1) Lee on King Street West
Douglas Coupland in his excellent book City of Glass (thanks Lady Sarah and Phil) notes “Lee” as the top surname in the City of Vancouver (followed closely by Wong, Chan and then Smith).
It is also the surname of one of the globe’s most inventive and celebrated chefs, Susur Lee. Susur’s story is both amazing and tragic – his cookbook/autobiography simply called Susur: A Culinary Life is worth a read not only for the spectacular recipes but his personal story, which included the tragic death of his first wife Marilou Covey who perished in the Korean Air Flight 007 disaster in 1983.
Born in Hong Kong, Susur calls Toronto home despite restaurants around the world:
– Chinois in Singapore;
– Zentan in Washington DC;
– Shang in New York City.
We did undertake a Susur recipe once – they are highly complex and require exhaustive preparation – for Oscar Dinner 2007 when we prepared one for the movie, The Queen, that we called “The Queen’s Beast” – a stunning success too I might add.
The latest reinvention of the former Susur restaurant on King Street West is Lee. A week ago while in Toronto, G, Blee and I had the pleasure of trying this newest creation. On tap, in particular, was the Singaporean Slaw (that everyone we know who has tried it; raves) and the famous dish of roast chicken, farce curry, polenta & grits, tomato jam and chili mint chutney for which he received – in the 2nd season of Top Chef: Masters – the highest score in the show’s history 19.5 out of 20 stars.
Lee works on the tapas style approach where diners order several dishes which are then shared among the group. We ordered 8 dishes and it was plenty. Dinner with food, a cocktail, a bottle of wine, tax and tip came to CAD$115/person.
2) the interior; 3) Blee ordered an oyster caesar that came with a pickled gherkin and calamansi lime (which is almost orange like)
4) yellowfin tuna with a hidden gem of tuna tartar beneath in a delicious miso broth
5) the tartar; 6) the famous Singaporean slaw (unimaginably fantastic and duly worth all its hype)
7) Spicy crisp tofu with wildflower honey soya chili glaze, golden sand, fresh basil – I LOVED this appetizer
8) Cheese burger spring roll with lettuce wrap, smoked chilli mayo ; 9) Susur style diced vegetable chow mein with roasted almonds in crispy lettuce wrap
10) the wrap again; 11) Caramelized black cod with Cantonese preserves, miso mustard with grilled turnip cake – this course was also just okay – the turnip cake in particular was just too soggy and the fish not hot enough (although it was perfectly cooked)
12) Top Chef green curry chicken with sweet pea polenta, butter almondine, spicy tomato jam, oven dried pineapple, chilli mint chutney
13 & 14) our final dish was a rethink of Peking duck that was – I’m so sorry – not all that good. The duck was fabulous but the combination of it with the foie gras pate topped with maple maple syrup, persimmons, a hoisin sauce just did not work
All in all a very lovely meal with the first two courses – the yellowfin tuna and Singaporean Slaw being blow-me-away standouts! Susur however, needs to turn down the music in his restaurant as much of the detailed descriptions of his fine food by his fine wait staff is lost to the noise.