Restaurant Review: Uptown Kwan does decent — but unexciting — dim sum


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The menu for Kwan’s York Mills location focuses exclusively on dim sum

Image: CJ Baek

Having another choice for high-end dim sum is a dream come true for dumpling-crazed Sinophiles like me. Or so I imagined when Kwan — the snazzy Chinese resto at Yonge and St. Clair — opened their all-day, dim sum-only branch on York Mills. It’s a very attractive room, with 3-D tiles and harmonious colour combos. The service is pretty quick and affable. And it’s in a mall, so you can park.

Don’t get me wrong. I like the new Kwan. I like the old Kwan, although I do find it hard to put up with their often churlish service in order to get the (not cheap) dumpling delicacies. And I can’t figure out why new Kwan, while focusing on dim sum, isn’t offering some of the more exotic dumplings served at the original location.

Or maybe I’ve gotten spoiled. Travel can do that to you. Ever since I ate carciofi alla giudia for the first time in Rome I’ve been searching for that ultra-crisp deep-fried artichoke explosion in the mouth. And now it’s the same with dim sum. On a recent sojourn in Beijing, I ate dim sum in the Four Seasons Beijing restaurant, which was a revelation. Each little gem was a flavour explosion, a clever combo like steamed pork dumpling topped with sweet hairy crab, or fried taro and chestnut dumplings in gossamer wrapper with morsels of tender roast goose on top. Super-delicate pan-fried beef pancake.

Unfortunate for my dim sum eating future.

This peak eating moment has made the good stuff less exciting. And the Kwan dim sum isn’t. Exciting. All the regulars are here and done pretty nicely. Sticky rice in lotus leaf, siu mai and har gow. Steamed seafood and veg dumplings. Thin pancake with clams and chives is its usual addictive greasy self. They do a great job on the rice flour rolls, prepping the rice wrappers from scratch and cooking them to order. One, in particular, stuffed with snow pea sprout and mushroom, has vegetable sharpness from the greens in great contrast with mellow depth from the mushrooms in toothsome rice. Only two items disappoint badly: So-called deep-fried squid tentacles with salt are neither crispy from the deep fryer nor salt-crusted. And seafood dumpling soup, one of my other all-time dim sum favourites, suffers from both lackluster soup stock and overcooked and unexciting seafood.

Moral of the story: Stay home. Or stick to Big Macs and KFC when travelling.

Kwan at York Mills, 808 York Mills Rd., $50 dinner for two

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Joanne Kates trained at the Ecole Cordon Bleu de Cuisine in Paris. She has written articles for numerous publications, including the New York Times, Maclean’s and Chatelaine. Follow her on Twitter @JoanneKates.

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