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Going to Sursur tomorrow. Any advice?

dinin and dishin Mar 20, 2007 03:13 PM

Hubby is taking me for a b-day dinner. He chose Sursur over Perigee and Splendido. Having not experienced the great man's food, I am looking for some sage advice from my fellow hounds.

Any must try items? Any cautionary notes?

Should we go for the tasting menu or stick to the menu? I am sick of winter and feeling a little frisky, so I feeling like throwing caution to the wind and leaving all the decisions up to the kitchen. Are the wine pairings with the tasting menu worthwhile, or should we just get a bottle of something we like?

Thanks in advance hounds!

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  1. pixelchef RE: dinin and dishin Mar 20, 2007 03:35 PM

    Definitely go with a tasting menu -- Susur shines when he's given some freedom; especially on a special occasion like your birthday. I've had great success with the wine pairings, and if money is virtually not a concern, I'd suggest that as well. Just relax, and leave all the decisions to the team. When you're paying Susur prices, you shouldn't have to strain your brain. :) Have a great evening!

    1. skylineR33 RE: dinin and dishin Mar 20, 2007 04:30 PM

      There is only tasting menu at Susur. The one that I had in a recent visit is a 6 courses in reverse order which is wonderful. I like the food at Susur more than Splendido and Perigee. Enjoy !

      1. redearth RE: dinin and dishin Mar 20, 2007 04:59 PM

        Sorry for being a spelling Nazi, but my immediate response is that you should know it it spelled SUSUR, not SURSUR. Sorry, sometimes I just can't help myself.

        1 Reply
        1. re: redearth
          dinin and dishin RE: redearth Mar 21, 2007 06:41 AM

          Doh, I knew that. Must be this aging thing :\

        2. redearth RE: dinin and dishin Mar 20, 2007 04:59 PM

          Of course, I make a mistake.... "... you should know it IS spelled......"

          1. n
            nose_food RE: dinin and dishin Mar 20, 2007 07:17 PM

            Some clarifacations for all you hounds:
            1. Wednesday night should not be too busy so a tasting meny is probably a good idea, especially if it is your first time there. A la carte is always an option and often a great choice if you don't like the sound of the tasting menu. Ask the staff to detail what is on the tasting menu before you choose. Sometimes only vague answers are offered and qualified with an excuse like "Susur likes to change the menu in the middle of the evening without notice". I call bullcrap, at those prices, know what you are going to get, unless you really are somebody who eats everything and then let the man surprise you.
            2. Wine pairings: Susur is all about the food. Sure they have a nice wine list with lots of pricey bottles (he will definately gladly accept your cash), wine pairings are fraught with danger. None of the staff actually sample food and wine together (go ahead and ask your server), nor is there a qualified sommelier employed there nor anybody with anything more than a basic knowledge of fine wine. Anything proffered by the staff there is going to be based on speculation, perception, and profit. The whole Susur tasting menu is contrary to most basic food and wine pairing tenants (richest and heaviest course first to lightest and most delicate course last, etc). At the very least if you are serious about wine pairing, make sure you get a palate cleanser (sorbet/granita/jelly) after the foie gras, especially if paired with sweet wine.
            3. Be aware that some nights are magical there, and at those prices they should be. But also be aware that some nights are anything but magical. Most of the polished, gifted and knowledgeable staff there have been replaced by less experienced staff, some even struggle with the spoken english language, willing to put up with long stressfull hours and crappy pay to have Susur's name on their resumes.
            4. Susur and his hard working kitchen staff still probably makes the best food in Toronto. Although the tasting menus may vary from week to week, maybe even from one day to the next, they are basically slightly different variations on the same elements he has been serving since he oppened. Although it is great food expertly prepared, I don't think avant-garde is a fair adjective anymore.

            3 Replies
            1. re: nose_food
              vorpal RE: nose_food Mar 20, 2007 09:47 PM

              I've always been curious. When you dine at a restaurant like Susur, is it expected that you will drink wine, and if you decide not to, is it problematic in terms of the pleasure of the meal or the service received? I like alcohol, but due to health reasons, my enjoyment of alcoholic beverages is limited to hard liquors without flavourings matched with a small number of mixers, and while I miss red wine dearly, it simply is not an option. On one hand, I'm quite pleased that this will cut down the cost, but on the other, I discovered this issue before I was able to try fine food and wine pairings, unfortunately.

              I've heard consistently lukewarm reviews of Susur since joining this community. I'm a grad student with a love of excellent food and was going to try to scrounge enough cash to visit (a difficult feat with much sacrifice), but now I'm not convinced that it would be worth it and my money might be better spent going on vacation. Am I wrong in this decision?

              1. re: vorpal
                dinin and dishin RE: vorpal Mar 21, 2007 07:19 AM

                Interesting questions Vorpal. I've done wine pairings in the past and enjoyed the experience. My husband really knows his wine, so if the wine list is any good, he is drooling at it and prefers to select his own wine. Based on Nose's comments regarding no sommelier and minimal thought going into pairings, we will likely choose our own wine.

                But you have an interesting connundrum. In the past, I've been disappointed by the food at supposedly "great" restaurants. As have I been even more disappointed by having meals completely ruined by poor, or worse, indifferent service delivered by uppity servers. (probably one of the reasons its taken me this long to try Susurs) There are servers who treat big spenders better, and wine adds significantly to the bill. But, you shouldn't be expected to do anything, but order a single course at any restaurant. And in an ideal world, the servers would treat you no different than anyone else. I think Susur will be around for awhile, long enough for you to finish school in any case. You have to decide whether to roll the dice and hope for a good service/food night, or roll the dice and hope for good weather if you choose a vacation. Now if you are travelling to somewhere known for great food...take the trip and eat your heart out. Isn't vacation food a lot like vacation sex-- all the better for the new and unfamiliar surroundings?

                Of course I could have a different opinion after the meal.

                1. re: vorpal
                  nummanumma RE: vorpal Mar 21, 2007 08:32 AM

                  for what's it worth, i'd throw my two cents behind having the vacation. I wouldn't describe it as life-changing...a better place to go when you can afford it comfortably and not feel peeved that you are spending $300-$500 to sit in a booth that moves everytime the person at the table behind you shifts. having been to some pretty amazing meals in San Sebastian, I'd say Susur doesn't match up in my mind in terms of the HOLY COW experience. I'm NOT saying it wasn't great, it just wasn't as close to whole- thing perfect as I've seen. If you are really sacrificing to go there, you might not be happy.
                  Hope that makes sense.

              2. n
                nose_food RE: dinin and dishin Mar 22, 2007 07:50 AM

                How was your dinner?

                11 Replies
                1. re: nose_food
                  dinin and dishin RE: nose_food Mar 22, 2007 11:51 AM

                  Spectacular!!!

                  I haven't eaten that much food in one sitting since Sunday dinners at my Grandmother's house and I felt like I waddled home. We arrived a little early--no problem. They gave us an excellent booth next to the window. Already I am feeling like I've got the good karma going. Our waiter was young and probably a little inexperienced, but so intent on getting it all right. Although he may be a little obsessive compulsive, because he rearranged our glasses and anything else on the table with every visit. We didn't do the wine pairing thanks to your very good advice. Hubby chose a nice chard from Calif. Our young waiter recommended that we might like a glass of red with the opening dishes as they were heavier and we concurred. But hubby rejected his choice that was somewhere around $30/glass and chose a NZ Pinot Noir for around $15 per glass. Our waiter's only misstep was that he forgot the white when it was required. He scooped up the empty red glasses and we then had to wave him down to remind him about the white wine.

                  It was only about 60% full, so service was attentive without ever being intrusive. Our waiter did get kind of slammed at one point and that is when the wine when dry. But he recovered nicely. The only complaint was the young lady who brought us our amuse bouche dish. She had a heavy accent and for the life of me I couldn't figure out what she was saying about each item--normally I wouldn't care, but each was so different and amazing I wanted to know more. It also appeared that there was a good deal of trainee's on hand as everyone seemed to have a shadow.

                  Now for the food (sorry left the menu at home, so I'll have to wing it):
                  Amuse bouche was very amusing: Loved the warm cod cake and the pork terrine. Hubby loved the everything, but especially the foie gras morsel.

                  1st course, I had a cornish game hen with black bean sauce. Fabulous, with a side of seared foie gras (amazing) and an assortment of other treasures like goat cheese, candy pecan and a small spring roll. Hubby had bison with a side of foie gras that was done a little different. His meal was very tasty, but more common in content.

                  2nd course was Lion Head's hot pot. Both were very tasty, rich and filling. I was pretty much full by then. Each dish had a different variation of vegetables and flavours, but tasted pretty similar.

                  3rd - apricot sorbet served over dry ice. Nice effect.

                  4th. Seafood. Mine was scallop cake, roasted lobster crab cake and lobster bisque in the middle. Hubby had mussels provencal, very tasty with a squeeze of fresh lime and an assortment of 3 little hor d'ouvres.

                  5th Mine was sashimi with ponzu, wasabi and soy. Mmmmm. Hubby had grilled snapper with fennel, which he loved.

                  6th salad course. Mine was deconstructed and a little difficult to eat, while hubby had white asparagus with a cream sauce - way too rich for me.

                  7th, then came the dessert tray--sweet dim sum. Now we never order dessert, and I rarely make it at home. But, as full as we were, we devoured everything. It was fabulous. Only weird thing was they gave us giant cutlery for this course where smaller would have worked better when sharing these dainty items. When asked, our guy brought me a small spoon.

                  All the courses were perfectly timed and we never felt rushed nor wondered when we'd see the next course.

                  The total cost with tip and tax was above the $350 rating in this years Toronto Life restaurant guide. But we both agreed, that on that night, with the service we received, it was worth it. My husband who has years of fine dining under his belt (literally) from travelling through the US. and is very difficult to please stated it was the best he'd ever had. Very high praise. Now to expand on that he said that while he's had great individual dishes elsewhere, he's never had the number and variety of great dishes and that put Susur's at the top of his list.

                  Overall rating from me... I'd have to say 10. I can't think of anything I would change. And I have to say, it was so refreshing to go to an upscale restaurant in this city and find that all the staff were both professional and approachable. Not an affected jerk in the bunch.

                  And thank you Nose food for your excellent comments--especially wrt the wine pairings--they were right on. This was definitely one of the "magical" nights you wrote of.

                  1. re: dinin and dishin
                    Vise RE: dinin and dishin Mar 22, 2007 12:20 PM

                    Damnit! We had resos for Susur on March 8th (day before my birthday) but had to cancel... jealous, it sounded amazing. We cancelled for good reason though, my wife gave birth to our first kid a month early on March 7th!

                    Once we get settled I think grandma is gonna come babysit so we can finally check out Susur. :-)

                    1. re: Vise
                      dinin and dishin RE: Vise Mar 22, 2007 12:51 PM

                      Congrats on the baby--sorry about the missed dinner! Definitely re-read the nose food post before you go. I think going on a less busy night, over say a Thurs or Friday night, was part of what made it so great.

                      Honestly, after all the years of disappointing meals or snotty/poor service in this city, I can't believe how good it was. I was prepared to be underwhelmed or at least a little disappointed for the cost. Nothing in my TO (or anywhere) dining experience prepared me to walk out feeling so content and happy....on so little wine. :) I wouldn't even balk at the price to repeat the experience--I'd even pay a premium if I knew I could expect the same level of service and food quality.

                      Of course now I am ruined for life. Everything else will likely pale in comparison.

                      1. re: dinin and dishin
                        Vise RE: dinin and dishin Mar 22, 2007 05:01 PM

                        Thanks. Definitely looking forward to finally getting to Susur... hopefully in the next month or so.

                        As for being ruined for life; I know what you mean. We ate at The French Laundry in Oct. 2005 and to say it blows every other dining experience out of the water before/since is a major understatement. Although I try and keep an open mind when dining here in Toronto it set the bar far too high I'm afraid. I think the closest we've come in Toronto so far (in terms of the total experience) has been Splendido... definitely the best in TO service wise in my opinion. But I digress...

                        1. re: Vise
                          dinin and dishin RE: Vise Mar 22, 2007 05:14 PM

                          Oh, you aren't doing so bad if you went to The French Laundry. We tried to go a few years ago, but they were closed for renos. My friend who is really a true foody had to settle for having her picture taken in front of the sign. We did get to Chez Panisse and it was a great experience also. Until last night, it was on the top of my list.

                          Of course with a new baby, you might be getting more Chucky Cheese than fine dining for awhile. :)

                          1. re: dinin and dishin
                            Vise RE: dinin and dishin Mar 22, 2007 06:26 PM

                            Hahah... nice. Trust me, the last place we'll end up is Chucky Cheese! If I have my way we'll be raising a true chowhound right from the start. :-)

                          2. re: Vise
                            Mike from Hamilton RE: Vise Mar 23, 2007 05:34 AM

                            I agree, my experience at The French Laundry was indeed life changing and showed me what a creative chef in control of every aspect of his restaurant can do. The closest I've had in Toronto food-wise was Perigee, the closest service-wise is Splendido. I just can't understand why some of the world class chefs in Toronto let themselves down by allowing themselves to skimp on the service staff or creating an environment that is uncomfortable to the customer...

                      2. re: dinin and dishin
                        l
                        lovegoodfood RE: dinin and dishin Apr 1, 2007 08:28 PM

                        I took my loved one to Susur on the 22nd for his birthday. It was amazing. I echo a number of dinin and dishin's comments (and it sounds like our tasting menus were a slight variation of yours). The restaurant never got more than 1/3 full during the time we were there (6:30-9:30). We had a leisurely, comfortable meal and were able to hear each other without raised voices. Terence was our waiter and he was lovely - friendly, attentive, helpful, not at all intrusive but there when we needed him. The food was spectacular. Beautiful presentation. Tastes and textures and smells all very pleasing and some quite divine. We didn't have the wine pairings but went with the recommendation of Terence of 1/2 bottles - red to start and white to finish. Only when I got the bill did I see that the red was $98 and the white $40. They were OK, but no where near worth that price! I was uncomfortably full by the end, but didn't want to not taste everything. Next time I'd opt for the 4 course tasting menu. I'm sure I'd be just as happily surprised and not feel like the proverbial stuffed goose for days after.

                        PS. I had been somewhat skeptical of the choice of Susur after last year's birthday choice of Lee. Lee was noisy, crowded, and very rushed. All the plates arrived at once and I felt like they couldn't get us out fast enough. The food was OK, but nothing special. I won't bother to try it again.

                        1. re: lovegoodfood
                          n
                          nose_food RE: lovegoodfood Apr 2, 2007 09:14 AM

                          Sorry please clarify, did Terrence stick you with a $98 1/2 bottle of wine without telling you the price before hand? Ummm I think I would have been a little dissapointed. And the pattern re-appears, quiet night at Susur=fantastic dinning experience.
                          A la carte items were about $20 (app), more for the foie gras, and $45 for a main course the last time I was there. From what I understand they are always available, sometimes they are printed on a menu, sometimes your server has to explain verbally what you can have. Main course portions were surprisingly generous.

                          1. re: nose_food
                            skylineR33 RE: nose_food Apr 2, 2007 09:39 AM

                            When was the last time you where there ?

                            1. re: nose_food
                              l
                              lovegoodfood RE: nose_food Apr 8, 2007 06:51 PM

                              That's a 'yes' to your question about the wine. Disappointing, but ... I'll know to ask next time and didn't want to spoil what had been a lovely evening by getting upset about it.

                      3. n
                        noshthis RE: dinin and dishin Mar 22, 2007 06:43 PM

                        The tasting menu is outstanding. My brother and I took our parents there for their 35th wedding anniversary, and it was one of the best experiences. We all had the tasting menu, but my mom doesn't eat meat, so they prepared a veggie tasting menu for her. Susur Lee came out of the kitchen and served her himself. He was very nice, and took my parents to the kitchen for a little tour. They loved it.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: noshthis
                          dinin and dishin RE: noshthis Mar 22, 2007 09:42 PM

                          Get out! That is a great experience. When I met my hubby, I was a vegetarian, but after too many years with the ultimate carnivore, I've fallen off my healthy horse. Last night I wondered out loud about whether it would be worth it to do a vege option at such a place. I guess you provided my answer. Although, I wouldn't want to miss that seared foie gras.

                        2. k
                          Kasumeat RE: dinin and dishin Mar 22, 2007 09:14 PM

                          How much are the tasting menus?

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: Kasumeat
                            dinin and dishin RE: Kasumeat Mar 22, 2007 09:36 PM

                            120$/person for 7 courses. Don't have lunch or snack before you go.

                            1. re: dinin and dishin
                              skylineR33 RE: dinin and dishin Mar 22, 2007 09:42 PM

                              Do you have a chance to look at the a la carte menu ? What is the price range ? I just had the tasting menu and thought there is no a la carte. Thanks.

                              1. re: skylineR33
                                dinin and dishin RE: skylineR33 Mar 22, 2007 09:48 PM

                                There actually is no al la carte menu. I asked last night and was told that if I wanted to select something off the tasting menu, they would size it accordingly. It is definitely a place to let go of your inner control freak and give yourself over to the chef. (so not an easy thing for me--and completely cathartic)

                                1. re: dinin and dishin
                                  skylineR33 RE: dinin and dishin Mar 22, 2007 09:52 PM

                                  Yeah, that's what I thought too because last time I was there, they do not have a regular menu. The tasting menu is simply amazing, my wife and me almost cannot finish all the 6 courses but we finished them because the food is too good ! I found the portion is on the big side compared to Perigee and Splendido. That's why I wonder if they have a la carte, I might just give it a try next time.

                          2. e
                            eire RE: dinin and dishin Mar 22, 2007 10:02 PM

                            heard alot of susurs chefs has leaft so mixed reviews! thats inside info!my opion head to spendido!

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