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Restaurants

Crown Princess

Posted by Frank / Reviewed on October 23, 2010 / review policy

Crown Princess TorontoThe Crown Princess offers some of the best dim sum south of Steeles and West of Kennedy (though I suppose the proprietors at Lai Wah Heen would have something to say 'bout that) and considering the surroundings in which you eat those savoury morsels, it better be since the dining room is as overwrought as any of my reviews. I mean Sweet Jane, could you dial down the lavishness of the décor a bit?

Having dim sum in the Crown Princess is like what I imagine it would feel like eating in Liberace's bathroom if his fleet of Chinese French maids fluttered back and forth, arms piled high with bamboo steamers instead of feather dusters and his tables were cleared by what I can only assume are middle aged Chinese castrati in frilly collared black shirts that make them resemble the goth version of a crown rack of lamb (though they do sing beautifully fwiw)

Crown Princess TorontoSo how exactly did this humble Chinese brunch take on such monstrous proportions, metastasize into a rococo riot of brocaded cushions, ornate gold leaf, faux marble pillars? Crown Princess is a downtown satellite of the equally opulent Crown Prince in Markham and in truth dim sum's not the real point as they both "court" the Chinese Wedding Banquet and HK expense account crowd.

Anyone with even a hint of humility or who likes their dim sum traditional, their porcelain chipped and their chopsticks plastic will sense a feeling of immediate, madcap alienation. That said, suppress any pinko sensibilities you have, dear class warrior, summon your inner Merovingian and indulge in the crazy over-the-topness of your surroundings - your effort will be rewarded with some seriously good nosh. Though if you're gonna own the Matrix thing, as pristine as the bathrooms are you might actually wanna bring your own silk if you want to *ahem*curse in French

Crown PrincessAdmittedly, prices are a little higher than average but you can even stick it to the ruling class if you arrive before 11 am when most of the items on the dim sum menu are $3.10 each!

Right from the get-go, you'll be impressed by the small details down to little porcelain rests for your enameled chopsticks and dandified teapots filled to the brim with fragrantly floral jasmine tea ($1.20/person).

Crown Princess Fine DiningDim sum restaurants typically live and die by stalwarts har gao and siu mai. Chef Caleb Pang's versions
at Crown Princess are far from typical, they're some of the most technicolour flavours downtown. The har gao ($5.30 for 4) is packed with fresh, plump pink pieces of shrimp steamed to perfection stuffing translucent rice flour pockets that are neither too thick nor too flimsy and adding just the right amount of carb to balance out the bright seafood flavour of the dumpling.

The siu mai ($6.30 for 4) are as opulent as the digs. These lovely little steamed dumplings
have always been my favourites because of the perfect balance of pork and shrimp they achieve. Until I tried the Crown Princess version, I didn't think you could improve on perfection but adding a small dot of sweet, smoky foie gras mousse and switching out plain ol' fish roe for proper caviar elevates the dish to an amazing flavour bite that'll having you begging for more like Oliver Twist.

Crown Princess TorontoNot everything coming out of the kitchen is blinged out, and are probably just as good, if not better at your go-to dim sum (well if I actually had one since Yiu Wah closed down). The fung jao ($4.30) are competent if unremarkable though there's not much you can really do with chicken feet.

Pouches of sticky rice in lotus leaf ($5.30 for 3) are tasty but portions are tiny compared to most places in Chinatown. And though it guarantees the freshness since all items are delivered to order, you think you could've spent some of the reported $2 million it cost to tart up this former 5th Element space on dim sum carts (you could even have them pushed by hunchbacks to go with the whole Versailles decadence theme).

Crown PrincessThe kitchen gets back on a roll with a new personal favourite. The beef tendon in thai sauce  (pictured above) ($5.30) is all about texture; think al dente penne crossed with the stickiness of spare ribs and smother the lot in a spicy, lemongrass and chili infused Thai curry and you'll marvel at exactly how crack-like addictive the 5th quarter can be.

Crown PrincessSpeaking of offal, the beef tripe in XO sauce ($4.30) lacks even a hint of the trademark "wet-sheep" smell that usually accompanies tripe dishes. Also absent is the excessive chewiness, all which conspires to make this version of the dish something that'll appeal to the pickiest eaters (provided you don't actually tell 'em what they're eating, natch). Other winners include perfectly crispy fried octopus tentacles, and beef meatballs scented with preserved orange peel.

Crown Princess may not ever be your go to dim sum restaurant but if you're in the mood for high-end indulgence and don't fancy the drive to the burbs, then swing by and give it a try. Sure you may feel slightly like a ventriloquist's dummy sitting on this lap of luxury but hey, there are worse things to be when the food is this tasty.

Crown PrincessPhotos courtesy Pearl Lam and Martino Lozej

Discussion

36 Comments

charlie / October 24, 2010 at 10:18 am
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that's some mighty expensive dim sum!
Wil / October 24, 2010 at 12:33 pm
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Address?
saltspring / October 24, 2010 at 12:56 pm
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This place is fantastic. My Cantonese partner fell in love with it at first bite. She happily declared that we no longer have to make the trek to Markham or Richmond Hill to get decent dim sum. Yes, it's pricier (though not Lai Wah Heen prices) than your average dim sum (unless you get there before 11am), but well worth it.
piccola / October 24, 2010 at 01:38 pm
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Anything vegetarian on the menu? Dim sum is notoriously meat-heavy, which sucks for us vegs...
frank replying to a comment from piccola / October 24, 2010 at 02:08 pm
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there are a couple of options. the braised baby bok choy and the steamed gai lan are pretty good albeit pretty standard. there's also braised pressed bean curd stuffed with mushrooms and bamboo shoots which was mighty tasty. and if you consider pork a vegetable why you're just spoiled for choice! ;o)
Rachel / October 24, 2010 at 04:24 pm
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I really wish BlogTO made sure to always include vegetarian options or acknowledge if there aren't any.
hellebelle replying to a comment from Rachel / October 24, 2010 at 05:20 pm
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i second this! it would really help in my should-i-eat-there decision.
frank replying to a comment from hellebelle / October 24, 2010 at 05:33 pm
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we're always looking to expand our food coverage and considering my healthy contempt for vegetarian food, we could use someone who can indeed approach the cuisine and give it the respect it deserves.

that said, unless it's specifically vegetarian or buddhist style dim sum, you should assume that most dim sum (Crown Princess included) is as vegetarian as it is kosher. if you're a vegetarian you should definitely give Crown Princess a wide berth.

on a related note, i never hear meat-eaters complain about the lack of meat options at vegetarian restaurants...funny that... ;o)
A|Layton / October 25, 2010 at 08:26 am
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1) Any dim sum place that makes you pay for your tea is not worth the time of day. Tea is offered free practically everywhere in HK as it should be.

2) The best dim sum in Toronto is at Broadview and Gerard: River Seafood House
jamesmallon / October 25, 2010 at 09:12 am
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While you are considering appeasing the vegetarians with vegetarian reviews of regular restaurants, please write reviews of Japanese restaurants and tell me about the non-fish options, and pulled-pork restaurant reviews with halal options, and pasta restaurants with celiac options...

I have exactly one vegetarian friend, because I have met exactly one vegetarian with a sense of humour.
jamesmallon replying to a comment from piccola / October 25, 2010 at 09:16 am
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"Dim sum is notoriously meat-heavy, which sucks for us vegs..." You could go elsewhere. Imagine that!

"I really wish BlogTO made sure to always include vegetarian options or acknowledge if there aren't any." For crying out loud, have you ever been to dim sum? Your food issues are not their priority.
frank replying to a comment from A|Layton / October 25, 2010 at 10:28 am
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I believe River Seafood closed down.
lulu replying to a comment from frank / October 25, 2010 at 01:28 pm
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to clarify this silly debate ...

frank, the reason meat eaters do not complain about the lack of meat at veggie restaurants is because they generally do not go to exclusively vegetarian restaurants. they mock them. for that matter, many vegetarians like fine food and variety and do not necessarily limit themselves to vegetarian-only restaurants.

much of the time, vegetarians are just looking to find some options for them. there are a few good asian restaurants that go out of their way to provide vegetarian options or modify dishes upon request. this is what the people above are asking you to consider. a few examples are Dynasty (for dim sum ... although you may need to look at the regular menu as well and speak to a manager to ask for modified items like noodles or pea shoots or their sometimes offered "veggie plate" of gluten/seitan) or Golden Thai which has many items and specifically tells you to ask them for modifications.

jamesmallon - in contrast to your experience, i was vegan for over a decade (i'm now mostly vegetarian) and in all this time, i have never made an issue of it or brought it up, yet many people seemed to want to create a debate or question it or justify themselves without any provocation. by the way, i'm not sure what you're getting at in terms of humour, but there's nothing funny about an abattoir. just saying.

and frank, you might ask why you need to be strangely defensive on the matter. it is only with inner doubt of some kind that a person feels the need to debate. :)
lulu / October 25, 2010 at 01:34 pm
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Dynasty also offers a few yummy veg dumpling options and apparently nearby Zin also offers veggie options (i suspect Crown Princess may too, but frank was not all that interested).

this way the veggies and carnivores can enjoy a meal in harmony

:)
matts / October 25, 2010 at 02:21 pm
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any dim sum (or chinese cusine) place with a decently sized menu will offer plenty of vegetarian options. My partner is vegetarian and we never have a problem. There are usually dumplings, rice, steamed veggies (Chinese broccoli, snowpea leaves, eggplant), etc. So, fear not the porn and beef and chicken that's front and centre on the menu, go for the vegetarian stuff and enjoy!
matts / October 25, 2010 at 02:22 pm
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make that: fear not the PORK ;)
belvedere replying to a comment from lulu / October 25, 2010 at 03:27 pm
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jamesmallon is right. if u expect veggie considerations when u go for dim sum, don't bother. if u try that attitude in hong kong they'll laugh ur skinny white ass right out the door. and btw dynasty is closing down at the end of the lease. crown princess blows dynasty away.

and a|layton, if u want good tea, u always pay for it. broadview and gerrard?? yuk. viet mando land. sorry u need a decent hk chef for great dim sum.
aventura replying to a comment from A|Layton / October 25, 2010 at 03:30 pm
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Not sure what part of Hong Kong or even what dim sum places, except the holes in the walls, you're referring to, but most dim sum restaurants I've been to charge for tea, per person.
Cityplace / October 25, 2010 at 04:26 pm
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Unless said veggie also gives up all of their leather goods, and forgoes the use of anything containing leather - they're not really veggie and should be subject to mockery and charges of hypocrisy.
Michael Goodbaum / October 26, 2010 at 05:49 pm
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As someone who has recently become vegetarian for health reasons, let me say shuuuuuuuuuuuut up.

Right? I mean, please.

Every decent dim sum restaurant has vegetarian options to cater to the MILLIONS of VEGETARIANS LIVING ALL AROUND THE WORLD.

I mean, some people have moral or ethical or religious reasons to not eat meat. Some people can't include it in their diet for health reasons. Others see a political force that is taking over the control of basic diet through factory farming.

A restaurant review of a restaurant with a large menu that only focuses on one part of the menu has not really done the full job of the publication. Considering dimsum menus are massive this just focuses uncessarily on dishes like tripe and chicken feet which, as pointed out are not usually that "unique" without adding anything. Try more dumplings which ARE THE BASIS OF ALL DIMSUM.

Other dishes to possibly try: sticky sheets of tofu in garlic sauce, fried balls of glutinous rice with schichuan salt, stinky tofu, steamed eggplant, steamed pea shoots, etc.

That said I will go here, eating with other people who enjoy meat, and I'll order all of the vegetable options. That way everyone can try a larger variety of dishes and when there are the inevitable leftovers I can take home the veggie ones and have lunch for the next day.
Parik / October 26, 2010 at 09:03 pm
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That's all fine and good - but if you use leather in ANY part of your life (ie. your car seats as an example), you're not really vegetarian and you live in a life of false superiority.
michael Goodbaum / October 26, 2010 at 09:18 pm
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As I specified I don't eat meat for purely health reasons. Wearing leather doesn't harm me, in fact it's quite warm! There is no moral negative that I can even see to using the entirety of an animal. Leather goods last a long time and if were overproducing that would simply drive the price down, so more people would be warm?

Once again it is annoying that meat eaters see it as a question of everything or nothing. There is no advantage in everything or nothing because that is not the kind of world we live in. Do something because it works in this world.

Not eating meat doesn't imply superiority. Most of the worlds people are not eating meat now... It's as absurd as saying that eating meat makes you better.
robford replying to a comment from michael Goodbaum / October 27, 2010 at 07:52 am
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Eating meat makes me smarter.
stephen gross / February 14, 2011 at 03:06 pm
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GROSS
helen / July 10, 2011 at 11:15 pm
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whomever commented about not going to crown princess as a vegetarian should take a look at the menu again. i am vegetarian and can eat here more easily than most other dim sum spots. aside from all the sweet options, they also have stuff like:

corn congee
veg dumplings
sweet potato spring rolls
tofu skin rolls filled with veggies
braised taro and sweet potatoes
greens

and other dishes...
Chris / April 16, 2012 at 01:33 pm
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I totally respect those who don't eat meat because of ethical/moral/etc. beliefs. I laugh at those who are vegetarian because of "health" reasons and it shows a very uneducated point of view (those who have actual medical conditions for which meat is an issue are excused from this). There's a reason why we are able to digest and process meat - we are naturally omnivores. You can have a healthy diet if you are a vegan, if you are a vegetarian, if you are a pescatarian, and if you are a meat-eater. Conversely, you can have a crappy diet from any of those previous categories. What I can stand is sanctimonious bullshit from vegetarians who think that any vegetarian is healthy (which is a joke when you look at those vile worse-than-sneakers-and-rat-tails-veggie burgers that contain soy isolate protein - yuck - and a whole bunch of other garbage in there; its nowhere near the same as vegetables in a patty, its a chemical concoction in a patty). Case in point, I had to get takeout and I had grilled chicken with veggies; I overheard the person behind me telling her friend that I was an stupid for ordering meat. What did she order? A fried falafel dripping in hummus and garlic sauce with olives, pickles, pickled turnips and feta cheese. Add all that sodium up and its far worse than a healthy piece of lean meat.
Not a Veg / April 16, 2012 at 03:36 pm
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SHUT UP WITH YOUR TO BE VEG OR NOT TO BE VEG DEBATE.

No one cares about your personal view on the matter.

Stop plastering your opinion on the internet about a subject so indisputable as personal CHOICE.

Dim sum rules.
A Veg replying to a comment from Not a Veg / April 16, 2012 at 04:11 pm
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AMEN! This isn't the forum to discuss the morals of wearing leather or the nutritional value of a veggie burger patty. This is the comment section for a Dim Sum restaurant. Everyone needs to try and leave their personal agendas at the door.

Helen, thank you for your reply. Seems like this would be a great place for a vegetarian to eat a meal. That's all people are saying when they ask about vegetarian options. I completely understand that.

I love Dim Sum. I'm a vegetarian (who wears leather, suck it). I see a great review about a place not too far from my home and I wonder if there are a decent amount of options that cater to my dietary needs. Luckily enough we've got this comment section which serves as a great place to make such inquiries.

We live in a society. Lets all try and act like it a little better than this unless we want to risk being seen as Americans.
Matthew / April 17, 2012 at 07:50 am
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Decor and Service are absolutely top notch, not too sure about the food quality though. It's decent, but I am pretty sure there are better places, especially when considering the price. I've been here a few times since I live pretty close there. Having spent 18 years of my life in Hong Kong myself, I am pretty sure I know what I am talking about. Not to mention the dim sum are not hot enough when they are served (been the same problem for my visits), it just seems like most of the money you spend here is for the decor but not the food!
Clayton / April 22, 2012 at 10:34 pm
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as a former torontonian now living in a (very) vegetarian-friendly city in the u.s....I'll say you're all worse than americans. nobody here bitches in EVERY SINGLE RESTAURANT REVIEW about whether or not the place is vegetarian/vegan friendly -- the vegetarians go to the hundreds of places where they can eat and the meat eaters don't care. it's a nice balance with no sanctimonious bs.
Dave / December 30, 2012 at 07:21 pm
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The reason why the vegy's are so upset is because they are hungry for some meat...watch the comments roll in now...lmao!
kobebeef / January 10, 2013 at 05:32 pm
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I ate here once. The food is only mediocre. I left this place smelling like a fry kitchen. Get better ventilation!! Not recommended. Go to Casa Imperial on Steeles (Warden). Delicious!!
Tomoko / December 6, 2013 at 09:12 pm
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I was suggested this website by my cousin. I am not sure
whether this post is written by him as no one else know such
detailed about my difficulty. You're amazing! Thanks!
Elsa / June 15, 2014 at 07:14 pm
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I went there for the first time and the service was horrible, food was not top notch and the staff were either rude and not on the ball
John / June 21, 2014 at 01:07 pm
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Very poor service but very expensive.
I will never go again.
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Greetings! Very helpful advice in this particular article!
It is the little changes that make the greatest changes.

Many thanks for sharing!

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