Thursday, February 23, 2006

So, Let Me Tell You A Story

Let me tell you a story about my yesterday evening. Let me tell you a story of an excellent meal and an excellent time.

Last night, my oldest friend, Brad, and I had dinner at Susur, which, I know, I have raved and raved and raved about in the past. And, you know what? I'm about to do it again.

Arriving at the restuarant, I was greeted by Lennon, the host. Personable and polite, to a fault, he sat me at a booth in a corner of the room, giving both privacy and an excellent voyaristic vantage point of the rest of the dining space. Because I? I am a voyeur who tends to hate being around people; I was so very much pleased by our table, I can't even begin to tell you. Our server, Robin, stopped by to introduce herself, and took my
request for a bottle of sparkling mineral water. She wore a most excellent modern-prarie pintucked shirt, that I just had to compliment her on it.

Brad arrived a couple of minutes later with an unexpected birthday gift in hand. Oh, how I love recieving unexpected gifts, but that, really, is beside the point. Seeing Brad making his way to our table, Robin reappeared, menus in hand, and asked if we were celebrating any occasion in particular. Although I had no intention of bringing attention to the fact because I just hate to be that person, the gift sitting beside me was pretty hard to ignore, so I confessed that we were there to celebrate my birthday.

Brad and I had already decided to duplicate our tasting menu experience of last year (to the freaking day, people. To the DAY), and paired our meal with an Alsatian Pinot Noir. One of the most excellent things about Susur is that the kitchen produces dishes based on what looked good at the market that day, so you never know just what the hell you're going to be eating. And, more importantly, the kitchen takes their guests dietary needs into consideration in all that they do - talking with Lennon on our way out, he mentioned that the night before, the kitchen had the challenge of creating a 5 course tasting menu for a vegan celiac sufferer. Now that? That is amazing. Susur's tasting menus are, in a way, served backwards, starting with plates that are heavier on the palate and the plate, to ones that are lighter and smaller.

The next 2.5 hours were spent in a state of continual surprise and culinary delight. Being a massive geek, I brought my wee reporter notebook along for the ride, and forced Brad to bring along his spy camera. Of course, both were only remembered after our amouse bouche was served, savoured and whisked away, so the documenting is not exactly complete. The following, however, is a log of our excellent gastronomical adventure. A few of the photos are nothing but blur. Take this as overwhelming food excitement making the camera shake instead of lack of photography skill, okay? Because that's what I'm going to call it.

My amouse bouche was a set of three vegetable compotes and gelees. I do confess that I was too involved in tasting and talking (I do tend to talk and talk and talk) to take real note of what was placed before Brad, although it sure did look pretty.

Course One


Roasted winter vegetables and lentils with chutney in a coconut yellow curry sauce

God, how I love curry. The root vegetables and asparagus were roasted to perfection, and the lentil cocunut curry that they were layered on was perfectly balanced, with the hit of spice being tempered by the coconut milk.


Fillet of bison with crispy glazed sweetbreads and a spiced tamarind sauce

Course Two


Hand rolled potato gnocchi with black trumpet mushrooms.

The gnocchi was tender and succulent and pan-seared with the black trumpet mushrooms. I detected a hint of citrus in the mushroom. I may have clapped my hands with delight, like a five year old.


Seared fois gras and Ontario sturgeon topped with quail egg.

Okay, seriously, the quail egg? It made us coo. Like freaking quails. But look at how cute!

Course Three


19 vegetable chinese salad with spicy apricot dressing.

This dish is actually a dish that Susur created for his second restuarant, Lee (which, by the way, is located in the building next door to Susur). And, as I've mentioned in the past, it's a dish that lives very high on my list of the Top Ten Favourite Things that I Have Ever Eaten. When the plate was placed in front of me, I really didn't think that I could have a better night. But really, the best was yet to come.


Sesame tuna and scorpion fish sashimi

Course Four


Braised salsify and morel mushrooms with asparagus, served over two foams of carrot and dill

I had never tasted salsify before, and really, had no idea what it actually was. I asked Robin about it, and she said that it was some sort of root vegetable. All that I know is that when I placed it on my tongue, it seemed to start to melt, releasing all kinds of excellence onto my taste buds.



Okay, so the salsify distracted me to no end with it's seduction of deliciousness. So much so that I forgot to write down exactly how the kitchen had prepared Brad's lobster. Whoops?

Course Five

Following the removal of plates and utensils of our fourth course, Robin returned to our table, and placed a plate and utensils in front of Brad, and utensils only in front of me. A few seconds later, a two-tier desert tray was placed between us, with four two-bite delights on the top tier, and six on the bottom. Cakes and mousses and sorbets and pastries and crepes, and, holy crap. I was ready to dive into the sampling, but realized that without a plate of mine own, such a thing could make for messy eating. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I spyed what seemed to be a flickering candle, perched on a plate being brought towards my table. And was that "Happy Birthday", written in chocolate, splashed across it's shiney white surface? Why, yes, it was! Robin made my day, she did. Here I am, showing off my plate:

But, back to the desserts: I can't even begin to tell the the number of heavens we experenced as we shared and devoured every damn thing on that tray. Take a look!

I swear, I don't know how he did it, but the pastry chef at Susur made me love desserts made with things that I hate. White chocolate mousse rolled in coconut? Hate white chocolate. Hate coconut. Fucking LOVED this. And, most surprisingly, I delighted in a ravioli shaped desert that consistend of paper thin slices of pineapple with a raspberry preserve centre. I can't stand pineapple! I wanted plate after plate after plate of this insanely tart and sweet delight. But the cup of molten chocolate cake? It really sent me over the edge. I believe the phrase "Jesus Fuck" might have been uttered as I sunk low, boneless, deep into the cushy padding of my booth seat.

The Ending

A perfect meal it was, so much so that I asked Robin to pass along our thanks to the kitchen. And the perfect meal was made into a perfect experience as we were getting ready to leave. While Lennon was retreaving our coats, he, randomly, asked us if we were interested in taking a wee tour of the kitchen.

The. Kitchen. Let's face it, it's one thing to see Susur emerging from the kitchen to survey the room throughout your meal, it's another thing completely to actually see where the wonder in your belly actually came from.

Walking into the Susur kitchen was a revelation, and I swear, I could barely keep still from the delight. The kitchen was long and skinny and packed with Chef and his staff. Lennon talked us through each station, and the kitchen crew were lovely and welcoming, though they must've been cursing Lennon for bringing random kids into their domain. We were then shown through to the private dining room, and talked with Lennon some more. And then back through the kitchen with a quick wave to the staff, and then on out the door where Brad and I just had to recap and talk through everything that we just experienced.

I am more then a little in love with last night. And I am about to send the restuarant, and especially Robin and Lennon, a thank you for making it such a excellent, hot damn awesome time.

Notice to Torontonians: Brian at Rotate has cultivated an excellent beard. I complimented it, and I think you need to do so, too.

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