Rol 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.
Local 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.
Once 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.
The 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.
My 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.