Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Toronto Summerlicious: Luma

Luma is one of the more casual restaurants owned by the Oliver and Bonacini group. The restaurant is on the 2nd floor of the TIFF Bell Lightbox building in the heart of Toronto's Entertainment District. My husband and I came for lunch and at 11:30 am, we were their first summerlicious customers.

The restaurant decor was modern and sleek. The tables were well-spaced which provided a little more privacy than usual at downtown Toronto restaurants. As a bonus, the chairs were comfortably soft too.

Our server patiently described the Summerlicious menu and told us that we were the first ones to try it! She patiently answered our questions and provided her recommendations when asked. For the first course, we tried the Tossed Octopus Salad with chickpeas, tomato and eggplant puree. The dish was very good and provided a perfect play of textures on the mouth, i.e. a bit chew from the Octopus, crispness from the toasted chickpeas, and creaminess from the eggplant puree. It was spiked just enough with a drizzle of harissa oil.  

The other appetizer dish we tried was the Chilled Soba Noodle Salad with Miso Dressing. We were not fans of this dish. It wasn't interesting enough for us.

For the main course, my husband tried the Slow-Cooked Beef Short Ribs with Salsa Verde. The beef short rib portion was very generous. It was fork-tender but could use more flavor. The sauce that came with it was a saving grace although for me, it didn't taste anything like "salsa verde" as described on the menu. The corn kernels, part of the succotash salad, were not noticeably charred as I had hoped.

The next main dish was the Buttermilk-Brined Fried Chicken with a Warm Cheddar Biscuit and Three-Cabbage Slaw. The fried chicken was tender on the inside with a perfectly seasoned crispy coating. However, there were traces of blood nearing the bone. Although biscuits are one of my guilty pleasures and I never pass on them, this cheddar biscuit was a tad dense than a perfectly baked biscuit so I only finished half. Instead of a very straightforward rendition of the classic chicken and biscuits, I secretly wished they did a twist on it and came up with a more creative and fun version of the classic. On the bright side, the side of three cabbage slaw was enjoyable. 

For dessert, we had the Chocolate Parfait Sundae with passion fruit cream and mulled berries. The ice cream texture was more icy than creamy. Maybe it was scooped out too early and left in the freezer too long prior to serving. 

To cap our meal, we had the Ontario Stilton with plum compote and spiced oat crumble. It was the perfect combination, with the acidity of the compote toning down the strong and pungent stilton.  

The 3-course meal was a steal for $20. The service was great, and the ambience was delightful. However, in my opinion, some dishes from the summerlicious 2014 menu can be improved with a little bit more thought and creativity put into it.   

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Toronto Summerlicious: Bent

I was excited to try one of Master Chef Susur Lee's restaurants in Toronto for this year's Summerlicious. I had high hopes on the meal to come.

The interior of the restaurant was well-lit. It had huge windows on one side which brought all the natural light in. The restaurant had a patio seating, which was packed with sun-loving Torontonians. I loved the simplicity yet quirkiness of the decor. White ceramic brick-shaped tiles adorned the walls, beautifully contrasted by the rustic wooden floor and wooden tables.

A few minutes after settling in, our server showed up. He had great knowledge about the menu and suggested additional house specialties, should we find the Summerlicious meal insufficient. We started off with Fried Jerk Chicken with a side of jicama salad. This was clearly a twist to the classic fried chicken and coleslaw pairing. It was delicious! The chicken was crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. It was enveloped in a wonderfully spiced chili lime glaze. I am guessing the chicken was twice cooked as there were no traces of blood near the bone and the meat was close to falling apart.

The next appetizer was the Cajun Shrimp and Vegetable Fritter. The fritter was perfectly cooked, no oily aftertaste whatsoever. The delicate batter lightly enrobed the succulent shrimp and vegetables. The tomatillo salsa with avocado provided the perfect amount of heat. The corn salsa was made up of smoky charred corn kernels which enhanced the dish further. 

The first main course we tried was a duo of beef, Asian Marinated Striploin Steak and Braised Beef Agnolotti. The striploin was delicious and the pan sauce as light and tasty with the mustard emulsion providing the perfect touch of heat. The braised beef inside the agnolotti was very tasty. I just wished the agnolotti was a little crispier to provide more of a play of textures. But the dish was a hands-down favorite and my husband and I literally fought for the last piece of meat and secretly hoped another slice would miraculously pop up.

The other main course we tried was the Caribbean Pan-Roasted Salmon with a mango ginger sauce. I loved how the salmon was delicately cooked! The sauce wasn't one of my favorites and wished it had a tad less curry flavor. The spiced plantain would've been better crispy as well, instead of being incorporated into the sauce as unrecognizable chunks.

Finally, they served a trio of desserts(which was awesome instead of having to choose just one!). The first of the trio was a Banana and Jackfruit Spring Roll with a caramel rum sauce. It reminded me of a favorite Filipino dessert called turon except that this one had the sauce on the side while turon is dusted with brown sugar and fried until the melted sugar melds perfectly with the crispy wrapper. The next dessert was the Mango Panna Cotta. The texture was creamy with the right amount of sweetness but the pineapple chunks on top was more of a distraction than a complement for me. The last dessert was the Coconut Chocolate Mousse with French Golden Licorice Meringue. It was a one-bite dessert and was divine. 

As a bonus, we were able to get a glimpse of the Master Chef himself, Susur Lee!

Overall, my husband and I both enjoyed this meal very much! It was a great summerlicious deal!