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Introducing: the second stop on the Drake Dining Roadshow, 1940s L.A. Chinatown

The redesigned dining room features all kinds of gleeful appropriations and kitschy Chinatown elements, like this wall of cats. (Image: Gizelle Lau)

Back in June, we told you about the Drake Hotel’s Dining Roadshow, a series of thematically changing restaurant concepts constructed in the back section of the hotel’s dining room, starting with the Drake Summer School Dining Hall. This stop: 1940s L.A. Chinatown, which opened just in time for TIFF and continues until November 19.

The space has been reimagined as a slightly risqué, kitschy American-Chinese restaurant suffused with Hollywood glam (and the odd dragon dance). While most Toronto restaurant designers these days turn to Smash for their vintage decor, The Drake looks like someone raided Tap Phong for its cheesiest Asian-themed merchandise. One wall now sports a red velvety background and large gold Chinese writing that says “double happiness.” On the back wall, the mirror has been turned into a koi pond, while stencilled birds cut out from just-shy-of-soft-porn photos hang behind lit-up walls (after all, The Drake does have a sex toy menu for hotel guests).

Chef Anthony Rose’s menu is inspired by the Sunday-night Chinese food of his youth, particularly the old Lychee Garden on Bay or the House of Chan on Eglinton. There are dinner sets for two, four or six ($35–$39 per person) as well as family-style platters for sharing, all served on typical blue Chinese tableware. Dishes are contemporary interpretations of American-Chinese classics like dumplings (created with help form Mother’s Dumplings) made with short rib and pumpkin ($12). The sesame and ginger cashew chicken ($23) is inspired by a hole-in-the-wall Rose saw on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. There’s also a smiling Buddha lobster cooked in traditional Chinese fashion ($33) and Peking duck confit crêpes with lychee and hoisin barbecue sauce ($26). For vegetarians, there’s a mushroom chow mein ($14).

The drinks list features Tsingtao beer as well as seven Asian-inspired cocktails, including a dragon fruit mojito ($13), the Lotus Blossom ($14) and the Rickety Rickshaw ($14) (an order of the last one is accompanied by a smash of the gong). In a nod to misspent teenage nights on Spadina, ordering “cold tea” will bring beer in a teapot. Even the fortune cookies have a typical Drake Hotel spin. Ours informed us, “You’re going to have a bad hair day.”

The Drake, 1150 Queen St. W., 416-531-5042, thedrakehotel.ca

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