We’ve been waiting for what seems like an eternity. The GwaiLo pop-ups back in the day (read: 2012-ish) introduced us to the cunning culinary prowess of Chef Nick Liu, who will forever be known as a harbinger of #SickAsianFood. We stood at attention, anxiously awaiting the arrival of a bricks-and-mortar GwaiLo – but it never came. And then, to be honest, we sort of forgot about the whole damn thang…
…until recently. DaiLo (the updated moniker) opened this past weekend to much fanfare and edible elation. Nick – along with renowned sommelier Anton Potvin and wife-hubby duo Jen Grant and David Dattels – have curated a dining experience like few others in the city. On the bottom level of the former Grace space on College rests the aforementioned Asian brasserie, where Chef Nick and his impressive kitchen team pump out reimagined classics with a focus on Chinese cuisine. On the second floor rests LoPan, a cocktail bar we’d appropriately describe as an Asian speakeasy, replete with what will soon become some of the city’s favourite cocktail recipes and a small dim sum-esque fusion menu.
While the food and drinks at both will surely satisfy (especially the wines selected by Mr. Potvin himself), what struck us about both DaiLo and LoPan was the stunning design and ambiance that encircles your dining experience. Solid Design and Build, the folks responsible for the aesthetics of other foodie favourites like Valdez and next-door-neighbour La Carnita, have created a space that reflects Chinese history and culture in a refined and sophisticated manner.
Sure, there are those waving smiling cats upstairs at LoPan and gold-painted koi fish on the floor near DaiLo’s back-of-room bar, but nothing is in-your-face or kitschy. There’s a elegance throughout both levels that’s ever-so a la mode, eschewing bold Asian references for clever cues that blend into the atmosphere.
When we were there, the downstairs dining room had a nary a free seat, but that didn’t stop or hinder a conversation as is the case with many of the trendier restaurants in Toronto. No, you won’t have to strain your vocal chords to discuss the complexities of the trio of sauces that accompanies Chef Nick’s whole giggi trout or the sesame ice cream found in his Asian banana split. It’s a small victory for diners – one too often overlooked by design teams.
Whether you opt for a dinner at DaiLo or cocktails and small bites at LoPan, you’re in for a 360-degree dining experience that will rest in your memory for days to come.
Have you tried the newly-opened DaiLo yet? Comment below or tweet us @ViewTheVibe!