Growing up in an Asian household, the concept of brunch does not include pancakes, french toasts, and obscene amounts of bacon. Instead, my family goes for Dim Sum almost every weekend. When we moved here several years ago, this weekly affair became a monthly treat given the rarity of good dim sum restaurants. Eventually, I just went cold turkey because no Dim Sum is better than bad dim sum.
Dim sum refers to a style of Cantonese food prepared as small bite-sized or individual portions of food traditionally served in small steamer baskets or on small plates. Dim sum is also well-known for the unique way it is served in some restaurants, whereby fully cooked and ready-to-serve dim sum dishes are carted around the restaurant for customers to choose their orders while seated at their tables.
Eating dim sum at a restaurant is usually known in Cantonese as going to “drink tea” (yum cha), as tea is typically served with dim sum.
Dim Sum is like tapas on steroids. The difference is that the excitement of the unknown and creativity is what draws people to tapas, whereas the comforting familiar taste is the most appealing factor of Dim Sum. I actually do not enjoy the traditional Hong Kong way of serving Dim Sum. Carts are pushed around and you take what you see on the cart. This is the way King Tin serves their Dim Sum. Although King Tin does offer the option to order from the menu, most tend to just pick off items on the carts.
Everyone has their favorites when it comes to Dim Sum and when you go out specially for it, you WANT TO have that item. The whole process always goes like this for me when Dim Sum gets served from carts:
- Yay we are having Dim Sum!
- Oh no, it’s the cart. It’s okay, I will rely on my will power to wait for my favorite XXX item.
- SO HUNGRY. GRRRR.
- Okay I will just eat a little of whatever that is on the next cart.
- Oh my god so full.
- DAMNIT XXX IS ON THE NEXT CART! Okay I will just try a little of that… after all I came specially for it!
- OH MY GOD. I’M BURSTING.
- I hate Dim Sum.
Seriously… no Dim Sum carts for me.
About a year ago, Hot Wheels Chinese Restaurant (HWCR) opened on Victoria Street. It quickly became the talk of the town because –
It turns out that the owners of HWCR used to own Crystal Palace in Uptown Waterloo. They then opened Hot Wheels Tea House (more Taiwanese influence) and Hot Wheels Chinese Restaurant (more Cantonese influence) shortly after selling Crystal Palace. The drive-through was left behind by the previous restaurant and the owners never bothered taking it down.
I guess too many people started asking for take-out Dim Sum – which hey, seems like a legit idea to me – they decided to do a revamp of the restaurant.
Sam’s Chinese Kitchen sounds so boring compared to Hot Wheels!
Dim Sum all day every day.
I have never been inside the original HWCR but the current decor of SCR looks good.
Of course, the classy decor must be accompanied by the classic Chinese restaurants’ plastic table covers.
Prices for Dim Sum are as follows:
Extra-large plate – $4.75
Large plate – $4.25
Medium plate – $3.95
Small plate – $3.15
Tea – $0.60 per person
The problem is that the sizes are not standardized so a medium on one dish could be different from a medium of another. For example, a medium siew mai serves four, while a medium BBQ pork bun only serves three. We had eight people and definitely over-ordered. It would be nice if they could indicate the number of servings for each item instead of going with the generic small/medium/large. However, one commendable thing is that their menu is a concise one-page with separates into various categories of dim sum (ie. steamed, deep-fried, congee, dessert etc).
On the Table for Maple: (For a party of eight)
- 1 extra-large
- 9 large
- 15 medium
- 7 small
- 8 teas
Total bill before tip = $146
The following are my standard orders whenever I go for Dim Sum.
Steamed Dim Sum
Pork Siew Mai
Shrimp Har Gow
Sticky rice in lotus leaves – This is a “large” but only comes with two.
Often used to judge the quality of a Dim Sum place, the BBQ pork bun passed our test as it had a lovely bun to pork ratio instead of being all bun and no pork.
Shrimp rice noodles. We also ordered BBQ pork rice noodles but the shrimp was much more succulent and tasty.
Deep-Fried/Pan-Fried Dim Sum
Wu Kok (Fried Taro Dumplings) – my absolute favourite!
If I went to Dim Sum and did not have this I might as well have just gone for pancakes.
We ignored the idea that sweets should be eaten after savoury and had them altogether. They good as the savoury though.
Sesame ball with lotus paste
Egg custard tart
I felt that the egg tarts were the weakest of all. The crust was not pillowy and flaky, and the custard lacked fragrance.
Eight of us went and each brought home some leftovers.
If you are a loyal customer of Crystal Palace, you would have been able to tell the drop in standards after it was sold. I am definitely relieved that the owners are still cooking in this region. Sam’s Chinese Kitchen feels like a breath of fresh air, and definitely adds some competition to the Kitchener Dim Sum scene, which has been dominated by Cameron Chinese Seafood Restaurant for years.