Dim sum is a traditional Chinese dish that is served in small steamer baskets. The name literally translates to “touch of heart”, as it’s meant to be made with love and care. So if you want to get a taste of that warm homey feel without having to cook yourself, then these best dim sum spots in Toronto are the places to go!
But of course, if you want to save money and still have amazing dim sum at home, then these best frozen dim sum joints will bring joy to your kitchen!
In this review post, we’re going to talk about one of the most popular dim sum restaurants in downtown Toronto Chinatown – Rol San (龍笙栈). This is a dim sum spot that’s been around since 1994, and it remains a local favorite for its traditional items.
In fact, this restaurant has a nostalgic feeling to it when you enter. The interior is quite dated and the chairs are a bit too worn for comfort, but this adds to the overall charm of the place. When Rui and I came here, we felt like it was a blast from the past – like a 1990s dim sum joint!
Oh, how it brings back my childhood and teenage memories when I used to come here for dim sum with my grandpa.
As I entered my university years, I discovered WAY better dim sum restaurants in areas like Scarborough, Markham, and Richmond Hill, so I no longer go to Rol San anymore. Rui and I only decided to stop by because we were already in the area. Plus, we always wanted to come back here to write our review too and there was no better time than now.
Rol San (龍笙栈) Downtown Chinatown Dim Sum Review
I will be completely honest in this review. There will be no biased or false boosting. So here we go!
Since we already ate breakfast/brunch at Mildred’s Temple Kitchen (known for their best pancakes in Toronto), we didn’t order too many dim sum dishes today for our late lunch. The dim sum menu is very traditional, with some of their signature dishes being shrimp dumplings, pork dumplings, steamed BBQ buns, and more.
Here’s what we tried today. I have to say that I’m totally shocked at the reviews I read online about Rol San. The average rating on Yelp is about 3.5 stars whereas Google is 4 stars at the time of writing this. WHAT?? Are you serious?
You can read on to see my thoughts.
I also want to mention that they serve all-day dim sum in Toronto, so that’s a plus!
1. Shrimp Dumplings Har Gow (蝦餃)
Compared to other popular dim sum places, their har gow is smaller. They’re not gigantic like the ones we typically see more of today. So their haw gow remains the exact same as how they were in the 1990s and 2000s.
The one thing I noticed is it isn’t as greasy as how they used to be, which is a good thing!
Looks like they toned down on grease and oil since the demands of eating “healthier” have increased in the last couple of decades. And yes, I am aware that dim sum isn’t healthy in general but you get my point.
I would say their shrimp dumpling was okay. Not bad, but not great either.
Since more and more dim sum restaurants have popped up outside of the Toronto Downtown area, Rol San hasn’t kept up with the quality or trends.
2. Pork Dumplings Siu Mai (燒賣)
Their siu mai tastes just like any other siu mai you would find at a dim sum restaurant. Again, not as greasy as they used to be when I came here as a kid and teenager. The portion wasn’t nearly as big as what you could find at other higher-quality dim sum restaurants today either.
I have to say it was decent but not amazing – better than the har gow and probably one of the more decent dishes I had today so far.
3. Sticky Rice with Pork in Lotus Leaf
Rol San’s sticky rice with pork in a lotus leaf was very average. As you can see, they are a lot smaller in size compared to a lot of dim sum spots today.
Inside, you’ll find pork, dried shrimp, and a small piece of Chinese sausage. Can I say the good thing is you won’t overstuff yourself with rice?
4. Steamed Custard Buns (奶黄包)
I love steamed custard buns and I think this is probably one of the very few dim sum restaurants that serve this version.
Most custard buns today come with the salty egg yolk that’s very liquidy in the center – you’re familiar with the lava or volcano type of custard buns (流沙包), right?
However, I like Rol San’s version because it’s the traditional kind, which brings me back to the past when I used to enjoy this delightful sweet with my parents.
If you like traditional custard buns, and not the ones with the watery center, then Rol San is the place to get them!
5. Deep-Fried Squid Tentacle
Rui wanted to order this item since we haven’t eaten this dish in ages. I think it has probably been at least 6 to 7 years since we had something like this.
Every time we go to dim sum restaurants in Markham, Scarborough, North York, or Richmond Hill, we usually stick with the non-fried items. But today, we wanted a change, and so we decided to indulge.
Unfortunately, to our disappointment, their deep-fried squid tentacles were incredibly oil and packed full of grease. I know… no, duh, it’s deep-fried!
It was okay eating a piece or two, but after that, I personally couldn’t take anymore. It sort of made me feel sick to the stomach due to all that batter and oil. I woke up the next day with some acne on my face and I suspect it was due to this dish.
Rui sort of enjoyed it minus the extremely oily part. He thinks they could have toned down on the oil.
We can say this resembles street food that you pick up at an Asian night market.
The food was very mediocre. As Rui would put it, “yeah, it wasn’t that great.”
It wasn’t horrible to the point where you’d want to throw up, but it was definitely not even comparable to the other newer dim sum restaurants that opened up after Rol San.
I have to admit I used to like this place when I used to come here as a kid or teenager probably because there wasn’t a lot of selection back then. With more dim sum restaurants, competition is high and standards have been elevated. It doesn’t compare to other downtown places like Lai Wah Heen.
One of my favorite dim sum places today is One Fusion in Richmond Hill and I think you’ll fall in love with their flakey BBQ pork pastry – it’s so delicious! And their har gows are bigger with juicer shrimp.
The service was alright. No one was rude but they weren’t attentive or friendly. Some things just don’t change at Rol San. 🙂
The true rating would probably be 2.5/5 but I was being a little more generous here because they’ve kept their tradition and original vibe. You’ll also see that they extended their restaurant so there’s more space at the back, which was empty when we were here.
It’s a place that is nostalgic and brings back memories of old Chinatown. It’s not traditional in the sense that they push out carts filled with dim sum items, but their tables are still using the white plastic sheets (one-time use and then toss), which is bad for the environment. But it’s the old-school feel and I think they kept it that way for a reason.
Don’t even get me started here.
Portions are small, the quality isn’t quite like the others, and yet their prices (even though slightly cheaper) are almost identical to the better quality dim sum restaurants.
For a restaurant like this in old Toronto Chinatown, I was expecting prices to be a little lower. Here’s a snapshot of their prices in 2022 going into 2023. All the items we ordered were priced at $6.98:
I guess we have to take into consideration of inflation. It’s just crazy seeing prices like this today when we go out to eat – and this is what they call “budget-friendly” or “cheap” in today’s time! Insane.
I don’t have a snapshot of our bill since I have no idea where I placed it. This was $50 including tax and tips for two people (for only 5 tiny items). And yes, I repeat their portions are a lot smaller compared to other places.
Overall, Rol San Dim Sum is a place you visit if you want to reminisce about the past and be reminded of the old Chinatown. It’s also the place to go when you’re nearby and just want to get your dim sum fixed.
Prices are high and quality isn’t the greatest, but we still love it for its atmosphere and nostalgia appeal. If you’re looking for an upgrade, and don’t mind the drive, try One Fusion in Richmond Hill or Yu Seafood and Skyview Fusion in Markham. You won’t be disappointed!
Overall Rating of Rol San: 2.8/5
The dim sum is edible but it’s not amazing. Not even close.
I am highly influenced by price as well. Given their pricing, I was expecting the quality to be slightly better – maybe something like My Wonderful Kitchen Dim Sum Restaurant.
The good thing I can say is they offer all day dim sum, which many restaurants don’t. So, if you’re craving dim sum, then you may want to stop by Rol San.
Another pro is they are a traditional type of dim sum restaurant and what I really like is they are the few who still offer the good old custard buns (奶黄包). Yes, lava custard buns (流沙包) are so overrated today!