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Apr 9, 2009 04:18 PM

Surprise Birthday Dinner

Hi everyone,

I'm hoping to surprise my other half with a nice dinner with 10 to 12 of his close friends next Saturday in downtown Toronto.

Some of his favourite restaurants include Canoe, RAIN and North 44, but I'm looking for suggestions that are more mid-range (in terms of price) and affordable for everyone, since it's a pretty big group. Probably around $60 - 80 full course including glass of wine. Lively, casual chic ambience would be nice. No preferred style/type of cuisine--we love adventures!

We might be going for after-dinner drinks (not clubbing--more like a place where we could just hang out) so suggestions for that is welcome too!


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  1. You may want to consider Susur's "Shang NYC" Tasting menu at Madeline or Lee ! They have different tasting menu, both are $60, 5 courses with the one at Lee has more elements in Cantonese cuisine. I had the tasting menu (6 courses for $100) at Rain a few months ago but not too impressed with the quality, the portion are hugh though.

    4 Replies
    1. re: skylineR33

      I think that this is a great idea; the Shang tasting menu was pretty good (at Madeline's), though we didn't try the one at Lee (have you tried both skylineR33? Which did you prefer?). I've had too many bad experiences at Rain to even begin thinking about returning there...

      1. re: tjr

        Hi tjr, I have only tried the one at Madeline. After my wife sees the menu at Lee which has items like dim sum turnip cake and cantonese wok fried noodles, she refuses to go. I don't mind to give it a try though to see how good Susur makes them. Anyone try the one at Lee ?

      2. re: skylineR33

        We tried the Shang's NYC $60 tasting menu last night at Madeline's at a table of 4 and we ended up with mixed reviews.

        Started with the main course skirt steak, side of spicy potato puree and slightly over salted veggies (string beans). The birthday girl got a substitute cornish game hen, which she really liked.

        Next was a very pretty spicier stir fry shrimp w/ garlic, sitting in a stone bowl and covered with a beautifully done rice mesh that reminded me of those circular etching stencils we used as kids. Topped with a thin bread and a artichoke which didn't seem to fit the dish. Otherwise the shrimps were super fresh and tasty.

        3rd was sushi "shooters", 3 raw tuna slices rolled up with daikon, almondine and a crunchy potato puff served with ponzu sauce in a chinese soup spoon. Although it was refreshingly cold, the ingredients just didn't match (it tasted like sushi w/ almonds). Susur, what were you thinking? Birthday girl substituted for some grilled mediterranean white fish, which she commented just tasted like fish you do at home w/ bruschetta.

        4th was a tofu custard with a side of overly buttered king oyster mushroom slices. The tofu was nicely done.

        Dessert was a molten chocolate cake with side of nuts/chocolate cookie crumbs, and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Could've found this dish anywhere, but at least it the cake was well done (nice oozing chocolate centre).

        At $60 per person, we all left feeling very full, but somewhat disappointed that we didn't get the feeling of eating a true signature Susur inspired meal that we all had previously from his old restaurant's 7 course tasting menu.

        1. re: Royaljelly

          Is the cornish hen subsitution the same dish as the one on the Madeline's menu (with gorgonzola cheese sauce)? Were they accommodating to substitution?

      3. Given the price points of the places mentioned, try Nota Bene.

        1. Thanks all for your suggestions! Lee and Madeline are definitely on my short list. I love the vibe at Lee myself, but was a little worried about ordering tapas for a large group being a hassle. The tasking menu might be the way to go.

          On another note - I had Rain's tasting menu a while ago and was really impressed with it; the plating, flavour and attention to detail was great. Maybe it was my lucky day ... does anyone know when it's re-opening after renovations?

          1 Reply
          1. re: coco_t

            Nota Bene! Then you can hit some local haunts on Queen West.

          2. Not sure if it's too casual for you, but Harlem has a private room which (I think) holds 12. Great food, fun atmosphere, and definitely in your price range. They have live music upstairs (where the private room is) on weekends, so it could I imagine you could kill two birds with one stone and do dinner and drinks there.