Finding a decent (by Monterey Park standards) dim sum restaurant always proves difficult in downtown Toronto, although you’d expect Toronto’s Chinatown to be the main hub for Cantonese cuisine. It’s not that there is a lack of dim sum restaurants– no, on the contrary– it’s just that there are too many. Quantity but no quality. So, as a result, I don’t normally go sniffing around for dim sum, but this weekend, I just couldn’t help myself.
As I was walking down Spadina, I happened upon a gem; a restaurant that seemed busier than most of the others. The line stretched past the doorway and spilled onto the sidewalk as Chinese families pressed themselves up against the door in an attempt to get in, and, as I neared the small gaggle of guests, I could smell the aura of dim sum. This–THIS is what I had been looking for.
I dragged my friend through the two sets glass doors of Rol San past some bewildered guests, who had obviously never been to a real dim sum restaurant before, and nabbed myself a waiter.
“Two seats,” I said assertively (that’s the key to eating dim sum: assertiveness). He nodded and told me to head to the back, where there was a second waiting area.
NOTE: Now, I have to clarify for those who have never been to dim sum: When you get to the desk/podium where they take table numbers, you don’t wait for the employees to ask you what you’re doing there. Please, grab their attention, and tell them that you have a party of xx#.
At Rol San, the way you order dim sum is by filling out an order form, so it’s best if you pick up an order form and fill it out while you wait for your table to be called. (I have heard, though, that occasionally they do have carts going around to the different tables.)
I ordered BBQ Short Ribs, Ha Gao (shrimp dumpling), Siu Mai (pork dumpling with shrimp and roe), Jia Liang (Chinese doughnut wrapped in noodle), Soup Dumplings with Chives, and Fried Squid. (I wish I could have provided pictures.)
To be honest, I was a little surprised when the short ribs came out. I expected them to be pale and… well, short, rather than looking like Korean BBQ ribs, but, the second I bit into it, I knew this was the real deal. There was nothing particularly special about it, though; it tasted like most of the short ribs I’ve eaten at other dim sum restaurants, except it was a little more peppery and had a chewier texture.
Since I was at a dim sum restaurant, I couldn’t resist ordering Ha Gao and Siu Mai (what’s dim sum without them?). The Ha Gao and Siu Mai were standard/a little above average (definitely was expecting less). Both had great textures and the chef wasn’t the least bit stingy with the amount of shrimp in the dishes.
The most surprising, though, was the Jia Liang. Honestly, I think it’s one of the best I’ve ever had. It was low on grease, portions were moderate, and, most importantly, the You Tiao was still crunchy! I’m so used to eating slightly soggy Jia Liang, but man did this one have crunch! (I’m a real sucker for texture.) It became an instant favorite with my friend, who had never been to dim sum, and definitely was one of the most notable dishes I ate that day and that week.
Now, as for the next two dishes, I had never heard of them before. The pork dumplings with chives dish is somewhat akin to the classic Wonton Soup. The dumplings, come in a bowl of soup, and they look and taste like wontons. This all sounds pretty negative, but it’s a great dish to freshen up after greasy food.The squid wasn’t chewy at all, which is good, and wasn’t too greasy. I wouldn’t order it again though; it’s rather bland and the batter wasn’t as crunchy as I would have liked.
Overall, it was a GREAT experience. I’ve gotta say though, the service isn’t the best (even though it’s standard dim sum service), and you have to make sure you flag down a waiter/waitress if you need something (be aggressive!!). If you can overcome that, then you would definitely enjoy Rol San.
323 Spadina Ave.
Toronto, ON, Canada