Yum Cha! Dim Sum Festival was the first of the more public food festivals to tempt Torontonians since the debacle at Grilled Cheese Fest. Determined to not make the same mistakes of past planners, Suresh Doss of Spotlight Toronto was careful to keep long lineups and potentially livid attendees at bay. The event, which took place in two ticketed sessions at the Chinese Freemasons Society on Dundas West on April 13th, did not overindulge when it came to capacity. But how was the dim sum?
One of the most magical parts about the culinary culture in Toronto is our tremendous breadth of ethnic diversity. Yum Cha! was clearly advertising an event that would “bring traditional elements of dim sum (fried and steamed dumplings, buns, and other assorted sweet and savory small plates) to new heights with inspired and inventive global influences.” Though Yum Cha! captured the essence of sample-sized items, I felt that the influx of global influences overshadowed the claim that this was indeed a dim sum festival.
Perhaps it’s the traditionalist in me, or the fact that I’m a weekly dim sum goer (if not more frequently), but while I was craving plump shrimp har gao and steamers of slippery sin zuk gyun, instead I got fried bao filled with pork belly and pickled cucumbers (Babi & Co.) and green onion pancake rolls with pulled beef brisket and Korean BBQ sauce (MENU Food Truck).
Now don’t get me wrong, these offerings – and others like Canoe’s steamed bao with venison, elk and moose, or GwaiLo’s bang-on Big Mac steamed bun – were undoubtedly delicious. But it just still didn’t feel like dimmys.
Despite my cravings, it wasn’t hard to move on and enjoy the edible offerings. Though the $10 entry and $5 cost of most of the dishes made for a bit of an overpriced affair (not unlike TUM or many of the other successful, well-seasoned Toronto food festivals), the 10 vendors managed to dish out some delectable eats.
Among the notable noshes already mentioned, La Brea made some mouthwatering MexiAsian “Camarones ‘Juanton’ Gaw” (shrimp wontons with corn esquites, a fragrant jalapeno, ginger and cilantro blend, bathing in chili oil and soy sauce with roasted peanuts). Hot Bunzz threw it down with their vegetarian option: one of their signature buttery buns stuffed with king oyster mushrooms, pea shoots and a 5-cheese blend, topped with a soy reduction and crispy onions. And FeasT.O came out with their best incarnation of their pho dumpling I’ve had to date. Yes, it’s exactly as it sounds.
All in all, I was lingering lackadaisically around the many rooms of the unique venue, poking my head into alcoves where more vendors were stationed, sipping on Sam Adams beer and stuffing my face – all before 12pm.
Yum Cha! 2, the second (and final) iteration of this edible experience just started selling tickets. If you missed the first one and need to add a stamp to your food festival loyalty card, make sure to get on the website and be ready for Sunday, May 4th at 36 Wagstaff Drive.
Did you attend the Yum Cha! Dim Sum Festival? Let us know who your favourite dim sum vendor was in the comments below or tweet us @ViewTheVibe.