Deciding on brunch in the competitive Toronto restaurant scene can be a daunting task. Visions of eggs benedict and chicken and waffles fill my head like sugar plums on Christmas day. However, the recent addition of Luckee, Susur Lee’s latest project, has added Dim Sum to the trendy weekend choices. Located in the Soho hotel, one can indulge on weekend dumplings as well as the wares of circulating trolley carts.
When I arrived, I was able to see Susur Lee quarterbacking his kitchen staff who were busy prepping and steaming the day’s fare. The menu includes both standard menu items and daily specials off the cart which circles around regularly. The set-up of the restaurant was a bit odd for dim sum. The table we were at was not accessible by the cart, meaning we either had to get up or they had to carry things in.
Luckee offers a small number of Lee’s signature cocktails including the Burnt orange manhattan which I had a few weeks before when I went to Susur’s flagship restaurant Lee. Since I was driving home after, I simply grabbed a pot of Jasmine tea. `
The waiter was pleasant and had a good handle on the menu. He nodded happily with each order and emphatically insisted that we were missing out if we didn’t order the Shrimp Cheung Fun. We complied.
The service started with an offering of three condiments; green onion, mustard and hot sauce, soy sauce with sesame.
Instead of going into excruciating detail about each and every dumpling, I will summarize it as above average but expensive dim sum. The offerings were a mix of traditional dumplings and some more innovative creations orchestrated by the flavour-bursting brain of Susur himself. For example, the crispy vegetable spring roll, har gow (shrimp dumpling), xiao long bao (pork soup dumplings), chicken pot sticker were all a good reflection of the classics. The Char Siu Bao…not much so. I found them a bit doughy and uninspired.
Not So Good
Regarding the more innovative dishes, it was well worth trusting the waiter’s recommendation of the Shrimp Cheung Fun $12. The taste and texture of the roll itself accented with the soy juice was yin and yangtastic. It was a multi-dimensional taste experience and the best thing I ate all meal.
The savoury crispy rice donuts ($6) were filled with chicken, choy poh, chinese chives, jicama and shrimp. Once again, flavours like jicama add a twist to traditional dim sum in a successful and sexy manner.
The curry shrimp rolls ($7), pictured above, were another twist on the standard spring roll. They were seasoned nicely and served with another dipping sauce indicative of Susur’s explosive flavour profile.
Dessert was also split into the traditional and not so traditional. The former was a sesame custard ball that was good but not remarkable. The latter was a mango passion fruit panna cotta with a great texture. It was quite polarizing; the super sweet of the mango combined with the sour passion fruit wouldn’t be for everybody. It was a good few bites but wasn’t something that I would say was easy to devour.
The reviews of this place from a service and value perspective are hit and miss. Personally, I found the service to be excellent. The waiter was pleasant, efficient and recommended the best dish I ate. The dishes, from the dumplings to the desserts, were a yin and yang of traditional and contemporary flavours. I really can’t ask for much more. As for the incessant complaining about the price and the fact that five blocks up you can get the better dim sum for a third of the price, it gets tiring:
1. Susur Lee is a internationally recognized chef who has a restaurant in a suave hotel just outside of Toronto’s entertainment district.
2. You can have a good experience in a place with a nice ambiance and a great drink list instead of a hole in the wall serving water and green tea.
3. Toronto is a city where people will pay $16 for a bowl of mushroom soup. In fact, some of the most elevated prices in the GTA are during brunch. Try and find bacon and eggs for less than $12. That said, what’s a few extra bucks for a dumpling?
I don’t want to sound bitter but it’s like complaining about a burger at Harbord room because there’s a McDonald’s up the street. Let’s compare apples to apples. Luckee is another option to the expensive brunch options. The dim sum is above average and the sauces/condiments are explosive, punchy fun. Yes, you will pay more than you will anywhere else along Spadina but it’s competitive among other Saturday and Sunday morning hot spots. For the haters…walk up the street. Better yet, when pondering Beast’s $14 beastwich breakfast sandwich, say hi to Ronald while you order a $3 egg McMuffin.