I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but chef Nick Liu, the culinary creator behind the GwaiLo popups, has yet to open the doors to his mythically anticipated restaurant. Where it will be, no one really knows. When we’re to expect it – you’re better off asking his landlord or the municipal boards in control of the keys and permits than him. The golden nugget, or should I say dumpling, in the absence of a permanent place of residence is that the public are privy to more glorious GwaiLo popups, like Foreign Dumplings, held last night at Beer Academy.
A staple food across the world, served in a multitude of different doughy, fried, steamed and stuffed preparations, dumplings are one of my most frequently enjoyed eats. On hand last night was an assembly of some awesome Toronto chefs, set up to sling dumplings reflective of their country or culture of origin. Several members of the Group of 7 Chefs, Chris Brown, Bertrand Alépée, and Scott Vivian rolled out some pretty dope dough. Zane Caplansky of Caplansky’s Deli kneaded some kreplach in chicken soup. Steve Gonzalez, another big gun on the Toronto popup scene who’s been rather taciturn on his upcoming restaurant, Bushwick, brought his Latino 5 Spice flavour to the table. Of course, Nick Liu was on hand too, with a wicked Asian influenced offering. Pair these puppies up with some samplers of 6 Pints Specialty Beer and we’re getting deep in the dumplings and draught!
Infusing his Indian and Italian roots into his dumpling, Scott Vivian (Beast Restaurant) made a buffalo milk ricotta gnudi with pine nuts, a stunningly flavoured masala sauce, off-the-hook eggplant pickle and black garlic vinaigrette.
Chris Brown (The Stop Community Food Centre) went all out Italiano with a pretty squid ink cotechino capeletti, preserved lemon and lentil puree, side striped prawn crudo and uni sabayon. My favourite part of the dish was the fresh prawn and the incredible uni sabayon – I’d put that sh*t on everything… sorry Frank’s.
Zane Caplansky’s smoked meat kreplach with onion and chicken broth was unfortunately under-seasoned and missed the mark in my opinion. Next time I’ll tell Nick to invite my grandma.
Bertrand Alépée (The Tempered Chef) made a mouthwatering onion soup a son façon (his way). Soft, earthly flavoured quenelles made with chicken liver mousse and wood ear mushrooms, crunchy croutons and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese. Definitely the most fitting dish for the dreary weather.
Steve Gonzalez (Bushwick) fried up crispy, hearty and hella-good empanadas with fried pork and potato. The side of slaw was refreshing and the Columbian style aji sauce added the ideal element of acid and spice to the dish.
Finally, Nick Liu (GwaiLo) headed to his Chinese roots and blew my mind away with a pork and scallop potsticker that tasted as incredible as it looked. Perched on top of a salad of Belgian endive, wood ear mushrooms, pickled Ontario walnuts with truffle vinaigrette and tiny soy and lime pearls that busted with remarkable flavour. This was a dish best eaten all together. Oh, and I almost forgot the most incredible addition – crispy smoked pork belly pieces that were scattered about the plate. After some majorly awesome edibles, this dish still managed to shine.
Though I’ll gladly attend any and every other mini-event that GwaiLo puts on, this really just got me yearning for the day I can dine at a Nick Liu joint on the reg. Same goes for you, Gonzalez!