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Susur - A delicious reason to go to Toronto

Travel in Canada
by Sandi Butchkiss at sandiwrites@hongkong.com:

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Susur - A delicious reason to go to Toronto

That shiny black ponytail. That chiseled face. This fellow looks more like a movie star than a star chef. But when heads turn as he walks by, you can bet he’s recognized as the fellow behind Canada’s award-winning, world-class eatery, Lotus, and the restaurateur who recently opened the bigger, more sophisticated, eponymous, Susur. If our amazing meal there was any indication of things to come, Susur will surely go on to make diners forget there ever was a Lotus.

A Hong Konger by birth (he more recently headed up a top flight group of restaurants in Singapore), Susur Lee’s awesome culinary originality is legendary throughout Asia, as well. It may sound like hyperbole to say each dish that comes out of the kitchen is a unique work of art, but in his case, it’s a fact. When he dares to put filet mignon and Haziki seaweed on the same plate, and has the chutzpah to top it off with a generous dollop of sea urchin, newcomers might think he’s displaying the height of chef conceit. That is, until they taste it. By the second ethereal mouthful there are no skeptics.

Out they come, one glorious concoction after the other. And each is more magical than the one before. So when he marinates anchovies in sherry vinegar and combines them with smoked artichokes, lemon confit and a sprinkle of pink peppercorns, you are not fazed; you are delighted.

The restaurant is in an old funky, warehouse part of town which means spaces can be large and comfortable and, at the moment, rents lower. However, we noticed that the area is quickly getting gentrified with hip advertising agencies and design studios taking up residency in the resurrected buildings. And as we strolled around, we saw that a handful of architecturally innovative eateries with inventive menus had just opened not far from Susur.

But we don’t think Susur has anything to worry about. His clientele are mostly regulars and gourmets- in- the- know. It’s all rather low key. Even the decor is subtle. Starkly, yet serenely simple, with calming, sleek lines and subdued lighting, the main ingredient is the food, the edible masterpieces that must be experienced first-hand to be believed. The single dramatic decorator touch is the play of color washing over the walls – computerized to imperceptibly fade from a deep midnight blue to a pale lavender, then on to an apricot and so on - slightly altering the mood, but never ever interfering with the cuisine.

We met Susur in Hong Kong years ago and were repeatedly amazed at his extraordinary talents with texture, color, flavor and taste. But our meal in his new Canadian establishment literally struck us dumb. He came over to our table to see how everything was and eventually sat down with us over desert…and all we could do was to gawp and gape and nibble and ohh and ahh and search for words to describe our reaction to these heavenly morsels. We sounded so gushy and silly that we had no option but to change the subject to what major sites he thought we should see in Toronto.

Susur Lee serves his own brand of French/Asian food at
Susur, 601 King Street West in Toronto.
Make sure to call for a reservation (416) 603 2205.

If they give you a hard time feel free to mention my name.

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