12 August 2007

Better than what they served next door!

I am not sure where to start this post.

First, I want to say that one of the things that I have most enjoyed about the last few years of my life is the ability to do things I once dreamed about. Travelling, going to *nice* restaurants, buying food magazines with only a marginal glance at the cost... it's been quite excellent. With this, there have been some disappointments. Going to the Tate Modern in London and expecting to be blown away, but being a bit disappointed by the lack of shiny movie like quality. And some unexpected surprises. Looking out at Paris from the Eiffel Tower.

Food has hit me with that elation and disappointment, as well. As I have said many times over, Fifteen in London was a high point. Susur in Toronto was a disappointment. So it was with some trepidation that we embarked on dinner last night at chef Susur Lee's more casual and tapas style restaurant, Lee, right next door (and next to Thuet, which is a culinary adventure for another time, I hope!).

I was immediately taken by the excellent decor that was welcoming and warm. Our waiter, who looked like a younger better toothed Ethan Hawke was very sweet. And the food all sounded interesting.

Young Ethan approached our table after bringing us drinks by suggesting that we allow the restaurant to pick our dishes, as we were a large-ish party of 7, and it made deciding not an issue. Our only concern was that one of our dining companions is an absolute no on fish due to a very serious allergy (which I was secretly pleased because I really dislike fish)... Young Ethan said he would talk to the chef and get back to us.

Drinks were served, and much chatting ensued, as we celebrated a birthday (my friend D) and caught up with friends. When YE announced that the chef would replace the cod we would have gotten with the duck confit dish, we all applauded M's allergy, and let the chef have his way.

It was amazing. The first dish was Tomato Beet Salad (described as blue cheese, horseradish dressing, brown sugar cane, basil). There were red and golden beets and beautiful yellow tomatoes... the result was heavenly.

This photo is funny, because it looks like a giant mess, but it was really quite delicious, and something I never would have ordered due to my general dislike of all things beet related.

Following this came the Singaporean style slaw, which had no description, but then, it sort of defied description with its deliciousness. (And kudos to YE for his indulgence in letting me take very dark photos of this beautiful food.)

The salad was then mixed into perfection. There were cukes, flowers, carrots, cabbage, and deliciousness all throughout this salad. It was really light and refreshing.

Our next dish was a Chickpea Sweet Onion Fritter (with ginger mango, minted yoghurt). Yum. Like a cross between pakora and an Outback Bloomin' Onion (would Susur groan to hear me say that?!).

Yes my son. Delish.

Next came the biggest surprise. Spicy crisp tofu (wildflower honey and chili soy glaze, mushroom and pepper compote). OH MY G-D. Can I hear an amen!

The tofu was gorgeously crisp and fluffy on the outside with a meltingly tender inside that was almost like a fresh ricotta cheese... the sauce was spicy and sweet with just an amazing amount going on... It was truly unbelievably good. I am starting to like tofu... I am going to have to figure out how to make it.

Then came the absolute most crazily wonderful ahhhh inducing plate of them all. Duck Confit Roll (with spiced nuts, oven dried pineapple, goat cheese).

This picture fails to capture it. But it was truly unbelievable. A tour de force. The confit was shredded inside, and in my gluttony and greed, I failed to snap a shot of it. But it was rich and delicious, brave as my beloved Jamie Oliver would say. Really heart stopping. If I were going to order another round of any of the things we had and keep it all to myself, it would be this one.

Then the final course. Slow Braised Beef (sour cream, potato leek puree, crispy shallots).

This was the least gasp inducing dish, and being that it was also unbelievably delicious, you get an idea of what we were dealing with at this dinner. It was spoon tender, and honestly, tasted like something your grandma (and I do mean yours, my grandma made nothing like this, at least that I remember) made slowly all day just in time for dinner after church. It was crazily good.

We all had dessert, and the clear winner at our table was the Molten Chocolate Cake.

Pictures were taken of the other desserts, but they were by far worse than this one, so this is it for dessert. Really good, but it pushed me over the edge into way too full for words.

So all in all, Lee is a great choice. It wasn't too expensive (each of the dishes above cost CDN $11, $16, $12, $11, $17, and $17, respectively) and for a nice night out with a group of groovy people, it was well worth it. With the chef making the decisions, sometimes YE would bring two or three orders of each thing, and we'd share them on our little long plates. The quality of the food was amazing, and while it felt rushed with plates arriving ever so often, our full dinner still took just over two hours, so it wasn't as if it sped by. Just really amazing food.

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