Kung Hei Fat Choy! It’s the Year of the Monkey. The best way to celebrate this Chinese New Year is to enjoy good quality dim sum.
Along the Silk Road weary travelers would stop for tea and small bites. A tradition grew. Friends would get together and sample a variety of flavourful dishes. Dim sum became a pastime, an art form, and an accessible luxury.
In Toronto the options are few. We want authenticity, but we need clean, fresh and healthy. When Debbie Lui opened Kwan Dim Sum, she knew both worlds—the Chinese and the Anglo communities. “I want people to try dim sum,” she tells me. Having been in the dim sum business for over twenty years, Lui knows what people
want; she has filled a void and maintains a high standard.
Cantonese cuisine is lively, refined, requires workmanship and offers the widest selection of Chinese dishes. At Kwan the menu is not a laminated accordion of a thousand options. No heavy sauce. No MSG. Lui knows her clients want fresh, quality ingredients, flavourful and healthy options including vegetarian items and a gluten free menu—all of which is light, simple, fresh and crisp.
We first turned to Kwan when we learned Chef Ronnie Lam, formerly of Lai Wa Heen in the Metropolitan Hotel, was helming the kitchen. Lui tells us that Chef Lam “understands all the dishes, but also worked in the hotel, so his standard is higher than the average store-front restaurant on the street.” Regulars know what they like and can order something different in advance, but the rest of us trust the chef’s addictive dim sum menu, which has become our favourite meal of the day, and the best of it’s kind in Toronto.
Our selection of bamboo baskets includes plump steamed shrimp dumplings that are pop in your mouth morsels we quickly devour. Classic barbeque pork buns are soft and doughy goodness with a savoury centre of sweet pork. Crisp truffle spring rolls are chock full of mushrooms and truffles. We veer to the main menu for carved-at-tableside Peking duck, prepared as crispy duck skin served on steamed sesame crepes with hoisin sauce, and as tender shredded meat wrapped in lettuce with crisp noodles and vegetables. Chili prawns are sweet, tangy, spicy and crisply lacquered in garlic. A hot pot of scallops with a medley of mushrooms is sizzling, ample and delicious. An array of meaty grouper dishes is prepared with eggplant in plum sauce; sweet and sour; stir-fired with truffles, and we want to taste them all!
Dim sum is made for sharing, but so too are the Cantonese dishes that we mix and match. Dining at Kwan is a social and culinary delight, and also reflects the yum cha tradition of tea service that pairs with dim sum. High quality jasmine, pu-erh, and green teas are all aromatic and nutraceautical. Kwan has quickly become the best Chinese restaurant in the city. *A new location is opening soon at Leslie and York Mills serving only dim sum.
~Kwan Dim Sum, 416-901-6618, 1496 Yonge Street~
Adam Waxman is an award winning travel journalist focusing on food, wine and well being. As well as an actor in film, television and formerly, the Stratford Festival, he is the Associate Publisher and Executive Editor of DINE and Destinations magazine.