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Madeline / old Susur CLOSED?

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Walking down King West today and the windows of Madaline (the old Susur) were covered in brown paper. No note or amnything saying they were renovating. Anyone know the scoop? I did not have time to inquire at Lee but they were open...

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Susur
601 King St W, Toronto, ON M5V1M5, CA

  1. A friend who works in the industry said it was up for sale. I imagine losing his co-chef and the chef at Lee's didn't help much. Considering the negative reviews for Shang, will Susur continue working with hotel groups? It will be interesting to see his next move.

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    Susur
    601 King St W, Toronto, ON M5V1M5, CA

    1 Reply
    1. re: dubchild

      Not sure what the next move will be, but the last one was opening Chinois by Susur Lee at the Hotel Michael in January. Haven't seen any reviews of that yet.

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      Susur
      601 King St W, Toronto, ON M5V1M5, CA

    2. Huh! Interesting! Thanks for the fyi.

      2 Replies
      1. re: jlunar

        They have a sign posted saying they are under reno and will open in May. I haven't seen their 'usual' contractor around though.

        1. re: Derksen

          They're closed for 2 months according to kitchen staff.

      2. I guess by now people have read that Susur is renovating the space to create a more intimate dining experience, which will focus on tasting menus. With every other big name chef going bistro, it leave a spot for someone to be crowned king. If he manages to prove his former hype, it will be good for the city.

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        Susur
        601 King St W, Toronto, ON M5V1M5, CA

        1 Reply
        1. re: dubchild

          Ooooh... really? Tasting menus? I miss them and while I enjoy its cheaper "prix fixe" cousin now and then, there's something about getting dressed up and going out for a special meal.

          Despite finding the final meal at Susur more than just a little lacking, I look forward to seeing what comes of it!!

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          Susur
          601 King St W, Toronto, ON M5V1M5, CA

        2. The beauty of a chef's tasting menu is that one can savour in a single meal, the creativeness and skill of the 'chef'. However, with so many things on Susur's plate right now ( Zentan in Washington, Shang in NYC, Lee & Madeline in Toronto as well as new projects in Singapore and elsewhere. Not to mention his involvement in Food TV programs ), I doubt we will be eating food prepared under his supervision. My guess is, food will be OK during the first few weeks, however once he leaves, whose tasting menu will we be eating? Especially, most tasting menu tend to revolve around availability of ingredients based on a day to day basis. How would he know and how would one expect him to design a chef's tasting menu, if he is miles away? So I guess it all boils down to how good the sous-chef of the 'new' Madeline is?!

          BTW, the only 'celebrity' chef's restaurants that I have eaten which have standard consistently good are the ' L'Ateliers' of Joel Robuchon. Whether its NYC, Hong Kong, Tokyo or Paris, the standard is equally and consistently high. However, Susur is no Joel Robuchon!!

          Lastly, every time I remember the ' 2 hours' rule imposed by his restaurants on the patrons, the arrogant way Susur participated in charity events like 2nd Harvest and lastly, the way he manipulated and re-massages certain traditional Chinese dishes and then labeled his own. All these are enough to turn me off! Frankly, even in the days of 'Susur and Lotus'. I find his cooking over-rated! The negative review of his NYC restaurant 'Shang' by New York food critics should tell us a thing or two?!!!

          20 Replies
          1. re: Charles Yu

            I don't think ANYBODY else is a Robuchon!

            I agree that Robuchon is the most consistent 'across the world'. However, even his Atelier in Paris was showing cracks when I was there earlier this year. Maybe he's stretched just a bit too thin now. But a brilliant chef - for influence he's still up there for me (with Ferran Adria).

            Back to Susur - I have 'mostly' been a fan (but never liked his backwards menu). I still recall Lotus as my all-time favourite place in Toronto (despite the cost, I went every month in his last year before closing).
            Last year I went to Madeline or Lee 8-10 times - significantly more than the restaurants of any other Toronto chef (but only once this year - there's been a dip recently).
            So I welcome any resurrection - it will just give me more choice than I have now.

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            Susur
            601 King St W, Toronto, ON M5V1M5, CA

            1. re: Charles Yu

              Agree that Robuchon stands in a class of his own. Though I must say I've had great enjoyment at Jean-Georges Vongerichten's restaurants and when I heard he was considering a Toronto outpost, I got very excited (plus Scott Conant and maybe Daniel Boulud too - crazy days!).

              As for Susur, I used to love Lotus. Like Palmerston, it was an intimate room where you guaranteed an interesting meal, freshly prepared and without totally breaking the bank. I wanted so badly to love Susur but I never did - always left feeling like I had spent way too much $ for a pretty unmemorable meal. I had a few decent meals at Lee but for whatever reason, it started to feel a bit stale to me. Never made it to Madeleines. I too will look forward to any new Susur attempts, though it does feel like he's spreading himself way too thin and to consistently less than stellar reviews these days.

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              Susur
              601 King St W, Toronto, ON M5V1M5, CA

              1. re: Charles Yu

                Susur's "arrogance" is a part of his persona that made him the man that he is. Maybe his on-air personality is different but when you speak with him on a one-to-one basis, he's not arrogant at all; surely confident, but still rather humble at times.

                And I'm not sure what you mean by manipulation of Chinese dishes and calling it his own, but manipulation and relabelling of traditional dishes isn't exactly new and done by all the top chefs in one form or another. Unless you're saying Susur is falsely claiming that he invented a traditional Chinese dish, I'm not seeing this as a turn off. I do agree, however, that his 2-hour rule is definitely a turn off and we have told him so.

                Re Madeline, whoever did the original design of the restaurant didn't do a good job, IMHO. It's dark with a somewhat '70'ish style gloominess and the ambiance didn't seem to fit the style of food being served.

                1. re: syoung

                  I don't get the criticism that of 'manipulating traditional Chinese dishes' either. If a chef reinterprets a classic dish and offers a unique take on it then why couldn't they call it their own? That's what great chefs do.

                  1. re: jamesm

                    There's enough said about Susur on this board. Basically, there are two camps. Either you love him and his food or you hate him . I just happen to be in the camp that think he is over-rated. Enough said!
                    As for taking traditional Chinese dishes, dressing it up to make it look pretty and try to wow the 'western palette and clientele'. He might fool some people but not all people~ A fine example is his presentation of the Chinese 'Dung Bo Pork Belly' or the Spicy salt and pepper fried calamari. No matter how fancy the plate presentation is, to a person like myself who grew up eating those in Hong Kong, it just a cosmetic job. To me Dung Bo pork belly is Dung Bo pork belly, whether you have a few decorative chives sticking from its side or gravy drawn into some fancy pattern or not!!
                    Its like being serve something like ' Crispy skin organic 'poulet' a la Susur' which in fact is nothing but a few pieces of Southern fried Chicken on a fancy plate.

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                    Susur
                    601 King St W, Toronto, ON M5V1M5, CA

                    1. re: Charles Yu

                      Well I'm embarassed that my unsophisticated western pallete has been duped by this charlatan.

                      1. re: Charles Yu

                        Why is it an offense to serve his take on Dung Bo pork belly? When we asked him about that, he said, IIRC, that it was actually a derivative of his mother's recipe that he had at home when he was a kid and his twist on the recipe was minimal because he said that he would do this dish unjustice otherwise. And do you really expect him to put Dung Bo Pork on his menu? It would be gobbledygook to most of his clientele.

                        As I said before, putting a fancy name on a traditional dish is done the world over... what does McEwan call his cheeseburger again? And I don't necessarily disagree with his overrated tag given his celebrity status, but by the same token, so is Batali, Flay, Ramsay and others in the same boat. But it's unfair to single only him out for culinary plagiarism.

                        1. re: syoung

                          While I am not really fond of the pork belly version I have at Susur which with the same price, I can get a whole pot instead of one piece, I think you are right, culinary plagiarism is all over the places. One of the biggest one is Nobu's invention of Miso cod, this dish has been around in Japan for generations !!

                          1. re: skylineR33

                            I think skylineR33 hit it right on! My major complain is that, for the same dish, but less fancily presented, one can get it elsewhere ( Chinese restaurant! ) for a fraction of the price! I'm not sure whether syoung was around when Susur opened up Lotus? But I paid $17 over 15 years ago for a plate of ' spicy salt and pepper calamari' appertizer ! IMO, it was outrageous and a rip off especially one can get the same dish as a dim sum in some Chinese restaurant for around $3 ( at that time )!!
                            As I eluded to previously, One either love or dislike Susur. For me, based on my culinary experience of over 30 years, I simply think that a lot of his dishes were over-rated. To each his own!! Period!
                            (BTW, based on the meals that I had at Babbo and Gordon Ramsay, IMO I think both of their food are over-rated too!!).

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                            Susur
                            601 King St W, Toronto, ON M5V1M5, CA

                            1. re: Charles Yu

                              I neither loved nor disliked Susur. I had some great dishes there, I had some failures there. I would say I liked his food overall, I liked the high notes enough to put up with the low ones. I also liked the fact that Susur took some chances, even when it fell flat. He must have known he would get criticized. When he opened Shang he had to listen to food critics who didn't have a fraction of his cooking knowledge complain that his restaurant wasn't 'Chinese' enough...that's helpful.

                              I can't use the term over rated as it applies to food, I either like it or I don't. The fact I don't like it doesn't make it over rated. Some of Susur's dishes that I didn't like were liked by my dining companions. When it comes to something as subjective as taste, how can you say one person or a group of people have taste that is over rating the food? Its a subjective opinion.

                              In terms of subjective opinions the food critics on Top Chef Masters appear to think Susur's food is good enough to give him the top score any chef has scored on that show yet. Combined they must have over 100 years of dining experiences, if that matters at all.

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                              Susur
                              601 King St W, Toronto, ON M5V1M5, CA

                              1. re: JPJ

                                All of my friends who have good knowledge of Chinese food think Susur's food is over-rated on certain dishes. I bet many of the Chinese foodies will think Susur's food is somehow overrated if you let them taste Susur's chinese-influenced food. The total dining experience will be easy over 100 hours if that matters.

                                Sometimes it is not that you don't like the food, many of the food is not bad at Susur. But if a Chinese who has high hope on Susur, as one of the top chef in Toronto, get food there which they have before but cost 5 times more, if you do not call those food over-rated, what do you call it ?

                                1. re: skylineR33

                                  I call wine markups far more egregious!
                                  At least Susur is putting work into a dish - whether you like it or not!
                                  On a bottle of wine, there is no value added (OK maybe good glassware and an ability to use a corkscrew on higher-end wines).
                                  Yet routinely restaurants charge tens, maybe hundreds of dollars for this 'service' (and expect a tip on top).
                                  My guess is that, even at "5 times more" the mark-up on that dish is dwarfed by the wine margin. And for substantially less work too.

                                  1. re: estufarian

                                    First we are talking about food here not wine, and second, my point is you can have the same kind of food on his chinese-influenced dishes, which is not particularly well-executed on a world level, at a chinese restaurant for much less money. You will probably be charged only $10 or null if you bring your own wine there too. But it seems you are getting used to the 5 times more mark-up.

                                  2. re: skylineR33

                                    If the price doesn't match their enjoyment or expectation of the dish than I call that an opinion on the quality of the dish compared to the price. When I encounter that I call it overpriced, not over-rated. This was my experience for instance at Buca, the food was good but not worth the prices being charged imo. A price to quality comparison is individual and subjective, I know the price, I taste the food and I figure out whether I would pay X amount for it. Comparing your opinion of someone's food to the general good opinion of it and calling it over-rated, suggests somehow that the people who liked it got it wrong, not sure how you can say that.

                                    Semantics aside we start to get into some pretty unhelpful speculation when we begin to talk about what many 'Chinese foodies' would think of Susur's dishes. What is our representative sampling here: 5, 10 maybe 20 people? Maybe the 'chinese foodie' wasn't Susur's target audience anyway, maybe he was just cooking for people, no matter what their culinary background, who might like his cooking. Given his success, that appears to be working for him.

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                                    Susur
                                    601 King St W, Toronto, ON M5V1M5, CA

                                    Buca
                                    604 King St. West, Toronto, ON M5V 1M6, CA

                                    1. re: JPJ

                                      I am particularly talking about his strong chinese influenced food, so of course people with strong background in chinese food knows better, at least those people know and have tasted what a great har gow or tofu...etc is like, which are food Susur provides in his menu. There are people who think food at Man Chu Wok or Thai express is great, so what do you think about this ?

                                      1. re: skylineR33

                                        Although I haven't eaten at Susur's restaurants I don't get why people are so resistant against upscaled versions of humble Chinese food while there is not quite the same backlash against upscaled versions of North American or European food. Apparently serving up a gussied up burger or mac and cheese or ratatouille is fine but dressing up salt and pepper squid or dong bo rou is not.

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                                        Susur
                                        601 King St W, Toronto, ON M5V1M5, CA

                                        1. re: Blueicus

                                          I don't know about you or others, but I am not fine with gussied up burger or mac and cheese or ratatouille.

                                      2. re: JPJ

                                        If it is all as subjective as you claim, and that no one can 'get it wrong' by definition, then there is no point even talking about this, which defies the purpose of this board. I think both over-rated and over-priced are legitimate ascriptions to food. and yes, it means some get it wrong

                                        1. re: shekamoo

                                          These type of threads pop up every now and again. I think shekamoo stated things well. The unfortunate problem with playing the subjective card is that it becomes a ploy to shut down the conversation. It might be helpful to make a distinction between moderate and extreme subjectivism. "No one can get it wrong" is extreme subjectivism, and a true dialogue can't really continue, because you have your way and I have mine. For a dialogue to take place some sort of agreement must exist, with food that usually comes down to technique. I hope we all agree that a burnt egg is bad. A scale can be built from bad to great, with all the shades in between. There will be moderate subjective views on what is great. An educated palette is one which has been repeatedly exposed to the benchmarks. I don't see a problem with someone claiming that they have had repeated exposure to a specific dish and that Susur's doesn't surpass the execution, and given the price is therefore over-rated. If there are people who have had repeated exposure to these dishes and find that Susur's execution does surpass all others and has created something sublime, then argue for it. There is, of course, the danger of someone claiming to be an authority also as a ploy to shut down the conversation. A poster can also hone in on one specific aspect of Susur's cooking and blow it up as if it presents his whole body of work. The great thing is anyone can come on this board and have their say, I just hope to hear things that are helpful.

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                                          Susur
                                          601 King St W, Toronto, ON M5V1M5, CA

                                          1. re: dubchild

                                            Nicely stated. A subjective discussion should involve details about the food, not evangelical sophistry about the chef.

                    2. Folks, since the new restaurant isn't open yet and the discussion is just speculation and continuing discussion about Susur's worth, we're going to lock the thread.

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                      Susur
                      601 King St W, Toronto, ON M5V1M5, CA