Luckee is the newest venture by internationally renowned chef Susar Lee. Food Network fans are likely to recognize Susar from behind the judges table on Chopped Canada and Top Chef Canada, or in the spotlight, battling it out on Iron Chef America and Top Chef Masters.
Located in the base of Toronto’s Soho Metropolitan hotel, Luckee is a return to Chef Lee’s Hong Kong roots. Lee grew up with dim sum, his first memories of Chinese food involve tasting black bean sauce with his father, and the aim of Luckee is to “create an unforgettable experience for people who love Chinese food.”
The space has been designed by Brenda Bent (of Restaurant Makeover fame, and Chef Lee’s wife) and her partner Karen Gable. The space is sleek and modern, with dramatic imperial Chinese motifs, painted screens, pops of bright red and nods to the kitsch of 1950’s American Chinese restaurants. Hungry diners can perch at the high top bar that surrounds the glassed-in kitchen and watch the dumpling masters at work.
Haute dim sum is the focus, and steamed, fried and vegetarian selections are served all day, and by cart on weekends. Some dishes are very traditional Cantonese, and some feature the twist on the standard that chef Lee is famous for. Dim sum like char siu bao (pork soup dumplings) and scallop, peashoot & king mushroom dumplings are served with a trio of house-made condiments – soya sauce with chili, chili sauce with Chinese mustard, and green onion and ginger pesto.
In addition to Dim Sum, the menu boasts a range of “Nouvelle Chinoise” cuisine, and was inspired by Lee’s travels through Asia (notably Guangdong, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Singapore.) Lee’s idea behind Luckee was to modernize recognizable Chinese fare, and transform Chinese comfort foods into sophisticated cuisine.
Some dishes are very “new asian” like the Baked marinated fillet of Cod which Lee developed in Singapore. Peas and corn are a nod to the season and the reduced black vinegar glaze gives nice acidity. Overall the dish is summery and light. Chef Lee’s black pepper filet of beef tenderloin, leans heavily on the strong tastes associated with the Malay Chinese (bean paste and chilies, curry leaves). Both Savory and fresh, this dish is elevated by a fresh salad. Both the Crispy Five Spice Chicken and the Spicy wok fried Bang Bang Chicken are spicy and flavourful,
benefitting from an interplay of textures.
Luckee’s Wuxi braised pork rib may be the most recognizably-Susar item on the menu. A take on a traditional Shanghainese dish, the rib and belly are slow braised with shaoxing wine until tender. The pork is then served with butternut squash pureed with yuzu and sauteed apples. This dish is influenced by the wine, apples and pork of the Alsace region in France. The most popular dish is the signature Luckee Duck, A Cantonese style BBQ duck with an optional fois grois add on. Diners wrap the lean and crispy slices of duck with relish and preserved sauce, with fresh apples and more traditional julienned cucumber.
A selection of desserts are also available, custard tarts with ginger made lighter with egg whites, sesame balls stuffed with lotus bean past and a tangy passionfruit and pineapple coconut mango pudding brings a southeast asian twist on a traditional Chinese dessert.
Luckee also features an extensive list of spirits, wine and beer selections, as well as draught sake on tap, made exclusively for Luckee by Ontario sake company Izumi. Inventive themed cocktails like the Aura (sobieski vodka, lime, mint, cucumber, cordial and lime zest) Make a visit to the bar worth the trip. There is a limited bar menu as well, for after-hour bites.
All Photos: Jason Kan
Luckee: 328 Wellington St. W.,Toronto Ontario (Entertainment District) 416-935-0400