dame of dim sum so to speak. Used to be the best place to go, still a solid experience. Empire Garden is huge and good if you definitely want dim sum but don't want a long wait (i.e., not as crowded, not a popular - and quite frankly not as good).

                                                -----
                                                Hei La Moon
                                                88 Beach St, Boston, MA 02111

                                                Empire Garden Restaurant
                                                690 Washington St, Boston, MA 02111

                                                China Pearl Restaurant
                                                288 Mishawum Rd, Woburn, MA 01801

                                                1. re: kobuta

                                                  Recently I've found empire garden to be better than it was, and HLM to be a bit worse than it had been, so now to my tastebuds they're all pretty much interchangeable (on a general scale, not necessarily if you want to focus on a particular item). We've been going to EG lately due to the smaller crowds.

                                                2. re: scratchie

                                                  My opinion is that Hei La Moon is pretty decent and the best. Some items like the turnip cakes disappoint. For non-experts, this is a great experience. China Pearl certainly is the grey lady of the lot, to me it's mediocre. Winsor can be hard to judge, I do like the fried to order thing, but once I order a rice roll and it was definitely nuked and it was appalling. But some items can beat Hei La Moon production line operation. Gitlo's was fair to ehhhh, why are you giving me Sriracha as hot sauce? I went very recently.

                                                  Now a days I sort of grab what I know to be good here and there, some dumplings from Unique Chinese, turnip cake from Formosa, specialties at Great Taste and so on. And that's about all you can do. As the Japanese Prime Minister said once "The taste is not unfamiliar." (That is a really funny story.)

                                                  -----
                                                  Hei La Moon
                                                  88 Beach St, Boston, MA 02111

                                                  Gitlo
                                                  164 Brighton Ave, Allston, MA 02134

                                                  China Pearl Restaurant
                                                  288 Mishawum Rd, Woburn, MA 01801

                                                  Great Taste
                                                  201 Main St, Milford, MA 01757

                                                3. LOL...this is pretty funny thread, and pretty ironic.

                                                  Since we just came back from our annual eating expedition in Toronto, I thought I'd post a picture of one of the interesting things we ate for dim sum. Yes, the scallops were not overcooked nor was the tobiko...and the shrimp were whole and fairly large.
                                                  We had a lot of stuff we don't find here....eel stuffed into a deep fried taro puff, ultrathin har gau wrappers, etc.

                                                  The closest we got was Gitlo when it was good. Now the only other good ones are Windsor and HLM (good but an MSG bomb). Neither are as good as the average places up there, but they are better than the crappy places up there :-)

                                                  If folks have really tried places up there think it's the same as Boston, I'd guess they only tried the mediocre places up there. NYC places are better than Boston places, but Toronto ones are muchhhh better than either...

                                                  p.s., ok, I lied...I posted two pictures...one is of the har gau w/ ultra thin skin. And it didn't break up as you picked it up too...

                                                  -----
                                                  Gitlo
                                                  164 Brighton Ave, Allston, MA 02134

                                                   
                                                   
                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: Spike

                                                    where did you go? Lai Wah Heen?

                                                    1. re: barleywino

                                                      Few different places like Asian Cuisine (yeah, stupid name for a restaurant). Lai Wah Heen is nice, but a bit expensive (though not much more than here). The goal was to find chowish places (bang for buck)
                                                      Weirdest thing I ate was raw horse at the Black Hoof...

                                                  2. For years Chau Chow City was my go to place. They always seemed to have a better seafood selection the HLM. I haven't been going as often lately, headaches seemed to follow my meals there. I do enjoy Winsor Dim Sum Cafe and find their selections to be fresh. But things might not measure up to Toronto standards, sort of like if Bostonians were going to Toronto and looking for fried clam shacks. That said you should still have an enjoyable experience.

                                                    -----
                                                    Chau Chow City
                                                    81 Essex St, Boston, MA 02111

                                                    Winsor Dim Sum Cafe
                                                    10 Tyler St, Boston, MA 02111

                                                    1. As a fellow Torontonian, and a regular dim sum eater since birth, I find that though it's not perfect, Empire Court offers the greatest variety, the most Toronto like experience I have encountered...in fact their Nai Vong Bau (spelling atrocious) is better by far than any I have had in the GTA (including RH, Scarborough and Mississauga!), and though they are not always spot on-their salt and pepper shrimp are absolutely delicious...my kids LOVE their Har Cheong Fun. In fact there are so many dishes we get there that we have not found to be of equal quality elsewhere...add to that no line, and quick service (when something has to be requested), this is our go to place outside of T.O-which we do return to regularly...

                                                      5 Replies
                                                      1. re: faithfulfoodgal

                                                        ...And where in the Boston area is Empire Court?

                                                        1. re: brandywiner

                                                          Maybe the poster means Empire Garden?? A few weeks ago I had dim sum at Bubor and it was the best I have had in Boston, no carts however.

                                                          -----
                                                          Empire Garden Restaurant
                                                          690 Washington St, Boston, MA 02111

                                                          1. re: bakerboyz

                                                            Actually, I did a quick Google, and I think the Empire Court mentioned here is in Markham, ON (Toronto suburbs). Not exactly helpful on a Boston board.

                                                            Bubor? What dishes did you particularly like?

                                                            1. re: brandywiner

                                                              I did a small sampling of dim sum items: har gau, shu mai, beef meatballs, stuffed eggplant and from my 1 limited visit I found the dim sum to be the best that I have had in Boston and I have been to just about everywhere, China Pearl, Hei La Moon, Winsor, Gitlos, Emporer's Garden, Chau Chau City.

                                                              -----
                                                              Hei La Moon
                                                              88 Beach St, Boston, MA 02111

                                                              China Pearl Restaurant
                                                              9 Tyler St, Boston, MA 02111

                                                              Gitlo
                                                              164 Brighton Ave, Allston, MA 02134

                                                              1. re: bakerboyz

                                                                Thanks for the recs. Sounds like it's worth checking out.

                                                      2. By the way, there's nothing in NYC that's even close to Lai Wah Heen good either, so in case you were thinking of driving 4 hours down to New York instead of the 9 hours back to TO, don't bother.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: nooyawka

                                                          Not close, but Jade Asian is only a notch or two below instead of 5 notches like the Boston restaurants ;-)