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Toronto locals are fiercely proud of their city and food culture.
As tourists, we heard that pride on the street, on elevators, in restaurants and in hotel lobbies.
‘We’re a foodie city,’ Torontonians repeated with a sense of genuine pride. That effusive, almost haughty, praise grew infectious with repetition.
Now, don’t get us wrong. Toronto is a good food city featuring a fair amount of ethnic restaurants and, much like the rest of the world, a growing and thriving restaurant culture.
But a ‘foodie city?’ And just what is a foodie city? Is it a city that features good food or is a foodie city one of the best food cities in the world?
In many conversations, we heard bitterness about how Canadian food cities like Montreal and Vancouver overshadow Canada’s largest city. You will receive no disagreement from us in those conversations, as we would choose a serving of Montreal poutine over a Toronto peameal bacon sandwich.
That all being said, Toronto’s downtown does have a thriving Chinatown with some formidable dim sum. We’ve had dim sum in Amsterdam, London, Cape Town, Hong Kong, New York, Philadelphia and San Francisco. The dim sum in Toronto holds its own in comparison.
What is Dim Sum?
A typical dim sum meal involves freshly steamed and fried Cantonese food served on small plates and baskets. Each portion is usually a small taste bomb, proving that good things do indeed come in small packages.
Dim Sum in Toronto at Rol San
We checked out the dim sum at Rol San, which is located right on Spadina Avenue in the heart of Toronto’s main Chinatown neighborhood. The dim sum was creative, delicious and somewhat surprising, offering slight variations on the traditional.
Rol San’s decor is basic, to say the least. Tablecloths are clear plastic sheets. There are no carts, a common dim sum feature.
Instead, dishes are made to order and are served as they are prepared. While drinking hot tea (Mindi) and a coca-cola (Daryl), we perused the menu and made our selections.
First up was a basket of pork shiu mai. Each dumpling was topped with fish roe – a briny, popping counterpoint to the juicy, fatty pork. Not surprisingly, they tasted even better with some chili oil.
We diverged from the dim sum menu to order a Cantonese classic – deep-fried squid in spicy salt.
As we were eating the squid, out came the shrimp rice rolls. The slippery devils were worth the chopstick effort.
We ordered the home-made pan-fried pancakes in honor of our nephew Max. (They’re his favorite.) It was a good choice. The pancakes were savory and perfectly prepared.
Our last dish was the steamed pork and crab soup dumpling. We expected the Shanghainese classic xiao long boa like we get in New York and Philadelphia. Instead, this version included one large dumpling in a bowl of soup.
Even with the big squid dish and the coca cola, the bill was about $30 for both of us. We ended the experience by sharing a fresh fruit cantaloupe bubble tea from the bakery next door, which upped the tab by a few bucks.
The literal translation of dim sum is to touch the heart. We might not go that far about the food at Rol San, but it’s fair to say that our lunch was a solid meal and a good value right in the middle of Toronto.
Rol San Restaurant is located at 323 Spadina Avenue, Toronto, ON M5T 2E9, Canada.
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About the Authors
Daryl & Mindi Hirsch
Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.