September 14, 2011
Lee Lounge (above) and adjoining Lee restaurant hosted Miami-based chef Douglas Rodriguez.
Last night, enjoyed some superb ceviche, courtesy of Miami, Fla.-based chef Douglas Rodriguez, who’s plying his trade from Sept 13-15 at Susur Lee’s downtown Toronto restaurant, as Lee’s invited guest chef during the Toronto International Film Festival.
Known globally as the godfather of Nuevo Latino cuisine, Rodriguez made his mark in 1994 when he launched Patria restaurant, in New York.
There, Rodriguez drew on his Cuban heritage and blended global flavours with Latin American ingredients. He now operates restaurants in Phildelphia, Pa., Scottsdale, Ariz., and Miami Beach.
On just about every front, his food delivered. Highlight of the night, by a longshot, was ultra-fresh chunks of tuna tossed with cubes of sweet watermelon, finely minced onion, Thai basil tarragon and a bracingly sour kumquat sauce.
Almost as good were razor-thin slices of raw fluke topped with minced celery and peanuts and dabbed with a smoked-raisin sauce whose smoky/sweet notes brought the dish together.
Bits of cooked conch, chewy as a Goodyear tire, marred an otherwise exemplary plate of raw snapper, strands of (intentionally) burnt onions and sour orange.
A cold, mayo-based salad of shredded smoked marlin was stuffed into mini-taco shells made of crisp taro root. A tiny slice of just-hot-enough jalapeno pepper, perched on top of each taco, added much-needed pizzazz. From Rodriguez, we expect earth-shaking. This was merely pleasant.
The least-satisfying dish was chewy, raw yellowtail paired with a granita tasting of almond extract.
Dessert came courtesy of Lee’s carte, and man, did it impress. Five Chinese soup spoons each held a soft, warm, sweet-rice dumpling filled with hazelnuts and peanuts, and topped with a bit of chocolate ganache. The play of sweet/salty/chewy was sublime.
Douglas, you’re welcome back in Toronto anytime.
Visit Rodriguez’s site