After a long wait and swirling rumours, Bent, the new Dundas West restaurant from the Bent-Lee clan, has finally—and quietly—opened. While we originally reported that the spot was due to open last December, in a tale as old as restaurant-industry time itself, things didn’t happen quite as swiftly as originally envisioned. Kai and Levi Bent-Lee have taken the restaurant’s reins, though the place remains a family affair, with Susur Lee in charge of the kitchen and Brenda Bent-Lee behind the space’s unique design.
The restaurant occupies a pretty corner lot, with large picture windows letting in plenty of light. “We wanted it to look like you weren’t sure if you’d been here before,” Bent, of Restaurant Makeover fame, tells us. Designing the space with partner Karen Gable, Bent opted for clean lines amped up with whimsical, childlike touches. Up front, a terrarium peeks out from under the front desk; in the back, letterpress trays display 20 years’ worth of pint-sized collectibles, including Cracker Jack charms and tiny religious figures. “If you’re going to collect, collect it all!” Bent says. Behind the bar sits a trio of antique Pachinko machines, which were hauled to Toronto via suitcase by an obliging Denver-based friend. Other pieces were sourced closer to home: hefty benches from Queen West Antique Centre, lettering plucked from Metropolis and oak tables painted to look like old game boards. Perhaps best of all is the basement, where faces from creepy 1960s yearbook photos look down upon the dingy space. (“They enhance the ugliness of it,” cracks Bent.)
While the menu itself is the work of Lee, Kai and Levi, who worked at their father’s Lee and Lee Lounge, had a hand in the planning (the restaurant’s chef de cuisine is Bryan Gunness, formerly of Lee). The menu focuses on the various ways to present raw fish: ceviche, sushi, crudo and the like. Not surprisingly for this pioneer of fusion cooking, Asian touches abound (and there are even sushi chefs behind the bar). Dishes include smoked cod wrapped in miniature taro tacos, topped with cilantro, tomatillo and jicama and finished with chipotle mayo ($15). Tartare ($10) is done two ways—spicy tuna with avocado and salmon with shallots and capers—and perched, sushi–style, on crispy rice cakes ($10). Meatier options include a plate of braised short ribs with black garlic and parsnip purée, served with roasted rosemary-duck fat potatoes with sour cream and chives ($22). Drinks, meanwhile, focus on sake and cocktails like The Bijou ($16), made with green Chartreuse, Bombay Sapphire gin, Carpano Antica, orange bitters and a lemon twist. Bent officially opens on September 5—but, given the anticipation for a new Susur Lee operation, it’s no surprise the place has been buzzing since its soft opening last week.
Bent, 777 Dundas St. W., 647-352 0092, bentrestaurant.com