1.09.2013

momofuku daishō


10.09.12

As word got out that Chef and restauranteur David Chang would be bringing his momofuku restaurant empire up across the border to Canada, anticipation amped up quick. Then it was announced that the Canadian outpost would be in Toronto, at the yet-to-be-finished Shangri-La hotel in the form of a three-level, quadruple restaurant concept. Finally, after waiting for what seemed like an eternity, they finally opened individually at the beginning of September!


momofuku daishō
3/f, 190 University ave.
Toronto, ON
647 253 8000

Transit: get out of Osgoode station (walk south 2 min) OR St. Andrew station (walk north 2 min)
Reservations: online (on their site) or by phone.
Hours: mon-fri (lunch, 11:30am-2:30am/dinner, 5:30pm-11pm), sat (dinner, 5:30pm-11pm)



During the first few opening months, most of the staff/cooks are from New York momofuku restaurants to ensure a smooth transition. Chef Matt Blondin (formerly of Acadia) was hired as executive sous-chef at daisho. I remember seeing openings for server positions and actually toyed with that idea for a few minutes, before remembering that I have zero experience. :(
check out the impressive façade of the momofuku restaurants! The 5-million sculpture out front is “Rising” by Chinese sculptor Zhang Huan.


On the first floor, you’ll find long communal white oak tables. Noodle Bar is the ramen and famous pork buns concept of the restaurant. Opened to mixed reviews, I have yet to go so I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt. It’s been months since then so things will surely have picked up. 



I don’t know what kind of budget David Chang was playing with but what him and designer J.K. Cheng & The Design Agency came up with is nothing short of beautiful. Very clean lines and geometry dominate. Simplicity is hard to achieve.



One half-level up, is nikai (bar/lounge concept). On the next floor is daishō (large formats), where a couple friends and I were headed for late dinner. I was starving! When I asked our server the intent behind the seemingly random numbering of the menu items, he said that the numbers in Chinese are supposed to be ones that bear bad luck (more twisted Chang-humour?). Uhh…a few of them yes, but not all. Maybe it’s more true in Japanese?



Thank you so much for this light cucumber salad as we were browsing the menu! Maybe they brought this over because my stomach growling was disturbing the others.



Apple Soup – bee pollen, sunchoke, balconville tincture (9)
Considering we came in September, it’s apple season so no doubt it’d figure in the menu. This was a pleasant surprise though because we didn’t order it. Hmm, thanks Matt! Similar to my meal at Acadia (sorry for the comparison but I was doing that unconsciously), there were many elements on each dish that were foreign to me. Bring it on!



Flank Steak – kimchi, bib lettuce, onions (23)
The meat comes from McGee Farms in Ontario. This seemed to me a mini version of their large format meal, the ribeye ($600 for 6-8 people). Admittedly delicious, it was still pricey.



Egg – smoked roe, juniper, seaweed (12)
The eggs come from Everspring Farms here in Ontario. Before coming, I’d seen a few photos of this creation floating around on twitter so I may have heavily swayed my friends to order this. In hindsight, hard to share but a great showcase of technique!



(clockwise from the top left)
Wild Rice – stinky tofu, oyster mushroom, yuzu (12)
The rice is from Forbes Wild Foods in Toronto.
Nugget Potato – fermented black bean, chili, orange (12)
Rice Cakes – pork sausage, Chinese broccoli, tofu (15)
Brussels Sprouts – fish sauce, puffed rice, mint (12)

There are similar elements/garnishes on each dish (not an uncommon sight), but the flavour profile and textures were very distinct from one dish to the next. The rice cakes really stood out for me. I’d order that again in a heartbeat!!

 
It’s apparent that while planning the move to Toronto of his restaurants, David Chang started establishing relations with local farmers and growers. Not having prior relationships to purveyors here, it wasn’t easy at first to secure consistent supplies of his needed products. Glad that everything came together in the end!
 
Verdict: The apple soup was a highlight for me. Soups are one of my weaknesses and this one made my knees weak. I loved the interplay of textures in the wild rice…rather, in every dish! Although I don’t have the menu for the 22-course meal offered at shōtō, I’d love to come back to daishō for one of their large format meals! Now I await the arrival of Chef Tosi's milk bar! :D (one can wish!)



4 out of 5 NOMs
nomnomnomnom
Momofuku daishō on Urbanspoon

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