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Susur dinner, June 2006


Endy'
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I should have pics and a list of what we had in a few days, but for now, suffice to say I had an excellent dinner. I'm lucky, I guess, to have missed the downturn that some have mentioned with respect to the restaurant; last time I was there was Dec 2004 and that was excellent as well.

for now, just 2 anecdotes:

when our foie gras course arrived, one of our party took a bit of hers and immediately exclaimed "this dish just made my whole night!".

and after we had finished up dessert and others at the table were ordering some a la carte desserts, I went ahead and ordered another of the foie gras courses (different than the one mentioned above) -- it was _that_ good.

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apologies first for the delay, the incompleteness of the descriptions (it's hard to listen, write, admire, and eat all at the same time...!), and the quality of the pictures...hard to pick up detail without blasting the flash. As customary at Susur, the tasting menu comes in different 2 "editions", which I've labelled A and B. Photos by Elaine Ho, and any mistakes and omissions on the text are mine. Here we go...

gallery_37704_3111_56088.jpg

(A) amuses bouches: soy cheese mousse with soy mirin; tomatillo tart; citrus segment with candied orange peel

gallery_37704_3111_52829.jpg

(B) amuses bouches: grape jelly ???; gazpacho with basil seeds; beet, goat cheese, pistachio-crusted ???

gallery_37704_3111_37567.jpg

(A) MEAT: venison wrapped in prosciutto, foie gras-vanilla-Madeira sauce, white asparagus in pancetta, stuffed tomato with compote of ??? and cornmeal, sea asparagus

the sauce really made this for me, although the description of it freaked me out a bit.

gallery_37704_3111_111633.jpg

(B) MEAT: smoked squab breast and leg, taro, apple, vidalia onion+???+beet

gallery_37704_3111_1505.jpg

(A) FOIE GRAS: the mystery pot arrives! "Don't peek or you'll regret it later when there's no heat left"

gallery_37704_3111_14112.jpg

(A) FOIE GRAS: foie, ???, truffle wrapped in beef carpaccio, dunked shabu-shabu style in beef consommé (mystery pot above), with a salad of cucumber, peeled grape tomatoes, and radish

this one was so incredibly good that I ordered another...after finishing dessert, when others were tacking on extra a la carte desserts.

gallery_37704_3111_99234.jpg

(B) FOIE GRAS: seared foie gras with broad beans and a sugar tuile (sorry for the lack of details here)

this is the one that caused one of our party to exclaim "this dish made my night" after her first bite.

gallery_37704_3111_54238.jpg

(A) FISH: black cod in ??? and white asparagus, with Calamansi lime and lemongrass stalk, crab/lobster sauce with lobster chunks, corn, ???, ???

gallery_37704_3111_41276.jpg

(B) FISH: black cod with corn fritters and ???, ??? (sorry)

gallery_37704_3111_19647.jpg

(A) SHELLFISH: Colville Bay oyster with bacon mignonette; lobster+lobster mouse; octopus with ??? relish (ginger/curry/cumin/???)

gallery_37704_3111_4191.jpg

(B) SHELLFISH: prawn in a pink peppercorn lobster bisque, milk foam, sweetbreads, asparagus tips

gallery_37704_3111_20986.jpg

I've only uploaded one pic because they were so similar.

(A+B) VEGETABLE: white Belgian asparagus with chantrelle (A) / morel (B) mushrooms and chantrelle/morel sauce, and pear

gallery_37704_3111_44011.jpg

(A+B) SORBET: strawberry and rhubarb sorbet with strawberry and rhubarb jam, wild blueberry sauce

it doesn't come through here but the rectangular holder under the round dish is filled with dry ice to cool the sorbet.

gallery_37704_3111_88992.jpg

(A+B) DESSERT: TOP TIER: orange tart with orange segment stewed in Grenadine; chocolate mousse bombe; strawberry citrus tart; angel food cake; BOTTOM TIER: BOTTOM TIER: black tea crême brulée; chocolate cake with banana and crême Anglaise; pineapple raviolo; passionfruit and lychee salad

all in all an excellent meal, well-timed (we were a 12-top!), nicely judged, delicious. Several of our party commented on how good the bread was. Kelly Kwan was around but unfortunately not serving our table, actually, is he in a different role now? He seemed to be doing a lot of the setting up and co-ordination, and was the only server not in the white-shirt uniform. They also paired wine flights for both "editions" for some of us, of which I didn't catch all the details.

as I said in my first post, this is the first time I've been back since December 2004 -- a visit that very much impressed us -- and I was even more impressed this time. If Susur has been suffering of late they're hiding it from us very well. I should note that Susur himself was _not_ present on that night.

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Endy' thanks for the report, I'm glad to know you had a good meal there too.

I hope you'll excuse my presumption, but I was so curious about how your food compared to my recdent meal there (not exactly the same, but pretty similar!) that I did some tweaking on your photos just so I could see them better. After doing so, I thought perhaps others might find it informative as well, so I've quoted your post, and just substituted the pics that I brightened-up a bit...

You know, it never occurred to me to order another round of the foie, that was indeed pretty spectacular. Thanks again for the post, makes me want to go back!

apologies first for the delay, the incompleteness of the descriptions (it's hard to listen, write, admire, and eat all at the same time...!), and the quality of the pictures...hard to pick up detail without blasting the flash.  As customary at Susur, the tasting menu comes in different 2 "editions", which I've labelled A and B.  Photos by Elaine Ho, and any mistakes and omissions on the text are mine.  Here we go...

gallery_23992_3112_28001.jpg

(A) amuses bouches: soy cheese mousse with soy mirin; tomatillo tart; citrus segment with candied orange peel

gallery_23992_3112_9856.jpg

(B) amuses bouches: grape jelly ???; gazpacho with basil seeds; beet, goat cheese, pistachio-crusted ???

gallery_23992_3112_14993.jpg

(A) MEAT: venison wrapped in prosciutto, foie gras-vanilla-Madeira sauce, white asparagus in pancetta, stuffed tomato with compote of ??? and cornmeal, sea asparagus

the sauce really made this for me, although the description of it freaked me out a bit.

gallery_23992_3112_48191.jpg

(B) MEAT: smoked squab breast and leg, taro, apple, vidalia onion+???+beet

gallery_37704_3111_1505.jpg

(A) FOIE GRAS: the mystery pot arrives!  "Don't peek or you'll regret it later when there's no heat left"

gallery_23992_3112_32096.jpg

(A) FOIE GRAS: foie, ???, truffle wrapped in beef carpaccio, dunked shabu-shabu style in beef consommé (mystery pot above), with a salad of cucumber, peeled grape tomatoes, and radish

this one was so incredibly good that I ordered another...after finishing dessert, when others were tacking on extra a la carte desserts.

gallery_23992_3112_28544.jpg

(B) FOIE GRAS: seared foie gras with broad beans and a sugar tuile (sorry for the lack of details here)

this is the one that caused one of our party to exclaim "this dish made my night" after her first bite.

gallery_23992_3112_52848.jpg

(A) FISH: black cod in ??? and white asparagus, with Calamansi lime and lemongrass stalk, crab/lobster sauce with lobster chunks, corn, ???, ???

gallery_23992_3112_99873.jpg

(B) FISH: black cod with corn fritters and ???, ??? (sorry)

gallery_23992_3112_2901.jpg

(A) SHELLFISH: Colville Bay oyster with bacon mignonette; lobster+lobster mouse; octopus with ??? relish (ginger/curry/cumin/???)

gallery_23992_3112_27239.jpg

(B) SHELLFISH: prawn in a pink peppercorn lobster bisque, milk foam, sweetbreads, asparagus tips

gallery_23992_3112_104765.jpg

I've only uploaded one pic because they were so similar.

(A+B) VEGETABLE: white Belgian asparagus with chantrelle (A) / morel (B) mushrooms and chantrelle/morel sauce, and pear

gallery_37704_3111_44011.jpg

(A+B) SORBET: strawberry and rhubarb sorbet with strawberry and rhubarb jam, wild blueberry sauce

it doesn't come through here but the rectangular holder under the round dish is filled with dry ice to cool the sorbet.

gallery_37704_3111_88992.jpg

(A+B) DESSERT: TOP TIER: orange tart with orange segment stewed in Grenadine; chocolate mousse bombe; strawberry citrus tart; angel food cake; BOTTOM TIER: BOTTOM TIER: black tea crême brulée; chocolate cake with banana and crême Anglaise; pineapple raviolo; passionfruit and lychee salad

all in all an excellent meal, well-timed (we were a 12-top!), nicely judged, delicious.  Several of our party commented on how good the bread was.  Kelly Kwan was around but unfortunately not serving our table, actually, is he in a different role now?  He seemed to be doing a lot of the setting up and co-ordination, and was the only server not in the white-shirt uniform.  They also paired wine flights for both "editions" for some of us, of which I didn't catch all the details.

as I said in my first post, this is the first time I've been back since December 2004 -- a visit that very much impressed us -- and I was even more impressed this time.  If Susur has been suffering of late they're hiding it from us very well.  I should note that Susur himself was _not_ present on that night.

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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presumption excused, no problem :) I'm sorry I didn't have time to go through and kick up the gamma on the pics before I posted them, I was in a rush to get these posted as I'll be out of town for a few weeks.

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Kelly Kwan was around but unfortunately not serving our table, actually, is he in a different role now?  He seemed to be doing a lot of the setting up and co-ordination, and was the only server not in the white-shirt uniform.  They also paired wine flights for both "editions" for some of us, of which I didn't catch all the details.

Susur was one of my finest meals when I went in 2004, but my 2 hang ups were (1) the wait time between courses (I'm not exagerating when I say we waited over an hour between one course, and at least 40 minutes for several others), and (2) the wine card (no pairings).

I'm planning to try again this August when I am in town again, and quoted the above passage to address both of my historical problems:

1. If I requested Kelly Kwan at the time of reserving, might that provide some guarantee of better service (ie: reasonable wait time between courses)?

2. You say there WAS wine pairings - can you elaborate? Susur's menu is too diverse to pick only one bottle, and a party of 2 shouldn't have to buy more than 3 (especially at these prices). As such, I always thought Susur of all places would be ideally suited to pairings, and hope that I am reading you correctly when you say they have them.

As a P.S., Susur has a new website, but no e-mail address now? (reservations@susur.com bounced) - anyone else had this experience (probably less of an issue if you aren't from out of town, but a pain if you are, like me).

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pairings were made, no we didn't have to buy bottles; I did not partake (mostly anyway) and I don't know my wine so I didn't mention, but here's what I did manage to scribble down (highly incomplete):

with the venison: St. Joseph "Offerus" 2003

with the squab: Montepulciano d'Abruzzo 2002 (DOC)

with the foie (A): a Pinot Noir of some sort

with the foie (B): ??? ??? Santa Barbara County late harvest Sauvignon Blanc (again my writing fails me but the name of the winery might be ____ Stokes?)

with sablefish (A, I think): Hillebrand ??? ??? Chardonnay (my scrawl looks like it might say something like "hillside select" but I was unable to confirm that Hillebrand makes such a Chardonnay)

with the asparagus (A?): Gruner Veltliner of some sort?

Edited by Endy' (log)
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1. If I requested Kelly Kwan at the time of reserving, might that provide some guarantee of better service (ie: reasonable wait time between courses)?

well, I believe our party member who made the reservation did ask about Kelly, but he obviously wasn't specifically working our table. Again, it may be that he doesn't do general service anymore, maybe someone else in the know can fill in this blank. I think only the best of his service, BTW, but as I don't think he does any work in the back of the house I don't think he can do much about making courses appear sooner, unless you think the problems in timing were that the front of the house was not communicating to the kitchen the progress of your meal.

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pairings were made, no we didn't have to buy bottles; I did not partake (mostly anyway) and I don't know my wine so I didn't mention, but here's what I did manage to scribble down (highly incomplete):

with the venison: St. Joseph "Offerus" 2003

with the squab: Montepulciano d'Abruzzo 2002 (DOC)

with the foie (A): a Pinot Noir of some sort

with the foie (B): ??? ??? Santa Barbara County late harvest Sauvignon Blanc (again my writing fails me but the name of the winery might be ____ Stokes?)

with sablefish (A, I think): Hillebrand ??? ??? Chardonnay (my scrawl looks like it might say something like "hillside select" but I was unable to confirm that Hillebrand makes such a Chardonnay)

with the asparagus (A?): Gruner Veltliner of some sort?

I believe they used a single barrel chardonnay from Hillebrand. He apparently bought every bottle from 1 barrel last fall after a barrel tasting.

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  • 4 weeks later...

This past weekend I visited Susur for the first time. It was, in a sense, a much needed meal; my girlfriend and I had recently had some awful experiences at Toronto restaurants. Still, this was really insignificant compared to a positively disastrous dinner my parents had a Scaramouch. Thankfully, the dinner was excellent. My dad, who was making his third visit in two months, claimed it was the best meal he’d had there yet. After the meal, we were offered a tour of the kitchen and private dining room. Susur was in house and made a number of appearances in the dining room. The private dining area was gorgeous and the kitchen was active even at that late stage of the night. Fort he meal itself, instead of giving a blow by blow of the meal, I thought I’d offer some observations about Susur’s cuisine.

1. The structure of the meal was interesting. I am still split on whether I like the ‘backwards’ format. I enjoy that the dishes get lighter in flavour, if not size, as the meal goes on but I think I prefer having stronger flavours later and the climax of a more traditional menu. Also, instead of there being a relationship between courses (like at Toque! in Montreal), the focus was on the interactions of the multiple elements on a given plate.

2. Dishes were composed with reference to various styles and areas of the world. Flavours, techniques and compositions gave the menu a really global feel while remaining very personal to Susur’s cooking. I really enjoyed that. Ingredients were fantastic and flavour combinations were often ingenious. When well executed, such as during the caviar and fish course, a variety of flavour served to accent the flavours of one or two star elements in this case ,house smoked salmon and caviar.

3. More critically, some dishes lacked focus. Often, a plate featured one element that seemed either out of place or was poorly executed. The squid ink ravioli in the Spanish inspired shellfish course was one such element. Some courses were just too busy and not really unified. I also thought that the saucing was fairly weak. But, to be fair, the saucing was hardly the point.

4. To my surprise, while the flavour combinations were adventurous, the technique was rather conservative. There was little cutting edge technique. Not a criticism, just something unexpected.

5. Finally, wines were prohibitively expensive. Thank god I was dining with my dad. Lots of tables were just ordering water and there were few bottles in the below $100 price range. I don’t think that there were any less that $60 or 70. While I wish I could spend over a hundred dollars per head on wine, it just isn’t feasible. A $50 per head wine pairing option would be greatly appreciated.

I know this review may sound a little critical, but it was an absolutely wonderful meal. It’s just that a restaurant with such high aspirations deserves a close examination. And, to hopefully alleviate some concerns, the dinner took about 2.5 hours and there were no long waits between courses. Service was great. Our French waiter was really excellent, putting up with my dad’s good natured ribbing after he (rightly) recommended a St. Estephe over a Barolo. I think the joke had something to do with a soccer game played a few weeks ago…

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5. Finally, wines were prohibitively expensive. Thank god I was dining with my dad. Lots of tables were just ordering water and there were few bottles in the below $100 price range. I don’t think that there were any less that $60 or 70. While I wish I could spend over a hundred dollars per head on wine, it just isn’t feasible.  A $50 per head wine pairing option would be greatly appreciated.

I totally agree - wines are too expensive.

On my visit, we bought a bottle anyway, only to watch it warm in the agonizing waits between courses (which I'm told were a fluke).

I called the restaurant just now and confirmed that there IS wine pairings, from about $65-75pp. Still pretty rich, but I think I'd rather do that than attempt to pair one bottle with the vastly different courses.

As noted in an earlier post, the restaurant IS in fact closed in August, and I'll be checking it out this Friday, the second last day of service until September!

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This past weekend I visited Susur for the first time. It was, in a sense, a much needed meal; my girlfriend and I had recently had some awful experiences at Toronto restaurants. Still, this was really insignificant compared to a positively disastrous dinner my parents had a Scaramouch.  Thankfully, the dinner was excellent. My dad, who was making his third visit in two months, claimed it was the best meal he’d had there yet. After the meal, we were offered a tour of the kitchen and private dining room. Susur was in house and made a number of appearances in the dining room. The private dining area was gorgeous and the kitchen was active even at that late stage of the night. Fort he meal itself, instead of giving a blow by blow of the meal, I thought I’d offer some observations about Susur’s cuisine.

1. The structure of the meal was interesting. I am still split on whether I like the ‘backwards’ format. I enjoy that the dishes get lighter in flavour, if not size, as the meal goes on but I think I prefer having stronger flavours later and the climax of a more traditional menu. Also, instead of there being a relationship between courses (like at Toque! in Montreal), the focus was on the interactions of the multiple elements on a given plate.

2. Dishes were composed with reference to various styles and areas of the world. Flavours, techniques and compositions gave the menu a really global feel while remaining very personal to Susur’s cooking. I really enjoyed that. Ingredients were fantastic and flavour combinations were often ingenious. When well executed, such as during the caviar and fish course, a variety of flavour served to accent the flavours of one or two star elements in this case ,house smoked salmon and caviar.

3. More critically, some dishes lacked focus. Often, a plate featured one element that seemed either out of place or was poorly executed. The squid ink ravioli in the Spanish inspired shellfish course was one such element. Some courses were just too busy and not really unified. I also thought that the saucing was fairly weak. But, to be fair, the saucing was hardly the point.

4. To my surprise, while the flavour combinations were adventurous, the technique was rather conservative. There was little cutting edge technique. Not a criticism, just something unexpected.

5. Finally, wines were prohibitively expensive. Thank god I was dining with my dad. Lots of tables were just ordering water and there were few bottles in the below $100 price range. I don’t think that there were any less that $60 or 70. While I wish I could spend over a hundred dollars per head on wine, it just isn’t feasible.  A $50 per head wine pairing option would be greatly appreciated.

I know this review may sound a little critical, but it was an absolutely wonderful meal. It’s just that a restaurant with such high aspirations deserves a close examination. And, to hopefully alleviate some concerns, the dinner took about 2.5 hours and there were no long waits between courses. Service was great. Our French waiter was really excellent, putting up with my dad’s good natured ribbing after he (rightly) recommended a St. Estephe over  a Barolo. I think the joke had something to do with a soccer game played a few weeks ago…

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While I'll agree that most of the winelist is a bit pricey, I've managed to drink decently there without spending too much. This last time, they were out of a certain selection I'd enjoyed before that was in the $60-70 range, and I was steered to a less expensive one, an Ontario Gewurtz, which I really think was only about $40, and quite nice with the dishes we were served. Kelly also poured two of us short glasses of red to cover a heavier course early on. So they're really rather accommodating, I thought...

It just so happened that my dining companions were not big wine aficionados, and the menu we experienced didn't cry out for a unique pairing with each course, so it was easy to go simple, but I don't think $65-75 is out of line for a coordinated pairing. I'd do it.

And just for the record, we had no unusual gaps between courses, it seemed paced rather well.

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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I totally agree - wines are too expensive.

Apart from the futile hope that all wine prices be reduced in all restaurants, I actually find Susur's prices more reasonable than most of the finer dining places in Toronto. I had observed this before on a wine that was $68 at Susur and $75 elsewhere, but this was confirmed this week with a wine that was $48 at Lee and $56 at Bymark.

And last time I took my own bottle to Susur (earlier this year) the corkage was $40 - not outrageous (although again I'd prefer less) and in line with competitors.

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I called the restaurant just now and confirmed that there IS wine pairings, from about $65-75pp.  Still pretty rich, but I think I'd rather do that than attempt to pair one bottle with the vastly different courses.

For closure on the issue, there was pairings available on my visit (they appeared on the bill priced by the glass), and the wait was not agonizing, proving that my earlier visit must have had a fluke (I had ordered the 6- or 7-course menu, while at the first seating, which must have done it).

I also bought a Henry of Pelham cuvee catherine for $60 (retail price $30), which is in keeping with restaurant mark-ups generally. I also saw a $50 bottle of 2000 bordeaux, and given the vintage that is a decent buy as well.

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So, someone mentioned further up that Susur closes for August. And I just noticed a couple of restaurants on College are also closed for the month. I guess on the one hand it makes good fiscal sense, but on the other, it strikes me as bizarre. Is this a common trend in T.O.

(Note: I may do an article on it if it is...)

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So, someone mentioned further up that Susur closes for August. And I just noticed a couple of restaurants on College are also closed for the month. I guess on the one hand it makes good fiscal sense, but on the other, it strikes me as bizarre. Is this a common trend in T.O.

(Note: I may do an article on it if it is...)

I was in Toronto last August for a culinary visit and was disapointed to find Susur's closed for the month. Lee's next door was packed and we could not get in. We "settled" for Thuets's. I say that jokingly as I think Marc Thuet is an amazing chef. Perhaps on my next visit to T.O. I can dine at Susur's.

Tim Keller

Rare Restaurant

tim@rarevancouver.com

Metro Restaurant

timkeller@metrodining.ca

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So, someone mentioned further up that Susur closes for August. And I just noticed a couple of restaurants on College are also closed for the month. I guess on the one hand it makes good fiscal sense, but on the other, it strikes me as bizarre. Is this a common trend in T.O.

(Note: I may do an article on it if it is...)

For many restaurants, August is their quietest month - certainly many clients are out-of-town. Also, as proprietors often have school-age children it's a good time to take a break themselves and get to know the family (after all, they work evenings and weekends).

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