Monday, August 25, 2014

Getting Veggilicious at BENT with Chef Susur Lee

I spent a delicious afternoon today with Toronto's own Celebrity Chef Master Susur Lee at one of his 3 restaurants in Toronto called Bent which was named after his wife Brenda Bent who had a hand in designing all of Chef Lee's restaurants.  It's located at Dundas near Bathurst in the heart of a burgeoning chef scene.   Susur welcomed myself and a bunch of fellow food bloggers and made us feel like he was welcoming us into 'his home" as he said when he greeted us. We were there for a special preview of a new Veggielicious Menu tasting of some new items that will be at Bent from Sept 9 - 20th. He truly went out of his way to demonstrate the making of the meringues and all the other food that was presented to us. He was also curious to know our thoughts about a bunch of different things and also to know about our blogs and what we do.  It felt like a mutual appreciation society.   I have read that there are many chefs that don't like bloggers but that isn't the case with Chef Susur Lee.  He loved having us all there snapping photos of everything.  I think Susur is a very smart man not only in his cooking genius but in how to treat people and build your clientele.

When we first arrived we were handed a glass of champagne and then Susur explained what we were going to be doing.   First up he took us on a little walk down the street to where one of his neighbours grows a garden of special vegetables like special garlic chives and a special cucumber and other Asian specialties that Susur uses in the food at the restaurant.  Now that's what you call LOCAL.  Then it was back to the restaurant where he showed us how to make meringue nests and let us pipe our own nests..  I need to work on my piping skills... a bit shaky...  Then the food started to roll in one by one we all stared at the beautiful food while each of us got in close to take our blog photos.  If you want to eat in a hurry don't hang out with a bunch of Food Bloggers or you will have to wait.  My friends know that they can't eat until I take my pics.  It's kind of like my lord's prayer... I pray to the food gods that I get a great picture and the food is good.

On the Menu was:

Dip Three Ways

1. Hummus of Romano Beans w/ salted chilis and sherry vinegar, roasted olive w/ sumach and preserved lemon.

2. Spicy mustard seed tomato stew w/ walnut and curry leaf.

3. Caribbean eggplant babaganoush w/ cilantro

Tingly Chili Soba

Shredded local vegetable and soba cake, confit of shiitake, shiso leaf, nori crisps in a Taiwanese vinaigrette.

Chickpea Tempura Tofu

Pickled Brassica and Fish Mint, Shisito peppers, Korean sweet chili sauce, braised burdock root.

Wild Mushroom Quinoa Risotto

Roasted cauliflower, romano parmigiano emulsion & tempeh crouton

Dessert - French Meringue with Golden Licorice

Lemon curd, wild blueberries, peaches, passion fruit syrup & raspberry coulis.

Other items that we tried were:

Goat cheese Tacos
Chorizo chicken dumpling
Susur's famous Singapore Slaw Salad

Susur explained some other unique things in the restaurant like the really cool and kitchy back wall of tiny little momentos that his wife collected from travels and their kids childhood.  A legacy of little things that probably have a lot of sentimental value for their family.

He also talked about their Raw bar and then we had a couple of demos from their drink menu by their bartender Manuel.   He made a Karate Kid 2 cocktail using Sake and an Asian Ceasar drink that was really flavourful.  I am not even a drinker and I tried these drinks and liked them.  They had subtle and big flavours if that makes any sense.

Chef Lee is the master when it comes to striking a great balance of big flavours and you taste flavours you might never have had before but may look like a common thing and you still can't put your finger on how it's made.  That's the delicate balance of different flavours working together to create great dishes.  Susur Lee is highly acclaimed throughout the world but he is still learning and trying new things all the time.  That's the sign of a Master.  Most of the chefs and a lot of A list celebrities know how skilled he is and he has a large following of devoted Susur Lee restaurant fans.  I can now say that I have been to 3 of Susur's restaurants.  I have been to LEE, Luckee and now Bent.  They are a bit out of the way for me and somewhat out of my budget to frequent often but if I was able to I would be going for a visit often even if it was only for the delicious Singapore Slaw.

I was very blessed to be included in today's workshop/tasting session and I hope that I can be included in more of these in the future.

Bent also has a lovely outdoor patio and a great staff including Susur's own sons.   If you love high quality, interesting food and you might even be a vegetarian, then this is the place for you.

Susur said he would like to focus on more flavourful vegetarian dishes in the future and you need to go and try them and let him know that you like them so that he will continue to create great new dishes.

And here's some of Toronto's great Food Bloggers with Chef Susur Lee and a couple of staff members.

1 comment:

  1. The universe has been good to you lately. Meeting one new person can open up a lot of doors for you. Keep at it.


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