What we first discovered of Toronto’s culinary world called us back again, and we found ourselves at Spring Rolls, this time looking over their “zensational” dim sum menu. We ended up in the bar for some reason, leaving us with televisions to leer at, which may have been a bad thing. One was set to the food network, and we found ourselves entranced by a silent Iron Chef competition. The amazing fare we saw on screen may have raised our expectations too high, as what we found on our plates simply couldn’t compete.
My eyes were drawn on the menu to the Steamed BBQ Pork Rice Rolls, a choice that I unfortunately regretted afterward. This option suffered from the “Menu Effect”, a practice pioneered by the fast food industry wherein the menu displays a practically perfect image of the dish in delectable splendor, but when it arrives on your plate, there is significant discrepancy. I expected, as the picture seemed to indicate, rice wraps stuffed with strips of barbecued meat, but what we got was a rice paste, molded into a roll shape, and dotted with the occasional bit of pork. This dish could have been salvaged had there been more meat inside or more sauce to go with the rolls, but there simply wasn’t enough of either, and the flavor was dominated by overcooked rice. Deeply disappointing.
Steamed BBQ Pork Rice Rolls: 1.5/5
One of the chef’s signatures, the Crispy “Tu Nu” Battered Tiger Shrimp was our second selection. This fared quite a bit better than the rice rolls, though it likewise needed some tweaking to be truly satisfying. The batter did make the shrimp crispy but did not add any additional flavor to them, and the aioli sauce was a little heavy, but wasn’t overly so. I did want something a little extra in the flavors, but we didn’t didn’t leave anything on the plate either.
Crispy “Tu Nu” Battered Tiger Shrimp: 3.5/5
Our third selection was the Lemongrass Chicken Wings, which had a slight tang to them and included more meat than what one might normally find in wings at many restaurants. We appreciated the extra substance, having felt a bit anxious about our selections overall not being sufficient. Still, these didn’t stand out much. The sauce, while tangy, wasn’t especially different or flavorful, so the end result seemed like decent but not spectacular wings.
Lemongrass Chicken Wings: 3.0/5
Finally, there was the Steamed Spare Ribs with Black Bean Sauce. Other than the aioli from the shrimp, this sauce was probably the tastiest part of the meal, and the meat was done fairly well, though the cuts were at times a bit rough, having to pull out some gristle here and there. While we both agreed that this was probably the best of the four dishes, we also ended up leaving some at the end of the meal. Neither of us were eager to snap up the scraps, it seems.
Steamed Spare Ribs with Black Bean Sauce: 3.5/5
I’m not sure if my expectations and standards have risen or if Spring Rolls quality has dipped in the past two years since we first tasted them, perhaps a bit of both, but I’m finding myself disheartened. While their plating and presentation is generally quite nice, the food isn’t quite living up to what I would hope of them. Given their proximity to us, we’ll probably find ourselves there once again someday, but given the amazing variety of choices and tastes to explore in Toronto, it might not be too often. The city simply offers too much to pass up.