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Apr 6, 2012 02:26 PM

Dim Sum at Dragon Dynasty - Could be some of GTA's best!

This is my second effort in posting this review since my wife accidentally deleted my first draft!!! Sigh!!

Second week in a row, I spend part of the weekend trying out some of the better Dim Sum in the GTA. Last week was an early-bird gathering of chowfriends at Yang's whilst this week was a family affair at Dragon Dynasty.

For those of you who have not been, this restaurant is one of those rare breed that still retains the traditional 'cart service' augmented by 'special dishes' menu sheets. BTW, they have eliminated their phone reservation service for Dim Sum luncheon. So, its first come first serve basis! Arriving at 11.20 am, our wait time was 45 minutes. Reasonable, considering its an ultra-busy Good Friday weekend!

From the Cart Service, we ordered:
- Har Gow
- Steamed Chicken Feet and peanuts in house special sauce
- Braised beef innards and tripe with turnips
- Crispy seafood salad rolls
- Coconut and red beans pudding
- Egg custard tarts
- Molten egg yolk custard buns
- Fluffy 'Ma Lai' sponge cakes

From the Special menu, we ordered:
- Stirred fry rice roll 'Cheung Fun' with dried shrimp and scallions. Hoi sin and Sesame sauce accompaniment
- Fried Glutinous rice with eggs, dried shrimps and diced Chinese preserved meats and sausages.
- Stirred fry clams with black bean sauce.

First off, I am pleased to say that I have finally encountered Har Gow in Toronto that is worthy of praise! Taut and ultra-thin skin, the sweet and fresh tasting prawn filling was crunchy and juicy. IMHO, better than what Yang's, Casa's, Brilliant, Regal16..... have to offer!

Next on my praise list was the Fried glutinous rice. Super tasty and generous in the key ingredients, this huge portion at only $7.50 was excellent value for money!

Almost all of our ordered dishes were deliciously prepared especially the desserts. The hot, silky smooth egg custard tarts were better than most .

Though lacking in artful plate presentation, however, this deficiency was more than compensated by the taste! All in all a most enjoyable experience!

Lastly, this was also the first time I noticed someone bringing a bottle of red wine to a Dim Sum luncheon!! IMO, I doubt the pairing would work! Not when that patron ordered lobster noodle and shrimp dumplings!!

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  1. Looks great, Charles! Thanks for including pics!

    1. BRAVO, Charles!

      Like you, I've been jazzed by this place for ages, only to be mocked by those who insist that cart-service means poor food (it works when the place is this big and this busy) and those who judge food more by presentation than by quality & flavour.

      Personally, taste & service wins the day for me, not clever dumpling shapess or martini-glass presentation. In fact, I go to DD often enough that I think I'm the only non-asian that gets the preferential seating treatment and a chorus of Good-Mornings. (I also try to order all in chinese, which delights the cart-ladies to no end :-)) You may see me there on any given weekend - I'm the big-guy with the young attractive woman.

      To add to your list of dishes-to-order for the newcomers, they also make superior Siu Mai, ANYTHING with the rice-flour wrap like scallop & pea-shoots or shrimp & greens, Ham Sui Gok, Char Siu Sou flakey baked pastry with sweet bbq pork inside, Beef Cheung Fan rolls, Steamed Beef Balls (ask for hot mustard for dipping!), Min Fa Guy (steamed chunks of chicken with ginger), the clay-pot baked rice (eating the crunchy rice that sticks to the bottom is a treat!) and so many others! And my lady LOVES the Mango pudding :-)

      I'm a Dragon Dynasty fan, love the food, love the service, love the delightful cart ladies!

      32 Replies
      1. re: TorontoTips

        Love the cart ladies too! Super friendly! Gave me super size portion of the beef innards and an advise to eat the first few pieces quickly so that the supervisor will not complain about her generosity!!
        I too heard the 'Ham Sui Gok' was one of the best in town. Unfortunately, they wasn't around whilst we were there??!! Sigh!!
        BTW, saw plenty of young attractive women but no big-guy!! Ha!!

        1. re: Charles Yu

          Another mouthwatering dim sum review - thanks Charles! I have a question about the ham sui gok - was it not around when you were there because it was already sold out by noon? Or not part of the regular dim sum rotation? It's one of our favourites - I can't imagine a dim sum meal without it.

        2. re: TorontoTips

          Dragon Dynasty has been one of the better dim sum options in Scarborough and the GTA for decades. Lots of variety and consistent above average quality, although the service can be quite spotty. Probably the only business that keeps that mini-mall at Brimley and Huntingwood alive although the bakery also has its fans. I've never associated carts with quality or the lack of...not in Toronto anyways....can't speak for other cities or countries. I think most CH'ers are aware that DD belongs to the same ownership group that runs that bakery as well as Big Mouth Kee in Richmond Hill and Grand Chinese near the airport.

          1. re: T Long

            Sure there is often a line-up to contend with during prime weekend lunch-hours, but the great service is one of the reasons I first made DD my Dim-Sum home.

            The Black Suits are the Managers, and look after complimentary tea, special orders, payment, etc. The white shirts are the waiters who can help with everything, The gold tops are the busboys who are fanatical about clearing empty steamers and dirty plates, and the cart ladies, of course who are fantastic!

            Honestly, I am always impressed with the service there, better than many "full service" places I've dined at in Markham, by far.

            1. re: TorontoTips

              My recollection from a number of visits is having to chase down someone to refill the tea...not a hallmark of attentive service. Perhaps it varies from person to person, time to time, but that's my lasting impression. We all have our comfort zones. I still view DD as a good place to have dim sum...just not my go-to.

              1. re: T Long

                i'll have to agree with T Long on the service...
                and each time i've gone .. i've suffered the perils of cart service due to table location and its a pretty big venue so the 'popular' items never get to me and i tend to see the same 4 carts with the same items going around .. but again this can be due to table location. was good though.. i particularly liked the 'crisp' rice at the bottom of the clay pot rice dishes.. its a very nice rustic traditional flair

                1. re: plug

                  You've mentioned the reason why I prefer ordering from a dim sum menu over cart service. However cart service can be good for a change of pace and even "fun" sometimes...especially when with a group that's loosey-goosey about what to order.

                  1. re: T Long

                    The only 'down side' I find about cart service is that one can 'wait forever' for desired items to come out of the kitchen and they might never show up!
                    Ordering by menu usually ensures timely delivery and availability!
                    eg., We ate there for 2 hours and waited all that time for the Ham Sui Gok. But they never showed! In places like Yang's I can always place an order through the order sheet!

                    1. re: Charles Yu

                      Exactly...and what's can be even more frustrating is seeing some regulars jumping the "queue" and grabbing popular items before the cart even gets to their table. (I'm assuming they are regulars because they seem to know the lay of the land.)

                      1. re: T Long

                        Always prefer ordering from sheet since we think it,s steamed to order and piping hot. That matters more to us thananything else. By the time the cart rolls around, it may have been roaming the big dining room for 15 minutes plus.

                        1. re: caitlink

                          Thanks Charles, actually have never been here before. However I have been to the food court...the vietnamese stall actually has very good bun bo hue!

                        2. re: T Long

                          They might be regulars, but they're also rude.

                  2. re: T Long

                    I'm sure you must be remembering another spot - personally, I've never seen ANY place with more bussers, servers, and managers on one restaurant floor and my guests always comment on how empty steamers are snatched-up before they even hit the table, and how the constant swarm of staff so effortlessly multi-tasks, picking up your teapot while dropping-off another's change, etc.

                    Tea - Just remove the teapot lid, and it's scooped-up literally within seconds by the next person in the endless parade of staffers going back-and forth, plus there's often one person roaming with a big steel kettle topping up teapots.

                    Regarding the cart service, some folks just don't like it, fair enough, but I like the flow of a cart-service meal. If you're there at primetime, nothing on any of the carts lasts more than a few minutes before it's all snapped-up, and if it's slower, and you're even marginally attentive, you can select an item the first time it passes steaming-hot from the kitchen, when the cart is full. Never had the slightest issue with freshness, in fact the hardest part is waiting for the dumplings to cool enough to eat... yes I admit, I've had many a mouth-burn impatiently scarfing down a siu-mai :-).

                    We always "go with the flow" anticipating and sampling whatever flows-by from the carts for the first part of the meal, often trying something new, or that might not have caught our attention until we saw it, THEN we order off the sheets to "backfill" the items that we really want but haven't come by yet - truly, best of both worlds. :-)

              2. re: TorontoTips

                I'm going to DD this weekend. I'll report back to let the Board know whether I receive preferential seating treatment and a chorus of Good Mornings. :-)

                1. re: prima

                  Guess you will be joining the 'regulars' gang at the back of the house, close to the washroom, waiting to jump the queue?! Ha!!

                  1. re: Charles Yu

                    Somehow, sitting close to the washroom doesn't sound that appealing... :)

                    1. re: TorontoJo

                      No table there. Just a place where regulars without a table congregate

                    2. re: Charles Yu

                      Yep, that's where I'll be standing! :-)

                    3. re: prima

                      Looking forward to your report prima!

                      1. re: T Long

                        Hi T Long,
                        We enjoyed our dim sum. We ordered 20+ dishes. Pig's blood, mixed beef parts including lung, chicken feet, ham sui gok, taro puff, dan tart, har gow, siu mai, char siu cheung fun, fried sticky rice, tapioca/egg custard/lotus bean paste (I think- please correct me if I'm wrong about the type of paste) pudding, sausage bao, char siu bao, some sort of aromatic tripe (sweetie can post the name for this, is she likes ;-) ), beef ribs, beef balls, curried cuttlefish, stir-fried rice flour roll/cheung fun, bbq pork puff, lo bak go, shrimp paste stuffed tofu, shrimp paste stuffed eggplant, and some tie guan yin.

                        The har gow were amongst the best I've found (good texture to both the wrapper and the shrimp inside), and the char siu bao was a tasty version, with plenty of bbq pork. I really liked the fried sticky rice (mentioned by Charles in the original post), the stir-fried rice roll (also mentioned already by Charles in the original post) and tapioca/egg custard/lotus bean paste pudding.

                        Our feast for 7 came to $106, and there were quite a few leftovers. I'd go back if I wanted dim sum with carts, but overall, I found I liked the dim sum at Yang's better. Of course, that's kind of like comparing apples to oranges, since Yang's is an upscale restaurant compared to Dragon Dynasty, which is more of a moderate restaurant. Yang's usually runs around $20-$25/ person in my experience, with my typical order, and this meal with more dishes cost only $17/person, so I can see this is a good choice if you go for dim sum frequently. I only go for dim sum every couple months, so I guess I'd rather splurge at Yang's! I also like having my own personal pair of "serving chopsticks" at Yang's, in addition to my "eating chopsticks". At Dragon Dynasty, our table shared 2 pairs of "serving chopsticks". I guess I've gotten spoiled!

                        For what it's worth, I was not greeted with a chorus of good mornings. We lucked out with a great, and possibly even a preferential table on the main path, even though most of us were newbies. I didn't end up having to jump any queues, since we arrived at 10:26 am before any queues started! Ha! ;-)

                        Service was friendly, and I didn't notice any service issues. I didn't notice any regulars grabbing dishes off carts before the carts got to the regulars' table, but my back was turned to most of the dining room, so it might have been happening behind my back. There was a near collision of carts near our table, but no one was hurt, and none of the dim sum was damaged. ;-)

                        By the way, if you want to try the fried sticky rice, they don't start serving it until 11 am on Saturdays.

                        1. re: prima

                          I was also there today, just for 2 people.

                          Our bill ran to $64 with tip, with quite a bit leftover to take home. The food would probably have been adequate for about 2.6 people. I always wonder how people get out with such low restaurant bills on chowhound. I guess I am a pig as I always over-order anywhere I go. I think its an asian thing.

                          Enjoyed it, but didn't really think it was the best thing ever.

                          -Steamed rice rolls were very good. Silky and smooth, I was impressed with it.

                          -I was just kind of "meh" on the siu mai. First one they gave us was all sloppy and we swapped it for a different basket (the girlfriend is pretty picky with that stuff). I just didn't really feel it was much different from any other siu mai. Maybe mine had been sitting int he cart for a while? or maybe I just don't appreciate siu mai much, as I've never really had anything that blew my mind.

                          -The molten egg yolk thing is one of my favourite things ever, though the one I had today was one of the least impressive versions I've had, but I guess I have only had it like 3 or 4 times. I was disappointed in that, but still happy to see it on the menu as its fairly rare in my experience.

                          -Order xiao long bao as well, and it was not good. It was still tasty, but the wrap was very thick and chewy. No finely sliced ginger accompaniment.

                          - Another of my favourite things to order is the deep fried "dumpling" with minced pork inside. I would say it was very poor, however it was was cold so again maybe it was sitting out for a while for some reason (we were there at 11)?

                          - Pineapple buns were good.

                          -had a bunch of other stuff that I can't remember

                          I didn't read the OP carefully otehrwise I would have tried the fried rice cheung fun which sound cool.

                          1. re: szw

                            I didn't try the siu mai- not my favourite, so I usually avoid eating it to leave room for other dishes. The siu mai in the steamer basket on our table didn't look appetizing to me. Not sure if our cheung fun/steamed rice rolls got pushed around the room 2 times, or whether they were a batch that got steamed too long- they were kind of mushy/sticky, and not as good as most cheung fun I've ordered around town. Guess that dish can be variable throughout the day, depending on the circumstances. Glad your version was very good.

                            1. re: prima

                              Wow, we both had the same dish probably half an hour apart with very different results. This is why carts are dead/dying I guess!

                              1. re: prima

                                I did try our siu mai, they were average, bigger and tougher than I generally like them. Highlights for me were the pan-fried cheung fun and fried sticky rice. Char siu bao was good. The dan tart with the cookie crust was horrible. Overly sweet filling and tough dry crust. Service was good.

                              2. re: szw

                                szw, have you been to Northern Dumpling Kitchen for xiao long bao? I haven't had XLB in a ton of restaurants, but I do think that theirs is really excellent. The filling may be a bit low on ginger for some people's taste, but it's just the way I like it, and the amount of soup is impressive.

                              3. re: prima

                                I *loved* the fried sticky rice -- it's one of my favourite dishes at Grand, so it was nice to see that it was just as good at Dragon Dynasty. I was a piggy and claimed the leftovers for myself.

                                Other favourites for me were the pan fried rice roll (great texture - I really like this), the har gow (very tasty filling) the deep fried minced shrimp dumplings (nicely fried, good wrap, "juicy" filling) and the stuffed tofu.

                                It was a tasty, leisurely meal. I think we were there for over 2 hours. The price point can't be beat. However, like prima, I preferred Yang's for everything. The pastries at Yang's were significantly better, the char siu was tastier and everything was hotter.

                                We were definitely lucky to be seated at a good table. The carts didn't feel picked over by the time they got to us. But the experience does remind me why I prefer menu ordering over cart ordering. So while I enjoyed my meal and thought it was great value, I still think I would go back to Yang's before Dragon Dynasty.

                                But I must say that the best part of the day was continuing the food crawl with a delicious stop at Northern Dumpling Kitchen for 4 types of yummy dumplings, stir fried pea shoots, green onion pancakes, and stir fried rice cake w/preserved veggies and pork (yes, that's right, we had an entire second meal on the heels of Dragon Dynasty). Then on to Ruelo for some tasty macarons -- still my favourite in the city, though there is inconsistency in texture from batch to batch. And finally, a stop at Lucullus to pick up a bunch of wonderful buns and egg tarts. Everything was so fresh and smelled so good, that I couldn't help but snarf down a bbq pork bun, despite the fact that I was stuffed to the gills.

                                1. re: TorontoJo

                                  I agree the sticky rice at Dragon Dynasty was very good. The best version I have had at a dim sum place.

                                2. re: prima

                                  overall it was fine, but i wouldn't make an effort to return.

                                  chicken feet were a touch too sweet, a little too white peppery and not enough any other seasoning which made them out of balance and a bit bland. the fried rice roll, while tender is better had at home where i can get a really great crust on it. the cheung fun was sad, very sad. the stir fried sticky rice was intensely salty, but i know that was due in part to grabbing a slice of the lap cheung. i'm not sure why they did the beef balls with peas, it wasn't a better combination than tofu sheets.

                                  the haw gow was very well constructed, i would personally enjoy it with more garlic and spices. i liked the tapioca, custard and yam something paste dessert... tapioca was cooked well and it had a mild level of sweetness - great! the tripe in ginger was pretty good, well prepared and good gingery salty flavour... a lot of places seem to be giving this dish less care these days.

                                  overall, i think we got a good steady flow of food.

                                  1. re: prima

                                    Hi Prima: Thanks to you and the others that self-identified as your dining companions for a rather thorough and stellar description of your common lunch. Perhaps the remaining 2 will post to give it 100% coverage! Glad you guys had no service issues which has been my main complaint about the Dragon Dynasty. Perhaps they beef up the number of staff during the week-ends compared to my normal week-day visits. I think the funny and annoying spectacle of patrons grabbing stuff from the carts before it reaches their tables only happens with a perfect storm of insufficient supply of the good stuff and particularly obnoxious patrons....they have no shame! I agree with your assessments that Yang's is better but with the qualification that one pays for the difference. I keep places like Yang's and LWH in mind for splurges too, but in my case the splurging has been very in many years. Toronto has a very good supply of less high end, but more than adequate (for me) places to enjoy my dim sum. Btw, are you referring to Iron Buddha Tea by "tie guan yin". Cheers!

                                    1. re: T Long

                                      Yes, I'm referring to Iron Buddha (aka Iron Goddess aka Goddess of Mercy). When I tried ordering Iron Buddha at Dynasty on Yorkville last summer, the host didn't know what I was talking about. My Anglophone pronounciation of tie guan yin gets me the right tea faster than Iron Buddha!

                                    2. re: prima

                                      I do agree that Yang's is better over all, but you do pay for it!

                                      - Loved the fried sticky rice. That was my favourite dish of dim sum. Worth returning for.
                                      - The siu mai tasted okay, but it looked terrible - not at all presentable. Not worth ordering.
                                      - Har gow was decent
                                      - Pastry on various items was very meh
                                      - Pan fried rice roll was also a favourite.
                                      - Dan tat had cookie crust - which means I didn't eat it (I also knew that we were going to Lucullus, sooo...).

                                      Quite a delicious afternoon! No photos - for once! XD

                                      1. re: prima

                                        Had an AWESOME time on Saturday at Dragon Dynasty along with the Northern Dumplings/Ruelo/Lucullus crawl. It was my first time having Dim Sum since having moved to TO (and since i was a kid, I think!). Overall, was really impressed though it sounds like Yang's wins out in the head to head battle (will have to try it out soon).

                                        My favorites were the sticky fried rice (been craving Chinese sausage!), and the char sui bao was exactly what I wanted (again, been on a steamed char sui bao bun since I moved here). I can't attest to the fish/seafood dishes we ordered as I don't eat seafood but everything looked good. cheung fun was also really nice and I just picked the shrimp pieces out of it. Heehee.

                                        Service seemed good; carts rolled around fairly quickly and we had quite the spread.

                                        And at $17/person, I thought it was really cheap. A good re-introduction to dim sum and a lot of fun - solid but with fantastic company! But now dying to try Yang's and LWH.

                                3. I love Dragon Dynasty. Excellent post and thanks for the pics!

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: balthazar

                                    Thanks for the tip on Dragon Dynasty. Had dim sum lunch there last week on our way to the airport. Everything was good and we got some buns to go at Aromaz to take on the plane. Have been hoping for a dim sum place in the east end near the 401 ever since the demise of Ruby. We don't get back to Toronto often so haven't the chance to explore and experiment. Again, appreciate the info and happy to know that we have a go-to place.

                                  2. Wow,
                                    I am going to have to go back to Yang's and give it another try! My personal experience was 100% the opposite of that mentioned above.

                                    Yang's was indeed much more expensive, but I was really undewhelmed and enjoyed almost every dish better at Dragon Dynasty, especially the siu mai and har gow, which I haven't personally found any better in T.O. I'm also addicted to their min fa guy ginger chicken, baked rice pots, ham sui gok, and the rice-noodle rolls, of course.

                                    I will definitely have to re-try Yang's and report back :-)

                                    1. Plan to go on holiday Monday at 11 am, but my dad hates waiting for tables. What's a second choice in the area if it is a long wait?

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: Teep

                                        Regal is just around the corner from the Dragon Dynasty. I've not been in a while, but my wife's friends go all the time... It's more of a value option than Dynasty would be. Very Fair Seafood is near Kennedy and Finch, but I don't have first hand experience. Not certain they will be any easier to get into tomorrow though.

                                        1. re: T Long

                                          T Long...sorry I I missed this in your other posts, but what's your choice for Dim Sum in Scarborough?

                                          1. re: grandgourmand

                                            Hi grandgourmand: My current personal choice in Scarborough is Sam Woo Seafood. For me it has the best combination of consistent food quality, pricing, service and venue comfort. However, it is not perfect and my biggest complaints about SWS is that their selection is not that extensive and their washrooms could be better maintained. I would consider the Dragon Dynasty and Casa Imperial to be pricier and higher quality dim sum restaurants and the two "best" in Scarborough. As mentioned elsewhere, recently I've been going regularly to the Landmark (at Vic Park and the old Elegantview place) with a dim sum group who like the day-long low, low prices (no early-bird pricing here). For what it's worth, the food quality last week was pretty good (like the company) and we were stuffed. (and my share of the bill was $ & tips included). Like someone at the table said: "try eating at McDonald's for that amount". Apologies for the elongated reply to your simple question, but a dim sum experience for me is not always just about the food.

                                            1. re: T Long

                                              No apologies necessary. I appreciate the thorough response.

                                              I'll give Sam Woo a try one of these days. Thanks.