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Susur Lee Heading to New York


barolo
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It's official, according to the Globe and Mail today:

He has been described as one of the “hottest 10 chefs alive,” the founding father of “nouvelle Chinoise” cooking, and perhaps the most gifted culinary genius in Canada. Well, at least the first two are still true.

Susur Lee is shuttering his eponymous downtown Toronto restaurant at the end of May and heading to New York, where he has signed a deal to launch an eatery in a new hotel on Manhattan's Lower East Side this fall.

Edited by barolo (log)

Cheers,

Anne

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Yet another Reason to head to New York, for this Englishman :wink:

“Do you not find that bacon, sausage, egg, chips, black pudding, beans, mushrooms, tomatoes, fried bread and a cup of tea; is a meal in itself really?” Hovis Presley.

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I got the impression from the Globe article that Susur is being closed and renovated by his wife and will re-open under his sous-chef, and that Lee will remain untouched, but the Lee chef will be heading to NY with Susur.

An article in today's Star says Susur will be in NY three to four days a week.

He hasn't left TO completely.

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I got the impression from the Globe article that Susur is being closed and renovated by his wife and will re-open under his sous-chef, and that Lee will remain untouched, but the Lee chef will be heading to NY with Susur.

An article in today's Star says Susur will be in NY three to four days a week.

He hasn't left TO completely.

This makes more sense. I'm still excited.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

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the restaurant described it as them "closing briefly" after 31 May and that they would reopen in the same space "with the same staff" after that. They didn't have details on when, and I got the impression that the name and concept would be different, but I don't remember the exact words. This is for Susur; Lee, as others have said, won't be affected.

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Here's a little more from the Globe:

Susur will serve its last tasting menu (in reverse, of course, as is the custom) on May 31, and then undergo a five-week renovation. Mr. Lee isn't sure what sort of food he will serve in its new incarnation, but insisted he has no mixed feelings about leaving a restaurant that helped him forge an international reputation, and which was once recognized as among the top 50 places to eat in the world. His other restaurant, the nearby Lee, will remain open.

The full Globe story is here: Toronto's super chef Susur heading to New York

Cheers,

Anne

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I'm not entirely surprised by this. I walk the mutt past there fairly often, and sometimes Susur's only half full.

I don't know if other high end places in town are also lagging, but Lee, on the other hand, is pretty much always hopping.

Cheers,

geoff

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  • 4 weeks later...

My understanding is he's renovating Susur into a Bistro type restaurant. He's going to be up against the giants in Manhattan such as Jean Georges, Joel Roubuchon, Thomas Keller, Wylie Dufresne, Nobu Matsuhisa, etc. He certainly has the ego to succeed there, but it's going to be tough because now he's playing with the big boys.

Apparently his Manhattan gig is going to have more of an Asian fusion theme menu than what we saw in Toronto. This is the niche he's comfortable with and it will differentiate his restaurant from so many others excellent restaurants in NYC.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Having been to Susur a number of times in the past, and for the most part having been blown away by the experience, I was rather disappointed to read the news that chef Lee was decamping to New York. A true loss for Toronto, I thought at the time.

A couple nights ago I paid my final visit to the restaurant, and was blown away in a completely different fashion: without a doubt it was the worst fine-dining experience I have had in many years.

The night started off poorly, with an extended wait in the tiny bar for our table. Nothing new, as tables never seem to be ready on time, but at least in the past beverages have been offered to quench one's thirst - this time, we were left to our own devices as the staff ran about the restaurant in a vain attempt to rush the early seating out.

Regardless, hopes were still high to taste Chef's "favourite" dishes from over the years. Hopes continued to be high 1 1/2 hours into the reservation, at which time we still had not received the amuse. The oyster dish (an unimpressive duo of gazpacho and bland bivalve) finally did arrive, at which time we were left to languish for another half hour - this is two hours into our reservation now - until the first course came, at least in part.

Three of the members of our five-top were served, while the other two sat politely, awaiting something from the kitchen. After far too many moments, and with no waiter nor food in sight, I ambled over to the bar to have a chat with the maitre d’, who was nowhere to be found; I was instead left to chat with the bartender:

“Is the manager around?”

“I’m afraid not at the moment. Is there anything I can do for you?”

"Well, to be frank, the service is really unbelievable tonight"

"Unbelievably good?" he unbelievably asked.

In the end, he said he would talk to the team and see what they could do about the thus far languid pace of our dinner.

Eventually, the remainder of the main did arrive, and it was nothing but classic Susur. Big, ambitious flavours and textbook meat - top form from the kitchen.

The next course or two trickled out at the same leaden tempo. An absolutely bland foie offering was a shock; the subsequent white asparagus with mushroom course was pleasant, though nothing more. Adding insult to injury, as he flung my glass of wine onto the table, the waiter informed me that the powers that be had decided that the Sauternes would go better with the asparagus, while the Chianti would be served with the foie, in contrast to what the printed menu said. After tasting both pairings I must say I disagree, and am left to wonder whether this was just a lazy cover-up for a mix-up at the bar.

With the sorbet (a far too spicy strawberry number on a gimmicky bed of dry ice), a new waiter appeared at our table. Evidently word had gotten through that things were not going well, and a pinch hitter had been called in. He was certainly a smooth operator (the next best thing to Kelly Kwan, who apparently jumped ship about 8 months ago), but unfortunately at this point things were beyond salvage.

Salvageable or not, with the new team, things were kicked into high gear. Courses poured out of the kitchen as quickly as the previous ones could be snatched away from us. In the flurry of activity, we realized that they had jumped right to the shellfish course (scallop sashimi, which was tender but truly unexciting), bypassing the promised fish course. When we pointed this out to our waiter, he informed us that Chef was switching the order of those two courses this evening (apparently Chef was not switching the order for other tables, which seemed to receive their courses in the advertised order).

Now, to be honest, with the reverse tasting I am so confused that I really did not care which order these courses came in. But when Susur goes on at such length about the courses "diminishing in both size and weight," you kind of at least expect him to stick to his story and send the courses out in order.

Anyway, it would have been no great loss if they had omitted the fish course altogether. The woefully dry halibut was a true challenge to the salivary system, while the black cod made one reach for the water glass (empty, of course, as it had been most of the evening) to dilute the overpowering saltiness.

Finally, with eyes barely propped open, dessert arrived. It was a true triumph, and if Susur is still making his own desserts, then I am thoroughly impressed. The various 'dim sum' were near flawless, and my only wish is that I had had enough room to finish them all.

Overall, however, if this dinner was indicative of Susur's current performance, then in fact Toronto has lost nothing more than a once-great chef, now resting far too heavily on his laurels.

Edited by sgfrank (log)
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  • 2 weeks later...

As someone who spends much time in the kitchens owned by Susur I can attest to a few things. He's essentially giving the restaurant over to his sous, Dominic Amaral. Aside from creative input from Susur dominic has been running the kitchen for a long time anyways. Its going to be more European influenced, 'tapas' style fare. The idea is that Lee is making a lot of money and that same focus will be put on the new restaurant. At the end of the day Susur is trying to make the most money possible while focusing his energy on New York. Luckily Dominic is a very inspired and creative chef and it should be an interesting restaurant. As to the recent service problems that can be directly accounted to the reliance on two seatings (again a bid to increase profits) in combination with the recent anouncing of the closure driving the reservations to astronomic numbers. Its quite simply more than a restaurant of that calibre should be coping with and there daily breaking records for highest guest count in a night. 160 people doing an 8 course tasting averages over 1200 plates. for a service staff of 15, and a cook staff of 11 thats unreal. now multiply that by 5 times a week and you have an idea of the chaos. That being said every customer has the same expectations, pays the same price and deserves he same quality. Unfortunately the chef has decided to ignore the stress this puts on staff and take as many resos as the seats will allow, and sometimes more. I certainly dont mean this as a criticism against the restaurant Susur or the staff at all, and the man himself is a brilliant cook and tries to always maintain the highest quality. As a side note a new name hasnt been decided but who really cares as long as the food is good. Susur suggested 'seas' because there serving seafood, other options are being explored.

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  • 1 month later...

The new place opens tomorrow - saw a sign in the window yesterday while out walking the mutt.

Might have been called Madeline's? I think that was it. Didn't have any more info than that.

Cheers,

Geoff

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  • 5 months later...

I went to Madelaine's this past week with a friend. The food was very good and served "family style". I had just been to Jamie Kennedy's the month before and I preferred my food sharing experience there much more. Madelaine's decor seems to give off a middle eastern vibe but that's not where I would describe the menu is coming from. It's sort of all over the place so if you like variety this is your restaurant.

We ordered a portobello mushroom salad, french bean almondine and Portuguese white snapper with a tomato stew. All were delicious but the dessert was a little bit of a disappointment...a rather boring molten chocolate cake with an overpoweringly tart apricot jam. We didn't have anything to drink and the bill came to ~$85 without a tip.

Great spot for the food but I don't think I'd go back (would rather check out Lee's next door first). It's not a place for a romantic dinner or a meal catching up with a friend. There were two really noisy groups in the middle of the restaurant making it almost impossible at times to converse.

The new place opens tomorrow - saw a sign in the window yesterday while out walking the mutt.

Might have been called Madeline's? I think that was it. Didn't have any more info than that.

Cheers,

Geoff

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