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Introducing: Lee Lounge, the latest incarnation of Susur Lee’s King West space

Susur Lee presides over his new Lee Lounge (Image: Renée Suen)

After teasing a hungry public for over half a year, Susur Lee, arguably the city’s most internationally recognized chef, opened his newest venture Lee Lounge last week. Formerly Susur, and then Madeline’s, the room has undergone a striking transformation at the hands of Brenda Bent (Lee’s wife and business partner) and Karen Gable—the duo responsible for many of Lee’s spaces, including the neighbouring Lee.

As the star chef explained to us last week, Lee Lounge is not quite a new restaurant, but an extension of the flagship, serving as a holding space for Lee patrons or diners just looking to graze and hang out. Compared to its predecessors, the lounge is more welcoming: the wall between both dining rooms has been opened up, and a long glass window now flanks King Street. Upholstered banquettes and chairs surrounding tightly packed tables encourage interaction, while a set of leather couches at the centre of the room offer a choice spot to people-watch.

Feminine features dominate the room. A pair of fuchsia light boxes at the rear are filled with wall mobiles made from 1940s propaganda posters. Among the treasures curated by Lee himself are a series of vintage Shanghainese cigarette girl posters lining the west wall and the chrysanthemum images embossed on the new menu covers. There are also personal touches, such as a black and white family portrait adorning the lounge’s entrance (Lee’s the tiny lad sitting between his father and mother in the front row). “I look at all this stuff and it reminds me of my trips to Hong Kong,” Lee explains. “It’s all the places that I’ve been—not just something from a store. It adds sentimental value.”

The menu is focused on shareable small bites, like a char siu–marinated duck wrap with a crisp tofu skin and foie gras mousse ($22), spicy Hunan chicken wings ($11) served with a Hainanese chicken rice dip and an Asian-style salmon ceviche ($11) dressed with smoky dashi and sweet black beans. Cocktails ($13.50–14.50) made at Lee Lounge’s backlit bar, meanwhile, boast tropical fruits, or receive a salted plum powder kick.

Although Lee admits to having more surprises up his sleeve—the the Top Chef Masters runner-up already has restaurants in New York, Singapore and Washington, DC—he promises he’s planning to stay in Toronto for “a long, long time.” Our fingers are crossed.

Lee Lounge, 601 King St. W. (at Portland), 416-603-2205, susur.com/lee.

Our Introducing series explores newly opened restaurants, bars and shops throughout the GTA
This is not a review.
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  • Kasia

    I ate at Lee Lounge last week, the first time in the new space, though certainly not the first time at the restaurant, which I’ve been going too for years.

    I was so disappointed. The portions were smaller, as was the menu. And just like this review, the emphasis seemed to be on decor- the beautiful wall-hanging on birds now relegated to above the washroom entrance, while cheap cardboard cut-outs adorn the wall- and not the food.

    The server was distracted and unimpressed, the music was terrible (50 when we walked in turned to the xx album, played TWICE in a row- our entire meal) and the atmosphere had changed… for the worse.

    It’s too bad Lee didn’t buck the trend of resto-lounges and keep emphasis on his fabulous cooking, instead of letting in drown in this decidedly unsophisticated, condo-dweller pandering.

    What a shame.

  • dumbstuff

    did i miss the restaurant makeover episode….looks like the same dark and red usual concept she delivers

  • him

    Decor looks like someone is getting ready for a 6-year olds birthday party….

  • Norman Howe

    I made a reservation last week for Lee Lounge. When I arrived, the welcome girl consulted the list, had a quick whispered conversation with another server, then led me through the restaurant to Lees. I thought it was kinda weird, since the rooms are clearly different, but I thought maybe the menus had been synchronized,so didn’t really say anything (and neither did the girl, by the way). By the time I realized that we had been bait and switched, my dinner companion had arrived, and I chose not to make a scene. The food was half decent, but I would never go back to a place that treats diners with such contempt that they figure they can slip this kind of thing by without acknowledgement.

  • chef

    front of house manager the rudest person ever. shame on u>

  • no way

    gerg

  • no way

    gerg 1 AND HALF STARS

  • CP

    Went there last night and had a wonderful experience.
    Susur Lee came and delivered us his recommendations for the night and also came by several times to check in on us.
    The food was amazing. There was a single dish that came out that I didn’t enjoy. Susur also told us about how he acquired the rhubarb and strawberries locally for his special dessert.
    The staff was definitely in tune and were courteous.
    I wasn’t crazy about the hostesses… but they did let us pick a table of our liking.
    I would definitely go back, and I’m looking forward to my next visit there!

  • Daniela

    Went there on Friday and had a wonderful experience. The service was amazing. It seemed like the staff took pride in working there and had an appreciation for Chef Lee’s food. The food was incredible – full of flavour. I highly recommend the spicy crisp tofu and the Singaporean style slaw. The food here is an experience more than just a meal. During dinner Chef Lee came to our table to check on our experience. Chef Lee looked familiar. I quickly realized he is the chef from Top Chef Masters. I would definately go back. Remember to leave room for dessert.

 

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