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Apr 9, 2013 07:08 AM

Need Dim Sum Guidance


I am looking for the best current experience for Dim Sum for a special occassion, party of 10. We can travel anywhere in GTA. Presume budget is not an issue, such that Lai Wah Heen is in play.

We have one vegetarian, whose favourite dim sum to-date has been Yang's. I also recall that Yang's has private rooms, which might be a nice option, as we are planning on Saturday morning at 11'ish, and so we will need a place that would take a reservation.

What would people suggest? I have to admit that my dim sum experience in the surrounding GTA is limited (Yangs and Casa Victoria) but have done most of the downtown staples (LWH, Pearl, Dynasty, Rol San) with the exception of Crown Princess which is the most convenient, though reviews seem rather mixed. Of the downtown places, I liked Pearl on lakeshore the best.

I have studied most posts on the board and know this topic gets discussed a lot and the same places are typically mentioned - just want to know who has the A game right now, and what places would take reservations at a busy time and offer some veg options and accomodate my group of westerners.


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  1. Since my current favorite, Spring Villa is closed for major renovation, I would suggest 'Casa Imperial'! Better and more refined than most.

    31 Replies
    1. re: Charles Yu

      Thanks for the rec. Online the place looks like it only has 12 or so dimsum options. I take it those are just a selection?

      As well - are there vegetarian options at all? (I realize it is a strange question for dim sum place)

      1. re: glickjor

        Don't worry! There are definitely more selection than just 12!! Also, there are your 'specials of the day', stirred fry rice and noodle dishes..... as well.
        For sure there are vegetarian options! Rice roll, dumplings...etc using assorted mushrooms, pea shoots, bamboo shoots, spinach, bok choi.... Worse come to worse, your vegetarian friend can have a field day with the desserts!! Ha!!

        1. re: Charles Yu

          THANKS! Desserts look delicious (the ones advertised)

          Sorry to trouble you again - is there anything on the menu that I MUST try? I have already booked my resevation.

          1. re: Charles Yu

            If the vegetarian is concerned about lard, might want to stay clear of the egg tarts/milk tarts/other tarts, that are commonly offered as dim sum desserts. The mango jellos and jello puddings usually don't have the texture of agar gels, so they probably contain gelatin. The mango pudding recipes online call for gelatin and milk.

            Might also want to let the vegetarian know turnip cake (lo bak go) tends to contain bits of meat.

            1. re: prima

              Oh dear - I wish you hadn't said that.

              There is something to the expression "ignorance is bliss"

              1. re: glickjor

                Some vegetarians just don't like the taste/texture of meat, but are ok with gelatin-based desserts and pastries that might be made with lard.
                Guess you could run it past the veg, to see how strictly he/she follows his/her vegetarianism.

                On the bright side, the tofu desserts, the steamed cakes and the jin deui (sesame balls) should be completely vegetarian.

              2. re: prima

                For health reasons, I don't think a lot of restaurants are using lard these days??!! Even though, IMO, they do make some products taste really good. The 'Wife Cake - Lo Paw Beng' is one such product. Makes it more chewy as well!
                In Hong Kong, lard is the secret ingredient that makes 'great' won-ton noodles what they are!

                1. re: Charles Yu

                  Thanks, Charles!

                  I had no idea some restaurants were cutting back on lard. Would they just be using shortening instead? I always thought the lard was what was making the best tarts nice and flaky!

                  When I was a pescatarian, I'd turn a blind eye while eating dim sum. Much more enjoyable experience, if you're not wondering whether something does or doesn't contain some form of pork.

                  1. re: prima

                    The person in question has been known to turn a blind eye to certain marshmallows which the rest of us know contain contraban.

                    My question is more philosophical - based on what you have now told me, do I have an obligation to advise said person. Perhaps I will just presume that what Charles is saying is true, so as to not ruin the moment.

                    1. re: glickjor

                      I guess you could call the restaurant you choose, to check.

                      1. re: glickjor

                        No harm asking the wait staff whilst you are there?!

                        Besides, IMO, I don't think the consequence of unknowingly eating something with a 'minute' quantity of 'forbidden' substance is that severe. After all, Its not 'life threatening allergy' we are talking about?!!

                        1. re: Charles Yu

                          I think unintentionally ingesting a little pork is a risk some vegetarians knowingly or unknowingly take when dining at non-vegetarian Chinese restaurants. Superstrict vegetarians who would be upset by lard ingestion probably know (or should know) to steer clear of pastries made with unknown-to-the-customer sources of fat. :-)

                          1. re: prima

                            I am going to go with the above approach. Makes sense to me.


                    2. re: Charles Yu

                      What is your source that restaurants are cutting back on the use of lard, Charles?

                      1. re: szw

                        Miscellaneous read from Hong Kong and Chinese publications to Yahoo Health and other health related mags my wife subscribes to.

              3. re: Charles Yu

                FYI Charles, Spring Villa has reopened. I enjoyed a fantastic lunch there yesterday.

                1. re: theweight

                  Wow!! That quick!! Thanks for the info!!
                  Now the OP has 2 choices!!

                  1. re: Charles Yu

                    Thank you Charles for the fantastic rec. My family of 12 had a blast at Casa Imperial Saturday morning. Casa Imperial had a much more old world and regal feel to it than some of its contemporaries . I have only been to China once, but it reminded me of some of the old world charm places in Beijing.

                    In respect of veg. options, while CI may not have been as creative and diverse in option as Yangs, per se, the quality of ingredient and taste were superior with multiple types of veg and mushroom dumplings being particular favourites (along with a pumpkin congee that my 18 month old son refused to let anyone else enjoy).

                    We sampled over 25 dim sum dishes and added fried noodle and rice dishes to supplement. What stood out was how greaseless the food was, and how large certain pieces were, such as the har gow, which were the best I have had in the city. Other highlights included:

                    pan fried short rib w. sesame in honey, crispy shrimp and green chives cake, cuttlefish tentacle with salted spice and chicken feet w/ gluten in chu-hou sauce.

                    only real miss was the five-spice marinated beef shank & zucchini which surprisingly arrived cold and lacked both texture and flavour.

                    We brought our own cake but also ordered the milk tart w/ swallow's nest and milk and papaya puffs for dessert - I enjoyed the milk tart slightly more than the papaya puff, though neither stood out in the way Yang's steamed soft egg custard bun.

                    All-in, a fantastic experience. Looking forward to Spring Villa next.

                    1. re: glickjor

                      You are most welcome!! Glad you all had a good 'chow-time'. Did you manage to find out whether they use 'lard' in any of their 'vegetarian dishes'??!!

                      1. re: Charles Yu

                        Never asked as the vegetarian in the group opted for cake instead of the restaurant desserts.

                        While most of the staff were limited with their english, there was one patient manager who spoke perfect english and identified "vegetarian" dishes, which was sufficient to satisfy the person in question.

                        It was good that our party was set for 11 and the restaurant was only half full. As the line-up formed, after 12, service became more frantic and some staff may have lost some of the patience that they had for my group earlier on, given the language barriers.

                      2. re: glickjor

                        Nice review, glickjor. I haven't been to Casa Imperial for a while- time to revisit!

                        1. re: prima

                          Question..Casa Imperial looks very elegant and refined.Is there any kind of "dress code" and are reservations recommended before 11:00 on a Sunday for 3-5 ppl?


                          1. re: petek

                            I haven't been to CI in a few years, but any time I've arrived for dim sum anywhere north of the 401 by 10:45, I've beaten the rush.

                            1. re: petek

                              No!! However, if you visit them in shorts and slipper/sandals, the wait staff might snub on you?!

                              1. re: Charles Yu

                                No shirt, no shoes, no service! ha ha ha.

                                Casa has a faux French Impressionist vibe going on. I have felt like a country mouse when I've gone to Yang's in jeans with a fleece jacket, when the ladies lunching around me had Chanel handbags that appeared to be the real deal. I still experienced good service, even though I had no bling.

                                1. re: Charles Yu

                                  Good to know..I'll save the shorts and flip flops for Rol San! :D

                                  1. re: petek

                                    You can even buy some shorts and flip flops on the way to Rol San. Hopefully the 3rd time will work like a charm! :-)

                      3. re: Charles Yu

                        Hi Charles...

                        Your name came up in a very recent thread that I posted with regard to a food-centered four days in Toronto with my family over our Columbus Day weekend... the 10th through the 14th of October. We are from Flushing, Queens and as I am sure you know and have even tasted, are very spoiled by the wealth of reginal Chinese in our area....everything from Dongbei to Uyghur is represented. And has been relished by our little team of three;) Do you still stand by Casa Imperial as your fave dim sum? We will have a car, and considering I just discovered that that weekend is Canadian Thanksgiving, I am concerend things might not be opened on the Sunday. If your Chinese restaurants are anything like ours, then they never close and Sunday might be a great day for dim sum or even a sit down lunch or dinner. Any thoughts?

                        Many Thanks and All Things Delish~

                        1. re: ZenFoodist

                          Hi Lisa!
                          Our Chinese restaurants never close!! So don't worry!!
                          As for top Dim Sum within driving distances, my current top candidates are:
                          Casa Imperial,
                          Spring Villa
                          Casa Victoria
                          In addition to the food, all the aforementioned places are fairly high-end by Chinese standard and hence pretty comfy.
                          I would call ahead and 'try' reserving a table!! Sunday is always a mad house!!
                          Casa Imperial and Yang's are great for dinner as well, albeit a bit expensive by local standard.
                          Have fun!!

                      4. I have too agree with Charles

                        Casa Imperial # 1

                        Casa Victoria
                        Rol San for more affordable Dim sum

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Luvtooeat

                          I thought Lai Wah Heen closed when the hotel changed owners a few months ago. ??

                          1. re: Luvtooeat

                            <Rol San for more affordable Dim sum>

                            Tried going Rol San for Dim Sum today,closed for renovations.Twice this has happened to me... :(