March 23, 2012

Dim Sum @ Lai Wah Heen

I've repeatedly professed my love for dum sum, so I was pretty excited to go to Lai Wah Heen, one of the ultra-high-class Cantonese restaurant in Toronto. I'd heard my friend rave about their $48 lunch dim sum prix fixe menu, but I wasn't really willing to shell out that much for dim sum.
Stepping into the dining room, I felt transported to the 90s. Everything was very old school, perhaps due for a renovation. Though it was probably very nice when the restaurant opened, the décor felt a little dated to me, . For a restaurant of this calibre, the overall ambiance paled compared to the lavish extravagance of other Chinese restaurants, such as Casa Imperial and Casa Victoria.
Fancy silverware and napkins
Lai Wah Heen's gourmet chili oil had chunks of dried conpoy and shrimps, which made very good snacks. But the chili oil itself wasn't very spicy at all and didn't make a very good dip.
Lai Wah Heen is known for exquisitely crafted and innovative dishes, but I couldn't resist ordering some dim sum classics for comparison to other Chinese restaurants. First up,  siu mai of pork, shrimp and scallop (帶子蝦燒賣) ($6.50). I'm usually not the greatest fan of siu mai, but this version was quite delicious. The bold, meaty flavours made up for the small sizes of these dumplings.
crystal shrimp dumpling
In comparison, crystal shrimp dumpling (水晶蝦餃皇) ($6.50), or har gow, was quite ordinary. The sizes were on the smaller side, and it wasn't particularly outstanding. Overall, it was well executed, but for this price, I expected some sort of wow factor.
baked puffy turnover filled with minced barbequed pork & pineapple
My favourite dish of the entire meal was the baked puffy turnover filled with minced barbequed pork & pineapple (鳳梨叉燒酥) ($6.50). The soft, buttery pastry was filled with sweet, delectable barbequed pork fillings. The pineapple added an extra sweet dimension and a perfect tinge of acidity. Altogether, the turnover was divinely rich (in a good way). This wasn't one of the restaurant's intricately presented dishes, but it impressed me based on flavours alone.
crispy deep-fried roll of pitaya, mango and shrimp
Certain items on the menu were served by the piece. We ordered one to try- crispy deep-fried roll of pitaya, mango and shrimp (火龍果香芒蝦卷) ($3.50). I liked it, but it sounded better on paper. The fried roll was filled with salad dressing, and I wished there were more fruits to counterbalance the greasy richness. 
Seared beef sirloin in rice roll served with sweet soy sauce
Seared beef sirloin in rice roll served with sweet soy sauce (星級西冷腸粉) ($8.00). This was a pairing of a dim sum classic with gourmet ingredients- in this case, beef sirloin. I didn't actually enjoy the combination all that much because the beef sirloin wasn't prepared in a Chinese way. However, I have to say that the rice noodle roll itself was lovely and velvety smooth. I ended up eating the two components separately.
Deep-fried bumble bee dumpling of sweet green tea paste
Desserts were definitely highlights of our meal! Deep-fried bumble bee dumpling of sweet green tea paste (綠茶小蜜蜂) ($6.50) were adorably irresistible! They were almost too cute to be eaten! I knew that many of Lai Wah Heen's other dishes were similarly exquisitely designed, and I wished more than ever that I had order more of those items! On a side note, the bumble bee dumplings tasted as good as they looked!
tapioca rice ball in a lightly ginger flavored syrup
Lastly, we had tapioca rice ball in a lightly ginger flavored syrup (薑汁西米皮湯丸) ($6.50). I didn't love this because it was filled with red bean paste, and I prefer black sesame filling. But the unique part about the rice balls was that the skin was covered with tapioca pearls. Jeremy loved that part, and I happily gave him my share as well.
Looking back at the bill, I noticed that they over-charged us by $1.50, as we had actually order 5 items that were $6.50 and only 1 item that was $8.00. But I'm willing to look past this small fault as we were offered complimentary tea for absolutely no reason at all. Nevertheless, the meal was still very pricey for dim sum. Would I come back again? Not anytime soon, but I'm tempted to come back just to try some of their more exquisitely presented dim sum. For ordinary dim sum, there are infinite cheaper alternatives uptown. However, some of the dishes here are definitely worthy of a visual feast, and I would very much like to have the pineapple and barbequed pork turnover again.
Lai Wah Heen on Urbanspoon

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