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Rol San

Posted by Jason Finestone / Reviewed on January 16, 2012 / review policy

Rol SanRol San may not stand out from an exterior perspective, amidst the mashup of Chinese food eateries that line the Spadina corridor on the north end of Chinatown, but its food surely separates it from some of its neighbours.

Made to order and modestly priced; as is Sunday tradition, my family and I sauntered into the crowded doorway for some dim sum. Rol San is just one of the few Spadina hot spots that have frequently satisfied our insatiable cravings for porky, shrimpy, fried, steamed, spicy and sweet.

Rol SanLocal knowledge is that there are two waiting areas. I'm reluctant to divulge this insider info, but waiting at the front versus the back can yield substantially discriminate seating times. There are two dining rooms, which get seated separately during peak hours. The turnover at the back of the house is often consistent, as the front door becomes congested with hungry patrons.

Rol San TorontoOnce you manage to plop your posterior into a seat, the service is generally prompt and the food is freshly prepared. Their Haar Gow is not what I would consider to be delicate, but it is full of sweet shrimp and not over-steamed. The Shu Maii has a great consistency, between melt-in-your-mouth and dense, and is topped with real fish roe. Either is ideal to act as a receptacle for copious amounts of their garlic chili sauce, which is not as thick as many and has a subtle saltiness that doesn't overpower.

Rol San TorontoRol SonThe major hits of the meal were Fried Eggplant Stuffed with Shrimp in Soy Sauce, Deep Fried Taro with Pork and Crab and Pork Dumpling Soup. The large pieces of eggplant were perfectly cooked so that the crispy purple skin was a pleasing contrast to the smooth, fleshy inside. The fried taro also came in a plentiful, three to four bite package. Creamy tarot and savory ground pork was brightened up by spices and minced veggies and encased in a flaky, fried crust.

Rol SanMy one complaint is that it was the only dish that could have been hotter. What did not lack in its singular performance as a dish, or in its palate blistering temperature was what I had hoped to be a soup dumpling (like Xiao Long Bao) but turned out to be just a big dumpling in soup. The wonton skin was paper-thin but contained a powerful bouquet of meaty pork and tender crab pieces, carrots, snow peas and ginger. Each bite was sweet and salty, meaty and crisp, fresh and full of flavour.

My belly was bursting after biting through something like 18 dishes, but one bite of the soup made me want to spoon out the next before I could swallow what was already in my mouth. Such is the essence of a restaurant like Rol San — you can always have more.

roll san torontoroll san torontoRol San Chinese Restaurant on Spadina



TOstevo / July 25, 2008 at 01:44 pm
Look, if you go to Rol San make sure you get the "deep fried squid in spicy salt". It's ridiculous! Seriously even if you hate squid, even if you are allergic to squid, even if you ARE squid and eating this dish would be considered cannibalism in squid society just go for it anyway! It's that good. Would I lie?
Sam / February 27, 2009 at 11:26 am
jerms / May 21, 2009 at 10:40 pm
I visit this joint atleast every 2weeks and still love it despite the repetitive dishes we order. Great taste, mediocre price.
PatrickinToto / November 19, 2009 at 03:04 pm
This is on my list of restaurant to try.
JohnsonFu / December 24, 2009 at 07:10 pm
i use to always go to rolsan for dimsum but i think it has gone downhill
Jason / January 10, 2010 at 11:51 pm
Garlic baby bok-choy FTW!
tiff / October 3, 2010 at 03:07 pm
they don't do the barbequed pork as well as king's noodle, they also put too much sauce with too much corn starch (which is unnecessary) on the rice.
CaroTina / December 23, 2011 at 01:17 pm
I like the food at Rol San but I was really disappointed about the service! They seem to be very much after your tip. While getting the money out of your pockets for the check they remind you about the percentage you should give for their tip. That sucks!
odielu / January 16, 2012 at 03:42 pm
I wasn't impressed...the squid was chewy as if they had re-fried it...and the shui may was gross...Dragon City is WAYYYY better for dimsum
matts / January 16, 2012 at 05:08 pm
I hope you folks realize that the food comes in frozen from the same small group of suppliers that supply the rest of Toronto. The differences are almost nil, unless the preparation is really screwed up.
Robb replying to a comment from matts / January 16, 2012 at 09:45 pm
Really Matts? I didn't know that everything is from the same suppliers, all frozen. It makes sense for smaller places like Rol San, but even Bright Pearl and Sky Dragon, who have full kitchens?

Does anyone else (perhaps someone in the food business) know if this is in fact true?
belvedere replying to a comment from matts / January 17, 2012 at 08:55 am
frozen dim sum?? i can buy that at t and t. if there isn't a real dim sum chef in the kitchen making fresh dim sum, then i don't want to eat there. yuck!!

and those pics r really not v appetizing. go somewhere decent like crown princess on bay, or crown prince on woodbine.
CuliNerd replying to a comment from TOstevo / January 17, 2012 at 12:13 pm
Better then New Ho King?

Their Fried Chicken Feet Rock.
toni / January 17, 2012 at 02:51 pm
I had dim sum here today and the service was so bad I did not feel a need to tip.

My bill was 10 dollars.

I paid VISA and the waiter was watching over my shoulder the whole time. When he gave me my receipt and noticed I did not tip he told me that the tip was not included in the price. I said "I know".
I proceeded to get my coat and leave and he walked over, looking for a tip to be left on the table. He started yelling at me asking if there was something wrong with the meal.I was polite and calm, and just explained that a tip is not mandatory, and I did not feel it was necessary today after bad service.

He yelled at me the whole way out.

Victoria / January 17, 2012 at 08:52 pm
Hands down the best dim dum in Toronto. Have eaten there more times than I can count and have never been disappointed.
Agreewithtoni / January 19, 2012 at 06:57 am
Almost the same thing happened to myself, as with Toni, regarding the poor service and whining about the lack of a tip. This was not a political anti tip stance, just a simple reaction to poor service. Their reaction was childish and rude. I liked the food there fine, it is no better than other dim sum places in the city, so it has not been too difficult since I stopped going here. Service is a big deal, I can prepapre or buy lot of what is sold out here. Let's try to make this city better.
mayor dodge replying to a comment from toni / January 19, 2012 at 10:50 am
Toni, you should have given this moron the kind of tip he deserves: The TIP of your shoe up his backside, real hard. I am sure he won't forget it.
190 replying to a comment from Robb / January 20, 2012 at 02:10 pm
yes, it's true. Except the veg dishes, most of the stuff are from a supplier, and only need a reheat. Among all the dimsum places in chinatown, rol san is my favorite as well. but if you really want a freshly made by the in-house chef, try the one housed on the second floor of Metropolitan Hotel on Chestnut street. The dim sum served there are not trucked here every week by the suppliers but made in house by their chefs, so a bit more waiting time and bigger bill is reasonable.
Jan / January 21, 2012 at 04:48 pm
oh my gawd you actually told min that the service was bad?

Wow are you sure you're not American.

I would of expected you to leave and just ignore the situation

"He started yelling at me asking if there was something wrong with the meal.I was polite and calm, and just explained that a tip is not mandatory, and I did not feel it was necessary today after bad service."
simon / January 25, 2012 at 11:13 am

After hours next door!!!
TraderZed / January 26, 2012 at 11:38 am
Listening to people complain about service in Chinatown is always worth a good laugh.
Kat / March 8, 2012 at 07:09 pm
You're all fucking idiots. Rol San is so good.
Mro / March 27, 2012 at 05:33 am
Reeeally Toni?
What a freaking cheapskate you are...not to mention downright rude. I would have yelled at you all the way out too.

And I'm with Kat, Rol San is fantastic.
Mery21 / March 31, 2012 at 02:53 pm
I've going to Rolsan on Spadina since forever. Food is great but got pricey like everything else. No problem. When we got the bill it was $9.00 extra. Must have been an honest mistake. He apologized and issue solved. We went back the 2nd, 3rd, 4th time and the same thing happened. What the hell was happening here? We looked around and realized that they are taking advantage of intoxicated party goers especially in large groups and charging them extra. They write your order in Chinese with no price, just the final total. NOTE TO ROLSAN: We weren't drunk/high on anything. You should have had better judgement since you're ripping people off every day. Weekends specially. Watch your bill everyone.
johnny h / July 21, 2012 at 03:31 am
I agree with Mery21 - me and my gf got overcharged three times by around ten dollars when they thought we were drunk. Scumbags
not going back.
sarah jane / October 19, 2012 at 06:07 pm
They also tried to overcharge me. They write down the orders in chinese assuming you wont double check it. Make sure you ask for a menu when they give you the bill to make sure you're getting charged the right amount.

These people are low. The food isn't great, i highly recommend you go elsewhere.
Teresa / October 20, 2012 at 12:47 pm
Our vegetarian family favourite. We all live out of town but Rol San is a must whenever any of us go to Toronto. Their spicy salt tofu is incredible!! So much to choose from and unless this waiter you're talking about is a recent addition we've never found the staff to be anything but pleasant and friendly. Oh, and yes we always tip.
JL / October 21, 2012 at 03:50 pm
I don't see why some people are trying to bash Toni.
Most Chinatown services don't deserve tip at all. You shouldn't expect tip when your service is poor just because tip is a culture/habit thing in Canadian society.

Helen / October 24, 2012 at 07:33 am
My parents used to own a Chinese restaurant on Baldwin Street in downtown Toronto. All dim sum was made fresh daily and I have never heard of any restaurant using frozen premade dim sum. Only things that we frozen were ingredients like shrimp. As for waiters writing in Chinese characters...most of the kitchen staff cannot read English . There are helpers that read the slip of paper and pick out the ingredients for each order line them up for the chef to cook. It's a lot of hard intensive labour. As a side note the tips are shared by the waiters and kitchen staff.
T / November 29, 2012 at 06:30 pm
i dont think rol san should be on the "best dimsum" category, this place is shit
Hector / December 24, 2012 at 07:21 pm
Staff always expect tip despite shitty service
Duong / December 28, 2012 at 01:23 pm
Service sucks.

They overcharge on your bill and don't tell you.

Our server boldly pushed the receipt plate on us asking for a tip, despite shitty service.
Min / August 5, 2014 at 02:53 am
First of all, the restaurant's service is always terrible. (EVERY TIME), so do not expect to have the smiley service from them. Secondly, your order takes a quite some time to come, so be ready and patient. AT LAST (VERY IMPORTANT) Do not ever ever order any fried rice dishes there. I had ordered an eggplant fried rice before and when i had finished a half of portion and then i found a big long piece of steel dishwash scrubs in it. I was really grossed out. And, my other friend who had other fried rice dish (forgot which one) told me it was extremely saulty too.
In conclusion, I guess the food here is pretty tasty for late night drunk food. And they only take cash/visa.
J / November 4, 2014 at 12:19 pm
Food is good but pay attention to what you are ordering because they do try to rip you off. The bill isn't itemized so it's difficult to dispute but they for sure add in extra items or just charge whatever they feel like. Bottom line is they seem to have shady business practices.
ML replying to a comment from matts / January 4, 2015 at 06:21 pm
That may be true of some other restaurants but this place has far superior 'siu mai' and other dumplings. Love the food there but service could be better though.
Chelsea / January 7, 2015 at 03:27 pm
The comments about over-billing almost made me not eat here, but I tried it anyways and made sure to take a picture of the order sheet before handing it to the waiter. Good thing we did because we could then compare the numbers when the bill came - which didn't add up. Turns out they tried to charge us over $4 for the tea that we thought was complimentary (it says that tea is $0.60 per person in small print at the top of the order sheet, but we were two, so either way, it didn't add up - this price was also not explicitly mentioned at any time before the bill arrived).
The server gave us a bit of a hard time, and wasn't keen on my recalculating the bill, but eventually he recalculated it himself and returned with an amended bill. Service during the meal was just fine though - no problems there.
So my advice is - eat here, the food is great - but get a copy of your order, or take a picture before handing it tot he server and do check the tally on your bill. And be warned, the tea is not complimentary, like it is at many other Asian restaurants.
S replying to a comment from Helen / January 29, 2015 at 12:11 pm
Was it the Yung Sing Pastry Shop?
Anthony / February 1, 2015 at 04:14 pm
Horrible service but excellent Dim sum. I leave a very small tip every time and I normally tip very well.
terri / February 6, 2015 at 07:15 pm
Although I really enjoy the dim sum at Rol San, it's disturbing how often diners have been over charged.

Here's my tip: we take a pic of our order sheet/menu before the server takes it. Much easier to dispute the total :)

It's a pity they sully their reputation with such practices as tacking on extra charges & yelling at diners. It's sort of old school & arrogant, thinking they (whether it be the owner or the individual servers) can fool ppl who can't read Chinese or ppl who aren't Chinese. And I'm Chinese in appearance but can't read their scribbles.
harry / March 8, 2015 at 10:52 am
The Resteraunt Assoc. says that if your service is poor and/or the food is poor; do not tip! But write a note on bill as to why - no tip!
Melissa / March 27, 2015 at 01:32 pm
I love the food here, always order chicken feet which are great. Items with shrimp are tasty too. Have visited this establishment with friends and family at least 5 times.

HOWEVER as tons of people have already mentioned do take note of what you order, or take a photo of the order sheet, as they added some items to our bill the last time we visited.

Why RolSan WHY!?!!!?
Pierre Savoie replying to a comment from TOstevo / April 15, 2015 at 05:35 pm
What a comment! You won the Internet for 2008. All of it.
Pierre Savoie replying to a comment from terri / April 15, 2015 at 05:49 pm
There is an old Chinese scam called the Teahouse Scam. They charge inflated prices for things without being clear on the prices, then present you with an exorbitant final bill. Staff will "gang up" on you to use psychological pressure to have you pay the bill. The solution to that in China is to demand a receipt and keep it as evidence. Business regulators in China will come down hard on them for that, so they will back down and give you the correct bill.

This is not just their shady business practice; it's the whole country's. Anti-corruption squads have to use threat of jail-terms to stem it.
Manny P / April 17, 2015 at 01:11 pm
Agreed with some of the comments here regarding overcharging. Was there for dinner just before X'mas, when we got the bill the total seemed off. Mentioned it to our server, but he said the bill is correct.
I asked the server to write down the prices of what we ordered (they don't write the prices on the bill, just the total) and when he came back, there was a charge for a dish that we didn't ordered.When I mentioned this to him, he left, came back and apologized saying that the dish was from a different table. Really? wow that excuse made our table laugh.
Anyways, went back there again a couple of nights ago and lo and behold, the same thing happened again. They charged us for an extra order of dimsum that we didn't have. But, instead of complaining, we just paid the total amount without tip and left.
Rolsan's has good not great food, but the service and the way they take their customers as fools will make us to never go back.
Shawn / June 14, 2015 at 11:24 am
I never ever write reviews online but after my terrible experience at Rol San yesterday, I feel like it'll be bad karma not to let everyone know about this place.
I'll keep it brief and concise.

I walked in with 3 of my friends and immediately felt bad vibes (I pay a lot of attention to the unsaid/body language as its my field of study).

The staff was rude to one of my friends by giving her dirty looks simply because she asked to keep the menu as she might want some more as we ate. We all noticed this and all wondered why they were so rude. We kept our cool regardless as we didn't want to seem like 4 'aggressive black people' at the Asian restaurant.

Service through the rest of the night was poor as every member of staff that dropped our orders on the table did so in the least polite & most invasive manner imaginable (hands stretched right over your plate as we ate).

We asked for the bill and this is where things got ***completely unacceptable. I was considering adding a tip as my friends asked to ensure that it was null ($0.00) as they'd never received such poor service at a 'restaurant'. I couldn't agree more, so I tipped nothing. The waiter, who eventually claimed to also be the manager upon our request for one, said things unimaginably rude to my friends and I.
"Don't come here if you no tip"
"The door right there-pls leave my restaurant"
"Pls hurry, I have other customer and you block table"
In attempt to snatch a cup from my hand while I was clearly still drinking water, I advised that it was best he didn't touch me. He left for the main desk/counter and clearly mocked us some more with his colleagues.

It is truly a shame that such a place with such terrible people is still somehow in business

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