I’m an agnostic man, but if there’s anything I pray to, it’s the dumpling. Though I may not be so big on religion, I’m certainly big on tradition. With about as much commitment as a pastor, a Sunday is not quite a Sunday unless it’s a Dim Sumday; steamers filled with delicate shrimp dumplings and fried rolls laced with delectable pork. As a Jew, if there was ever an argument against the kosher laws, all you’d have to do is put the undeniable deliciousness of these ingredients on trial – I’m pretty sure we’d all warm up to the idea in no time.
While I tend to frequent the same spots – remember, tradition is important – I have done my fair share of sampling around the city. With trusted dim sum confidants who live in various corners of town, and a host of the Hong Kong eats to be had, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best dim sum restaurants in and around Toronto.
Effectively known as my second home, I’ve been happily dining at Sky Dragon for over 15 years. Their authentic cart-style service keeps the goods coming from all directions. Dim Sum here is like a sport in many ways. If you don’t keep your head up and on a swivel you might just miss out on one of your favourites… at least for one round. Though dim sum is available all day, everything is $2 from Monday to Friday, 9am-4pm and Saturday, Sunday and Holidays from 9am-11:30am.
Standout Dish: Shu Mai, Sin Zuk Gyun
While I’ve got some major qualms with the quality and honesty of their service, it’s undeniable that Rol San makes some pretty delicious dimmys. Another all-day dim sum stop on the Spadina strip, Rol San’s dumplings are plump, pretty and always hot.
Standout Dish: Fried eggplant stuffed with shrimp in soy sauce
Lai Wah Heen
If you’ve got a hankering for the high-end, then Lai Wah Heen is where you want to hang out. Located in the Metropolitan Hotel, Lai Wah Heen is perhaps the King Dim in downtown. But don’t expect to escape without a little dent in your wallet. Dim sum this divine comes at quite the premium.
Standout Dish: Jumbo shu mai wrapped with glutinous rice and foie gras
A nearly singular example of dim sum opulence in Toronto, Crown Princess is as atypical as it gets. With over $2-million worth of baroque décor infused into this Bay Street restaurant (according to The Star), this is the place to go if you’re really trying to impress. Apparently they’re not just a fancy façade either. Serving dim sum daily from 9am-3:30pm, we’ve got a few friends who claim that the freshness of their food and quality of ingredients is what keeps them going back.
Standout Dish: Cheong Fun
Don’t be fooled if you walk in to this Gerrard Street gem and find an empty first floor dining room. Located on the second floor, Pearl Court stays at a constant hum with a consistent rotation of carts. Plastic tablecloths and only minor sprinklings of English preserves the authenticity in the atmosphere – the way any great dim sum restaurant should be. Through the prices get pumped up post 4pm, Adam swears that he’s never cracked the $40 threshold for two people.
Standout Dish: General Tso’s Chicken (dim sum sized)
Milliken Bar & Restaurant
Chinese restaurants and the city of Markham are relatively synonymous with one another. A major hub for the Chinese community, there are a plethora of options when one is dim sum spotting, however Milliken Bar & Restaurant is amongst the best. Save for my friends and I, I’ve never seen another non-Chinese person in the place (always a good sign). The staff is friendly and the fare is exceedingly fresh, with all their dishes being prepared a-la-minute.
Standout Dish: Fried taro dumpling with minced pork
Grand Chinese Cuisine
Somewhere between the plastic tablecloths and the fine white linen is Grand Chinese Cuisine on Dixon Road. With a menu of some more out-there items and a well-mannered team of waitstaff, if you’re in need of a fix on your way to the airport this is where you might like to pop-in. Grand Chinese Cuisine uncharacteristically accepts reservations, so you could even plan for it.
Standout Dish: Turnip cake
Best Dragon Seafood Restaurant
Once every couple months, my Grandma will call me up and ask me to take her over to Best Dragon Seafood Restaurant for a dim sum feast. That’s right, my 85-year-old grams gets in on the dims, too! While I’m also a huge fan of their fried lobster in black bean or chili sauce and Peking duck, they pump out some damn tasty dim sum. It’s a tossup whether you’ll get the carts circling, but no matter how it gets to the table, it’s always delivered with a smile by their excellent staff.
Standout Dish: Pork spring rolls