Susur Lee opens Lee Lounge, in Toronto.
Last night, I attended the official launch party for Lee Lounge, the casual eatery launched by Susur Lee, Toronto’s, and perhaps Canada’s, best-known chef.
As its name suggests, the space has a lounge feel, but upscale, and tastefully done up, with black-leather couches and bar-style stools trimmed in red velvet, echoing old-school Chinese eateries.
Adding elegance are the two lightboxes (resurrected from the elegant Susur restaurant) whose shifting palette brings its own drama to the space.
To accommodate the party, staff removed the tables and chairs that will, evidently, occupy the bulk of the floorspace.
So it was hard to gauge the room properly, although I’ve heard that those tables are jammed very close together.
Will be able to tell when I return to review the restaurant.
As for the food, call it ‘upscale bar,’ with a strong Asian influence.
Standouts included cubes of the silkiest, creamiest tofu I’ve ever eaten; chicken wings bathed in a superb Hunan sauce redolent of hoisin, soy and complex spicing; intriguing shrimp doughnuts; and tiny Mexican-spiced goat-cheese tarts on puff pastry.
Cheeseburger spring rolls were a lot of fun, but deep-fried risotto balls and hunks of brie are beneath Susur and taste like they wandered in from a Kelsey’s.
Cocktails are also an important part of the Lee Lounge experience, and the two I sampled didn’t disappoint.
Whoever conceived, and mixed, the perfectly balanced pear juice/ginger/Hennessy cognac drink is a mixologist genius.
And the strawberry cocktail, with just the barest hint of pepper juice, was sophisticated – not too sweet and avoiding Maragaritaville thickness.
Lee Lounge is connected to sister restaurant Lee via a passageway, creating a critical mass and a fun space that should make for raucous conviviality on busy nights.
Still, I lament the absence of Susur’s high-end culinary sensibility in Toronto, and hope that, some day, he might see fit to re-enter the upscale sphere.
Lee Lounge features a private dining room accommodating 24.
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