647 253 8000 | $6-16 Small Plates, $23-27 Mains
Momofuku fever has hit Toronto pretty hard since its much-anticipated openings over the past week. Noodle bar gets mobbed at lunch daily and I’ve heard it’s been tough to get a reservation at Daisho or Shoto.
Thankfully, I managed to scoop up a table for 4 and invited a few friends to taste the creations of David Chang and former Acadia chef Matt Blondin.
At first glance, the menu is sorted into some pleasantly unusual sections: miscellaneous starters, autumn, apple, starches, meat, large format meals, and dessert. It’s clearly designed for sharing, and once confirmed by our server, we got to ordering a spread for the table.
Some complimentary garlicky cucumbers arrived at our table right off the bat to get us started, which I’ve always taken as a sign of good things to come.
Our first appetizer to arrive was the cabbage with pork, pine nuts, and pok pok vinegar. My first impression was ‘I’m missing the pork and pine nuts’ from a flavour standpoint. Texturally, the firm cabbage and pine nuts provide a satisfying chew but I was hoping for assertive nuttiness and meat to compliment the vinegar.
Our next was eggplant with capsicum sauce, cardamom, and black olive. Very well-received at our table, this dish had really satisfying depth of flavour. The saucy eggplant was a comforting base for the olive and slight heat of the capsicum, and while it was hard to pick out cardamom, we could tell there something more to this dish. Definitely one of our favourites.
The wild rice with stinky tofu, oyster mushroom, and yuzu rounded out the trio of our first set of dishes. Another table favourite, we loved the texture of the rice. It was perfectly done, had the subtle varieties of crispiness that you expect from wild rice and the squishy quality of mushrooms. The stinky tofu wasn’t too fragrant and when mixed with the oyster mushrooms gave it a solid earthy quality. Maybe could use a touch more yuzu though?
The first of our next couple dishes was this famous import from Ssam Bar in New York: rice cakes, spicy pork sausage, chinese broccoli and tofu. The best part is undoubtedly the rice cakes, which are probably best described as crispy gnocchi with a soft and chewy interior. Such a pleasurable combination when joined with spice, pork, and greens for bitterness. I still dream about this one.
Our last dish pre-mains was the roasted (guessing) potatoes with fermented black bean, chili and orange. This was the only true miss of the meal, likely because none of us are super fond of fermented black bean. Maybe we’re too sensitive, but it’s use felt heavy-handed and the chili/orange promise didn’t seem to hit the plate.
Our first main was a perfectly cooked hanger steak with mushed up kimchi sauce, a ginger scallion sauce, some caramelized onions and bibb lettuce for wrapping. Definitely a tasty bite when all combined, but we could have used more onions and a stronger bite from the kimchi (both in terms of texture and sharpness of flavour).
Our last main was likely the most inventive of the evening, which is no surprise since it’s concept is credited to wd-50. Each piece of chicken was juicy and tender (sous-vide?), the egg yolk sauce at the bottom added richness, and the carrots did their job. All that said, the mole chip both delighted and disappointed me.
The delight? I’ve never seen it done before and after a bite of the chip, you get the slow sensation of some of the heat you’d fine in a mole. It challenges you’re preconception of what mole means to a dish.
The disappointment? My ideal mole smothers your mouth in heat, notes of chocolate and fruit, but still has a savoury quality that brings you back for more. It’s homey, decadent, and deep all at once. I found the mole chip was unable to convey all of that.
After an ambitious meal, we decided to close it with a pear trifle with frangipane, bourbon and black sesame ice cream. I’ll warn you now, it comes in a really large bowl that will be challenging to finish between four people if you’ve eaten well that day. You’ll want to try though because the black sesame is very forward and creamy, and we had no trouble finding great flavour from the pear, almond, and bourbon in the trifle.
I will say though that the ice cream was more like a paste than anything; assuming it melted quite a bit before arriving at the table.
Service and Ambience
This place is just beautiful. You would think eating in a giant glass box would feel overly opulent, but it’s really tastefully designed inside and it doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Great story from our waiter: More than $30,000 worth of plates and cutlery were originally purchased for the restaurant. David Chang came to Toronto to check on the project, told them not to bother with the fancy stuff, went to Chinatown just up the street and bought everything there. Today, the glitzy settings are still in storage and cheap stuff is on the tables.
Image credit: Momofuku Website
From a service perspective, this place was sensational for a restaurant whose doors opened only a few days prior. Our server was perfect: knowledgeable, conversational at the right times, and always helpful. Kudos upon kudos.
Toronto doesn’t have another restaurant like this: homey, classy, buzzing, and ambitious. Every dish isn’t hitting the mark yet, but you will certainly enjoy what does. It’s already one of the best ambiances in the city hands down, and within a few months, the kitchen’s likely to be even stronger. Personally, I can’t wait.
Can’t find any others yet for Daisho. Plenty for Noodle Bar, which is currently swaying the Urbanspoon rating. Hopefully, they’ll separate the four restos soon. You can find some opinions on Yelp though.
Posted by: Jacob, Visited Sep 28, 2012