I made a recent trip to Toronto and Niagara Falls. We had a great time. I've been working on a post of my entire trip, but things at work have been very busy, so I haven't had a chance to post anything yet. This inquiry has spurred me on to at least post about the dim sum portion of my trip.
As soon as we arrived in Toronto, I met up with a business associate for a quick get together at a place near the airport that he recommended, Grand Chinese Cuisine, located in the Doubletree Hotel. This place specializes in dim sum as well as Peking Duck. Unfortunately, we arrived right at dim sum closing time and were shuttled off to a side room rather than the rather good looking main dining room, and the offerings were very limited. This place has possibilities, but my limited experience keeps me from being able to give it a full recommendation, although if you are looking for dim sum near the airport, this place would fill the bill.
Next up was the highly touted Lai Wah Heen. Just about any review of Toronto dim sum mentions this place as the best, highest end, dim sum in town with special dim sum chefs flown in from mainland China. Lai Wah Heen is located on the second floor of the Metropolitan Hotel in downtown Toronto (which boasts four Chinatowns, BTW) and is a beautiful white tablecloth restaurant with tuxedoed waiters. The place is a little sterile, though. It's the kind of place where you can hear a pin drop and even the sound of replacing your teacup on its saucer would cause everyone's head to turn to see what the ruckus was about. It was so quiet, that I didn't snap any pictures for fear my camera's shutter would disturb the other patrons. The food is prepared with the finest ingredients using very sophisticated technique. Unfortunately, despite all of the precision used in crafting the food, it has no soul. Even the chili oil, which the waiter proudly proclaimed to be made in house, packed little to no zing. This place reminded me of a British Colonial restaurant where foreigners could come to sample the local cuisine without having to get their hands dirty with any of the local culture. If you're looking for the highest end dim sum experience (with prices to match) Lai Wah Heen is well worth checking out. For me, it fell short after all the buildup.
Business brought me to the suburb of Markham. Markham could easily be mistaken for Schaumburg with one big difference. The entire town is a Chinese enclave. I came across every conceivable kind of store including the fabulous T&T Supermarket with is an H-Mart sized Chinese grocery store featuring items that cover the entire gamut of Chinese food; from produce, meat and staples to ready made food (dim sum to full meals). This store made me wish I had a kitchen rather than just a hotel room, but there were prepared items to go that would have made a great lunch had we not already planed to visit Ding Tai Fung, which is a Shanghai dim sum restaurant that came highly recommended on Urbanspoon as well as a couple other food related websites like Chowhound. At Ding Tai Fung, we finally hit the jackpot.Ding Tai Fung
Ding Tai Fung is located in First Markham Place, a large strip mall which itself has a great food court worthy of a visit. The dumplings at Ding Tai Fung are handmade in an open kitchen for all to see.Dumpling Manufacturing
Rather than cart service, you order off of a menu. The order sheet is in Chinese with no English at all, but there is an English menu available and the numbers on the menu correspond to the numbers on the ordering sheet, so once I figured that out, ordering was a breeze.Ding Tai Fung Ordering Sheet
While I've not sampled nearly the number of different soup dumplings as Pigmon, I'll go out on a limb and say that their soup dumplings were the best I've ever had. The wrappers were thin and delicate and the soup inside was rich and flavorful. I can honestly say that I've never had a soup dumpling approaching these anywhere in Chicago.Ding Tai Fung Soup Dumplings
In addition to the soup dumplings, which were the only item that were a "must have", we rounded out the meal with a few other offerings.Ding Tai Fung Chive PancakeDing Tai Fung Szechuan String Beans W/Ground PorkDing Tai Fung Rice Cake W/Chinese VegetableDing Tai Fung Har Gao (which contain Pork as well as shrimp)
There wasn't a clunker in the bunch. Everything was delicious. Even the normally dim sum averse Chow Poodle enjoyed this meal. It's a bit of a schlep out of Toronto, but it's well worth the 20 - 30 minute trip to Markham to check out Ding Tai Fung and the other delights of Chinese Suburbia. I can't recommend this place enough. It was one of the two best meals I had on the entire trip.
Grand Chinese Cuisine
655 Dixon Road
Lai Wah Heen
118 Chestnut Street
7070 Warden ave
Ding Tai Fung
3235 Hwy 7