Sunday, May 12, 2013

Rol San - Toronto, ON

Whenever I travel to Toronto, I always make time for dim sum no matter how busy I am. Alberta's food scene is missing competition, resulting in higher costs for inferior food. I find that various types of food are affected differently, with dim sum suffering greatly. Staying in Chinatown on this visit to Toronto, we were surrounded by more Chinese restaurants in a two block radius than in all of Edmonton.

On the advice of a friend and a solid 87% rating on Urbanspoon, we decided to stop by Rol San for dim sum on Saturday around 11. We had been warned to go early, and it was quickly evident why. The front entrance was packed full of people waiting for tables, with other people directed to wait in the back. A waiter was keeping mental note of who had come in when, and immediately I knew that there were too many waiting diners for such a system to work. He had been quoting tables of two a 10-15 minute wait, but Nhi and I got passed over twice before being seated after approximately 25 minutes. I was starting to get a little grumpy at that point, ready to leave if we'd been passed over one more time. I wish I'd read blogTO ahead of time - I hadn't realized the front and back waiting times were discriminate. Apparently those waiting in the back of the restaurant get seated much faster.

Like many Chinese restaurants, there wasn't much to say about the decor. Tables were covered in disposable plastic tablecloths so that the waiters could wrap everything up after diners had finished, making for quick turnaround time. Since there were only two of us, we decided on four dishes: siu mai (pork dumpings), chicken feet, fried shrimp dumplings, and Chinese donut wrapped in rice roll. The dishes came out rather quickly. The siu mai were tasty but nothing special - I am partial to siu mai with more seafood included, but these were sufficiently moist and Nhi enjoyed the tobiko topping.
The chicken feet did not fare as well, unfortunately. I had to defer to Nhi's opinion on this one - as a child, I used to love chicken feet, but as I got older I started to imagine chicken without feet and this particular dish was no longer appetizing to me. Nhi thought these were sub-par, slightly dry with average flavoring.
I usually go with the steamed shrimp dumplings, but we decided to switch it up this time and go for the deep fried ones. I was happy that we did, because these were fried to a perfect crisp. They came out steaming hot, with a flavorful shrimp-only filling, and were served with a sort of miracle whip sauce.
We had actually wanted to try some other rice rolls, but were surprised to see that the only ones on the menu were shrimp rice rolls. As it isn't a particularly difficult dish to make, most dim sum places will have an assortment of fillings available including pork and beef. With the lack of selection, we settled for the Chinese donut wrapped in rice roll. I usually love this dish, but I felt that the Chinese dumpling was too chewy and dense rather than light and crisp. I was happy to see that it was served with the proper sauces (peanut and hoisin, unlike Cafe de Tropika) but the dish was overall very average.
With most dim sum dishes in the $3-$5 range, and an additional $0.60 charge for tea per person, I wouldn't consider Rol San to be great value for dim sum in Toronto. I've definitely had better, and cheaper, farther away from downtown. The service was sub-par, even for a Chinese restaurant - I usually don't judge such places too harshly, but I really felt that Rol San should have a more effective and fair seating system. I was ready to walk away watching table after table given away. In the end, I don't think the food justified the wait, with most dishes only average by Toronto standards (but still far superior to what I would get in Edmonton). Perhaps we didn't order the right dishes, but nothing that I tasted was enough to entice me back.

Top Pick of the Day: Deep fried shrimp dumplings

2.5/5 Erics

Rol San on Urbanspoon

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