This February 19, restaurants across the city will ring in the Year of the Ram (or Goat or Sheep, if you’d prefer with special dishes that symbolize good fortune, wealth and happiness. Among those restaurants: Susur Lee’s Luckee. We asked Lee to guide us through his special dim sum platter—available from Luckee’s special menu until March 1—and what makes it so, well, lucky. “Dim sum is not proprietary to Chinese New Year,” says Lee. “But these have been enhanced to make them appropriate for the festival.”
Last weekend, Drake rang in his 28th birthday at Susur Lee’s Dundas West restaurant Bent. He later Instagrammed a play-by-play of the night, which saw him hanging with his dudes, striking cool-looking poses, chatting with the chef and basking in the glow of a sparkler-strewn birthday cake. (The latter, while appropriately massive, didn’t quite match the DIY intensity of last year’s lumpy ode to Toronto). Like a real down-to-earth guy, Drake seems to have invited mainly family and friends, including manager Oliver El-Khatib and other members of his OVO posse. He even submitted to tender birthday-boy hugs from his mom, Sandi. What a guy, right?
For his new dim sum hot spot, Luckee, Susur Lee scaled back his signature esoteric fusion in favour of good old-fashioned Chinese food
328 Wellington St. W., 416-935-0400
As weekend rituals go, the leisurely dim sum pig-out is hard to beat. I’ve chop-sticked my way through the encyclopedic menus of Markham strip mall banquet palaces, waited for a table with a lake view at Queen’s Quay Terminal’s Pearl, and arrived underdressed for the crystal chandelier and gold leaf Versailles that is Crown Princess on Bay. For years, I had a standing appointment with a group of old friends at Spadina’s suspiciously cheap Bright Pearl, before it closed in a cloud of steam carts and rumours of sanitation violations. Dim sum is the best cure I’ve found for a hangover—all those greasy dumplings and watery pots of steaming tea, and everyone too busy grazing to keep up a serious conversation. In general, I’m not too fussy about where I go—at reputable spots, one siu mai is as springy as the next. I mostly measure the quality of a dim sum place by how frequently the grannies (and they’re always grannies—it must be a law) circle your table with their trolleys.
Contact Info: 328 Wellington St. W., 416-935-0400, luckeerestaurant.com, @LuckeeTO
Neighbourhood: Entertainment District
Owners: Celeb chef Susur Lee and Henry Wu, Metropolitan Hotel president and founder of Chinese restaurants Lai Wah Heen and now-closed Lai Toh Heen
Executive Chef: Susur Lee
The Food: Refined takes on traditional dishes from the Guangzhou, Hunan and Szechuan regions of China. The around-the-clock dim sum service sticks to classic Cantonese dishes prepared with subtle modifications, like minced chicken instead of pork in steamed shumai dumplings, or Italian prosciutto draped across a traditional Shanghainese ham dish served with osmanthus honey sauce and whole wheat buns. On the main menu, the Luckee duck comes with classic Peking-style garnishes and an optional foie gras supplement. The bar has its own menu of finger foods, like curried shrimp spring rolls and Kung Pao chicken wings. Read the rest of this entry »
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“I want Luckee to change the way Toronto experiences dim sum. You won’t have to drive all the way to Markham. The lighting won’t be too bright and we’ll have a good wine list.”
—Celeb chef Susur Lee, speaking to Now about the differences between Chinese restaurants in Markham and Luckee, his swank dim-sum palace at the Soho Met, which opens this Friday (that is, April 4). Aside from booze and decor, the Susurized version of dim sum doesn’t sound too different from the classic Cantonese style: it apparently includes staples like har gow and cheung fun rice rolls (albeit glammed up with yuzu and “crispy rice tuiles”), and even traditional point-and-eat trolley service. As for differences, though, we can think of one more: it’s not going to be cheap.
Local food guru Lucy Waverman sent ripples through the Toronto food community yesterday when she reported on Twitter that celeb chef Susur Lee will soon expand his growing brand with a third Toronto restaurant—a rumour that has now been confirmed by Susur’s reps. Luckee, a new Chinese eatery specializing in dim sum and Cantonese plates, will launch this spring at the Soho Metropolitan Hotel, apparently in the space currently occupied by Senses. Susur’s reps aren’t providing any more details until the plan has been ironed out, but a spokesman from the Soho Met says that “exciting new changes will be happening in the [Senses] space” and that the news will be officially announced “at the appropriate time… soon.”
The Senses dining room hasn’t seen much food buzz since partnering with GwaiLo chef Nick Liu for a series of pop-up dinners in the fall of 2012. According to Waverman, Luckee will open in March 2014—just in time to welcome new neighbour Mark Whalberg, whose burger chain Wahlburgers is also slated to open there this spring.
In 2008, Canadian superstar chef Susur Lee tried to take Manhattan, with so-so results. Shang, his clubby Lower East Side resto-lounge, met with tepid reviews (including a doozy from New York Times food critic Frank Bruni) and closed after three years. New Yorkers, Lee concluded, just weren’t ready for avant-garde Chinese food. Now, Lee’s making a comeback. Instead of kowtowing to everyday American palates, this time he’s targeting a different clientele: the members of an ultra-exclusive business and social club called the China Center, which caters to “social, business and cultural leaders from China and the U.S.” The club will occupy five floors of the newly constructed One World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan and will contain luxury office space, a traditional Chinese tearoom and, as of 2015, Lee’s as-yet-unnamed contemporary Chinese eatery, which will be lodged on the building’s 66th floor—far removed from the unappreciative masses.
Toronto is undergoing an oyster renaissance thanks to a gaggle of new seafood spots. Here, the top five tastes on the half-shell.
Toronto celeb chef Susur Lee is parting with Zentan, his modern Asian restaurant in Washington, D.C.’s Donovan House hotel, only two-and-a-half years after it opened. Kimpton Hotels took over the property last year and decided to shift the restaurant’s focus from Lee’s signature fusion cuisine to sushi and yakitori (both sides emphasize the split is a “mutual agreement”). The move comes over a year after Lee closed Shang, his restaurant in the Thompson Hotel on New York’s Lower East Side (before it shut he complained New Yorkers were insufficiently adventurous diners). That leaves Lee, Bent and Singapore’s Chinois as the extent of his culinary empire.
Life is one never-ending, exclusive party in Charles Khabouth’s 17 faddish restaurants and nightclubs.
For those of you who have never been to Uniun, the latest addition to Toronto’s dance club scene, here are some of the things you will notice should you go. Though Uniun’s address is nominally 473 Adelaide West, if you actually stand at the corner of Adelaide and Portland you will not see the entrance: to find it, you have to cut through a small parking lot and then walk up a dark alley, at which point you will find a pair of bouncers manning a black velvet cordon.
Winterlicious can be a double-edged sword for diners. Yes, there’s the prospect of great deals that you’d never get otherwise—except during Summerlicious—but the crowds are thick, the servers are frazzled and the ’licious menu doesn’t always measure up to the usual fare. For years, some restaurants have opted to keep the deals but skip the chaos, responding to Winterlicious with prix fixes of their own. We’ve rounded up the best of them below. Read the rest of this entry »
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Taste moves in waves: one year tall food is on every menu in town, and the next year, it’s a half-forgotten embarrassment. Sometimes, though, those embarrassments come back in a new guise. This year saw the quiet return of certain tendencies that we thought were long-buried, like fusion cuisine and wine bars, as well as the full-blown emergence of others that were bubbling away just below the surface, like tacos and, of course, ramen. Below, a roundup of what was hot in 2012. Read the rest of this entry »
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The insider dish on Soho House: who made the cut and who didn’t at the city’s new, exclusive private club
Soho House, the exclusive London-based members’ club, has gambled $8 million on a Simcoe Street outpost that’s the surest place in Toronto to bump into celebs
On Wednesday, July 25, a group of 30 people gathered for a secret meeting in the boardroom of a nondescript office building on Adelaide West. Among them were the heiress Trinity Jackman, indie record exec Jeff Remedios, TIFF artistic director Cameron Bailey, interior designer Anwar Mukhayesh, Sony Music president Shane Carter and the society queen bee Ashleigh Dempster. Together they represented a cross-section of the city’s new establishment—a group that had been carefully corralled by the organizers of the London-based Soho House to help decide who deserved to be a founding member of the private club’s new Toronto outpost. Read the rest of this entry »
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Gallery: Susur Lee, Michael Stadtländer and other notable Toronto chefs prepare soups of all kinds at Soupstock 2012
An estimated 40,000 soup-seeking revellers and 200 chefs traveled to Woodbine Park last weekend to attend Soupstock 2012, the one-day culinary protest festival designed to raise awareness for the fight against the proposed mega-quarry in the Township of Melancthon. Building on the momentum generated from last year’s Foodstock, the Canadian Chef’s Congress and the David Suzuki Foundation convened the weekend’s festivities. Regardless of political affiliation, the sheer magnitude of the event was impressive: it’s a rare occasion that offers that many big-name city chefs (and, for that matter, that much soup).