Grand Chinese Cuisine
Grand Chinese Cuisine is a Cantonese restaurant located in the DoubleTree Toronto Airport Hotel . That's up by the Toronto Congress Centre , so yes -- it's a little out of the way, but on weekends it's a quick drive with relatively little traffic. Compared to the headache that is driving downtown, it might even be easier to get to.
The drive is worth it, I think, since the service is good, the restaurant itself is pretty nice, and the food...well it's awesome.
The first thing you notice when you walk in is that you're seated quickly (no excruciating wait times where you stand waiting to hear your number, salivating madly as dim sum orders pass you by.). Everything is also clean (dim sum restaurants often are a bit grimy from years of bits and pieces of dim sum being trampled into their carpets.), and the dining room is pretty well spaced (so you can actually chat comfortably with your table without having to shout over background noise.)
Dim sum is a Cantonese tradition based on socializing and tea, so one of the first things to note about the Grand Chinese is that unlike most other Chinese restaurants in the GTA, they don't just refill your teapot, they continually bring you a new one so that your tea is always fresh. For my mom, who is Cantonese, this is a big deal...and I can't say I don't see the attraction.
Shortly after our orders are taken, the dishes arrive. First comes the crispy deep-fried squid (L), a dish which I'm usually not a big fan of. I bite in, being a good sport, and realize what I'm eating isn't the chewy, greasy mess that I've had elsewhere, but rather it's nice and crispy on the outside and warm and tender on the inside, the squid almost melting in my mouth. Naturally, I devour a good number more before the next dishes arrive.
We then order a few dim sum staples -- sticky rice in lotus leaves (M), black pepper veal ribs (S), and char siu bau (M). They're done well here, and though they aren't necessarily show stoppers, they're delicious nonetheless. The veal in particular is a dish that often comes out as a greasy and/or gunky mess, but here it's just sinfully indulgent. Beef rice rolls (L) is probably one of the most common dim sum dishes, and Grand Chinese adds their own spin to it by preparing it with water chestnuts. The added flavour and crunch is a definite improvement on the traditional dish.
There are, however, a few dishes that come that are completely new to me and manage to blow me away. The "steamed rice roll with crispy bean curd stuffed with seafood and pork" (L) is a combination of one of the best deep-fried spring rolls I've ever had with a mildly sweet steamed rice roll adding to the textural experience. They are brilliant.
Another unique dish is the "deep fried sesame balls stuffed with barbecued duckling, taro and pine seed" (M). The mixture of the salty duck, the sweet sesame, the crispy dough and the nutty pine seeds are enough to leave my eyes wide and me wondering where this dish been hiding all these years. If I've had it before, it's been so far inferior that I don't even register it as the same dish.
Along with our dim sum, we ordered some menu items. The stir-fried pea sprouts ($14.95) is a dish I order every time I go for dim sum and while the Grand Chinese does it well, it's not out of this world either. That said, it is a really simple dish that probably doesn't vary too much from one place to the next. The Cantonese fried noodles ($12.95), or chow mien as some know it, are laden with an assortment of all sorts of meats and seafood.
While I think the toppings are delicious (especially the scallops), I find the noodles have too much sauce for me -- but I know some prefer it that way, disliking dry spots. The fried rice ($12.95) is kind of dry and not very flavourful, but I'm not partial to the dish in general. The shrimp, I have to admit, are tender and delicious -- worth stealing off of my brother's plate when he isn't looking.
I do have to mention the washrooms. In the past, both of my parents have complained about not being able to get hot water when washing their hands. Personally I didn't have this problem, although I did accidentally walk in on someone going to the washroom. (I didn't mean to, and I apologized profusely to the closed door before running into another stall to hide!) Whether this was the person's fault for not locking the door or the establishment's for not providing a working lock, I don't know -- I was a little too embarassed to check.
Another side note is that the Grand Chinese -- like most dim sum places -- doesn't stagger your order. This means if you order five items that all take the same time to cook, you're getting them all at once, which can result in a really awkward table arrangement and an overwhelming feeling. (Especially if you're trying to juggle eating with taking photos of each dish before everyone else digs in!)
In the end we left with our bellies ready to explode (my mom must have been hungry when ordering) and a reasonable bill -- our meal for five cost roughly $90 (food, tea, and tax). The menu is in Cantonese with English translations that are sufficiently descriptive, and the waitstaff are fluent in English. I left rather pleased with the experience and would definitely say to anyone interested: if you have the means to get there, you should go.
Small (S) dishes cost $3.30, Medium (M) are $4.80 and Large (L) are $5.50