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Get 'Bent' – Susur Lee Style


Bent restaurant, Susur Lee's newest restaurant.

Open less than a month, Toronto star chef Susur Lee’s latest venture, Bent, at the corner of Dundas Street West and Markham Street, is packing them in.

For good reason: The food is stellar. Dividing itself among sushi, ceviche, crudo and cooked items, many sporting Asian accents, as is Susur’s trademark, the menu, while short, offers good variety.

Favourites included a ceviche of cubed tuna, watermelon, shaved red onion, cilantro, crispy shallots, chile and citrus juice, a perfect melding of sweet, crunchy, sour and hot; and a salad of soft slices of marinated duck breast, duck crackling, peanuts sweet bean pesto and pickled onion, an equally adroit mix of textures and flavours.

A rich broth, heady with coconut and green curry, floats a tender shrimp, along with corn kernels, squash, mint and cilantro.

Cleverly stuffed into crunchy taro shells, smoked cod is jazzed with chipotle mayo, cilantro and jicama, resulting in flavour-packed tacos.

Crunchy/soft chicken dumplings with mushroom and leek are nicely set off by a blessedly subtle goat cheese sauce. The coins of chorizo sausage, perched on top, didn’t add anything.

A dollop of chive-studded sour cream takes tender braised beef short ribs into uncharted territory, the dairy tang a surprisingly good complement to the rich meat.

Black-pepper charred scallops, served cold with pine nuts and a sundried tomato mignonette, didn’t measure up to the rest of the meal and, on top of that, were tiny, not worth their $15 price tag.

Interestingly, there’s no dessert menu. Instead, the kitchen sends out complimentary small bites, in our case, silken lemon curd with blueberries, and a Chinese peanut beignet drizzled with not-too-sweet caramel.

Bent is a family affair, with Susur overseeing the kitchen; his two sons handling operational duties; and his wife, Brenda Bent, designing the room, which features plenty of hard surfaces (bare-wood tables, tile walls and floor). When it’s full, noise levels rise pretty high.

Tabs can be high, too, since the meant-for-sharing portions are smallish. But with food this good, we don’t mind.

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