The Roc

*At new location on 41st at Main*

Another Sunday morning hockey and another opportunity for eats. Yes, I've turned this sporting get together into another culinary event. Much like Friday night hockey and Monday softball, I turn my teammates into dining companions. So with JuJu, RBC and Kaiser Söze, we headed for Dim Sum. Not wanting to spend "Kirin" type money, we ended up heading to The Roc on Kingsway. When I used to live in Vancouver, this place was our "go to" Dim Sum joint when we would meet up with friends. In fact, we were regulars at their old location on Kingsway near 33rd. I hadn't been to The Roc for roughly 7 years and believe it or not, the owner lady recognized me right away! Either I look funny or I didn't change that much. I hope for the latter...

With the traditional push carts patrolling the small restaurant, it wasn't hard to get everything we wanted quickly. We started off with the obligatory Haw Gow (steamed shrimp dumplings). We were impressed with the size of these suckers. As you can see, they fill up the whole bamboo steamer. The shrimp filling was quite good, packed with crunchy shrimp devoid of veins. Only modestly seasoned, we could taste the shrimp. However, the dumpling skin was a bit gummy. The usual partner to the haw gow are the Sui Mai (pork & shrimp dumplings). For as long as I can remember, the shouts of "haw gow, sui mai" from the Dim Sum cart ladies, complete the atmosphere. Too bad so few places have push carts anymore. As for the sui mai, they looked good and tasted equally good. With a chewy texture exhibiting a nice "bite", these were also lightly seasoned. I could taste the pork while not so much that it was overwhelming.

For a reasonable $2.25, it will get you most items on the push carts. However, a few items command a slightly higher price at $2.80. This includes the Rice Noodle Rolls. We got one each of the shrimp and beef rice noodle rolls. Slightly on the thicker side, the rice noodles were still quite soft; yet still holding their shape. There was a good amount of properly cooked and prepared filling. I must remark that they really cook their shrimp properly here. Everything that had shrimp in it was done the right way. And that goes for the Scallop & Shrimp Dumpling as well. With a thin, albeit real piece of scallop on top, the shrimp was juicy, crunchy and not overseasoned. Still wasn't a big fan of the wrapper; but it wasn't a really big deal.

Then I ordered 2 dishes just to test out if RBC (our only non-Asian at the table) would be adventurous or not. Apparently he was not. I even tried putting the 2 dishes right in front of him to hopefully provide some motivation to try. He didn't bite and kept asking for BBQ Pork Buns. So what were the 2 dishes that didn't tickle his fancy? The first was the Phoenix Talons (or chicken feet). I guess to the uninitiated or those who never grew up with the stuff, the chicken feet do look a bit intimidating. For me, I like 'em and these ones were good. Soft and gelatinous underneath the fried skin, it had good flavour from the oyster-based sauce. The second dish was the Beef Tripe or in this case honeycomb tripe. I think RBC intentionally tried not to look at it. He just kept asking for BBQ Pork Buns. We assured him that they would come by. In the meantime, I kept pestering him to eat some tripe. He stood his ground and did not. Oh well, his loss! The tripe was the perfect texture where it is soft while still being slightly chewy. Flavourwise, there was none of that gamy tripe flavour which is a good indication that it had been run through cold water long enough. The sauce had a good balance between salty, sweet and a bit of spicy.

Alas, the BBQ Pork Bun did come around and we got an order to pacify RBC. He had no shame perpetuating the stereotypical non-Asian who is afraid of anything that doesn't look familiar. Next time, I'm going to stuff some tripe into his BBQ pork bun! And these buns were pretty fluffy with a nice amount of filling. In fact, we also got some Custard Buns and those were good as well, if not a bit too sweet. I could go on about the other 5 dishes we had (yes, we were hungry); but I'd be just repeating what I've been yakking about all along - The Roc offers up some decent (dare I say, "good") Dim Sum on the cheap. Sure, we were packed like sardines there and the service is sparse (they are nice though). Yes, there will probably be a wait as well; however, it's worth it in my opinion. As long as your expectations are realistic.

The Good:
- Cheap
- Dim Sum is surprisingly good
- Portion size is good for the price

The Bad:
- It's a tight fit and forget about ambiance
- Staff are nice; but service is very sparse
- Parking in the area sucks

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