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Sunday. 01. 15. 2012.

A few months ago, they aired Top Chef Masters here and we were hooked. I already like cooking shows but this was even better. It was a competition between already established and well known chefs. Our favourite from season 2 was Susur Lee. Unfortunately we only got season 2. I’m hoping that they’ll air the other seasons.

Since we would be going to Toronto, I decided that we should take the opportunity to eat at his restaurant, Lee. I’ve heard of Susur before we watched Top Chef Masters. I’ve seen him in Kensington Market getting supplies when I used to work in the area. He apparently likes to eat at Swatow, a noodle restaurant in Chinatown. It’s one of my favourites.

It was a pretty crazy night ’cause we ate lobsters at my friend’s place at 5 and had dinner reservations at 8:30. My mom made plans for a family dinner on Friday and that made me switch our plans to have lobsters at my friend’s place to the same day we were to go to Lee.

It was my first time in a “trendy” restaurant. I grew up with parents who believe that the best places to eat are the places with the best food in large portions and atmosphere is not something that mattered as long as the place was clean… ish. For casual dining, I definitely love the dives.

I admit that I found the place a bit daunting when we got there. The hostess didn’t exactly help either since she was a bit snooty. I’m pretty sure she was ready to tell us that she’s got nothing for us before she asked if we had a reservation.

We found the place to be a bit loud but we’re also aware that we’re not like most people who enjoy that sort of atmosphere. We liked the cozy feel of the area we were sitting in. Fredrik pointed out that it felt a bit like someone’s living room, like we were at someone’s party. I really liked the vintage Chinese advertisements and the armoire with a puffer fish.

Our waiter was really nice.

We started with oyster shooters and oyster caesars. The oyster caesars were really spicy, way more than we anticipated. I had a hard time drinking mine ’cause the plum tomato kept getting stuck in the straw. The oyster shooters, on the other hand, was amazing. I could have had 20 and called it a meal.

The “format” is that the dishes are to be shared. We ordered diver scallops with bacon and butternut squash puree, sweet and spicy pork ribs, and oven roasted heirloom carrots and root vegetables. The scallops were great except the bacon was a bit tough. The heirloom carrots reminded me of summer and the carrots I grew in our garden. I had my first Jerusalem artichoke and have decided that I will have to eat more of them in the future. The sweet and spicy pork ribs were really good except my first piece was a bit too pink of my liking. We pointed this out to the waiter who assured us that it was ok to eat because the pork was cured beforehand.

It was a really interesting meal for me because some of the dishes had a previous experience tied to them. There was a certain expectation to some of the food in my mind and now these expectations are not met. I wouldn’t say that it ruined my meal but it did make things different. I found myself wishing for some rice after eating the ribs.

We ordered the pannacotta and French tang yuan for dessert. I really liked the pannacotta, although I wish they had cut the core from the pineapple. I find the core tough. Fredrik liked the tang yuan. It was another food that conflicted with my previous experiences. The tang yuan was filled with chocolate and hazelnuts and sitting in a bit of custard. I’m used to tang yuan to be filled with sesame seed paste or chopped peanuts and sugar and boiled hot water sweetened with brown sugar and flavoured with ginger.

Apparently it’s rather normal to see Susur wandering around the restaurant. He was talking to the table sitting next to us. On our way out, he thanked us and we had a wee chat about our meal. What a lovely man. I admit that I had a bit of a starstruck moment when I first spotted him wandering around the restaurant.

Our overall experience at Lee was really good. We’d love to try some of the other dishes and intend to go every time we’re in Canada.

LEE Restaurant
603 King St. West
Toronto, ON
+1(416) 504-7867

I took some pictures but the lighting was really low in the restaurant and I didn’t think it was too polite to use the flash. But they can be found here:

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