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dim sum in downtown toronto?

we hail from san francisco originally then moved to boston where the dim sum offerings are slim. we're hoping to find excellent dim sum in toronto with the influx of hong kong natives. the difficulty is that we're only in town for 2 days and will be staying in downtown hitting the usual touristy places (kensington market, CN tower, eaton centre) so don't want to spend too much time driving far and getting lost.

the question then, is there VERY GOOD TO DIE FOR cantonese dim sum in the small area? there are some older postings which didn't produce any clear winners.... plus a restaurant's food can dramatically change in a couple of years.

decor is nice to have but we really rather have good food. noisy, messy, "typical" bad service doesn't bother us if the food is good

thanks in advance for any suggestions!

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  1. The best dim sum downtown is Lai Wah Heen. It's upscale and pricier relative to the noisy, cheap and cheerful dim sum joints, but the quality and variety are excellent.

    For a "regular" Chinatown dim sum spot, Rol San is probably your best bet.

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

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

    2 Replies
    1. re: TorontoJo

      Oh, and I should point out that both are within walking distance of the places you mention. Lai Wah Heen is close to the Eaton Centre. Rol San is close to Kensington Market.

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

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

      1. re: TorontoJo

        Back in Toronto after a few months absence and tried the new location for Dynasty, which used to be an old standby when hungover. Deeply disappointing at the new locations. The sui mai were ok, the char siu plate was decidedly stingy, the rest of the outing was a bit dull, and the dumplings with dried prawn/peanuts etc were bloody awful. I notice in the thread that Lai Wah Heen is popular but I've tried it twice and found it a bit dull - dumpling menus miss the fun and adventure of yum cha. - tick the box food...er no. Give me trolleys of steaming or frying bits and pieces. While I haven't been there in a while, the Pearl down near the lake was pretty good when last visited.

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

      2. as TJo says, definitely Lai Wah Heen, dim sum just doesnt get much better than that in those parts, I must also register my surprise at your observation that the board does not produce a clear winner in this category, Lai Wah Heen is I believe a point of consensus here as far as downtown dim sum goes

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

        1. Very good?! Yes! eg Lai Wah Heen

          To Die For?! NO!!!!! Not in Toronto!

          In Hong Kong, may be?! ( see Dim Sum menu of Michelin 1* Yan Toh Heen and their signature ' Minced preserved wind dried assorted meat and shredded turnips puff' or their ' minced pea shot with fresh crab meat and black truffles dumpling' Then there's the 'Prawn patty topped with suckling piglet skin' at the Michelin 3* Sun Tung Lok or the super fluffy and oozing withsauce filling - 'Pineapple b-b-q pork buns' of the 1* Tim Ho Won ). IMHO, all these are 'to-die-for' or close to it!

          Elsewhere, the 'refinement' and 'sophistication' are just not there!

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

           
           
           
           
           
          1 Reply
          1. re: Charles Yu

            This would be a very useful post if they were going to Hong Kong. But they're not.

          2. Anyone know where I can find a VERY GOOD seafood soup dumpling `dim sum` (灌湯餃) in Toronto area like the one I had in the picture ? I had tried all the high end dim sum in Toronto area and cannot find one that is even close to average.

             
            3 Replies
            1. re: skylineR33

              Skyline: If you've not found it, it does not exist in Toronto.

              1. re: T Long

                T Long, I have found pretty good ones at Casa Imperial, Grand before. Even LWH has it before but it is more on the mild side, not bad, but they took it out their menu long time ago. It looks like they no longer can make good one in these past few years, disapppointed every time I order this dim sum dish, especially it is usually the most expensive item on the dim sum list. Really want to see a good version of this dish again in Toronto.

              2. re: skylineR33

                Even in Hong Kong, its a 'hit and miss' with this dish! Either the filling is not up to standard or the soup is poor! May be you need to head back to HK and try the new 'Tin Lung Heen' in the Ritz Carlton. Heard great thing about this new place!

              3. Lai Wah Heen is generally considered the best (and most expensive) dim sum restaurant in downtown Toronto. Charles is right that LWH’s dim sum is very good, though not to die for compared to Hong Kong’s best dim sum. Furthermore, Lai Wah Heen’s quality has dropped a bit in recent years. Regardless, LWH’s dim sum would be better than what’s available in San Francisco (e.g., Koi Palace, Yank Sing and Great Eastern).

                Rol San in Chinatown is good (to a lesser extent in that area, also Yiu Wah, Kowloon Seafood and Dim Sum, Golden Country restaurants). And maybe Dynasty Chinese Cuisine at Yorkville and Pearl Harbourfront at Queen’s Quay.

                Though not downtown, another dim sum restaurant worth eating at is close to Pearson Airport (i.e., if you’re not weighed down by luggage): Grand Chinese Cuisine restaurant at Double Tree Hilton hotel, Dixon Rd.

                Why Dim Sum is Better in Toronto Than in New York
                http://tinyurl.com/4ypjvv3

                3 Replies
                1. re: Tony8952

                  Yiu Wah on Dundas closed several years ago.

                  1. re: Tony8952

                    Yiu Wah closed February 2010...has it been reopened?? Also I have not heard the name Golden Country in years.... Kowloon Seafood's dim sum is a big drop in quality from Rol San's. For that quality, you might as well go to the New Treasure and its dim sum cart service in the basement at Elizabeth and Dundas....just steps from the famous LWH. Another contender for higher end dim sum (better decor, higher pricing) on a level with Dynasty and Pearl Harbourfront is the Crown Princess on Bay, a couple blocks south of Bloor. I'm one of those that doesn't think LWH is worth the extra dough....but it may still be the best in Toronto. (I just don't know for sure because I have not been there in years unlike others here)

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

                    New Treasure Restaurant
                    150 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON M5G1C6, CA

                    Crown Princess
                    1033 Bay Street, Toronto, ON M5S 3A5, CA

                    1. re: Tony8952

                      Thanks for the comparison. Sounds like Lai Wah Heen should be one of my stops when I visit Toronto next week! I am from SF originally too (now living in NYC suburb) and I thought Koi Palace and Yank Sing are much better than the dim sums in NYC. But if Lai Wah Heen is even better, I must give it a try!

                    2. Thanks for the suggestions!

                      A note on my comment that the previous posts didn't have a clear winner. Many posters did say LWH was good but others also said it wasn't all that special and wasn't worth the extra $$$. But then I read the entire board in one sitting so my brain had turned to mush

                      While I guess we won't die for dim sum, we'll nevertheless be happy to find dim sum better than SF :)

                      12 Replies
                      1. re: samcole

                        It's an expectation thing. For some, it doesn't compare to the best that Hong Kong has to offer. For others, it's been so hyped up that there are bound to be disappointments. Also, it's pricey and many people aren't mentally prepared to drop $40 or $50 on dim sum. On the other hand, LWH is among the best that North America has to offer. So go, enjoy, and let us know what you think. Have a great trip to our fair city!

                        1. re: samcole

                          The dim sum at LWH is definitely some of the best in Toronto, but it's in a hotel. No carts, little atmosphere. Nice but bland. Sorta like going for a pizza slice at the Four Seasons. But if the quality of the food is what you're after, no contest AND it's right in the middle of where you'll be.

                          There's also New Treasure at Dundas & Elizabeth in the basement. Looks like a dump from the street, but quite nice inside. Cart service, cheap and very busy. Best in Toronto? Not by a long shot, but its close to the Eaton Centre.

                          I'd also suggest Crown Princess (fancier dim sum/OTT decor) or Pearl Harbourfront on the lake. Both more conventional menu-wise but certainly unique spaces.

                          -----
                          New Treasure Restaurant
                          150 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON M5G1C6, CA

                          Crown Princess
                          1033 Bay Street, Toronto, ON M5S 3A5, CA

                          1. re: Herb

                            Having dim sum in a hotel is just a different experience than say having dim sum with cart. Different atmosphere, it does not necessarily mean bland, a lots of people prefer dining in a hotel setting atmosphere too. The food at LWH is definitely not bland (as we are talking about standard in Toronto) with rooms for improvement. But at least it has a distinct dim sum menu whereas most if not all others restaurant's dim sum menu are all bland which they look very alike. If you give me a menu of other high end dim sum restaurants such as Casa Imperial, Casa Victoria, Crown Princess, they look very similar and there is no characteristic whatsoever, quality of course is not high too.

                            1. re: skylineR33

                              Huh? I was discussing LWH's decor.

                              1. re: Herb

                                Me too, don't find it bland as a dim sum restaurant in a hotel. Whereas Crown Princess is definitely not unique. I am talking about both decor and food in this case too.

                          2. re: samcole

                            I see what you mean now as even this thread is seeing its share of detractors, so maybe I should retract my registered surprise and modify the position: there is indeed a consensus that LWH is the best dim sum downtown in quality, but some may think the price/quality ratio is off (I seriously disagree, but there you have it). so, if you dont mind paying $40-50 a head for high quality dim sum, definitely go to LWH. if you think not-dirt-cheap dim sum is a paradoxical term, then go to Rol San, even further, if you think the right atmosphere for dim sum is a dingy basement with *ugh* carts rolling around, then I have no suggestions for you, but there is stuff on this thread and the board more generally that will help you.

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

                            1. re: shekamoo

                              We'll have to save a trip to LWH when we can park the kids somewhere. Two teens that are constantly hungry will consume our entire budget in one sitting at LWH prices!! Rol San sounds perfect. Thanks for the suggestion

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

                              1. re: samcole

                                San Franciscan transplant, here - Rol San is way better than anything I've had out on Clement St., but I've never tried a place with carts in SF (do we even have them out there?). Rol San is also better than anything I've had in Oakland Chinatown.

                                All this to say... Rol San = highly recommended, at least from this eater.

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

                                1. re: Kitchen Imp

                                  Can anyone tell me if Rol San has dim sum on week days? and if so what time they start serving it?
                                  Thanks

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

                                  1. re: sweetie

                                    Yep, Rol San serves dim sum on weekdays. Not sure exactly when they open, but I've been as early as 11 am. I'd guess they open around 10:30 am during the week. Rol San's number is (416) 977-1128 if you want to check.

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

                                    1. re: sweetie

                                      But, their sign outside says it's on Sunday to Thursday only.

                                      Roi San hits the sweet spot for me in terms of quality versus cost.

                            2. Read in the paper that a new restaurant called Dim Sum King has opened on 421 Dundas W. 3rd floor, where "International" used to be. Hope someone will try it and report back.

                              7 Replies
                              1. re: Teep

                                Thanks for the info.....note also that 421 Dundas W., 3rd Floor was occupied by Yiu Wah until February 2010.

                                1. re: T Long

                                  OK went to try Dim Sum King. Very mediocre. It's old school - dim sum carts, large size dumplings, servers coming around with kettles to fill your teapots. But most of the items fall short of the mark. Har gow has good skin and crunchy shrimp but flavourless. Strangely the shrimp in the cheung fun (rice rolls) were more sweet. Chicken feet were not tender enough. Shrimp puffs with chives - too little chives for any flavour. The best item was the taro dumpling with whole shrimp - the filling was generous and you could taste the shiitake mushrooms. The shrimp was dry though. Maybe give them another try later to see if they found their feet?

                                  There's another one that opened across the street called Sen Ming Garden, upstairs from Kim Moon. (Sen Ming used to be further west on Dundas and was not a dim sum place.)

                                  Both places serve all day dim sum.

                                  -----
                                  Sen Ming Garden Restaurant
                                  473 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON M5T1G8, CA

                                  1. re: Teep

                                    Wow it has been a year since we were at Dim Sum King last. Today (Good Friday) it was packed. What we had was good - taro puff was tasty and the pork pieces were not hard little nuggets like some places, congee had good texture and taste, cheung fun with pea shoots was chock-full of tender greens etc. Unfortunately there were next to no steamed dumpings passing by us until we were full, therefore didn't get to sample their har gow etc.

                                    Went to Forest View last month as well, glad to see they are still OK and not too busy.

                                    1. re: Teep

                                      Thanks Teep. What's your ranking of the dim sum places in that area (Spadina/Dundas). I've only been going to Rol San in that part of town as I find it decent enough and have not ventured beyond in the last 5 years or so. I'm wondering how it currently rates.

                                      1. re: T Long

                                        Rol San is still top of the class. Sky Dragon and Noble has fallen off our list. And as I mentioned Dim Sum King and Garden View are OK. Ivan's Kitchen noted below was also good during the one visit we had.

                                        1. re: Teep

                                          Thanks Teep. If I ever need an alternative to Rol San, I'll know where to go.

                                2. re: Teep

                                  I'm pretty sure Dim Sum King is a reincarnation of Bright Pearl . they have the same assembly area at the entrance . Bright Pearl used to be very good but started slipping a year before they closed . I'm sure i read somewhere they closed due to rent/landlord issues rather than any food problem .
                                  Food was decent but so far we haven't made a second visit

                                3. Rol San is more budget friendly and they have all the old school dim sum. No MSG. Less crazy during the week. LWH is for special occasion.

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

                                  1. Went to Crown Princess today. Was pretty good for Toronto Dim Sum. Ribs were amazing as were the scallop dumplings - sui mai has a dollop of foie gras on top - yum! All tasted very fresh and not premade at all.

                                    Beware the Liberace-inspired decor.

                                    -----
                                    Crown Princess
                                    1033 Bay Street, Toronto, ON M5S 3A5, CA

                                    1. Went to Ivan's Kitchen at 416 Spadina today (where old New Ho King used to be). The quality is pretty good, most of the dim sum items do not seem mass produced. The har gow has flavourful and toothsome filling, but the skin is a tad thick and sticky, though still very tender. All the deep fried items are good. The bad notes include tasteless beefballs and cheung fun that is mostly filling and only a thin skin of the rice pastry which tasted a bit off - maybe they weren't using fresh pasty? (can you get frozen ones?)

                                      There is almost a 5 minute wait between every item (and we were the only table at noon on Saturday having dim sum), but then everything is piping hot. And 9 items came to $27 incl tax! If you want a place that's not busy, cheap and pretty good, give it a try. (Just to be clear this is order by menu, not carts.)

                                      Note: the Chinese name of this place is "Second Son's Private Kitchen". It used to have the unintentionally amusing English name of "Number Two Restaurant" which still appears on their printed menu (and perhaps credit card billing name?) Maybe they were sick of being asked "so which is the #1 restaurant"?

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Teep

                                        I can think of another reason why you don't want to call your eating establishment "Number Two."