In the mood for some dim sum? Chef Tony opened its doors not too long ago, replacing what used to be Tropika/Cafe De Tropika right off of Stony Plain Road and 149 St. Originally from Vancouver, Chef Tony is well known for their Chinese cuisine and dim sum.
As with any new restaurant, I’ve seen a lot of social media posts about Chef Tony over the last month. There were posts saying it was delicious with pictures of their unique and picturesque menu items, while others said it wasn’t really all worth the hype or price tag. Regardless, I decided to try it for myself before forming a solid opinion. I will admit I went in with lowered expectations, after seeing those negative reviews – just in case, it wasn’t so great. To my surprise, my first experience was actually pretty positive, despite a few small issues.
Being a dim sum restaurant, I thought it’d be a great idea to suggest it for a family outing… about 15 people! To begin, service was extremely slow. I understand that it gets busy and that I had a large group but I felt the staff here were very disorganized. Before being seated, the hostess repeatedly asked us questions about our reservation, even after we told her the same information multiple times. It went from a 15-20 minute wait to almost an hour of waiting time, which was frustrating.
Eventually, we were seated… but service was still, well, slow. It took a while before anyone came to check up on us regarding drinks and our order. Unlike traditional push-cart dim sum, you order by the dish on a sheet at chef Tony. Once our order was finally submitted, the dishes came one at a time – imagine sharing a small dish of 4 dumplings with a large table!
The service did manage to pick up though and things turned around for the better.
One thing I noticed about Chef Tony’s menu is that the items were generally a bit pricier than your average dim sum spot. Most dishes ranged from $6-$11 and depending on the item, the portions may have been a bit smaller too. Though pricier, their menu also offers a variety of novelty dim sum items that you wouldn’t find elsewhere.
For instance, in addition to your usual dim sum options, there are also things like truffle shu mai, steamed cuttlefish ink dumplings, and pandan pork dumplings. Their rice and noodle dishes range around the $20 mark. So yes, it’s unique and different but given the price tag, I don’t think I could personally justify going to Chef Tony regularly, especially for my dim sum cravings.
I also recommend going earlier in the day so there are more dishes available. Being seated later in the day, we were advised that several items we wanted to try were no longer being served. Nonetheless, I would say we still tried a good variety. In terms of taste, there were items that we loved more than others. Even though service was slow to start, all the dishes came out steaming and hot. There’s nothing worse than cold dim sum so bonus points there.
My two favourite items were the Black Truffle Pork and Shrimp Dumplings ($6.68/5 pieces) and the Deep Fried Durian Dumplings ($6.68/3 pieces).
My favourite dim sum item has always been shu mai – pork/shrimp dumplings! Seeing truffle added to the mix was super intriguing. The truffle was definitely noticeable and I thought the shu mai itself was really tasty. My family and I enjoyed this one and ended up ordering it several times.
If you’re a durian lover like me, I also really recommend the deep fried durian dumpling. The smell is strong but I’ve been eating it as a child so I guess I’m already accustomed to it! With a crispy, fried crust on the outside, one bite into this item and you’ll find a gush of durian filling. It was definitely a sweeter dim sum item! I was afraid warm durian would be weird but it actually worked well. Between my party of 15, I think we had about 7 orders of this, mind you there are only 3 dumplings per order. If that isn’t a testament to how good they are, I’m not sure how else to convince you!
Other notable dishes were the Baked Assorted Mushroom Pastries ($5.88/4 pieces) and the Chinese Donut Stuffed with Shrimp Paste ($11.98).
The mushroom pastries were a combination of sweet and savoury. The pastry was baked well and the mushroom filling was really yummy. I haven’t seen this dish elsewhere so it’s a good one to try.
The Chinese Long Donut stuffed with shrimp paste reminded me a lot of those shrimp dumplings served with mayo you might see at other places. Very similar tastes and textures! This dish was definitely a good choice.
I also enjoyed the Deep Fried Tofu with Salt and Pepper ($10.98)! After getting a few items that only had 3-4 per serving, I was excited to not have to fight over the last dumpling. The tofu was perfectly crisp and well seasoned.
I won’t lie, I mostly ordered the Chilled Coconut Juice Pudding ($5.88) because it was in the form of a cute bunny. I wasn’t expecting anything of it but they actually tasted better than I anticipated! The rabbits are made of a coconut puddy that was smooth and not overly sweet.
My least favourite items were the Sweet Salty Egg Yolk Lava Bun ($6.98) and the Dried Scallops and Preserved Meat Radish Cake ($6.68). The lava bun, as cool as it looked, was just not for me. I know friends who love these buns but I didn’t enjoy the sweet and salty egg yolk, as it was a bit too rich for my tastebuds.
While I normally love radish cakes at dim sum, Chef Tony’s radish cake seemed to be cooked really carelessly. For me, a good radish cake is a little crisp on the outside. This radish cake was either seriously undercooked or just dropped on the plate, ready to be brought out. I found the cake to be too soft and underwhelming.
Another item that I thought was unique was the Pan-fried Pork Pandan Bun in Casserole ($7.98). I’d never seen pandan used for a savoury dish so this was interesting. If you’ve ever had a Chinese steam bun or something along those lines, this was basically what it was. Nothing exciting or worth ordering again, in my opinion. The pandan was not that noticeable, aside from the green color.
All in all, if you have been intrigued by Chef Tony’s opening like I was, I would say consider trying it – at least once. They offer a few “specialty” dim sum dishes and you might even be surprised to find a few dishes you like. That being said, come here with an adventurous palette. Chef Tony definitely tries to make some of the dim sum basics fancier than you could’ve imagined them to be.
While it’s unique and different, I don’t think I’d find myself coming here often because of the pricing and portion sizes. I feel that there are dim sum places out there that are more affordable and just as tasty! Because I often go out for dim sum with larger parties, the price tag vs the portion sizes was a bit of a challenge. Dishes add up quickly and so did our bill.
I also can’t attest to their consistency as I haven’t been there multiple times but judging from other posts I’ve seen – there are good days and bad days. I hope my next visit (whenever that is) will be comparable to my first, which was generally a good one.
But, as always – be your own judge. One thing I know for sure is that you’ll leave with some insta-worthy snapshots, win!
14921 Stony Plain Rd, Edmonton