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Momofuku Toronto is David Chang’s first opening in Canada, and one of the hottest reservations in town. Translating roughly to “lucky peach” I certainly felt fortunate to tackle their online reservations system and bag a seat at Shōtō, their tasting menu restaurant for a Saturday diner and 10 course feast. Momofuku Toronto is a pretty grand venture and the venue actually holds 3 restaurants. A no reservations noodle bar which I get the impression is hardly ever empty, a cocktail bar, Shōtō and a second restaurant (Daishō) based around sharing dishes.
The set up of Shōtō is pretty simple – an open kitchen, a team of chefs (who are also tasked with being the waiters) and a couple of sommeliers’ and everyone is clearly very in-sync with what’s going on. You book your time and are seated alongside your fellow diners and watch the culinary show get started. As we wait for all diners to arrive we are served a number of amuse bouche – breads, soups, rice squares and more; I think there were around 5 in total and as soon as they were put in front of me I gleefully gobbled them up – which means no pictures and alas no recollections of exactly what they were (oops) other than being light and rather delicious!
Our first proper cause was fluke (or flounder as we know it in the UK), served raw and wrapped around a ‘cherry bomb’ pepper which gave each mouthful rather a bigger kick than I was expecting. Sauce was provided by subtle black bean sauce and texture by some crisp fried shallot and these 2 provided a perfect balance to each mouthful. It was served with a Canadian Sake (who knew Canadians made sake eh?) which provided an additional floral note – alas it wasn’t a big dish but remembering that I had still 9 courses to come my disappointment at it’s fast demise was tempered rather. Everything on the dish had a purpose and it was a fantastic start. Another course which met a fast finish (so fast I forgot to snap it) was sweet shrimp, Chinese broccoli and orange. I’ve never had the combination of shellfish and citrus before and I’m guessing without the Asian flavours it wouldn’t have worked but here it certainly did by adding a sweet rush of orange with each bite.
David Chang is famous for his ramen noodle soups so I was pleased to next up receive a broth based dish with a goose broth/comsume providing a meaty accompaniment to 3 goose filled dumplings. Goose is something I very rarely have and associate more with Christmas time and I’m not sure how much it’s used in traditional Asian cuisine but it’s gamey taste was very much the star of the dish though the fried brussel sprouts were surprisingly delicious and provided a bit of crunch when needed.
The chefs had hit a bit of a purple patch as next up was another winner and probably my dish of the night. A slow cooked duck egg served a top a daikon salad with a very firy Thai chilli dressing and alongside some beef fried egg white. The idea was that you break up the egg and it sauces up the salad, as well as cooling down the chilli heat rather but my egg was a little bit overdone so that missed the boat; but regardless the different levels of flavour brought an instant smile to my face and the fried egg whites are something that I now want to try at home – they were so good and a great way to ensure that they’re not wasted when taken away from the yolk. I could see a few of the other diners (all rather well off middle aged looking people) struggle with the heat but for me it was perfect.
After two cracking dishes the next one was a bit weird – macaroni with some lamb meatballs, kale and dill. I’ve seen in other reviews people say that at times some dishes feel more like experiments where ingredients are put together in the hope that they work and I can see a little bit of that in this dish. The macaroni and dill weren’t a great combo (I’m not the biggest fan of dill as is it anyways) and the meatballs were rather nice but didn’t really go with the macaroni. More stable footing is found with a classic and rather Spanish inspired dish of halibut, chorizo and various state of onion; the additional twist here is oyster cream (a rather salty cream essentially) that binds all the ingredients together. It’s a good dish but I’m not sure how it fits in with the rest of the menu, it’s ‘Spanishness’ seemed rather out of place…
Before our final meat course we have a beautiful ‘salad’ dish of finely shaved beef heart, bone marrow, parsnip and mushroom. I put salad in quotes because in reality this is one of the meatiest tasting dishes of the night and a perfect balance of textures and tastes once you manage to gather all the elements onto your fork. We finish the savory part of the meal with a fine chunk of venison, creamy grits like lentils and thin sliced and roasted cauliflower; this dish felt very English inspired and again not all that Asian but it was perfectly pink and juicy, a real joy to eat.
Our sweets started off with an ice-cream float in sparkling apple juice. It didn’t photograph well but was super fresh and intensely apple flavoured. It took an effort not to have ice-cream brain freezes after it slipped down in one but it was a good little dish and the perfect thing to clean the palate after that intense venison from the course before. And then we have dessert. And it’s pineapple. Lots of pineapple. The only non-pineapple themed part of the dish was a burnt Italian meringue which did an amicable job at hiding the taste but alas not quite enough. As I forgot to mention my hate of pineapple before dining or when booking I soldiered through and the varying textures (from both ice-cream and stewed fruit) where certainly a good combo but that taste; those memories… At least it was served with champagne!
All the staff are super friendly, knowledgeable and an integral part of the service. The venue is very intimate and they really make the occasion one that if you’re in town and looking for a special experience dinner you have to labor through the online booking and try out. It’s certainly not cheap but the culinary ride is something that I’ve not experienced anywhere else. The wine matching was spot on and they’re all for pushing the local producers; I was also pleased to have non-wine pairings when clearly wine was not the perfect match for the food, you can see the work that has gone into making things just right. I wonder when we will get a Momofuku in London…Tweet