Dim Sum at Empire Court - An overdue re-visit!
Located inside the Hilton Suite in Markham, Empire court used to be one of my favourite dim sum destination. Provided one knows what to order, food can be much better than most ' Hwy 7 strip' establishments. Furthermore, with its elegant and cozy decor and setting, this is also one of the quietest and most comfortable dim sum place in the area.
Upon hearing from a foodie friend that it has recently changed management, but still retaining the name and quality of food, I decided to hold a micro dim sum chowmeet with fellow 'dim sum master' skylineR33.
First item on our wish list was the traditional Har Gow, the yard stick with which most dim sum purist use to measure the quality of the dim sum. With the menu containing a pot pourri of traditional and 'nouveau' and 'fusion' choices, we also ordered the following ' less-common' dishes.
- Abalone Puff Pastry
- Malaysian style spicy penny hot sauce 'lo mien' ( noodles ).
- Braised 'Chui-Hau' beef brisket with rice-roll ( cheung -fun ) in clay-pot
- Fried minced seafood Tofu lollipop.
- Thai minced pork pot stickers
- Lychee and oesthemus(?) jello dessert
- Freshly grind cashew and walnut cream soup
First thing we observed was the 'XO sauce' condiments and the comparatively gorgeous plate presentation of most dishes. A nice touch!
Foodwise, we both found the Har Gow to be more than decent. Though, the wrapper lacked the desirable chewy texture of there Hong Kong brethren, the nicely timed morsel managed to stay intact when picked up by chopsticks. The prawn filling was nicely seasoned, fresh tasting and crunchy. Not bad!.
Athough the abalone puff pastry tends to have an overly chewy base, this, to me, was my favourite dish. The diced abalone cream sauce filling was very tasty. Interesting how the chef tried to top this 'vol-au-vant' with a 'micro size' whole abalone to justify the $9 price tag!
The Lo-Mien noodles and the creamy, croquette likeTofu Lollipop was interesting but nothing overly special.
In our opinion, the definite failure was the hot pot brisket with Cheung Fun. Very mediocre tasting and rough with an edge, this looked like a haphazard effort by the chef of using products from T&T and tossing them together. The result was some tough chunks of beef swimming in starchy gravy piled on top of some burnt rice pasta. Not very appealing!
The Thai pot stickers were another near disaster. Sitting on top of a pool of spicy, tangy sweet sauce, the latter rendered the supposedly crispy bottom a soft mushy one. The minced pork and veggie filling tasted bland and lacking the essential ' rice wine' seasoning.
Thankfully, the meal ended on a relatively high note with both our dessert tasting pretty refreshing and delicious.
All in all the meal was passable. Since the restaurant is located inside a relatively posh hotel, the meal was understandably on the expensive side.
Lastly, with more participants to try out more dishes the next time. I'm sure there are enough 'hit' dishes in the menu to make this a decent dim sum go to place. Meanwhile, both skylineR33 and myself agree, Casa Victoria across the road is still ' the place ' for dim sum in this part of the world!
Thanks, dim sum master maybe a more suitable title for you, Charles :)
The Har Gow is good, it is cheaper and more elegant than the one at Casa Victoria. But other than that and the dessert, other items do not really justified for the high price they charge IMO. Especially the Thai style dumpling, probably one of the worst example of Chinese fusion cuisine, with the use of Thai sauce everyone can get from the T&T super market. The environment is such a contrast to the close-by Casa Victoria. If one prefers a cozy quiet environment with no line up, and do not mind to pay a bit more for it, Empire Court is not too bad a choice for dim sum.
I haven't been since they changed ownership, but their previous menu had a strong preference for "fried" items. I order more steamed items.