If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Many people (myself included) shy away from alterations to traditional favourites. Dim sum is one of those things. Susur Lee has crafted his culinary career around elevating the foods he grew up with and transforming them into something new, approachable and delicious. Read: This master chef breaks the mould.
Luckee is his latest Toronto restaurant. It has drawn excitement from devotees who have followed him from Toronto to Singapore and back again. It has garnered confusion from those that pass the two brightly lit Chinese characters that hang above the door. Attached to the SoHo Metropolitan Hotel on Wellington Street West, Luckee is comprised of one part bar, one part restaurant, one part private dining, and a whole heap of special.
This is not your average clamorous dim sum joint. It’s more sophisticated, more modern, but not stuffy or uptight. Chef Lee used the word “accessible” to describe what he feels is his way of paying tribute to the Cantonese staple. Luckee (the two Chinese characters) literally translates to “green” and “humble.” Kee means “good friend.” Perhaps the latter best describes how Lee would like his diners to feel.
“Dim sum means ‘touch of the heart’ and I feel a great deal of love for this food,” Lee explains. “My first memories of Chinese food are eating dim sum with my father. Tasting Cantonese black bean sauce for the first time – that moment has never left me. I hope that Luckee will also create an unforgettable experience for people who love Chinese food.”
As steamers of moist har gow (shrimp dumplings) arrive at the table there are immediately identifiable alterations to the traditional translucent white wrapping. Tinged orange from carotene and topped with minced ginger, black trumpet mushrooms and truffle oil, they’re excellent.
Silky cheong fun noodles are wrapped around crispy chicken and topped with fried shallot and green onion. Lee admits they’ve become a new favourite.
Susur’s signature Singapore slaw – the 16-ingredient salad that he’s revered for – has been adapted into a summery noodle salad. Tree mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms, and enoki mishrooms have been added – superb!
As soon as we enter the dim sum prep kitchen, boxed in by glass and exposed to the diner’s eye, to make shui mai and chocolate custard sponge rolls of our own, Lee’s approach to eating becomes increasingly evident. He guides us through the technique of stuffing the delicate dumpling wrappers with minced pork, dusting the tops with cornstarch and pressing down a scallop and shaved black truffle. We are participating in ritual. Sacred in a sense, shareable in another, Lee’s food – the food of his father and his grandfather – is to be savoured by all.
Luckee is open from Tuesday to Sunday for dinner from 5:30pm to 11pm. Dim sum brunch runs Saturday and Sunday from 11am to 2:30pm. The bar is open daily from 4pm until 1am. Private dining and custom menus are available for up to 18 people upon request.
What’s your favourite dish from Luckee’s menu? Let us know in the comments below or tweet us @ViewTheVibe.