When you travel, you quickly realize that the way we eat isn't universal. In Bali, for example, it's common to work with your family but eat alone. In North America, it's much the opposite. We get our food "to go," with our computers or cell phones as constant companions.
The talented Susur Lee wants to bring back the communal. His Toronto restaurant Luckee, located at the base of the Soho Metropolitan Hotel, is devoted to scrumptious dishes that are rich and made for sharing. Within a few hours, your mouth will have experienced many flavor profiles and scintillating conversation, if you have invited the right people.
The color of red in Chinese culture often means good luck — Photo courtesy of Metropolitan Hotels
Luckee opened in mid-2014, with lush backdrops of imperial red and warm woods informing customers that this isn't your standard Chinese fare. Indeed, this food works under the blanket of "nouvelle chinoise," and once you taste it, you may be ruined for life.
A rare empty moment in Luckee restaurant — Photo courtesy of Metropolitan Hotels
All-day dim sum is, quite frankly, spectacular. A savory crispy rice donut steams through its crunch, with fillings like chicken, chives and jicama melting on the tongue. There are dim sum carts with daily specials, one of which tastes like a shepherd's pie covered in hoisin. (In case you're wondering, this is a very good thing.)
Dumplings come stuffed with posh ingredients like lobster, and they're drizzled with sauces in front of you. The stainless steel dim sum carts seem elegant in this environment, pushed by immaculate waitstaff who have tried everything and hope that you do the same.
Wok-fried garlic broccoli? Yes, please. — Photo courtesy of Courtney Sunday
To cut the edge of the richness, it's advisable to order a vegetable or two. Sometimes it is the simple recipes that declare the skill of a chef, with steamed garlic broccoli so beautifully green it is as if you have never tasted it before. Garnished with slivered golden almonds, it looks like it could be painted and admired.
One bite, and it only looks better — Photo courtesy of Courtney Sunday
If you play your dim sum cards right, you may be able to stay right through to dinner. This certainly wouldn't be a travesty, with decadent choices on offer like sauteed scallops with a sweet soya glaze. Ham is coated with honey and served with steamed whole wheat buns, mustard and crispy tofu skin. It's the kind of food you would never think to put together yourself, but it works so beautifully that you will have to fight to prevent your eyes from rolling into the back of your head.
Custard steamed sponge rolls might be the best kind of sushi — Photo courtesy of Courtney Sunday
Should you have room for a dessert or five, we highly recommend it. The custard steamed sponge rolls arrive at the table like chocolate sushi, with more chocolate on the side for enthusiastic dipping. The mango pudding finds the balance between sweet and tart. Your spoon will do its best to scrape out the last remaining morsels.
Simple ingredients and dishes that you thought you knew become absolutely stunning in Lee's hands. It is as if each menu item has put on its little black dress and high heels and then said, "Oh, you like this old thing?"
Deliciousness is made for sharing. It is time to get Luckee this weekend.
The private dining area is bold and dramatic — Photo courtesy of Metropolitan Hotels