Posted on October 11, 2012


Just like any foodie in Toronto, I must confess I am addicted to Food TV Network.  One of my favorite TV shows was Top Chef Masters and on season 2, one of the competitors was Susur Lee.  I don’t know whether it was that he was from Toronto or it was because of the sensibilities of the flavors that he would combine that I was rooting for him.  I was in awe of the accolades that he received from the judges of the show.  For a while now, I wondered how his food tasted like.  His latest restaurant called Bent, a collaboration with his sons, Kai and Levi, opened recently at Dundas West. I figured a perfect partner to bring with me was my friend Diona Joyce, whose own food business, Kanto, was just a few doors down east.

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We arrived at the restaurant a little past 6pm and the restaurant was already half-full.  I was thankful that Diona opted to go early as an hour later, the restaurant was full and bustling with a mix of hipsters, youngsters with hoodies and sport-coat preppy professionals. Most places I go to always have a distinct clientele and Bent drew an eclectic mix of young and old.  You could say that Susur has added a lot to his usual demographic of fine dining patrons.  The ambiance of the interiors of wood panels and wall collage of curios exuded relaxation despite the background noise of social media addicts in-house.  I was not alone in snapping pictures left and right and I bet there were a lot of Facebook check-ins the same time as I did mine.  The restaurant’s raw bar was prominent on one side of the restaurant, showcasing fresh fish on a bed of ice.   Heavy antique communal tables were centered as you walk in, the heaviness of its color offset by the white tiles on the floor.  As I moved towards the smaller tables, I noticed that the booths were actually old church pews.  Ah, all the wood around me pleases so much.

Bent, keeping up with the food trends in Toronto has a mix of menu offerings – Crudo, Sushi/Sashimi, Ceviche, Shellfish, Veg, Poultry and Hot Kitchen.  Our server explained that their servings were meant to be shared and he recommended that the usual number of dishes for two would be about four.  Taking his advice, Diona and I ordered the Chef’s Choice Crudo, Nigiri tasting, Shanghainese Steamed Pork Belly and Braised Spiced Short Ribs.  The plates, as was explained by the server, did not arrive all at the same time but in sequence.  A few minutes of waiting and he came back with a delicate plate of crudo.  The serving came with slivers of hamachi and salmon with a peppery garnish.  I must say I liked the texture of the fresh salmon with the freshly ground pepper on it.  It was one of my favorites for the night.  The Shanghaineses Steamed Pork Belly came next and it reminded me of a dish I used to enjoy as a child.  Very tender and fell apart easily with the nudge of a fork, it brought back memories of comfort from the days I ate a similar dish so many years ago.  Midway through eating the pork belly, the Nigiri tasting plate arrived and again it was such an eye candy to look at.  I was impressed with the simple elegance of the presentation. I wished I had a complete studio setup of my flash bulb units inside the restaurant to do the food justice.  The last that arrived was the Braised Spiced Short Rib and I must say it trumped everything that came before it.  Very tender meat sitting on a parsnip purée, sourcream and chives was so rich but that did not stop me from finishing my share.

When we finished our food, Diona and I hastily paid for the dinner as we were to meetup with her parents.  As we were walking out, our server ran after us to say that we should stay longer as there was supposed to be a complimentary dessert.  If not for our need to go, I would have considered staying.  I say desserts are even going to be sweeter when it is free and it comes from Susur Lee.  I guess me missing out on dessert gives me an excuse to try Susur’s food again in the future.  I’ll be wiser then and stay a bit longer. :)

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