Usually when we need to satisfy our dim sum craving, we drive up north to Markham. So when we had to plan a lunch in the city, things got a little tricky. While sifting through my list of bookmarked restaurants, I came across Kwan, located at Yonge and St. Clair. The restaurant doesn’t get a lot of buzz so we took a gamble and dropped by for lunch.
If you can, I recommend taking the subway to Kwan. Street parking is hard to come by – we parked in the Green P lot across the street which charged $2.50 for each half hour. Not cheap!
As we walked closer to the restaurant, I found it funny that they have a sign hanging outside stating that they have “the best dim sum on Yonge & St. Clair”. I’m pretty sure they’re the only dim sum restaurant in and around that intersection…
Anyway, Kwan opened up a couple years ago in the space which used to be the home of the French restaurant Didier. I had never been to Didier so I can’t attest to how much they’ve changed the space but the décor is notably Asian-influenced. The restaurant has a higher-end feel to it compared to the normal Chinese restaurants we frequent for dim sum.
The space is divided into two separate dining areas – the bar area and the main dining room. The tables are spaced well apart and the lobby area at the entrance of the restaurant is quite spacious. This came in handy as it got closer to noon as the restaurant filled up with customers waiting for a table. By the time we left, it was insanely busy so I highly recommend making a reservation.
Kwan opens at 11:30am Monday to Friday and 11:00am on weekends. Dim sum is served until 4pm and take-out is an option if you don’t want to wait for a table. It’s a popular option – we saw quite a few people grabbing take-out.
Upon sitting down, you’ll be presented with a menu where you check off which items you want to order (no dim sum carts here). As a heads-up, they’ll offer you tea which is charged at $2 per person. It’s a common practice at dim sum restaurants but $2 per person is on the high side, which isn’t surprising given the location and décor.
In general, the prices at Kwan are higher than what we’d find up in Markham or Scarborough but they’re not outrageous. Dim sum dishes here are priced at $3 for small, $4 for medium, $5 for large, $6 for extra-large and $8 for special dishes. Most items we ordered were medium or large.
Our meal kicked off with the BBQ Pork Pastry ($4). Layers upon layers of flakey pastry stuffed with a sweet and savoury bbq pork filling, these two-bite pastries were absolutely delicious. One of the highlights of the meal!
Up next was the Steamed Shrimp Dumplings aka har gow ($5), a classic dim sum dish. The succulent shrimp inside the dumpling was tasty and the dumpling skin wasn’t too thick. It was a very solid har gow.
Another classic dim sum dish we ordered was the Steamed Minced Pork Dumplings – mixed with shrimp & black mushrooms aka siu mai ($5). These plump pork dumplings definitely hit the spot!
As far as steamed dumplings go, we also ordered the Steamed Chicken & Dry Shrimp Dumplings – with peanuts aka fun guo ($4). The chewy translucent skin encased a crumbly filling of chicken, dried shrimp and whole peanuts. It was a decent dumpling but not particularly memorable.
Up next was the Steamed Assorted Vegetable Wrapped in Bean Curd ($4). I’m a little biased when it comes to this one since I’m not a big fan of bean curd. This dish didn’t do anything to change my mind either. We ordered it since our friend loves this dish and he wasn’t disappointed with Kwan’s version.
At dim sum, I always have to order a rice noodle dish. On this visit, we tried the Tender Beef wrapped with Steamed Rice Flour Noodle ($5). The beef filling was seasoned well and the steamed rice noodles were nice and silky. A definite hit!
One of Mike’s must-orders at dim sum is the Pan Fried Turnip Cake with Preserved Vegetables ($4). It was nicely presented with the turnip cakes cut into bite-sized pieces and wrapped with a piece of nori. While they were quite tasty, I would’ve preferred them fried just a touch more for a crispier exterior.
Up next was the Pan Fried Minced Pork, Shrimp & Vegetable Buns ($5). The buns looked promising as they arrived in a cute little black clay pot. Unfortunately, they were rather disappointing. The bun-to-filling ratio was way off as there was way too much bun with a teeny amount of filling in it. I have to admit, the little bite of filling I had was quite tasty. There just wasn’t very much of it. Not worth the $5 price tag for the 3 buns.
For dessert, we ordered the House Special Egg Tarts ($4) which come with three per order. I never have high expectations for egg tarts at dim sum but these hit it out of the park. I loved the eggy custard centre and the crust was wonderfully flakey like the bbq pork pastries.
The second dessert we ordered was the Steamed Golden Lava Buns ($5). I thought the egg tarts were fantastic but these sweet buns were even better!
These soft pillowy white buns were filled with a hot, oozing yolk filling which had a liquidy consistency. My description doesn’t do it justice. Just do yourself a favour and order these!
Even though the prices were higher here, I didn’t feel like the service reflected it. While it wasn’t as chaotic as dim sum restaurants in the suburbs, it wasn’t a whole lot better. They missed one of our orders and the servers just weren’t very attentive – we had to ask several times before they brought us the bill. Perhaps they were a little understaffed.
Despite some service issues, we enjoyed our meal at Kwan. Sure, the prices might be a little higher than what you’re used to but the quality of the food is significantly better than what you’d find in Chinatown. We really enjoyed the food which wasn’t as oily or heavy as I’m used to. If you don’t want to make the trek up north for dim sum, Kwan is a great midtown alternative!
At a glance:
- Chinese restaurant located at Yonge and St. Clair
- Dim sum offered every day until 4pm
- Open from 11:30am Monday to Friday; 11:00am on weekends
- Elegant interior; very spacious
- Reservations recommended
- Prices are higher than Chinatown/Markham but not outrageous
- Really enjoyed the dim sum
- Highlights: BBQ pork pastry, steamed golden lava buns
Ratings (out of 5):
- Food: 3 stars
- Service: 2 stars
- Atmosphere: 3 stars