Spadina - Between Dundas St W. and Gerrard St. W
I've visited Rol San three times now, and for every visit both the food and the service was very consistent. All three times were during the supper hours but the crowds varied depending on what day of the week we went.
Food: Fairly decent. The first time the food was average, with none really memorable. The soup was satisfactory, the main courses and rice came in decent sizes. Yet nothing really stands out. We were given free soup and desserts, so there is a value factor.
The second time the meal consisted of mussels in black bean sauce, oysters with green onions and garlic, chicken (supposedly with orange peels), and a soup of ground beef and egg drop. The oysters were very good, especially the juice. I actually preferred the juice with the garlic more than the actual meat of the oysters but it truly wasn't bad. $1.80 for an oyster, the shell about the size of my hand. I am not a good judge of the value since I've rarely eaten oysters in restaurants. The sauce for the mussels was again well done. The black bean sauce complemented the mussels well and was delicious when mixed with rice. The mussels themselves had an odd aftertaste and I question their freshness. For the chickens, the result was unexpected and did not meet my expectations. No taste of orange peels could be discerned, only carrots. I suspect that our orders were mixed (which seems to be a common occurrence). The best course was undoubtedly the soup which we ordered in large. At approximately $7, it was very good. I do admit to a preference for thick, gelatinous soups though. The soup was visually stimulating with the beef and the egg suspended in it, like a snapshot of ocean life (if fishes and aquatic plants are replaced by beef and egg drops).
Tonight, wonton soup, almond chicken, vegetables in a taro nest, and Shanghai noodles were ordered. The wonton wasn't bad, the base nicely done. It wasn't too salty yet projected a strong taste. The wontons were large and a large quantity was given. The only complaint is that they were stuffed with pork and the wrap was too small (visually less appealing). The almond chicken was crispy and came with sweet-and-sour sauce. The chicken inside wasn't too dry and the almonds stuck to it resembled a mosaic. The sweet-and-sour sauce was also an attractive red, neither too dark (burgundy) nor too light (orange). The Shanghai noodles were below par. It was too oily and I found the noodles on the thin side. It wasn't bad, but certainly not memorable. The vegetables in a taro nest was again below par. Though I enjoyed it, I've eaten better nests. The nest was on the small size and because of mixed up orders (once again), there were too many vegetables, thus crushing the nest. The bill came to $41, with tips $46. While not particularly cheap, when the number of courses are taken into consideration and that this was a dinner for two, the meal was certainly not expensive.
Service: While better than many Chinese restaurants in downtown's Chinatown, the service is still much poorer than most restaurants. There are rarely any smiles or greetings, there is a language barrier, and the staff seems to be rushed (even when the restaurant was empty; they seemed more concerned with their personal conversations than their customers). Additionally, since the orders have been mixed up on the 2 out of 3 occasions that I have went, I am not impressed.
Atmosphere: Again, not a category where it stands out. The chairs we were given had cracks on the cheap plastic (vinyl?) covers. The interior is bright, but not atmospheric. The walls are covered with specials in English/Chinese, but they didn't seem to match. Also, the specials were printed in neon colours that just screamed 'gauche' to me.
Price: Supposedly, Chinese food is inexpensive. Not in Chinatown, at least not in the 3 - 4 different restaurants that I've been to. It really depends on what is being ordered - often, noodles are not a bargain; soups and congees are still on the low side, and the only bargains are probably the seafood.
Overall: Definitely on the low scale when compared to most restaurants, but an average one for Chinese. The food while not spectacular seems good overall - while little stands out, nothing was repulsive and the chief is obviously competent. Not for a special evening, but good when a quick, relatively inexpensive and varied dinner is desired. Near downtown area. Note that much better Chinese food can be found in the suburbs.