madeline’s

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10 of the most mouthwatering Toronto pies and tarts

Life of Pie | Holiday Special

Hit the ’nog and let the city’s best bakers do dessert. Here, 10 top Toronto pies

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The Dish

Features

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Susur Lee lite: the celebrity chef is back, but he didn’t bring his A game. Lee Lounge, his latest venture, falls flat

Interior of Susur's Lee Lounge

In the year following the announcement of Susur Lee’s new project in the storied room that once was Susur restaurant, it was tempting to believe that the chef was planning a triumphant return to Toronto. Speaking on his behalf, Brenda Bent, his wife and the designer of his Toronto restaurants, sounded keen to have her peripatetic husband back in the city more often. She even went so far as to enumerate the days Lee is contractually obliged to spend at his restaurants in New York, D.C. and Singapore (a total of 58 per year), adding that her husband wanted to “offer a more intense level of cooking” here at home.

This was great news for diners craving something more ambitious than Lee, the casual, cash-spinning and comparatively low-maintenance restaurant he has run, albeit often from a distance, since 2004, or Madeline’s, which stood for a couple years in the former Susur space but never came close to being as good as its predecessor.

Could diners dare to dream that the chef might give it his all in a Toronto kitchen again? When the new place, Lee Lounge, opened on Valentine’s Day, after eight months of delays, the first thing you saw inside the door was a black and white picture of Lee as a child with his family in Hong Kong, and the words “Re-Entry Permit” written above the photo on the wall. “Re-Entry Permit” was the theme of the Lee Lounge launch. What else were we supposed to think? Susur Lee was back.

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The Dish

Restaurants

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Madeline’s massive make-over: name changes, construction and the return of Susur Lee

Don’t panic at the sight of shuttered windows at Madeline’s. The place closed on April 10 but will re-emerge in early June as Susur Lee’s next Toronto restaurant.

Brenda Bent, Lee’s wife and the person in charge of redoing Madeline’s space, tells us that after Dominic Amaral’s departure last year to become head chef at Zucca Trattoria, it was time to give the place an update—especially since her husband will be cooking in Toronto more often now. Lee’s contracts say that he has to check up on Shang (in New York) only three times a month, Zentan (in Washington) three times every two months and Chinois (in Singapore) about four times a year.

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People

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Dominic Amaral leaves Madeline’s, Jason Carter takes over

After working under Susur Lee for nine years, head chef Dominic Amaral has left his post at Madeline’s and is now working at Zucca Trattoria, making Jason Carter of Lee the new executive chef. The shuffle happened quietly in early July when Amaral resigned from Madeline’s (the chef section on the restaurant’s Web site is currently down) to work as a sous-chef under Zucca’s Andrew Milne-Allan. “It was just time to go,” says Amaral “and I want to spend more time with my daughter.”

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The Dish

Drinks

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BYOB: Toronto restaurants drop corkage fees

Corkage fees are falling all over Toronto (Photo by Quinn Dombrowski)

Bottle shock: corkage fees are falling all over Toronto (Photo by Quinn Dombrowski)

Along with prix-fixe menus and pink slip parties (we’re looking at you, Globe), reduced corkage fees have become a popular recession-era tactic for restaurants trying to attract diners. Ontario jumped on the BYOB bandwagon in January 2005, it has never had the same success as similar programs in Quebec. That is, until now.

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The Dish

Random Stuff

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Maybe 36 hours is not enough time to experience Toronto

The old grey lady looks northward (Photo by Peter Dutton)

The old grey lady looks northward (Photo by Peter Dutton)

This past Sunday, Toronto was the subject of The New York Times’ 36 Hours column—this is Hogtown’s second treatment in the series, in which a New York writer describes a weekend visit. Even though we hate to admit it, we lean in a little closer when the old grey lady whispers our city’s name. The eating and drinking establishments mentioned include El Convento Rico, The Communist’s Daughter, Sweaty Betty’s, Lai Wah Heen and—wait for it—College Street Bar. A paltry sample, but seeing as writer Denny Lee was here only for a weekend, we can’t be too hard on him. Perhaps he likes to party like it’s 2007. And to do so south of Bloor.

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The Dish

Restaurants

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Susur Lee brings his New York menu to Toronto

Two weeks only: Susur's back on King Street (Photo by aser)

Two weeks only: Susur's back on King Street (Photo by aser)

After making news—some good, some bad—with his new restaurant, Shang, over the past four months, Susur Lee is bringing the menu of his Manhattan venture to Toronto for a brief cameo. The celebrity chef will offer his newest creations at both of his satellite restaurants, Lee and Madeline’s, with a special prix fixe menu. For the first two weeks in April, Torontonians will be able to sample a three-course Shang offering from Monday to Wednesday for $35 and $1 corkage, as well as a five-course Shang menu from Monday to Saturday for $60.

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