In her opinion:
What happens when Levi and Kai Bent-Lee open a restaurant with their superstar chef dad, Susur Lee...why they create my favourite new restaurant in Toronto; BENT, of course! It officially opened last August, 2012 and is truly a family endeavour with Bent-Lees' mom, Brenda Bent-Lee acting as the restaurant's designer. The space is really beautiful.
We were lucky enough to get a prime reservation for the first Saturday of Summerlicious. I was so excited to try this new Susur Lee restaurant...I had previously had dinner at Madeline for one of our anniversary dinners and it was nice but not too memorable. I had a lot of expectations for Bent given all the positive reviews. I really hoped that our experience would live up to the hype.
We walked into a beautiful dining room and were shown to our table right away. We were greeted by our lovely waitress, Olivia who came over to introduce herself and take our drink orders. I decided on a glass of Tawse Riesling...big surprise! She also advised us that they were serving their Summerlicious menu family style, which was perfect for sharing.
After looking over the menu, we decided on the "shrimp tacos served with charred onion tomato salsa, chipotle, avocado in a taro shell" and the "crispy chicken dumpling" served with roasted chorizo, maple syrup and smoked chili lime glaze, Parmesan emulsion and salad of watercress and frisee".
For our mains, we picked the "pull beef ravioli with Malay black pepper emulsion served with garlic mushroom and confit tomato" and the "crispy 'Assam' salmon served with tamarind, ginger flower, four citrus, mustard and fruit".
|Pull beef ravioli|
For dessert, we each had a trio of desserts. It consisted of "profiterales with vanilla custard, hot chocolate and sesame brittle", "strawberry, rhubarb and lemongrass compote with Grand Marnier creme fraiche and butterfly pastry" and passion fruit and mango panna cotta with coconut tapioca and passion fruit and passion fruit gratinee". Just exquisite! I was having mini food orgasms while enjoying these precious little bites of heaven! By the way...this restaurant serves complimentary dessert with their regular menu. Now that is just amazing.
|The dessert trio.|
Overall, this was an amazing meal. Susur Lee is the king of Asian fusion and he definitely proved this with this meal. It was actually nice seeing the chef overlooking the dining room! He and his boys work very hard and that is lucky for us. It definitely lived up to the hype.
In his opinion:
As most of you know by now I'm not as easily as impressed as my counterpart and usually condense some of my harsh comments to mere bouts of dissatisfaction with my food experiences. So, to say that I went in with low expectations to this restaurant would be absurd; as I really went in with no expectations at all.
My last experience in a Susur Lee Restaurant was Madeline and even though I wasn't blogging then, the memories still haunt me, from the Moroccan bordello interior to the less than satisfactory meal. In comes Bent, the family restaurant. Can Susur redeem himself in my eyes and show us glimpses of his brilliance?
At first glance all appeared well, the location is perfect and the room was full of light and very whimsical, with constant reminders of years past and the Bent-Lee family portraits to tell the story. The fact that the sons are also part owners shows that this is truly a family affair.
The family style plate sharing that the restaurant is known for was also carried through with their Summerlicious menu and set the tone for the evening. I started out with a very tasty Tsing Tsao Beer, probably because the reserve sakes in the cellar were far beyond my budget.
Service started well, our server, Olivia even though very busy, did very well to maintain contact with us and serve plates in a orderly fashion. The starters that we picked to share were both very good dishes, so let me get that out of the way. The "Crispy Chicken Dumplings" were very well prepared, the parmesan emulsion added the perfect touch to the sweetness of the chicken and the chorizo that seems like the odd man out at first, actually complemented the flavours and paired nicely with the the frisee and watercress salad.
|Crispy chicken dumpling.|
For first entree, we picked the "Crispy 'Assam' Salmon". A dry texture and crispy skin usually spells dry fish in my mind but not in this case. In true Susur fashion, the fish was perfectly moist and delicious on the inside and the crispy skin added to the texture battle that worked very well. The fruits seemed odd as a side dish but I believe it complemented the dish quite well, serving as a contrast of flavours.
For our second entree and what I believe was the highlight of the night, "the Pull Beef Ravioli". Words are scarse to define this dish and all I can just say is wow. One giant ravioli stuffed with tender tasty pull beef, garlic mushroom and confit tomato, all brought together by the Malay black pepper emulsion. The ravioli was perfectly done, al dente and the combination of flavours complemented the beef perfectly. This is a dish I contemplated ordering another of, as that's how much I enjoyed it.
For dessert, as usual in this establishment that has no dessert menu, you are treated to the chefs daily inspiration in the form of a trio of desserts. They were all very good, but highlights to the profiteroles with vanilla custard, hot chocolate and sesame brittle as it was my favourite of the trio.
My initial zero to none expectations had paid off. But not because anything would be up from there, but because I believe that Susur has a winning formula in this restaurant. The perfect combination of "uncooked" and hot dishes on the menu, along with Susur's majestic grasp of Asian Fusion topped off with younger and less yuppy crowd that it's marketed to, makes it a hit.
The Good: Great service, excellent display of Asian fusion and a welcoming decor make this a not to be missed spot.
The Bad: Some of the dishes portions are quite small and the cocktail prices a bit steep. e.g. $16 for a Caesar...
The Verdict: Susur did indeed to win me over and practically erased my bad memories of Madeline with this meal. The original Bent-O boxes may have been the original attraction by many to this restaurant but it has a lot of further substance to offer any discerning palate. Overall, this is a great re-incarnation for Susur and surely will be around a lot longer than its predecessor.
I give it 4 out of 5 Olives as rating