Wednesday, December 21, 2011

the dining experience: dim sum seafood king

Toronto Life gave me a fantastic tip last week: Dim Sum Seafood King, during weekday lunches does $2.00 dim sum plates. Considering that Bunny and myself (and my mom) are all dim sum fans, this needed to be tried.

So Monday when we were headed out Christmas shopping, Bunny and I decided to make a lunch stop first. We don't do dim sum often, because the bill at the Pearl is often a bit painful, but we are always in the mood for dim sum.

This was, atmospherically, very different from the Pearl. It was much more the traditional dim sum banquet hall that my mom likes to tell me about, and that I have occasionally seen on TV. There must have been hundreds of tables around the room, all done up in perfect white tableclothes, napkins & chair covers. Super high ceilings made the whole place seem bigger than it actually is, and genuinely helps with just how crowded the place was.

The place was packed, which is always a good sign, and there were plenty of Chinese people eating there, which would usually be irrelevant but at a Chinese restaurant gives me little sparkles inside because it is generally an indication that it's bound to be good. There was even a party of some sort going on, and they were doing Chinese karaoke. Free entertainment!

So, the food. The carts came much more frequently than they do at the Pearl, and every cart was loaded. Each cart had about three different dishes, minimum, and the servers were all very cheerful. As well, you could order extra items separately, and some special items rotated around the room on much smaller trays with individual servers. (Those items were all specially priced, aka not $2, and included my favourite item).

Bunny and I did good for ourselves, tried lots of things, but kept it to a somewhat minimum. We had:
  • Pork dumplings
  • Shrimp & chive dumplings
  • Seafood dumplings
  • Sticky rice in Lotus Leaf
  • Shrimp "sliders" (as Bunny likes to call them), or rice noodle pancakes
  • Fried shrimp and scallion cakes
  • Some weird bird's nest meat dumpling that Bunny got (it was that or chicken feet ... I almost wish he'd had the chicken feet)
I adored the fried shrimp cakes (they call them hockey pucks at the Pearl). Perfectly crisped exteriors, moist filling. The shrimp taste & texture comes through well, but isn't overwhelming. Honestly, I prefered this to the Pearl's version.

Next favourite were the pork dumplings. They actually surprised me how much I liked them, as I don't usually go for pork at dim sum. Again, perfectly moist and perfectly seasoned, and the wrapper was perfectly cooked. I'm not quite sure what the dumpling wrapper was, it has a yellow colour, like lo mein noodles, and is definitely not the rice paper wrapper that the seafood dumplings come in.

The dumplings were good. Not great, not as good as the ones at the Pearl, but nothing to complain about. (Especially not at the price!) Really, my complaint was that they were oversteamed, and the wrapper was falling apart. They were huge, though. and the fillings were good.

Shrimp sliders again, on par with the Pearl. I actually found that these ones held together better than they usually do.

Disappointment came in the form of sticky rice. Instead of a big package, it was two smaller packages (perfect for Bunny and I), but I felt like the fillings were a bit more out there than they go with at the Pearl - several weird looking things that I just couldn't bring myself to put in my mouth. Curse of being a picky eater.

We weren't sitting around waiting for hours for things, new plates came frequently, and as soon as we asked "who do we talk to about the bill" one was provided quickly and politely.

Possibly the best part was the price: $25.00, tax & tip in. That's a third of what the bill comes to at the Pearl. There is a difference in quality, but it's very slight. Really, I only had two complaints (and the sticky rice was just me being squeamish). I was blown away by the bill.

Would I go back? Yes, absolutely, and I'm already planning to. On the other hand, if they priced themselves on par with Pearl, I would choose the Pearl. But! Holy shit was it good.

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