LEE Restaurant is one of the many in the Toronto area owned by ‘celebrity chef’ Susur Lee, who has made quite a few appearances on my favourite TV channel, Food Network. We had dinner here as a celebratory occasion, and knew we were in for a treat.
This restaurant was actually slightly tricky to spot – there is no definitive sign, only what appears to be an L, the Restaurant, hanging high above the door. The door itself have the address on it, but we walked back a forth a couple of times, unsure if we arrived at the right place.The interior was dark and sleek inside, but as it was a beautiful day, we decided on the patio.
Location: 601 King St W
Hours: Monday to Wednesday: 5:30pm to 10:30pm
Thursday to Saturday: 5:30pm to 11:30pm
Atmosphere: Lounge feel, popular for after work dinners
Service: Knowledgeable and enthusiastic
This will be another long post, so here is a quick summary:
- dishes are made for sharing; the more people, the merrier (and more food to try)
- many dishes are fusion flavours
- get the Singaporean-style slaw
- all the staff are friendly and helpful
I really didn’t like the table. For one, it was quite dirty when we were taken there, and only wiped down while we were standing around it, which wasn’t the greatest as we could see just how dirty that table was, and all the dirt that was still there. It was also small and cramped, with only a sliver of space to eat, as the middle was elevated to place the food. Our waiter was very enthusiastic and accommodating; out of curiosity (and cause they seemed to be having a party going on there) we asked if he knew what type of restaurant was across the street (tapas), and he asked the bartender how the food was (he recommended it).
The food will be listed in the order it arrived; we had a party of 4 and our waiter recommended we get 6-7 dishes. There are plenty of vegetarian options at LEE, and their signature dish is actually vegan. We ended up ordering 7 dishes, added an eighth near the end, and two desserts afterwards. Each person who presented the dish to out informed us of its name, the ingredients used, and sometimes tips for eating, which was a nice touch.
The Saketini is a blend of two types of saké, vodka, and yuzu, and topped with flower petals. It was sweet with floral flavours, and was a light and refreshing drink to start the evening.
Nineteen ingredients = pure bliss.
The server gave us time for a quick photo-op before mixing it together for us, which created quite a mess, and honestly I didn’t want to see any of it go to waste! It was refreshing, tangy, sweet, crunchy, and all around delicious. Each bite tasted differently depending on the mix, but in a very pleasant way. The only thing throwing me off was there was a very strong ginger flavour at times, which for those who are ginger-ambivalent, was at times a bit too much. This dish is vegan and I could order it to eat myself as a full meal (it’s that big).
This dish looked beautiful when it arrived; the hummus was light and creamy and served as a good palate cleanser after the flavourful slaw. The chips were crisp and not the least bit greasy. Overall, this dish was pleasant but not very memorable.
Probably my favourite hearty dish of the meal. I love baked goat cheese, and over vegetables and puff pastry is just paradise. It came out piping hot, and the creamy whipped goat cheese oozed over the tart just enough to cover the bite.
The cod was soft and juicy, and the sauces were spot on. This was another recommended dish from our server, and was rightfully so. The only thing that detracted my overall enjoyment of it was the turnip cake underneath. It was very soft and soggy, when they are usually quite firm. We all agreed that the turnip cake devalued the dish a smidge, as it is generally a very commonplace item.
I got a bit of a spray when this dish was being described; goes to show just how excited they are about their food! The outside was crispy and everything a croquette should be, while the insides were slightly mushy, and had a curry flavour.
I know this is supposed to be a Chinese-style ravioli, but appearance-wise, it seriously looks very dumpling-like, with a very thin skin. There was a generous amount of lobster inside each ravioli, and while juicy, I had a hankering for a saucier element. This dish had an abundance of chili oil, and was definitely the spiciest dish of the night. The shrimp was spicy but on the dry side. The flavours were good but felt a little confused together, especially with the advertisement of it being ravioli.
After the first few dishes, I had been thinking it would be nice if our plates were swapped out, as they were coloured with the sauces of the previous dish. It was only at this point, with supposedly one dish left, that they decided to change out our plates. At this point we also decided to order one more dish, the spicy crisp tofu.
This is advertised as the Winning Dish in the Top Chef competition, and from the sauce alone, was a winner for me. The outside of the chicken gives the scare that it may be rubbery, but it was tender with a slightly bouncy texture, though odd, was not unpleasant. The strangely yellowish tinge to the green curry was odd but didn’t change the fact that creamy sauce was the highlight of this dish.
The tofu managed to stay crispy even with the sauce, and was soft and silky. The sauce was a tad on the salty side, and overall this dish seemed a bit too glorified. Maybe I’m just too used to tofu, as it was good but nothing special.
The desserts were somewhat of a letdown after such an amazing dinner. To be sure, they were quite on point, but after such creative appetizers and entrees, they paled in comparison.
The crème brûlée was not too sweet, but a bit on the firmer side. The cone was crisp and enjoyable.
The panna cotta was also a bit firm, but was very creamy and the passion fruit flavour was very apparent. The crumbly bits on the top paired nicely with it, though the addition of tapioca seemed a bit unnecessary.
We did actually see Susur Lee briefly while dining; he came out to the patio area to briefly perform some task, though we did not see him talk to any customers while he was out there.
In conclusion, a very satisfying meal. The staff are very friendly and so interested in the food that it gets you excited about digging in. One or two less dishes would have made me feel less bloated and sleepy afterwards, but hey, had to try everything, right? The majority of the dishes I would get again, while dessert may be skipped. As all other reviewers noted, the Singaporean-style Slaw is a must.
* They are participating in Summerlicious (dinner, $45) until July 20th, 2014!