NEW TREASURE (150 Dundas West, at Elizabeth, 416-977-3778) Complete dim sum meals for $15 per person, including all taxes, tip and a pot of green tea. Average dim sum $2. Open for dim sum daily 11 am to 11 pm. Licensed. Access: 15 steps at door, washrooms on same floor. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Down a forbidding staircase in a nondescript low-rise around the corner from the bus station, New Treasure appears to be neither novel nor much of a prize.
But savvy dim sum devotees have been packing the joint since 1975, when this underground eatery opened as Toronto's first Chinese restaurant with Hong Kong-style carts.
It's not nearly as bad as it looks from the street. Past a forlorn Buddha of a shrine, the stairs lead to a bright mirror-lined room decked out in shades of emerald green and dragon red where a team of servers efficiently work the noon-hour office crowd.
Treasure's sad siu mai ($2.10 for four) may as well be mushy, anonymous meatballs, but the house har gow ($2.80) are prodigiously packed with al dente shrimp in a light, eggy cream. Yet more impressive, steamed seafood dumplings ($3.50 for three) come wrapped in beefy ribbons of rice noodle and dolloped with sliced scallop.
Due to the volume of business here, deep-fried green bell pepper and purple Asian eggplant stuffed with seafood mousse are fresher than most found elsewhere. Bean curd rolls bursting with a generous julienne of mushrooms and Chinese cabbage (all $2.80) balance crunchy veg with slippery sauce.
New Treasure doesn't always strike gold. Standard turnip cakes ($2 for three) come studded with mystery sausage; deep-fried calamari ($2.80) could star in a Michelin ad; and Phoenix chicken feet in black bean sauce ($2 for more than you could ever possibly eat) lack any discernable reward.
And why is it that the only remotely health-conscious item in a dim sum dive here, Chinese broccoli with oyster sauce ($4.50) is always the most expensive?