My previous two dinners at Susur had both been underwhelming to say the least. When the adjacent tapas-style eatery Lee opened, I was wary to give it a try. Years and months have gone by without any incentive for me to try Lee until last Friday. After KS's birthday party, I wanted to grab a bite to eat before going to bed early for training early next morning. The newly opened KiWe looked interesting with the bar area jammed with good looking people. Unfortunately, the restaurant was fully booked and the kitchen could not take any more orders from the bar either. I walked out of the place a little disappointed but it wasn't entirely unexpected.
A few doors down, it was a choice between Thuet and Lee. I would have gone to Thuet anytime but I decided that I needed a lighter meal instead. The best thing about dining solo is that I can usually seated at a restaurant without a reservation. I was quickly seated at one end of the bar and entertained myself with some people watching.
I'm already familiar with the whole small-dishes-meant-to-be-shared and plates-arriving-at-no-specific-order deal of these tapas-style restaurants. But to me, the menu reads more like a build-your-own tasting menu which is just fine. The Spiced lamb chops with Chili Mint and Pineapple, Fried Banana arrived first. The lamb chops were very tender and pink. The tender meat was very delicious until I bit into globs of fat. I understand that flavour and tenderness come from the fat but I would expect a chop to be better trimed. The accompaniments of this dish was what really shine though. The heat from the chili against the cool mint made for one lively sauce that reminded me of Indian food. The fried banana was sweet, mellow, and a surprisingly good sidekick for the lamb.
Next came the Thai baked lentil with Spinach, Paneer, Coconut, and Polenta. This dish arrived in a piping hot ramekin smelling lovely, just like the familiar smell at Linda and Salad King. However, the taste was just rather wimpy compared to the smell which suggested loads of fresh herbs and spices. I personally love polenta but the rectangle piece of polenta sitting on top of the baked lentil was more like a wet sponge. It actually diluted the already weak flavour of this dish.
The last dish that arrived was Slow Cooked Cuttlefish Mediterraean-Style with Sundried Tomato and Potatoes. It was a mixture of cuttlefish and mini octopus cooked to soft and tender. The sauce was tart and flavourful from fresh and sundried tomato. The cuttlefish didn't really absorb the flavour from the sauce but it was quite good when I ate with each pieces coated heavily with the sauce. This "stew" was hearty and the portion was big compared to the other two dishes. I would say this dish is indeed truly meant for sharing. I can't say the same about the lamb chops.
Service-wise, the waitstaff was friendly and well-organized. However, one little thing bothered me repeatedly throughout the meal. The busboy kept on bringing out the dishes and set them between me and the guy on my left as if he wasn't certain that I was dining by myself. It was quite awkward that I had to "claim" my dishes everytime. I know it can be hard to believe, but there are single girls who enjoy dining alone on a Friday evening!
Over all, for a $50 meal including tax, the portion was generous and there were some solid quality. However, there are many choices around the city for tapas-style dining and the Asian-inspired modern cooking at Lee doesn't excite me as much as my other favourites such as Mirabelle and Torito. Lee is a very hip space packed with people who want to be seen. I'm not sure I'll come back anytime soon.
603 King Street West
Toronto, Ontario, Canada