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Grand Chinese Cuisine – Amongst the finest dim sum restaurants in Toronto (lengthy review + pics)

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Grand Chinese Cuisine – Amongst the finest dim sum restaurants in Toronto (lengthy review + pics)

BokChoi | Sep 15, 2008 06:06 PM

I eventually had enough time to post a review about Grand Chinese Restaurant. I know it has been mentioned before on CH, but I thought my additional review would be a valuable addition to this forum. It took a long time to compile all my thoughts, reviews and photos over the year and a half since I happened upon this restaurant near the airport. The only reason I went was actually because I was dropping off my SO at the airport last spring, and I liked the look of the signage in-front of the restaurant (strange reasoning, but I am glad I stopped in for a bite).

Based on taste alone, I cannot believe that this place is ½ empty all the time. This may partially have to do with their poor location choice (out West) where there is a smaller Chinese community. However, even though I live in the east end of Scarborough, I have been going almost weekly to Grand for dim sum for over 1.5 years, and will continue to go there for many years to come, as long as their quality is maintained at the highest echelons of fine-dining dim-sum in the city.

Throughout my years in Toronto, I have been sorely disappointed in the dim sum offerings. Sure, Toronto dim sum is amongst the cheapest in North America, but as far as quality is concerned, there are few that have elevated themselves above mediocrity. Lai Wah Heen has been the one restaurant to have separated itself from the pack and has led the way in terms of nouveau Asian cuisine. Their dim sum is both imaginative, and tasty. But where else is one to turn if their pockets are not lined with gold?

That is where Grand fits the bill. I find that the prices at Grand are about 20-30% cheaper than LWH, but the quality is almost matching (and in some ways, surpasses). Each restaurant has their fortes, and I respect each dim sum chef for their specialty items. Both restaurants are special occasion dim sum places that do require you to dig in deep, but for $16 + tax/tip, one can be VERY satisfied with a luxurious dim sum meal at Grand. Each time I have dined there, the bill has come out to less than $20 a head, unless you go famished. If you pay cash, they will give you a coupon to use at a later visit ($2 for each $20 spent). As well, they also offer a ‘specials’ coupon such as a free “goon tong gow” (seafood dumpling in soup), or Tiger Prawn fried noodle ($9.99 for 4 large pieces of shrimp – minimum # of diners = 4) for use on your next visit.

Their teas are exceptional and very fragrant. Like LWH, they pride themselves in sourcing high quality teas. The teas do not possess the bitter aftertaste of some lesser teas, and many have a beautiful golden colour. Their Jasmine tea is amongst the best I have had in the city. As well, their “Teet Goon Yum” is another success.

Over the years, they have bestowed a bit of extra knowledge to me in passing, as the restaurant is almost always 1/2 empty (In its earlier days, I found my table to be one of only about 3 tables on the weekend during prime dim sum hours). I have had a kitchen tour (they have a BBQ centre right in the restaurant itself – though I found their suckling pig to be quite below par the one time I tried it) and I found the facilities immaculately kept (this is VERY comforting that the kitchen is operated like a first class restaurant and not like some of the back-alley kitchens I've seen in operation at some other the other lesser Chinese restaurants). They are affiliated to Big Mouth Kee (lower end Chinese restaurant), Dragon Dynasty (their medium range restaurant) and finally, Grand fills the shoes for their high-end offering. Their Master Dim Sum Chef even trained the dim sum chef for Casa Imperial for 6 months before he left to head up the kitchen there (in my opinion, the Casa chef should have stayed a bit longer to pick up some additional tips). Their largest client is none other than Cathay Pacific. They provide catering for the dim sum for first class passengers. If that doesn’t mean something to you, then I don’t know what will.

I can go on and on about the scrumptious dim sum dishes they offer. Some favourites of mine over the year include:

• Pan Fried Turnip Cake – delicate and beautifully presented. My must have dish each week
photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
• Grouper Rice Noodle with Baby Snow Pea Leaves – the best rice noodle roll in the city (IMO). Tasty, sweet, and mild. Fish is never overcooked and is nicely flaky and firm to the bite.
Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
• Cod Baked Pastry in Thousand Layers – a favourite of many. Succulent fish morsels inside each soft shell that is never grease-laden. For those that are a fan of the Spring Villa eel version, this one (IMO) far surpasses it (however, I prefer savoury to sweet) – excellent pepper spicing
photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
• Egg Tarts with Swallows Nest dusting – soft custard that is not super firm. Luxurious dusting of swallow’s nest – though I cannot say it adds to the taste of the dish.
photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
• Sweet Roulade of water-chestnut and olive – a refreshing palate cleanser
photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
• Chicken and Shitake Dumpling – a beautiful dumpling that has sharp herb flavours and excellent texture
photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
inside: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
• Vegetarian Dumpling – simple excellence
photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
• Steamed Chicken with taro, king mushroom, and fish maw wrapped with bean curd – amazing each time. Excellent taro that adds a textural element to the wrap
photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
• Seafood deep fried dumpling wrapped with corn-based crust served with consommé - an unexpected corn-sweetness. Light, even though fried.
Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
• Ducks’ tongue consommé jelly – amazing appetizer that I use as an amuse bouche to activate my saliva glands
photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
• Deep Fried Lobster rolls with a sweet, light yogurt dipping sauce (on my last visit, they altered this to mayo – I really hope this was a temporary change and that they simply ran out of strawberry yogurt)
photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
• Pumpkin with pork bun – amazing and sweet. Immaculate bun texture. Best bun in the city that I have so far discovered
photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
closeup: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

Of course, they also have their classic dishes:
• Har Gow – fresh, large shrimp pieces
photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
• Siu Mai – Very light and not oily, nor heavy with pork taste
photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
• Deluxe BBQ Pork bun (my favourite in the city and I generally do not like BBQ pork buns in general, but I will eat this one without hesitation) – it has large chunks of recognizable pork pieces and a mildly sweet sauce
photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
inside: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
• Deep Fried Squid – consistency is key, and they have it covered. Crispy and light.
photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
• Deep fried dumpling with shrimp and pork (‘Ham soy Gok’) – hardly any oily residue
photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
another: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
• Deep Fried dumpling with pine nuts and duck – a variation of the ham soy gok. I prefer this version as it is lighter and more subtle in flavour
photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
• Grand Egg Custard bun (“dan wong”)
photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
• Lotus leaf wrapped sticky rice
photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
inside: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
• Ice Cream (black sesame + deep fried pancake)
photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
• Ice Cream (ginger + deep fried dumpling)
photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
• Chicken feet with XO sauce
photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
• Goon Tong Gow (Seafood Dumpling in Soup)
photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
• Deep fried egg custard bun
photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
inside: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
• Prawn rice roll (with corn)
photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
• Shrimp Spring Rolls
photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
• Pan-Fried dumplings (“woh teep”) – tasty and excellent use of herbs
photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
• Mushroom Rice Roll
photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

Unexpected finds include some imaginative dishes:
• Foie Gras deep fried dumpling (a touch oily for my tastes
)photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
• Fish-shaped fruit jello (a touch bland, but great to look at
)photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
• Mushroom Foo Jook Goon
photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
• Grand Scallop Dumpling
photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

Discontinued items include:
• Grand flaky pastry (not sure if they have it still – best to ask
)photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
• Rabit-shaped Dumpling Sweets
photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
• Assorted Dumpling
photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
• Black Sesame Puffs
photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

They also have a smattering of cooked dishes from their regular menu, some of which I have tried, but admittedly have returned to the dim sum menu because that is their forte. Their dinner menu used to be so much more varied and exciting, but they have had to tailor their dishes to more conservative clientele due to the lack of popularity of their more avant-garde offerings. I really hope once they take off that they will once again expand their menu and allow the chef to really show off his creativity and flourish. Right now, there is no point for me to drive 40 minutes to the West-end for something I can get much closer to home.
• Truffle fried rice – excellent dish, but I prefer the dim sum
photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
• Spare-ribs in black bean sauce on soft rice noodles (dim sum dish, but prepared by the dinner kitchen team) – a tad bit oily for my tastes. First time I had it, I was blown away. Second time, not so much.
Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
• Sautéed fish on baby bok choi
photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
• Crispy Chicken done two ways
photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
• Lobster Dumplings
photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
• Lobster Udon in broth
photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
• Grand Mushroom Casserole
photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
• Soup Selections
photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
• Egg with tofu – silky smooth and so incredibly light in flavour. An excellent dish.
Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
• Fried Tofu with Veggies
Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
• Miscellaneous Fried Treasures
Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

The Special offers include:
• $9.99 Giant Tiger Prawns on Fried Noodles (noodles were weak, but the shrimps were juicy, tasty and expertly cooked)
photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
single serving: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
• Free Seafood Dumpling in Soup (“goon tong gow”)
photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

Photos of the restaurant itself
http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

Menus (all menus in English as well as Chinese
)• http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

Trust me, this restaurant is an amazing addition to the Toronto Chinese Dim Sum Culinary Scene. I can only hope that their dinner offerings can one day match their dim sum, but alas, it has recently been a disappointment for myself, family and friends. Our first dinner meal there was amazing. They particularly do their fried dishes excellently - very little trace of oil left on the items. Excellently spiced with very little reliance on salt. However, in spite of their missteps in relation to their dinner meals, I implore you all to give Grand Chinese Cuisine a try and see if you enjoy it. I really hope they make it in the high-end dim sum market, because if they did not, I do not know where I would have to go for my dim sum fix each week! Once again, I stake my reputation on this as amongst the finest dim sum restaurants in the city. For the price, the experience is amazing. Though I must warn, the tastes here are much more subtle than your typical dim sum restaurants, as they use minimal amounts of salt, oil, and sauces. Instead, they rely on usage of herbs and spices to flavour their dishes. They also refrain from utilizing MSG as they use the freshest and best ingredients that do not require the additive to enhance the flavour. All items are made to order, so no carts. If you have a refined palate, then this restaurant will surely stand out from the rest. If you, however, prefer copious amounts of value dim sum, then this would not be the recommendation for you. I have had some dim sum-eating friends that have told me that they do not really taste the difference in quality, though they do notice it is less oily and salty. But to each their own and I respect that. They are perfectly happy eating at a cheaper Chinese restaurant and all the better for them to be able to save the additional premium. I, however, have tried Grand and cannot go back. I do concede however that they had a moment of lapse in quality back in November/December of last year. I was told this was due to the fact that a number of kitchen staff had left and they were short men, thus requiring them to retrain new hires during the busy holiday season. I almost even stopped going as I definitely saw a slip in their performance. However, as of late, I have been nothing but impressed with their service and quality – though service has notably stumbled in the past year compared to their earlier days. They have their kitchen staff well trained again and I feel confident in my recommendation. This is partially why I have held off on such a thorough and glowing recommendation for so long. I wanted them to develop consistency in their performance before I put my reputation on the line. I hope they do not prove me wrong and make me eat my word.

So, if you have always felt that the dim sum was lacking in Toronto, then you should give Grand a try. If you have ever felt that you wanted to try LWH, but it’s a bit on the pricey side, then try Grand. If you like LWH and wanted a bit of variety, then give Grand a try.

The quality is matched only by LWH in the city, and is comparable to the better dim sum places in HK (though not at the top – but beggars cannot be choosers). But for this side of the Pacific and at these prices (never mind the cost savings of a plane ticket to HK), I will be most happy to settle for Grand Chinese Cuisine - one of the BEST dim sum places in T.O currently.

Go with an open mind, and an empty stomach and you will not be disappointed. I surely hope they will not slip in quality once they become a famous and popular establishment, nor raise their affordable prices. May they always be the affordable alternative to LWH.

Cheers and Happy Eating!

655 Dixon Road, Etobicoke, ON, M9W 1J3 - near the Toronto Pearson Airport (conveniently located for out of town diners – though not so much for the rest of us in Scarborough

)

Mon - Fri: 11am to 11pm; Sat - Sun: 10am-11pm

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