March 08, 2010

Restaurant:Grand Chinese Cuisine

Is high-class dim sum an oxymoron? Not at Grand Chinese Cuisine.

Sean and I trekked out for lunch to try this restaurant that Chowhound recommended. By and large, we weren't disappointed. Everything was quite tasty and there were some real standout dishes. Sean, of course, had to be DRAGGED to the restaurant whining that he 'didn't like dim sum'. I didn't let that disturb me, since he always does that ("I don't like sushi!"... "no food could be worth that!") Sure enough, he tasted the first dish and sheepishly promised, "Ok, I won't doubt you about food again."

I'll be holding him to that.

Details below...

I ordered a lot of dim sum standards in order to compare them to the same dishes elsewhere. Sure enough, Grand tried to add a bit of uniqueness to each dish. Everything was slightly better than usual and some dishes were superb. Dim sum was cooked to order, fried dishes were the least greasy I've ever had. Service was perfection - dishes were brought at a perfect pace, piping hot (in fact, be very careful). All desserts were brought at the end of the order.

The standards:
Har gow, steamed shrimp dumplings, were huge. Flecks of fresh herbs looked pretty but didn't contribute any noticeable flavor. However, the large shrimps in the filling were juicy and not at all greasy.

Siu mai, steamed pork dumplings, encased a whole shrimp and were topped with a slice of scallop and red/black fish roe. I don't really like siu mai... these compared favorably, but didn't really change my opinion.

Char siu bao, steamed bbq pork buns were really well done. The dough was nice and moist, not over-leavened and the filling was tender and juicy. Traditionally not my favorite things, these were good. Sean really liked them and ate 2 out of 3 - whew, too filling for me!

Shrimp chong fan, rolled sheets of rice noodle enrobing large shrimps, was good. Kernels of corn were the 'twist' here, adding a bit of texture, but otherwise the dish tasted pretty standard.

Pan fried turnip cake was presented very attractively and otherwise, less greasy and salty than usual. To me, it didn't taste much different, but Sean really enjoyed it.

Shrimp spring rolls had to be the least oily deep fried food that I've ever had. Ultra crisp and no oil left on the fingers. That's skillful deep frying.

The awesome:
Fried curry calamari was CRAZY good. The curry was not overpowering, the batter was crisp and not greasy and the calamari was as tender as I've ever had it.

Grand scallop dumplings were an interesting variation on har gow that I would definitely order instead of har gow.

Egg tarts were a total crime. These are the smallest, most expensive egg tarts I've had - and they're totally worth it. Seriously, they're SO good. They tasted like they had just come out of the oven and were cooled to the perfect warmth (baking while we were eating?). Filling was perfectly, barely set and shell was crisp and tender. I just wish they would hear my plea: leave out the swallow's nest garnish to make them CHEAPER.

Deep fried miniature custard buns were something I hadn't encountered before. The custard inside was rich but a bit firm, but delicious nevertheless. The dough was super crispy and very well fried. It was strange, when we first tried them, we were both kind of 'eh' (could have something to do with the fact that we were really full) but as we nibbled they started tasting better and better. I ended up liking them. Sean ended up loving them.

Ok, so how much did this all set us back? $40 bucks each, including tea, soda, tax and tip. Not bad, considering that we ordered waaaay too much (and I think I forgot a dish). Probably we could've done with 3 or 4 fewer dishes, reducing the cost by about $10. But I wanted to sample lots of stuff and we had both skipped breakfast. But we still left stuffed.

Atmosphere was less understated than most dim sum places - the room looks like a wedding reception hall. When I return, it'll be on a weekend so that I can try stuff off of the slightly expanded weekend menu (deep fried coconut buns!).

Between the trip to get there and the expense... it's something I won't do as often as I'd like. But whenever I'm in the area, I'll pop in for some good dim sum (which will include calamari and egg tarts)!

Grand Chinese Cuisine

Double Tree
655 Dixon Road
Etobicoke, ON
M9W 1J3
Tel: 416-248-9898

Posted by JAY at 07:08 PM | Comments (0)

March 10, 2010

Flying to Halifax: Air Canada sucks!

This is the story of how we got to the airport an hour early and missed our domestic flight (for which they recommend arriving 1 hour early).

I tried to print my boarding pass before Sean, but it wouldn't print and directed me to the service counter. Sean's ticket printed with no probs whatsoever, so he waited for me. I was the second person in line at a countertop with a dozen service desks and only one attendant. It took half an hour to get served and was told that I 'arrived too late' and had missed my flight. This was half an hour before flight time. I objected that we'd arrived half an hour ago and that Sean had printed his boarding pass AFTER mine refused.

Unfortunately, because he waited for me, they wouldn't let Sean board either! They also took his boarding pass so we couldn't prove when we'd arrived (actually, later, the parking receipt at least printed the entry time). We were pissed. And stressed because we had just expressed job dissatisfaction and our boss would probably think we were pulling this on purpose.

They told us the next flights 3 and 5 hours later were both full. Their complaints desk doesn't have a phone number, only takes written complaints and only after the travel is complete. We called our travel agency, who were great, they told us if we needed to, we could check back out and they'd credit the flight to a Westjet flight that had seats. But AC told us that our bags would need to be x-rayed if we checked out and it would take 2 and a half hours!

Then, they told us that even though the flights were 'full', their 'overbooking system' allows people to show up for basically any flight. So apparently a lot of people miss their flight and then are given seats (OUR seats!) on the next flight. I'm betting that's why I couldn't get a boarding pass over 45 mnutes before the flight time - they'd given my seat away but not Sean's.

So we waited at the wrong gate, because they changed it without announcing anything, before realizing that something was wrong and inquiring to find out about the change. All the standby people were called EXCEPT ME - they ended up with Sean. Argh. They told us they would have to page the person who wasn't there. They did that twice with no result, so I ended up taking the poor guy's seat and was on my way - FINALLY - to Halifax.

Posted by JAY at 08:34 PM | Comments (2)