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Lai Wah Heen, Lucien, or Colborne Lane

Which would you choose and why?

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  1. I haven't been to Lucien but I have been more than once to Lai Wah Heen and every visit was lovely. Nice food, nice atmosphere and excellent service. Loved the tea service presentation and the food is very good. Colborne Lane was a disappointment on my only visit there so I haven't returned. I found it truly unoriginal and not especially well prepared and for the cost, I'd have expected more.

    1. I'm assuming this is an evening meal (I'd choose Lai Wah Heen for lunch).
      My choice would be Colborne Lane.
      I've had mixed meals there and I hate the winelist - but there has always been something of interest, and the food in the past year has shown a steady hand/concept - removing some of the more complicated dishes that used to sacrifice flavour for technique. There are still some gimmicks (e.g. the table-side ice cream) but if you've never experienced it, it can add entertainment value.
      Lucien is all-over the place. There are some interesting dishes but I still don't "get" the plating which sems to be random assemblies of ingredients. And service is erratic (to say the least) - varies between smarmy and cold war treatment.
      Lai Wah Heen can be superb - but too often falls short with cold and/or overcooked food. The classic Cantonese stuff is top quality and service is very professional - but too often it seems like it's just surface. My conclusion now is that I'm not going to risk the high cost for a meal that only sometimes hits the heights.

      Having re-read my post, I'm a little surprised myself that I seem to be choosing Colborne Lane for 'consistency' - but indeed that's how far they've come from the early days.

      9 Replies
      1. re: estufarian

        I've already posted why I like Colborne Lane, so I second this choice. Again I'll mention, do the tasting menu. So here is why you should not good to Lucien or Lai Wah Heen. I should note I've only been to those two, once.

        In my opinion the flavours at Lucien lack grace. Everything is so packed with flavour that it seems brutish. Every element is competing for your attention, to the point where there is no clear focal point. I had the pork belly which came with wasabi peas. The amount of wasabi was like an assault, an equal amount of miso was used on the pork to compete. No natural flavours are allowed to come through, its all about what they put into it. My fish came with a crust or topping, which tasted like stove top stuffing. Again too strong for something as delicate as fish. I dubbed this style of cooking "Dorito Dining".

        Lai Wah Heen is part of a hotel, which unfortunately came across in my experience. The server's jacket was visibly dirty, and this was at the beginning of the evening. Maybe linen didn't come in that day. I would agree with service described as "just surface". I would describe it as going through the motions. The menu is expensive. Nothing was bad, but there was no "wow" factor.

        Tell us where you end up and how you liked it.

        1. re: dubchild

          Ok, you said the menu at LWH is expensive. It is true especially when you look at the shark fin and abalone section. You suggest to order the most expensive stuff, which is the tasting menu, at Colborne Lane. Did you have the tasting menu at LWH or did you just order regular items on LWH's dinner menu, have you order the most expensive shark fin and abalone stuffs from the menu when you say the food has no "wow" factor ? Or even ask them to customize a menu for you ?

          I say really depends on what you want to eat, Colborne Lane and LWH are two different restaurant and cannot be compared directly. My father will probably pick LWH and I would probably pick Colborne Lane for dinner. Lunch is LWH for sure.

          1. re: skylineR33

            I don't understand this post. Something is being implied, but I'm not getting it.
            To answer the direct questions. At LWH we ordered a la carte, I don't remember the exact items, but they were not shark fin, abalone or some modified menu. My overall impression, based on my only visit, was to not return.

            Are you suggesting I didn't get a wow factor because I didn't order the expensive items? In other words, are you saying the regular items are not wow worthy?

            As far as comparing these restaurants directly, I thought that was the whole point of this post. I thought people like Googs asked these direct questions so they can collect a bunch of subjective reactions, hopefully from people who have been to all three restaurants, in order to sway the choice they make. In case I missed everything, Lai Wah Heen is traditional chinese and Colborne Lane is fusion/molecular gastronomy/culinary constructivism.

            1. re: dubchild

              Possibly, LWH has a hugh menu, so I want to know more what makes you not having a "wow" factor as you did not specify. So like if you order something like spring roll and hot and sour soup there, you probably won't be too wowed. But if you order something like the cantonese staple shark fin or abalone dish or tasting menu, like what you did with Colborne Lane in which you order tasting menu, you may think of LWH differently.

              As far as comparing these restaurants directly, my point of view is they cannot be compared directly in terms of food, it is that simple. You can have your own point of view too. I will choose base on which kind of food I want to eat. There is no point to compare it if one does not like MG/fusion. Service wise, I think they are both good.

              1. re: skylineR33

                I tend to agree. I enjoy both places but for very different reasons. I wouldn't even begin to directly compare the two.

                1. re: skylineR33

                  This may be getting slightly off topic, but with Claudio Aprile set to open his new restaurant in the next few weeks, I'm wondering how that will affect Colborne Lane. As dubchild mentioned, the restaurant has been more consistent lately. I'm wondering whether this will change if he spends all his time with the new venture.

                2. re: dubchild

                  I asked the question knowing they're not directly comparable. Rather, I've grown tired of bistro food no matter how well prepared. Enough steak frites already. I can make that at home. Well. Most often better.

                  I need a little wow and an edgy chef.

                  Thank you one and all for the input.

                  1. re: Googs

                    So what was your decision Googs?

                    1. re: millygirl

                      It seems clear that Colborne Lane is the head and shoulders above winner. I've never been as molecular gastronomy holds very little interest for me. However, in a city where nearly all menus read identically save for pricing, I'm in need of a creativity fix. Full steam ahead and damn the economy. Report to follow.

          2. I have never had a bad meal at Colborne Lane.....really love it.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Endora

              The ten-course tasting menu offered at Colborne Lane during Winterlicious 2007 was my best meal ever, hands down. It was absolutely the most original and interesting meal, with flavours that were new and hard to pin point. There were a couple of items that were not homeruns, but it was all so inventive and different that I enjoyed every second. My one visit to Lai Wah Heen was unmemorable, I have had to re-schedule my repeat visit, so can't really comment on it.

            2. IMO, a tasting menu meal at both LWH and Colborne Lane will be equally enjoyable, though totally different in nature. Lucien on the other hand is definitely a step down in terms of sophistication. I also found their dishes too muddled up and confusing due to excessive use of ingredients and too many different components!.

              1. I had the tasting menu at Colborne Lane a few days back. It was well prepared and great presentation. Service is awesome. Loved the demonstration of making ice cream with liquid nitrogen.

                2 Replies
                  1. re: dubchild

                    It was a bit busy. There were a lot of suits (entourage). Not too crowded but it was a little loud.