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Aug 7, 2009 05:12 PM

Susur vs. Madeline's?

I never had a chance to visit Susur before it closed, but i've heard rave reviews. However, i haven't heard much about Madeline's on here. I was wondering how it compares to the former Susur? Then again, there's also Lee, which i rarely ever hear about.
What do you think? Maybe Chef Lee is putting more attention into Shang rather than his Toronto restos....

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  1. You're right - both of these now fly under the radar. That mans I can get a reservation almost anytime.
    I've been to each at least 3 times this year. Madeline's tends towards a Mediterranean style, and Lee is more Asian - but Susur does return from time-to-time to update the menus (There's a 'Susurlicious' on at Lee right now).
    At the pricepoint (typically at each we order 4-5 'sharing' dishes) the bill, without wine, comes in under $100. And that's why I keep returning - food is certainly above average and occasionally hits the former heights (they had a pepper steak dish in the Spring that was outstanding). And the Fries at Lee are my favourites in Toronto - easily beating the JK offering.
    Of course, neither compares to the former Susur - but with prices less than half (significantly) that's not surprising. But I never felt that Susur was as good as Lotus - his former place (where I could afford to go every month).
    I'd recommend both Madeline and Lee - Lee seems less formal, but prices are similar.

    2 Replies
    1. re: estufarian

      I agree with estufarian; both Madeline and Lee are above average for Toronto, and definitely worth a visit.

      1. re: estufarian

        I still haven't figured out how to eat the fries at Lee. Its like trying to eat hair.

      2. I was at a wedding yesterday and met a couple from my hometown of Winnipeg who dined at Lee's the night before.

        Susur was working it the kitchen that night, he found out (likely from the server) that this couple was from Winnipeg and made a point of coming out and saying hi as his wife is from there. They took a picture with him.

        They also told me he had a big blow-up with the garbage collectors, he wasn't happy about something they were doing/not doing.

        Anyway the point is it appears he is still working here from time to time. Hopefully he continues to.

        13 Replies
        1. re: JPJ

          That is funny, I think we were sitting behind this couple. I was there (at Lee) for "Susurlicious". The garbage collectors came by and the one truck was picking up bottles and throwing them into the truck but they were throwing the plastic containers in with the bottles and everything was being compressed by the truck making loud noises.

          Anyway, on to the food. I went to Madeline's during summerlicious and although I guess you shouldn't judge a restaurant by a 'licious event it was the worst 'licious experience I had ever had. I have been to probably 15 or so different 'licious restaurants in recent years and have usually had a pretty good experience. At that meal they handed out a bookmark promoting the "susurlicious" event and another firend wanted to go so I decided to give it a shot. In the end, I really enjoyed my meal and it was much better value at $35 vs. the $45 for summerlicious. Also, Monday to Wednesdsay in August (I htink for all of August) they have a $1 corkage fee...

          1. re: ylsf

            I hope you're right - I was quoted $30 per bottle for Susurlicious (on a Monday)!
            I thought the $1 promotion ended after July.

            1. re: estufarian

              They HAVE extended the $1 corkage through August (Mon-wed). Although I was quoted $30 on reserving, when I arrived I was told it was only $1 in August.

              1. re: estufarian

                Any comments on the meal? I'll be there later this week.

                1. re: Apprentice

                  i'd like to know if anyone has a heads up on the susurlicious menu after this weekend... curious to see what will be different.

                  1. re: pinstripeprincess

                    We added a couple of other dishes - one from the Lee menu and one from the Madeline menu. (NOTE: These menus are truncated for the Susurlicious period). Also all the Susurlicious items are available a la carte. But in general things were good-excellent.
                    Best dish was the Korean-style Skirt Steak - vintage Susur. Weakest was the Szechwan Sweet & Sour Pork - overcooked pork and blah flavour.
                    Starters were great textures, but flavours a bit subdued - but I'm judging by Susur standards - the spicing seems to be lighter than I recall. Total bill (including corkage and sparkling water was $115 before tip (but including tax) - for most people would be under $100 (plus alcohol) - a great deal!

                    1. re: estufarian

                      didn't think it was worth a new thread so i'll just make my comments on the current susurlicious menu here.

                      i'd agree that the skirt steak was the best main dish.... we didn't try the sweet & sour pork but when he was doing the "shang menu" something similar was on there and wasn't among the tastier dishes so i couldn't imagine this would be a lot better. that being said the beef was over cooked and not cut quite right to really work with the texture so it was tougher than it should have been as well. i thought it was too saucy but i'm a minimal sauce girl and that the eggplant was perfect tenderness and creamy flavour. the sauce was interesting without being challenging and did have a distinctive susur-ness to it.

                      the chicken was pretty bad... it felt like amateur night in the kitchen but it was also not what i was expecting. it was essentially a stuffed roulade of chicken and ricotta and deep fried. there was nothing particularly interesting about it and i swear the spicy sauce around it was a mix of sriracha and something else.

                      our starter of the chicken salad... i was hoping for some miraculous mingling of flavours a la his singaporean salad but it was sort of like a hack job wannabe fusion cob salad of sorts. some items were just to large and had to be cut down quite a bit, some items really had no place there... hard boiled egg? just very confusing and overall meh.

                      the dishes that really worked for me, and thank god because this was the reason i went, were the diver scallops and the panna cotta. the scallops were really really lovely and i guess i have an addiction to ponzu because i could drink up the dressing. the salmon tartare was really nice, dining companion noted that the light creamy dressing took away from the usually unpleasant overt oiliness that can come from salmon. the "salad" was refreshing and a nice textural contrast and the pistachios were a good match. i was only disappointed that it was paste wasabi rather than the 1:4 stuff or the real thing (which i know is expensive and difficult to get fresh) because it was just too sinus clearing and could overpower the scallop. it didn't really ring true as a typical susur dish to me but it was wonderfully executed... i could have eaten 3 courses of this and left happy.

                      the panna cotta was too gelatinous but otherwise it had good creaminess and paired with such delicious and airy mousses... so light but so rich at the same time. oddly enough what really bowled me over on this dish was the mango sauce on the side and the perfect macaroon. not too sweet, not too much coconut, beautiful chewy texture. i with i could take a bag of these home with me.

                      we did get the duck confit roll as an extra and while it was much better than the fried chicken roll it really fell short from my memory of one from the very early lee. the filling was very wet and lacking in duck (mostly caramelized onion), the crepe was nonexistent in flavour and the goatcheese was way too much. the candied nuts though on the side were as great as i recall.

                      the service was a little awkward and i might owe it to the odd tables out on the patio but after we had finished the glasses shortly after ordering they sat empty until our 3rd course in and were only recognized after i asked. there was also an odd comment before about how if we ordered a la carte as well they would have to bring it before the susurlicious items... sure enough the duck roll showed up right as we were finishing up our appetizers, i was just worried it would show up after dessert!

                      all in all i think it was still worth it. i got enough comedy from the odd dishes and really did enjoy the good ones. the $1 corkage certainly didn't hurt though i should have arrived with my bottle prepped a bit better as they didn't seem to understand how to handle the wine as well as i would have expected. i'm ever so slightly tempted to go again next week... jerk chicken crepes are calling me!

                    2. re: pinstripeprincess

                      I just received a copy of the menu and will try to upload it.

                      1. re: pinstripeprincess

                        I hope this works. My techie husband isn't home to help... :0(

                        1. re: Full tummy

                          thanks so much, you did perfect!

                          oh my... now i'm going to have to rush over this week and i much prefer the v1 menu than the v2!

                2. re: ylsf

                  I am a bit confused about your experience at Madeline's. Are you saying that you first went to Madeline's during Summerlicious, and then you went again during Susurlicious? And that your Summerlicious meal was the worst Summerlicious experience you've had, but that the Susurlicious meal was better? (Sorry, just trying to fully understand your post.)

                  If so, what made the difference? What was bad about the Summerlicious meal? Was it an off night? Were the menus different?

                  1. re: Full tummy

                    I guess you were refering to my post. I went to Madeline's during Summerlcious but then went to "Lee" during the Susurlicious. The summerlicious meal at Madeline's was unoriginal and the service was very lacking (I found the waiter a bit weird, wasn't asked if we wanted coffee/tea before dessert was served, water wasn't topped up often enough (and yes, did order wine) )... I was also stuck in the booth type seat which was very bright and weird (I think there is only one of those seats at Madeline. At first it seemed "private" but the lights were annoying. I suggest avoiding that seat there.

                    Outside at Susur I did noticed a lot of fruit flies which I found really weird since it was open air and the garbage bin wasn't all that close. I don't have a judgement about the interior space since I only walked through it to use the washroom. However, the food was much better (more original, tastier and more filling).

                    Yes, the menus were different too. There was a difference in price also. $45 at Madeline's. Really hard to justify a $45 price. $35 at Susur's was more reasonable.

                    1. re: ylsf

                      Thanks for clarifying.

                      As it happens, I heard on the radio today that Toronto has a fruit fly problem, as a result of the strike. One really only needs very little food to attract (and sustain) them; a few dropped morsels of fruit is enough...

              2. I went to Susur back in the day and I have never went back to any of Susur's restaurants again. Maybe it was all the hype that I heard about the restaurant before I went, but the place was a major disappointment in terms of the food. Service was above agaverage, but I found the food to be only OK, I remember there was a film on one of our sauces (probably from sitting on the pass too long and no we're not slow eaters). Don't get me wrong, it wasn't horrible, but not worth all the hype it got.

                I don't know when I'll try a Susur establishment again, but I'm not in a rush. If you read the NY times review of his restaurant in NYC, you'll probably get a sense that Susur is a good chef, but he's over hyped by most people in TO.

                25 Replies
                1. re: excel

                  I disagree with you respecting Susur being "overhyped" and would point out that eating one meal at a chef's restaurant would hardly give you a good basis to make this claim. The sauce issue, if it sat too long on the pass, would be an issue with service not the food.

                  Having eaten dozens of Susur's meals over the years I have had food that ranged from good to sublime. In general his dishes were above average in terms of flavours, texture, creativity and presentation. He more than any other chef in Toronto however, was capable of hitting the ball out of the park and producing a dish so memorable that I would crave it years later.

                  He was also one of only a handful of chef's in Toronto who truly understood what a tasting menu was and how to execute it (I don't want smaller versions of your main menu dishes thanks).

                  Also I am not sure that Susur was really all that "hyped" prior to the New York restaurant decision. Sure, food critics constantly touted him as one of the culinary visionaries in Toronto, but that reputation was well earned. It's not like the guy was splashed all over the popular rag mags, newspapers, etc. before he decided to leave. It's not like the guy was all over tv or producing his own line of foods ala Jamie Kennedy (who I quite like notwithstanding the hype).

                  If by overhyped you mean the constant doting on him by food critics and chowhounders alike, it is far more reasonable to attribute that to his skill as a chef than to being "overhyped", your opinion based on the one meal you had some time ago not withstanding. It is one thing to say you were not wowed by your meal there, that is an opinion no one could challenge, it is another to leap the chasm to logic and proclaim a chef overhyped based on this.

                  1. re: JPJ

                    I, like many others on this board, have travelled to try some of the top restaurants all over the world and have never really found Susur to be in the top tier. He's good no doubt and is arguably the best of Toronto; however, in Manhattan, he's playing with the big boys and he admits that much.

                    I contend that there was no hype at all because, with all due respect to my hometown, it'll take more than a local Canadian chef to make enough noise to become hype in NYC. There was anticipation as there would be with any new high end restaurant opening that there's something special here, but no hype. Shang's reviews were mediocre not because of the hype but because the bar has been raised.

                    Re Madeline's, I recall hearing that Dominic Amaral (Susur's top Sous Chef) is running the back of the house and Susur is only acting as a consultant, so I don't consider this to be a true Susur Lee restaurant. This is Dominic's menu. I'm actually surprised that Susur is back so frequently which gives hope that this is a sign that this is where his heart lies and he'll one day re-open his high end restaurant here. As it stands today, Toronto's restaurant scene has been in a lull.

                    1. re: syoung

                      Dominic is no longer at madelines, his kitchen is now being run by another sous chef. Alot of people think that madelines is not Susurs restaurant but Susur still designs the menu and still runs the business.

                      1. re: syoung

                        He'll reopen a high end joint here, most likely w/ Thompson group when their hotel opens here.

                        As to hype, actually, he did get an incredible amount of hype from Gourmet/eater/grub street. Although that can be attributed to the dearth of high profile openings during the economic downturn.

                        As to the food, it's been covered many a times here. I agree with syoung, no need to retread a tired topic.

                        1. re: syoung

                          totally agree with syoung.
                          Lotus was innovative.
                          After closing Lotus, I never did understand the hype, filler courses, backward menu, etc. with Susur..
                          We need a per se in Toronto, and perhaps then, we will raise the bar.

                          1. re: erly

                            I agree that something like per se would be awesome to have in Toronto but unfortunately there is not enough people with money in Toronto to keep a place like that open. i mean, susur and splendido both had to close and their tasting menus are less than half what per se costs.

                            1. re: neely

                              Remember that per se is small, and there are enough people in T.O. who appreciate , and can afford a perfect meal.
                              While I enjoyed Splendido, I was never awed by a meal there.
                              Just excellent food, and excellent service.
                              As for Susur, never really enjoyed a complete meal there.
                              One or two outstanding dishes, and in my opinion much that didn't work,or cheap fillers.

                        2. re: JPJ

                          I'll concede that every restaurant has a bad night and maybe I went on a bad night, but if you're getting as much hype as you were (and I believe he was at the time and it looks like other hounder agree) than really there's no excuse. I saw him there that night working the kitchen and I'm pretty sure it's his responsibility to ensure that his food gets out on time - that's what head chef do. Even if I do blame the night on a "bad night" I still found the food to be simply ok. If you consider a 5 spice braised rib with 1 bok choy, on top of a bed of puree to be innovative and inspired, then I don't really think I can have a conversion with you - obvious we have different taste and expectations.

                          In terms of Susur being one of a few chefs in toronto to understand a tasting menu, well that's probably more of a comment on the quality of TO's food scene rather than his skill level. I can tell you that I've dined in a lot of restaurant(in other parts of the world) that fully understood what a tasteing menu was/is and how to execute it.

                          Again, please don't take what I'm saying to mean I have a hate on for Susur. He's a good chef, but I think there are much better ones out there. He might be the best chef in TO (sad if he is) but he's not even close to being the best in Canada.

                          My comment to the OP was just to warn them about the possibility of over anticipating one of Susur's establishments.

                          1. re: excel

                            Yeah, the point was that this thread was about Susur vs. Madelaine's not Susur vs. the World. I am sure El Buli is better than Susur's restaurants at 100x the cost and 10000000x less accessibility. Further, the NYC dining scene, overhyped as it is (I prefer the west coast to the east coast), has some restaurants I prefer to Susur's, all of which cost considerably more. As already pointed out by another poster, most of these restaurants would not likely survive in Toronto, or anywhere other than New York for that matter.

                            I have never had the dish you describe at Susur, so I can't comment on it. I can say his foie gras with house cured duck and broad bean sauce was one of the best foie dishes in Toronto, and one of the best I have had in Canada, coast to coast. Sure, Susur has had a few questionable dishes come out of his kitchen, but that is going to happen when you are taking some chances. Like I said before however, this made him more apt to produce a show stopping dish, like his foie. Also I can say this, he was one of the only chefs in Canada who understood the produce cycles of asian fruits and vegetables. Lychee in March, no thanks.

                            I am sure the vast majority of people on chowhound have dined at fine restaurants around the world. You have, I have, etc, etc. I would again reiterate that your one meal at Susur hardly places you in a position to rate it definitively as overrated. You were not wowed by your meal, period. Unless you dined there frequently and could say that this was typical of a meal there, that is all you can say. To go on and say he is not as good as this chef or that chef is extrapolating way too much from one experience. No good food critic would ever make broad sweeping statements based on one experience.

                            Toronto's food scene is good. It's not Montreal (heads and tails the best food in Canada overall imo) but at the high end it is not far behind. Vancouver may also have an upper hand but not by much. I lived there for a number of years and Vancouver's foodies would welcome a Susur with open arms. No other city in Canada can match the quality and diversity here in Toronto.

                            Whether Susur is the best chef in TO or not is a subjective call but one would be hard pressed to put forth a convincing argument why he would not be in the running. I would make the same argument vis-a-vis his status as a Canadian Chef. Few chef's in Canada are known as a must try foodie destination, Susur was one of them (this was the published opinion from many a food critic in Canada and abroad).

                            As for his restaurant in New York, critics have given him anywhere from 1 to 3.5 stars, thus demonstrating again both the subjectivity of food, and perhaps as well, Susur's strategy of producing memorable show stoppers at the risk of some less than memorable dishes. Given that I have yet to have a single meal at any restaurant where every dish was the best I have ever had of "that", I am prepared to take a few throw away dishes in order to have one or two best dishes in the meal. More often than not, I find most places play it safe and produce good, even great dishes consistently, but how often are you going to go back there when you can get that same consistency at the fine restaurant up the street. At least its different, and who knows, maybe better. This is why I rarely dine at Canoe, despite the excellent food and service, the excellence is matched closely by a number of restaurants in Toronto, and I can't say I ever ate anything at Canoe that was revolutionary or so memorable that I was craving it years later. I think what most foodies want is that one memorable dish out of the meal, the one you will be talking about/craving years later. That is why foodies went to Susur's restaurants in huge numbers, and that is why they will continue to. The 5 spice short rib is just the price of admission to something more glorious.

                            1. re: JPJ

                              Why are we even talk whether top restaurant from other cities can survive in Toronto ? It looks like even Toronto's top end restaurant like Splendido and Susur (his previous flagship restaurant) cannot survive here. This gives me an idea what Toronto's high end dining scene is like at this moment.

                              1. re: skylineR33

                                You're right!
                                Its much easier to find consistently good high end Chinese food in Toronto than Western food these days! For the latter, apart from Scaramouche, Canoe and George ( haven't been to the 'new' Splendido yet , so cannot say ). There really isn't a lot of choices. N44 and Truffles are always questionable!

                              2. re: JPJ

                                " Sure, Susur has had a few questionable dishes come out of his kitchen, but that is going to happen when you are taking some chances ".
                                Well, any reputable chefs will let his staff taste his creation, solicit their feed back before putting any new dishes on the menu. Questionable dishes should never be allowed to leave the kitchen and let money paying patrons act as taste testing guinea pigs!
                                Innovative chefs and kitchens such as Alinea, Fat Duck, French Laundry, WD-50, Pierre Gagnaire all have 'taste testing' staff meetings before any new additional dishes and revamped menus are to be presented to the public.
                                Knowing Susur's self assured and arrogant nature, may be he just by pass the taste testing part thinking all of his creations have star appeal?!!

                                1. re: Charles Yu

                                  here, here.

                                  If a chef is or wants to be considered amongst the best questionable dish just shouldn't happen. Yes, you're going to have dish you don't get or you don't agree with, but they shouldn't be uninspiring.

                                  1. re: Charles Yu

                                    Having eaten in Alinea, French Laundry and WD-50 I can assure you, testing notwithstanding, that they also have failures leave their kitchens.

                                    No quarrel that Susur is arrogant and thinks his food is beyond critic.

                                    1. re: Charles Yu

                                      Charles said:
                                      "...Knowing Susur's self assured and arrogant nature, may be he just by pass the taste testing part thinking all of his creations have star appeal?!!"

                                      To be fair to Susur, how many top rated chefs in the world don't have big egos?

                                      1. re: syoung

                                        Lots. I would say for every top chef in the world with an ego there's an equally talented chef with a humble personality.

                                2. re: JPJ

                                  I fully agree with you.

                                  I ate at Lotus once and a number of times at Susur, though not in its last year or so before Susur's departure. I always ordered the tasting menu. Each meal was an experience beyond anything I had tasted in Toronto. Would the meals have competed against the best of Paris, London, or New York City? Maybe not, but, alas, I live in Toronto, and at Toronto prices, I think he did a mighty fine job.

                                  Now, onto New York City, syoung pointed out, correctly, that there, Susur has stiff competition, and even his A game isn't winning 'em over.

                                  If I lived in New York City, would I be eating at the top restaurants? Probably not; my budget just won't withstand those prices. (A tasting menu at Per Se is $275.00 American!)

                                  That Susur was not in the top tier of restaurants around the world is no surprise to many, but Lotus and Susur, the restaurants, at their height, were the best Toronto had to offer, and would still be in Toronto's top tier, were they around today. Things haven't changed that much...

                                  For whatever reasons, Toronto seems less, not more, able to sustain its most expensive restaurants. Given this, I don't know how a Per Se would be able to open here and keep their tables full, at those prices. If anyone believed it possible, surely the opportunity would have been taken by now...

                                  Maybe, one day, Toronto will be that city, but for now, Susur's tasting menu from days gone by would certainly brighten up Toronto's food scene.

                                  1. re: Full tummy

                                    FYI, not all the top tier restaurant has a tasting menu that is $275 in NYC, many are much less. The last tasting menu I had at Susur was $140 CAD.

                                    1. re: Full tummy

                                      Folks, we've removed several posts discussing the dining scene in New York and elsewhere. Please keep this thread focused on Toronto. Comparisons to other cities will not help people eat better locally, which is the goal of this board.

                                      1. re: Full tummy

                                        JPJ - I have to agree with you that I would prefer west coast to east coast, if we're talking Canada. I too have lived in Vancouver for a number of years and think the food scene there is fantastic. I would beg to differ in terms of how close toronto is to Vancouver. I think Vancouver is a large step ahead. I will say the food scene has changed in Vanocuver recently and it seems like the new generation are more caught up in the style and look of the restaurant rather than the food.

                                        When I went to Susur's was right about the time Rob Feenies was starting to get his hype and I can tell you that the tasting menu at Feenies was light years ahead of Susurs. Now i'm not saying I'm a huge fan of Feenie, but his leave of execution and creativity was much better than what I experienced at Susured that night. This is just one example, Tojo was another restaurants that is/was light years head of Susur.

                                        OK, I've only been there 1 night, but it only takes 1 night to see what a chef has to offer. Critic base their review on a restaurant on 1 serving, they don't often go to a restaurant a numerous time before writing the review. So I'd have to disagree with you on that. I don't think it's really going to take me 10 visit before I understand what is good and what isn't. Again, I'm not saying that Susur can't cook, but just that there's better.

                                        In terms of creativity, well I guess I would have too go there a few time to really say if he is creative but on that night, nothing stood out not 1 dish. We had a wine that was marvelous though.

                                        I think Full Tummy is right, Susur is/was probably one of the best restaurants in Toronto, but I just wanted to let the OP know that just because it's one of the best in TO doesn't mean that it's really that ground breaking or jaw dropping. In fact, I thought Rain (back then) was better than Susur, in terms of flavours and creativity - that's of course if you like asian fusion.

                                        Again, if Susur was/is the best TO has to offer, I think that's more of a comment on the weak food scene here. I think Per Se wouldn't work here because most people here just wouldn't get it. Most people in TO would rather be seen in a posh restaurant than go there for the food. For most in TO Atmosphere 1, food 2.

                                        1. re: excel

                                          If you ever ate at Lotus, there was nothing in the decor to draw people; it was pretty much unmemorable. I remember the night I was there someone's chair collapsed, and not owing to any weight issues on the part of the diner. It was not designer's vision, but things changed at Susur. People dined at Lotus in droves because of the food. The place was very small, not really somewhere to "be seen". You need a larger place for that...

                                          Maybe Lotus was like our version of Per Se? At a price point that could be supported in Toronto.

                                          I think there are many people who would "get" Per Se, but I don't know that those could get it would always be in the elite group of those who could afford it...

                                          1. re: excel

                                            I was actually referring to the west coast of the US, but I agree that Vancouver is ahead of Toronto on the culinary scene currently, but I would disagree on how much.

                                            I love Rob Feenie's food, and have had his tasting menus on a number of occasions, I would disagree it was lights years ahead of Susur.

                                            I hated Rain, if Susur is arrogant, Rubino has a god complex. Worse, Rubino's skills don't even come close to matching his output, not sure where the self-confidence comes from. I was never so happy to expense meals, if I blew my own money at Rain I would be very sad. I will agree with you that many people that come to Toronto want to go to the "it" place, that is how I came to eat at Rain several times, unfortunately (clients always wanted to go there because they had "heard" of it).

                                            FYI: Critics may write a review about one visit to a restaurant but be assured, they visit more than once to assure themselves that any faults or high notes are not anomalous. Good critics do anyway, many are just glorified bloggers that don't care that they can ruin a good restaurant with irresponsible journalism.

                                            I agree with Full Tummy, there are lots of people in Toronto who would get Per Se, no doubt many people would show up here posting about how it was vastly overrated though. The real problem appears to be people in Toronto who think their opinion on food is the beginning and end.

                                          2. re: Full tummy

                                            I only ate at Susur's once and have never been to Madeline, so I can't compare the two. I wasn't a huge fan of my meal at Susur's, but it does seem like Toronto has lost something with his departure. He was a unique voice. His cooking demonstrated a large repertoire of techniques and ideas, something I don't see much of in the current scene of grilled meat and sauce.
                                            As far as Toronto sustaining an expensive high end restaurant, Eigensinn Farm, when it was open, was a 2 hour drive, $250 pp, and booked three months in advance. I'm sure Haisai when it opens will be similarly booked. I think, one reason, Chefs open up in NYC is not just for the money but for the added money which comes from the exposure. Ego is probably the other reason.

                                            1. re: dubchild

                                              You are right about that, but Eigensinn is open only a couple of nights each week. Sometimes it's closed for weeks or months, as Stadtlander pursues other projects. They seat fewer than 20 people, one seating per night. If you do the math, there don't need to be that many people willing to make a night/weekend out of a trip to rural Ontario and willing to part with the money, to fill Stadtlander's table for a year or even a decade.

                                              If Haisai opens (Internet searches reveal that the opening has been slated since 2008 but keeps on being put off), then I doubt it will be able to run like a typical restaurant, open most days each week, and charge at Eigensinn prices (I believe it's now $275/person at Eigensinn). Eigensinn is a destination, a one-off experience for many people who go there, something different than a restaurant. What would people be willing to pay to eat at the home of Susur Lee, or Rob Feenie, or Jean-Georges Vongerichten? This is the stuff of charity auctions...

                                              1. re: Full tummy

                                                We ate at Lee's on the weekend and found nothing to write home about (unlike Scaramouche, which was incredible). Lee's $1 corkage is a revelation - I'd definitely suggest you BYOB.. We planned to order several bottles of wine for our large party and asked for a small taste of the pinot noir served by the glass, only to be told we would have to purchase a glass if we wanted to taste it. I found this ingratious and officious, and unworthy of a restaurant in this price range. My politely stated request to share my perceptions of this policy with the manager was ignored.