In a city such as Toronto — with its ever-changing tastes — it is becoming increasingly difficult for fine-dining restaurants to stay relevant…
Celebrity chefs such as Susur Lee, Jamie Oliver and Mark McEwan, among others are all vying for spaces to showcase their next ground-breaking restaurants. Momofuku restaurant founder David Chang has already made a lasting impact since opening his first Toronto Momofuku restaurant in 2012.
Back then it was nearly impossible to make a reservation. Months-long wait times were required. Things have since calmed down as Toronto diners now choose more casual dining options, but there were still plenty of foodies willing to pay big bucks to revel in the experience of leaving your entire meal in the hands of a chef. The only thing you are asked is if you have any allergies. After that, it’s all chef’s choice.
David Chang’s flagship Momofuku Ko in New York City still books up immediately when spaces are released a month in advance for meals priced at $195 USD per person. His Seiōbo restaurant in Sydney, Australia books 3 months in advance. Shōtō was the second of his tasting menu restaurants to open, and it is located on the 3rd floor of the dazzling Shangri-La Hotel complex at 190 University Avenue. Chang’s Toronto endeavour includes other restaurants and bars, namely Momofuku Noodle Bar, Daishō, Milk Bar and Nikai.
At Shōtō, guests are seated around a counter facing an open kitchen where you can watch your dinner’s preparation. Each of the 22 seats has a perfect view of the action, and each dish is explained to you in detail as it is being served.
An unobstructed view of your dish’s preparation.
Offering a beautifully constructed 10+ course dinner, the tasting menu is constantly changing in contingency with which ingredients are in season and freshest at the time. I visited Momofuku Shōtō in mid-October of 2017, and below is what was offered.
The 11-course meal came out to $210 CND when including the wine pairing. Bring a friend and tack on the tax and tip and you’re looking at a $550 meal. As tasty as it is pretentious, this is what you will get for that price…
The first dish to arrive is an appetizer of pickled mussels.
Served with greens in a light herbed vinegarette, the mussels are tender with a hint of sourness.
The dish is served alongside a richer appetizer of fatty pork jowl cubed and fried until crispy, then topped with a perfectly spiced garlic chive kimchi.
Smoked Mackerel Fritter
These fluffy fritters contained a creamy mixture of smoked mackerel in a crisp yet delicate shell.
The smoky taste of the mackerel shines with the first bite.
Side Stripe Shrimp with Caviar
Delicate slices of raw stripe shrimp are accompanied by field cucumbers, sesame oil, sesame seeds and cilantro and served over top of an avocado cream sauce. This light appetizer is topped with caviar which adds a punch of saltiness and umami to the fresh shrimp.
This dish was paired with a 2015, Loire, France Laurent Perraud. ‘Sur Lie’ Muscadet Sèvre & Maine. A white wine with hints of citrus, which is perfect for seafood.
Tomato with Razor Clams and Scallops
Sweet heirloom tomatoes and a sprinkling of fried celery root help to accentuate the sweet taste of the razor clam and seared sea scallops. It is the scallop’s delicate taste and texture that truly makes this dish a knockout.
This salad was paired with Pearl Morissette ‘Cuvee Roselana’ a 2016 Pinot Noir from the Niagara region of Ontario, which is a two-hour drive from Toronto.
A cloud-soft egg soufflé sitting overtop a good helping of wild chanterelle mushrooms.
The mushroom broth reduction added an earthy richness to the light-as-air egg.
A sprinkling of baby shiso leaves finishes the dish.
Fine slices of sous-vide octopus are served over a sunchoke puree, and are doused in a warm yuzu kosho broth just prior to serving. The broth featured citrusy hints of lime and yuzu fruit, along with a slight kick of fresh chili.
The citrusy dish was well paired with a Domaine Baud sparkling wine from Jura France, which is known mostly for its nose marked with apple and toast.
Much like a risotto, fine pieces of Dungeness crab meat are served with rice and chives in a savory crab broth.
With one bite, it was obvious that the seafood broth took hours and hours of cooking to extract all the flavours from the shellfish.
Paired with a crisp and dry glass of 2015 Du Grappin Rosé from Beaujolais France.
Penokean Farm Lamb
The main dish was organically-raised lamb from the Penokean Hills of Ontario. Having selected our preferred cuts of meat from its raw state, the tender lamb was grilled to medium rare.
The accompanying sauce contains hints of mint and black vinegar. To round off the dish are crunchy fried potato wedges. To further acknowledge the use of locally sourced ingredients the main course was paired with a Stanners 2015 Chardonnay from Ontario’s Prince Edward County region.
A slice of toasted bread garnished with grated 5-year old cheddar and French comté cheese, finished with a generous shaving of truffle.
Toast has never been so decadent, especially when paired with a 2015 Spanish Red from LaFou. The glass of El Sender contains notes of blackberry, with an oaky aftertaste.
For dessert, this four-layer tart consists of sweet cake made with a molasses-like syrup called treacle. Roasted concord grapes and a layer of grape jelly complete the tart. Goat cheese ice cream is spooned on top.
Last on our wine tour is a glass of Bugey-Cerdon ‘Methode Ancestrale’ another sparkling wine from France. A perfect drink to accent a sweet dessert.
Peanut & Maple Leche Flan
And finally, to cap off this decadent meal, we were served a bite-sized cube of milky flan with a shiny maple glaze.
The creaminess of the flan was beautifully contrasted with the crunch of a sweet peanut truffle rolled in crisp rice balls.
As a whole, the Momofuku Shōtō tasting menu was a well thought out and pleasant experience. Each dish was brought to us complete with an explanation of where its ingredients were sourced and with insight into the chef’s methods of preparation.
When combined with the optional wine pairings, the journey of food and drink was an absolute winner from start to finish.