I shall do my best to not make allusions to being “bent out of shape,” telling you fine readers to “get bent,” or any of the other permutations that writing about a restaurant with the moniker Bent affords my pun-happy mind for the duration of this piece. I’ll also do my best to not harp on the fine details about said restaurant; suffice it to say anyone unaware of the pedigree blooming within – Chef Susur Lee and his two sons, Levi and Kai; wife, mother, and interior designer extraordinaire Brenda Bent-Lee – need not question its validity. Instead, I’ll do my best to poetically recount the ape-sh*t stupid good meal Nicki and I devoured last night…
I’d received from many a foodie friend Bent’s eNews with an attachment of the BENT-O Seafood Tasting for Two menu. Extended through June 8th, there was little convincing necessary to get Nicki and I to head over in the rain yesterday, despite her choice of open-toed shoes and my grizzly, haven’t-shaved-in-a-week appearance.
Now, I’d (sadly) never been to Bent. I’d also never tasted any of Chef Susur Lee’s highly-regarded cuisine. (No… not even the slaw at Lee Lounge.) So this BENT-O box taster, with seven small plates coming together to create one stunning table takeover, was essentially a no-questions-asked, we-must-go-now opportunity. How a restaurant of this calibre has eluded me I’ll never know…
We started with the tableside offering of an Asian-style baba ganoush. Talk about an easy upsell: crisped wontons and dehydrated eggplant chips with eggplant puree and heirloom cherry tomatoes. Could not resist it…
Then, it was time to get down to some serious seafood-for-two tasting. Lime Coconut Curry Shrimp Soup with lovely dices of tomato and squash alongside some crispy puffed rice was but a palatable prelude of the meal to come. Albeit, a delectably balanced, better-than-most-curry prelude.
The arrival of the BENT-O was greeted with mild gasps; an equal feast for the eyes as the stomach.
The Oyster Sake Shot slid down my gullet with ease, igniting my should have ordered this alone stream of consciousness.
The Pressed Octopus with lentils and black garlic was accented by a pomegranate vinaigrette – judging from the sprinklings of seeds elsewhere on the BENT-O, Chef Susur loves him some pomegranate – that was simply subdued.
The Tuna Tartare on crispy rice cakes was a sublime bite, though the rice cake might be a li’l larger than needed. But what’s not to love about sticky, crispy, fried rice cakes?
Ah, the Lobster Tacos… a total tease, and the straight-A student offspring of Asia and a Tijuana taco stand.
If the Lobster Tacos are the goodie-two-shoes of the family, then the Asian Style Atlantic Salmon Gravlax – on a dense ‘omelette’ and wrapped around horseradish lemon and chive crème fraiche – is surely the badass kid of Asia’s first marriage with a Kosher Grocer. (I said I was going to be poetic, I just didn’t specify this was ‘street poetry’.)
Next up, the ceviches. I’m not sure which I preferred, though I had no issue sneaking extra mouthfuls to “compare” the two. The Tuna and Watermelon has a summertime freshness about it, cut with just enough tang from some red onion, while the Spicy Peruvian Style Ceviche had a more potent kick.
At $35 (or $42 after 7pm), this BENT-O is easily one of the best deals in the city, so we obviously had to spend more and ordered up the Duck Wraps with beautiful breast meat and confit, unbelievably thin Chinese pancakes, foie gras and chicken liver pate, and a beautiful crunchy salad topper. A knock-out dish, but word to the wise: be sparing with how much foie/liver you smear on the pancake. Too much, and you won’t be able to enjoy the nuance of flavour found in the duo of sauces or the mix of the crunchy vegetables.
And how could we say no to the Rare Beef Filet? Lightly seared beef is topped by diced scallion, marinated mushrooms, Momiji Oroshi (had to look that up; it’s a sushi condiment, FYI), and ume spicy ponzu in a pas de deux of flavour and finesse. And then you get to dip this little piece of baguette that’s topped with a stupidly rich melted beer cheese mix in the leftover sauce that had adorned the beef, and your senses are totally bent out of shape. (I said I’d do my best… I didn’t make a freakin’ promise.)
Well, now I’m tired, and hungry again. So I’ll simply say you’re a fool if you don’t make a reservation for BENT-O. And I don’t fraternize with fools, so you’ll have to find your too-long-restaurant-reviews elsewhere from now on.
BENT-O Seafood Tasting for Two runs through June 8th.