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Toronto Dim Sum and Other Chinese Cuisine


itch22
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Lai wah heen is phenomenal, but many won't pay the price or appreciate the artistry of making a crab claw look like a bumble bee.

Mark

you're right, I was seriously remiss in not pointing out the cost of Lai Wah Heen. I believe we paid $30 each (after taxes/tips) and we weren't particularly full. I did feel it was worth, but again, not daily.

in reply to others' incredulity about downtown Chinatown: it's been Vietnamese for quite some time now and if you're not looking to go to Richmond Hill, Scarborough or Markham are (only slightly) closer options. I assume that Vietnamese food downtown (see parallel thread) is good. But Chinese is not. I will say the street markets downtown are nicer for some things (I don't mind the smell or crowd) but the supermarkets in Richmond Hill have _enormous_ selections.

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Sorry folks - apparently my counting was dubious ... I may have spent too much time over in the Ministry of Rum...

Anyway, 'tis true that much of the Chinese population has become middle class suburbanites, but I still think there is a real joy in finding "your" local places, even if side by side they're not as hot as something, somewhere else.

Gerrard East has also become more Vietnamese, but no harm there. And being just down the hill from Greektown and 10 minutes west of little India has it's charms as well :)

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Wow - I just checked back, now that I'm back in Hudson (near Montreal). And I have to agree with GordonCooks suggestion: I am going to print out this forum and keep it in my glovebox. With all these great suggestions I just might have to visit Toronto more often to try them all :laugh:

A.R.Shandling

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I am in Toronto at the moment and I cannot help but agree with comments about the Bright Pearl. It's way past it's best before date, although I haven't eaten there in a year (disappointing). There are a few very good "Chinese" restaurants in old Chinatown still, at least the staff are Chinese speaking. The best places are up "north " - Markham, Richmond Hill, The Don Mills/York Mills area, Scarborough, etc. "Ambassador" is very, very good overall.

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I am in Toronto at the moment and I cannot help but agree with comments about the Bright Pearl. It's way past it's best before date, although I haven't eaten there in a year (disappointing). There are a few very good "Chinese" restaurants in old Chinatown still, at least the staff are Chinese speaking. The best places are up "north " - Markham, Richmond Hill, The Don Mills/York Mills area, Scarborough, etc. "Ambassador" is very, very  good overall.

Ben, please post about where you're eating and what you're enjoying...we'd love to hear about it.

Barbara Laidlaw aka "Jake"

Good friends help you move, real friends help you move bodies.

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I would love to say that my trips to Toronto were of the "culinary discovery" variety, but, not so lucky. But, I do incorporate a certain number of Chinese dinners/yumcha when I am with my kids who work in the city, and if some of the HK, Chinese, or Taiwanese diplomatic types that I work with "treat" me :laugh: . With the latter, we never go to Chinatown, as their tastes are more "refined" than mine :smile: . My children love the prices and the funkiness of the place though.

If I am near Chinatown for lunch or breakfast, I normally just pop into one of the noodle houses, Goldstone and Ho Kin being two of my favourites on Spadina. There is a little dumpling place on the west side of Spadina, halfway between College and Dundas, that really gives good value in quantity and quality. Some of the better seafood places in and around Spadina and Dundas are really quite good, but consistency in all places is a problem.

I have been to a few of the places on Jan Wong's list (Globe and Mail, above), and while they are very, very good, they are virtually inaccessible to me when I go to TO on short business trips. Soooo...if I stay in a downtown hotel, I am "doomed" to eating in Chinatown (if I want Chinese food) :wink: .

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  • 1 month later...

This first question you have to ask is, what type of dim sum do you want?

For Cantonese dim sum, I tend to like both Dynasty on Bloor, or the one on the 4th floor of the Dragon City mall (can't remember the name of it - SW corner of Dundas and Spadina) Bright Pearl, although busy, isn't that bad....

The best in the city has to be the few along Hwy 7: Ambassador or Golden Court Abalone Restaurant.

Lai Wah Heen is the most expensive - the food is fantastic, though.

For Shanghai dim sum, it's either Ding Tai Fung near 7 and Woodbine, or Asian Legend, either the one on 7 or the one at Dundas just east of Spadina.

Edited by gps-shag (log)
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I still think Lei Wah Heen has the best dim sum in the city, however, hearing Ambassador mentioned a few times in this post, and considering my GF lives just south of there, I may have to give it a try...

Any specific recommendations?

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I've noticed that no one in the Toronto area ever mentions Grand Yatt. Is it not considered to be good? I only ate at the Richmond Hill branch once, about 6-ish years ago, and I thought it was fabulous! My only complaint was that you ordered from sheet (not even a menu), and some of the names differed from what I imagined they were (not necessarily a bad thing, but disappointing when you're expecting one thing and end up with something else).

Grand Yatt is at 9019 Bayview Ave in Richmond Hill, and also at the Westin Harbour Castle in downtown Toronto. I'm not affiliated with the restaurant in anyway, except as a once-upon-a-time customer.

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My only complaint was that you ordered from sheet (not even a menu), and some of the names differed from what I imagined they were (not necessarily a bad thing, but disappointing when you're expecting one thing and end up with something else).

you might encounter difficulty at many other places if you had a complaint about using a sheet...carts are still #1 / most authentic IMO (but losing popularity), but most common after that is the sheets. There's never a menu; you just mark down on the sheet what you want and they start bringing it out and crossing it off.

dim sum's roots are kinda...bare-bones...

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Rainbow on Dundas just west of Spadina is pretty good if you want a la carte basics. I can't do the push carts as I'm trying to stick to the good-Muslim thing which means no pork. You just never know what you're going to get from a cart, and a good explanation in English is tough too.

Plus on weekdays every dim sum is something like $1.72. Ridiculously cheap.

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I can't do the push carts as I'm trying to stick to the good-Muslim thing which means no pork. You just never know what you're going to get from a cart, and a good explanation in English is tough too.

you might find it hard to avoid pork no matter what the menu lists. It's probably the single most common meat in Chinese cooking here and even if a dish doesn't have pork proper, it's probably come in contact with meat, or maybe been made from pork stock...

may or may not be an issue depending on what your limits are, but I just wanted to provide fair warning...even if you were able to communicate that you don't eat pork, the reality is they might or might not ensure that was taken care of...

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Rainbow on Dundas just west of Spadina is pretty good if you want a la carte basics. I can't do the push carts as I'm trying to stick to the good-Muslim thing which means no pork. You just never know what you're going to get from a cart, and a good explanation in English is tough too.

Occasionally, you don't know what you're going to get, period.

My aunt (from Shanghai) once made some dumplings for my vegetarian sister a few years back.

My sister asked, "There's no meat in these, right?"

So of course my aunt replied, "Of course, of course, no meat! Only chicken!" :biggrin:

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Yeah, frankly I don't mind at all, I'm a convert of solid WASP stock and some of my favourite things include bacon (which I miss terribly) and ribs. It's my fiancee who is Muslim from India, and I often eat dim sum with her. As far as stuff coming into contact with pork, I don't think she wants to think about it. I won't be raising the subject.

It's a drag sometimes, though, forget about trying to cook from my Wolfert/Batali/Bourdain books. Very limiting in the kitchen.

I'm going to Austin, Texas in March and have already told her that I will be "cheating on her" with ribs several times. Texas without BBQ is unthinkable. She has glumly accepted this, just like she did last year. Open relationship!

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For all those who are "restricted" by certain dietary concerns there is a caveat I'd like to throw out, especially if pork is involved. Unless you go to a strictly vegetarian or a Chinese halal (!!!) place, you will get cross contamination.(even in those places, their pastries can have lard in them). Pork is so much an integral part of Chinese cuisine, that it is nigh on impossible to isolate in a busy Chinese restaurant kitchen; just think knives and utensils, chopping blocks, soup stocks, lard in pastries.......

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Not necessarily Dim Sum, but regarding the "downtown" chinese deterioration, I would say that although it is possible, there are still a few which are SOLID choices.

I'm surprised noone has mentioned Lee Garden...Still one of the best places down there IMO, and quality has never faltered.

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...I'm a convert of solid WASP stock and some of my favourite things include bacon (which I miss terribly) and ribs. It's my fiancee who is Muslim from India..

Tough luck. But who knows what the future holds? My wife used to be veg - even vegan at some point, apparently - but she eventually succumbed to my gentle influence. For several years now she's eaten in the 'zone' (based on some book and, I think, resembling the Atkins Diet ... or is that 'Aikens'? whatever).

Edited by KevV (log)
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Alas, not a chance. Like many Muslims, she drinks...but the pork thing is just a huge taboo for them, seems like. She says it's the one thing that every Muslim tries to stick with, no matter how far they stray from the path.

I made a ton of duck confit last week and then realized, no cassoulet will come of this! That's just not right.

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  • 1 month later...

I think it's fair to say there is a lot of good chinese food in Toronto and surrounding area, and there are a lot of us who benefit from it. I thought I would start a thread to document where we went, what we had and how we liked it. I'm hoping the thread will lead to some suggestions of dishes from those who know far more about the cuisine than I do.

Last night we decided to go out for a quick bite as we are in the middle of some home renovations and there was no way there would be any cooking going on in the kitchen. There was a reccomendation by sadistick in the Late night options in Toronto thread for New Sky on Spadina south of College, so we thought we'd try it. For reference, our go-to places down there are Swatow, Rol San and Happy 7 and I have a documented weakness for spicy crispy ginger beef.

We ordered based on sadistick's reccomendations:

gallery_13912_2611_221011.jpg

Hot & Sour soup. Nice flavour, not very spicy, the ingredients within were perfectly cooked, especially the tofu and the shrimp.

gallery_13912_2611_250309.jpg

General Tso chicken. To me this wasn't General Tso. It had nice flavour, but it was sweet. No spice at all, one or two chiles, not so much as a hint of heat. Eh.

gallery_13912_2611_70702.jpg

Crispy Ginger Beef. Again, nice flavour, sweet, nice meat, not too much sauce, NO spice. At all. Not a single chile or anything. Did nothing for me except leave me wanting Rol San.

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BBQ Pork Fried Rice. For my SO, one of his favourites. Now this was really good. Tons of pork, nicely fried rice, fresh crunchy peas, yummy egg. No complaints at all about this dish.

So, would I go back? Not likely if only because we like the other places better, when we ask for spicy, we get spicy. The service was good, the people were nice, but I urge sadistick to try the Spicy Crispy Ginger Beef at Rol San and compare :biggrin:

Barbara Laidlaw aka "Jake"

Good friends help you move, real friends help you move bodies.

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Hmm...welp, You shoulda told me you wanted SPICEY. The fact is, it isnt advertised as SPICEY...its not Spicey Crispy ginger beef, its Crispy Ginger beef. I thought the general Tsao was unique in its spices, again, not SPICEY...

Sorry to hear you didnt enjoy it as much, so where is this Rol Sun place you speak of, maybe I will give it a shot and compare.

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Point, sadistick. All the General Tso's chicken I've had has had a good amount of chiles, hence spice. You're correct about how the menu describes the beef, again, I don't know what is traditional/authentic in szechuan/chinese food, just what little I've had.

Try Rol San's beef (north of Dundas on Spadina, east side) and Swatow's General Tso (further south, east side again), take photos, let me know what you think!

Barbara Laidlaw aka "Jake"

Good friends help you move, real friends help you move bodies.

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Point, sadistick.  All the General Tso's chicken I've had has had a good amount of chiles, hence spice.  You're correct about how the menu describes the beef, again, I don't know what is traditional/authentic in szechuan/chinese food, just what little I've had.

Try Rol San's beef (north of Dundas on Spadina, east side) and Swatow's General Tso (further south, east side again), take photos, let me know what you think!

I by no means claim to be an expert in chinese cuisine, I just go by what tastes good. To me, those dishes were well cooked with a light, crisp batter; key point being they dont swim in a sauce.

agreed on the swatow's general tso's, ive tried it as well as their black bean sauce low mein mmmm, also, their shrimp du mpling soup is awesome.

I will have to try out rol san's spicey crispy ginger beef...get to play more with the new camera :raz:

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Just thought I'd jump in - not with a recommendation, but more of a mention for the strongly budget-minded dim sum bum. Yesterday the missus & I had lunch in a place called the Rainbow-something. (Sorry, I'm terrible with names.) It's on the north side of DundasW, a bit past Spadina. I don't know how well-known it is, but my wife reads Chowhound TO and people discussed it there. (Oh, and I don't know the rep for Chowhound and so have no idea how this reference may sound. But who cares.)

So, the Rainbow's got all-day dim sum for $1.68 an item ('cash only') and luncheon dishes for $4. Scoff if you will, but there isn't too much to complain about. The place was spic and span and pleasant. Lots of happy clientele and entirely Chinese when I was there. Small portions as expected: instead of the usual 4 steamed shrimp shu mai dumplings, for eg, you get 3 mini-dumplings. Acceptable quality, I would say. Not bad at all, maybe even pretty darn good for the price. One thing is to avoid the dim sum item called something like 'deep-fried mango shrimp rolls' which is chalk-full of gooey mayonnaise and pretty icky.

Probably won't go back, but I think most people would be happy enough there for an everyday bit to eat. Maybe if you're just walking by. Why not?

Tea check: Hot.

Edited by KevV (log)
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      Unfortunately, both seem to have been a little hard of hearing. I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve been asked why the Chinese changed the name of their capital from Peking to Beijing. In fact, the name didn’t change at all. It had always been pronounced with /b/ rather than /p/ and /ʤ/ rather than /k/. The only thing which changed was the writing system.

      In 1958, China adopted Pinyin as the standard romanization, not to help dumb foreigners like me, but to help lower China’s historically high illiteracy rate. It worked very well indeed, Today, it is used in primary schools and in some shop or road signs etc., although street signs seldom, if ever, include the necessary tone markers without which it isn't very helpful.
       

      A local shopping mall. The correct pinyin (with tone markers) is 'dōng dū bǎi huò'.
       
      But pinyin's main use today is as the most popular input system for writing Chinese characters on computers and cell-phones. I use it in this way every day, as do most people. It is simpler and more accurate than older romanizations. I learned it in one afternoon.  I doubt anyone could have done that with Wade-Giles.
       
      Pinyin has been recognised for over 30 years as the official romanization by the International Standards Organization (ISO), the United Nations and, believe it or not, The United States of America, along with many others. Despite this recognition, old romanizations linger on, especially in America. Very few people in China know any other than pinyin. 四川 is  'sì chuān' in pinyin.
    • By liuzhou
      An eG member recently asked me by private message about mushrooms in China, so I thought I'd share some information here.

      This is what available in the markets and supermarkets in the winter months - i.e now. I'll update as the year goes by.
       
      FRESH FUNGI
       
      December sees the arrival of what most westerners deem to be the standard mushroom – the button mushroom (小蘑菇 xiǎo mó gū). Unlike in the west where they are available year round, here they only appear when in season, which is now. The season is relatively short, so I get stuck in.
       

       
      The standard mushroom for the locals is the one known in the west by its Japanese name, shiitake. They are available year round in the dried form, but for much of the year as fresh mushrooms. Known in Chinese as 香菇 (xiāng gū), which literally means “tasty mushroom”, these meaty babies are used in many dishes ranging from stir fries to hot pots.
       

       
      Second most common are the many varieties of oyster mushroom. The name comes from the majority of the species’ supposed resemblance to oysters, but as we are about to see the resemblance ain’t necessarily so.
       

       
      The picture above is of the common oyster mushroom, but the local shops aren’t common, so they have a couple of other similar but different varieties.
       
      Pleurotus geesteranus, 秀珍菇 (xiù zhēn gū) (below) are a particularly delicate version of the oyster mushroom family and usually used in soups and hot pots.
       

       
      凤尾菇 (fèng wěi gū), literally “Phoenix tail mushroom”, is a more robust, meaty variety which is more suitable for stir frying.
       

       
      Another member of the pleurotus family bears little resemblance to its cousins and even less to an oyster. This is pleurotus eryngii, known variously as king oyster mushroom, king trumpet mushroom or French horn mushroom or, in Chinese 杏鲍菇 (xìng bào gū). It is considerably larger and has little flavour or aroma when raw. When cooked, it develops typical mushroom flavours. This is one for longer cooking in hot pots or stews.
       

       
      One of my favourites, certainly for appearance are the clusters of shimeji mushrooms. Sometimes known in English as “brown beech mushrooms’ and in Chinese as 真姬菇 zhēn jī gū or 玉皇菇 yù huáng gū, these mushrooms should not be eaten raw as they have an unpleasantly bitter taste. This, however, largely disappears when they are cooked. They are used in stir fries and with seafood. Also, they can be used in soups and stews. When cooked alone, shimeji mushrooms can be sautéed whole, including the stem or stalk. There is also a white variety which is sometimes called 白玉 菇 bái yù gū.
       

       

       
      Next up we have the needle mushrooms. Known in Japanese as enoki, these are tiny headed, long stemmed mushrooms which come in two varieties – gold (金針菇 jīn zhēn gū) and silver (银针菇 yín zhēn gū)). They are very delicate, both in appearance and taste, and are usually added to hot pots.
       

       

       
      Then we have these fellows – tea tree mushrooms (茶树菇 chá shù gū). These I like. They take a bit of cooking as the stems are quite tough, so they are mainly used in stews and soups. But their meaty texture and distinct taste is excellent. These are also available dried.
       

       
      Then there are the delightfully named 鸡腿菇 jī tuǐ gū or “chicken leg mushrooms”. These are known in English as "shaggy ink caps". Only the very young, still white mushrooms are eaten, as mature specimens have a tendency to auto-deliquesce very rapidly, turning to black ‘ink’, hence the English name.
       

       
      Not in season now, but while I’m here, let me mention a couple of other mushrooms often found in the supermarkets. First, straw mushrooms (草菇 cǎo gū). Usually only found canned in western countries, they are available here fresh in the summer months. These are another favourite – usually braised with soy sauce – delicious! When out of season, they are also available canned here.
       

       
      Then there are the curiously named Pig Stomach Mushrooms (猪肚菇 zhū dù gū, Infundibulicybe gibba. These are another favourite. They make a lovely mushroom omelette. Also, a summer find.
       

       
      And finally, not a mushroom, but certainly a fungus and available fresh is the wood ear (木耳 mù ěr). It tastes of almost nothing, but is prized in Chinese cuisine for its crunchy texture. More usually sold dried, it is available fresh in the supermarkets now.
       

       
      Please note that where I have given Chinese names, these are the names most commonly around this part of China, but many variations do exist.
       
      Coming up next - the dried varieties available.
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