Comfort Food: Dim Sum at Charming Cha Liu

Yesterday, while browsing along Yonge around Eglinton, I began to feel the need for a snack. A little sign pronouncing the presence of a "Dim Sum Shack" caught my eye and I knew instantly that's what I wanted. So I took the risk and gave Cha Liu a try.

Truthfully, Cha Liu is not much of a shack. It's actually an upstairs oasis in this upscale shopping neighborhood. It's cozy and quiet, with lovely decor that inspires a sense of peace. Fellow diners speak in hushed tones, the sounds of relaxation music help you drift away from the stresses of the day, and there's not a plastic tablecloth in site. For me, the atmosphere alone would make this spot perfect for a post-yoga brunch, or a place of relief after some hectic Christmas shopping on the strip.

Ultimately, however, it's the food that really counts in a restaurant. Fortunately, Cha Liu's dishes are as comforting as the decor - and perfectly delicious.

The menu could perhaps be described as "nouveau dim sum." There is no cart wheeling around tripe, but classic delicacies such as chicken feet are not disregarded. In other words, the dim sum has not been dumbed down to suit the crowds, but it has been given some modern, elegant touches.

I'm only in for a snack, but that's a good thing, because the place isn't cheap. Most menu items are priced between $3 and $5 and it would be easy to go overboard ordering - especially for someone like me who loves to experience a range of tastes.

But today I stay simple. BBQ pork buns (3 for $2.50) suit my craving and happily they are made with a light, not overly dense dough and stuffed with a well-balanced filling. Fried crispy shrimp rolls (3 for $4.00) are moist inside, and the wrapper is light and crisp; not exceptional, but wrapped so carefully and presented so delicately that I'm happy despite the price.

My favourite dish by far was the chicken dumpling soup ($4.50). The chicken broth was subtle, flavourful, and soothing, but the tender dumplings were the best part: unbelievably tasty and packed with ingredients that brought a depth of flavour to each bite. They were so succulent I had to slow down and relish each bite .

Don't get me wrong: If you're looking for the completely, full-on dim sum experience, ChaLiu is probably not the place to go. However, unlike so many other Asian restaurants outside of Chinatown (the kind that sacrifice quality in an attempt to satisfy Western preferences), Cha Liu holds steadfast to quality and quietude. Here, you are invited to slow down, take a breath, and enjoy a range of carefully prepared and elegantly presented morsels that will charm your taste buds. Now that's what I call comfort food.

Photo courtesy of Cha Liu

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