Friday, October 30, 2009

Toronto Trip #4 of 4: Dim Sum at Rol San – September 6, 2009

This is the fourth and final trip to Toronto in the second half of summer.

Check out the links below for the other trips.

Trip 1: Markham food court, banh mi, cherries at Humber, Mr. Sun’s Taiwanese beef noodles
Trip 2: Tim Horton’s breakfast, Mirage’s Taiwanese beef noodles, ramen and onigiri at Kenzo, bubble tea
Trip 3: Takoyaki at Chinatown Festival, Chinese dinner at House of Gourmet, Chinese noodle breakfast at Congee Dynasty

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Christine brought Jimmy and me to the famed Rol San for the very first time. I didn’t quite know what to expect, since it was one of those dim sum places where you order off a sheet and not off a cart.

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We started with tea and ice water. The waitress brought by some of their hot sauce as well. This hot sauce was mixed with a little vinegar, so it had a nice tang. It wasn’t very spicy, but it was flavourful. I’m beginning to like vinegar in everything I eat.

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The chicken feet, or phoenix claws if “chicken feet” grosses you out. Two years ago, I had an experience that made me swear off chicken feet. I finally caved into the wonderful aromas and proclamations of deliciousness from Christine and Jimmy, and I ate chicken feet for the first time in two years!

Oh, it was heavenly. At first, I thought it may have tasted delicious because I haven’t eaten them in a while, but Christine reassures me that they’re the best chicken feet she’s ever eaten. The sauce wasn’t too sweet, and the flavours seeped their way right into the chicken’s cartilage and skin. I took great pleasure in destroying the feet into a pile of little bones.

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This giant dumpling in soup was okay. Christine and Jimmy really liked it. I found the wrapper too soggy, the filling too boring, and the soup too sweet. My dining companions were happy to finish it off themselves.

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Har gow (steamed shrimp dumplings). These are a staple of any proper dim sum, but they often lack any real shrimp flavour. I was shocked when I bit into these and they had large chunks of sweet shrimp. The skin wasn’t overly gummy either. It was executed perfectly.

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Clockwise from the top: shrimp in rice roll, bean curd skin roll with vegetarian filling, turnip cake, chicken feet, pork spring roll.

The shrimp in rice roll was good, but it should have come with more of the sweet soy sauce. There was also a lot more rice roll than I expected, so it filled me up rather quickly.

The vegetarian roll in bean curd sheet was gross. Oily and bland, it was a total dud. The textures, bumpy and crunchy, were off-putting. Normally, this is a decent dish, but we left it practically untouched this time.

The turnip cake was also disappointing. This is one of Jimmy’s favourite dishes, but even he found that it was too floury and bland. It wasn’t fried enough, and they used too much flour. The little meaty bits weren’t that good either—it’s as if they were there for texture alone and not flavour.

Chicken feet were awesome (see above).

The spring rolls were oily, but the flavour was fantastic. The porkiness hit me right away, and I wanted to eat more, but couldn’t. It was just a little much since it was one of the last dishes to arrive. I would order it again, if someone could guarantee that they wouldn’t be greasy.

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The youtiao in rice roll was fail. The youtiao tasted old, which surprised us considering Rol San’s location in the heart of Chinatown, and they were soggy. It tasted as if they used Ottawa’s youtiao to make it, and Ottawa’s youtiao suck.

The sticky rice in lotus leaf is a personal favourite, and it was good at Rol San. I can’t remember much else, except that I ate two of them myself.

Chicken feet were awesome (see above).

Turnip cake was disappointing (see above).

Vegetarian roll in bean curd wrapper was gross (see above).

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The Verdict

Considering the amount of disappointing dishes we ordered, I would still visit Rol San on a regular basis. The good dishes were amazing, though the crappy dishes were blech. I would stick to what I like (sticky rice and almost any dish with shrimp) because they do those dishes quite well. The price was decent, too, totalling $45 for three people.

All that grease gave us stomach-aches, and we relied heavily on Tums to get us through the afternoon. I wouldn’t eat here all the time, but if I were looking for a reliable place for dim sum in Chinatown, this would be it.

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Rol San on Urbanspoon


  1. Wow, I totally forgot that we went here.. but now that I've read the post, I definitely remember lunch. You forgot to mention that we sat in the back seating area - where the "asians" are seated (according to some other blogs and reviews). lol

    The youtiao rice rolls were sad during our outing. When I took mom, dad and Andrew to Rol San before this, we ordered a plate of the youtiao rice rolls and everyone ate it up. I think it's cause we don't get it in Ottawa, so it tastes that much better.

    It's nice to see you're blogging more often. I have zero pictures of my few food adventures since I moved. As mom and dad would say, "keep up the good work!"

  2. Oh yeah! We were totally VIP that day!

    I really wish the youtiao rolls were consistently awesome. It's something I would order more often.

    I've been trying to clear out my pictures for ages now, and I have bits and pieces of blog posts written. Now I have time to think about it. I'm actually up-to-date, with the exception of a dozen summer posts, but I imagine I'll combine them all into a "random eats" post.


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