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Momofuku Shoto (long)

Hi everyone,

Here is a review of my recent experience at Momofuku Shoto. Short version - I liked it a lot. Long version is below if you'd care to peruse it. Full review with some photos is at:


190 University Avenue
Toronto, ON

Certainly, the expansion of David Chang’s Momofuku empire to Toronto has not been without its share of breathless hype. Chang is clearly a talented guy with his own rather effective aesthetic, to say nothing of great food; you don’t wildly succeed in a market as cutthroat as New York City without having some serious mojo. The announcement that he would be coming to town has come on a wave of similar announcements from other well-known culinary figures – we already have Scott Conant’s outpost of Scarpetta in the Thompson, for better or for worse, and we will be seeing Daniel Boulud putting his stamp on the glittery new Four Seasons in Yorkville very soon. Me, I’ve been pretty gleefully anticipating the opening of the local Momofuku chapter for a while now, noting the details as they trickled in on social media; the basic setup (3 restaurants, one bar, adjacent to the new Shangri-La), the names (Nikai, Daisho, Shoto, and a copy of New York’s Noodle Bar) and the specific details (Nikai – the bar, Daisho – the a la carte/large format place, Shoto – the prix fixe counter a la Ko). Finally, reservations became available. I decided when I was in New York in June to forgo dining at Ko and Ssam Bar in favour of trying the Toronto restaurants, and my first inclination was to choose the prix fixe, given my enthusiasm for these types of meals. So it was that I was able to secure a 6:00 solo reservation at Shoto on a date not long after the first service through the online reservation system (which was not as difficult as I suspected it might be).

Arriving at the restaurant (a “glass cube in the heart of Toronto”, according to the website, which seems a reasonable if somewhat fantastical description), I navigated past the line for Noodle Bar and was whisked upstairs by the staff to the third floor host, who asked me if I had a copy of my confirmation (I did not; note that they will ask for this if you are planning to dine there, but in the end it didn’t seem to be a problem). I was taken and seated at the counter, which is in a corner of the floor behind a half-wall separating it from Daisho which takes up the remainder of the space. I was the first to arrive for the evening and was greeted by Chef de Cuisine Mitch Bates and Sous Chef Peter Jensen, who were prepping for the evening’s service. As other diners started to trickle in, I was offered a delicious, warm and buttery roll to start the evening’s festivities.

Drink options were outlined at this point. There is a full pairing, which includes a beverage pairing with each course, a short pairing with every other course, and a brief but interesting a la carte wine list. Not one to do anything in half-measures, I opted for the full pairing, and in short order the amuse courses started to arrive, with a sparkling non-vintage chardonnay blend, Tissot “Cremant” from the Jura region of France poured as an accompaniment. The first amuse was a smoked trout in a cauliflower puree, and given my predilection for anything smoked it’s not surprising I found this very tasty, with the acidity of the bubbly cutting nicely through the richness of the fish.

The second amuse was a lovely and sweet corn soup with a hit of what I thought was sriracha in the bottom but evidently was some sort of Korean hot sauce. A sprig of cilantro gave the dish a bit of a Mexican feel. Again, the sparkling wine was a perfect foil.

It was at this point that I started to take note of the music being played. Over the course of the evening I would hear selections from Wilco, Neil Young, Stereolab, the XX, The National, My Bloody Valentine, Lou Reed, and others, all of which I loved – it was almost as if my iPod had been hijacked by the Shoto team. The staff was digging it too – I was quietly singing along to Arcade Fire’s Neighbourhood #1, only to look over at Chef Bates doing the same. When Ace Frehley’s “New York Groove” came gleefully stomping through the restaurant’s sound system (Chang’s shout out to his home base, no doubt) I’m sure I was grinning like an idiot, because it just felt, well, so damned right. Jensen confided to me that Chang spends a pretty fair chunk of time tweaking the playlist to get it exactly the way he wants it. I, for one, certainly appreciated the effort, though admittedly if your tastes run to Chopin or Debussy you may not be as appreciative.

The first course was described as “fluke, caper, dill, turnip”, and was actually composed of a lovely and clean crudo of fluke with crispy onion, sprigs of dill, thinly sliced raw turnip, and a creamy sauce which ended up being horseradish based. Normally I’m not a big fan of crudo, but this worked beautifully, the slight bite of the horseradish providing a great counterpoint to the mildness of the fish and the onions a further layer of complexity. It was probably the best crudo dish I’ve ever had, and was paired with a 2010 Domaine du Poujol “Pico” from the Languedoc in France, which added a great citrus note complementing the fish.

Course number two, “sepia, tomato, harissa”, was tender, sweet cuttlefish, sepia being the Greek term for both the cuttlefish and its ink. The presentation included lots of flavors on the plate evoking the Mediterranean and specifically North Africa, with blanched plump cherry tomatoes sans skin, and the harissa fried into little croutons of couscous which provided this incredible explosive burst of cumin and coriander and spice when you bit into them. Hidden at the bottom of the dish was a small smear of cuttlefish ink. Looking back on the meal as a whole I think this was my favorite course of the night; inventive yet entirely balanced. It was paired with an Italian white from Friuli, Tocai Fruliano I Clivi, which had a nice minerality made for drinking with seafood.

On to course number three, “daikon, plum, Brussels sprouts, curry”, which consisted of a braised piece of daikon in a mild curry with roasted leaves of Brussels sprouts over the top. The sprouts were the star of the plate for me, with a nutty roasted flavor that really carried the dish, lifting the mild flavor of the daikon and light curry spice. On paper, this is one of those combinations that would ordinarily leave one scratching one’s head a bit, but it really worked well. It was paired with a sake, a house Junmai from Kazoeman in Gifu, Japan. Again, I didn’t think this would work with Brussels sprouts, but it did, with a surprising sweet richness that stood up to the nuttiness.

The fourth course, “egg, dashi, horseradish, ikura” was one of only a couple of courses which didn’t totally work for me over the course of the evening. I found that the egg really got lost in the overwhelming umami of the dashi broth, but I did enjoy the textural counterpoint between the creamy egg and the fishy pop of the ikura, and while it wasn’t a total home run, it was still pretty tasty. The pairing was with a sparkling rose from the Loire valley, Agnes et Rene Mosse “Moussamoussettes”. It was slightly sweet with plenty of acidity to temper the umami flavours in the dish, and a lovely fruity nose.

The next few offerings, by contrast, were stunners. “Spaghetti, nori, sardine, lumpfish roe” was a dish of perfectly cooked spaghetti in a savory, peppery, lightly oceanic sauce, with intensely salty and flavorful fried sardines that were phenomenally tasty. This was also poured with one of my favorites, a 2011 Nigl “Gartling” Gruner Veltliner, with abundant apple, stone fruit, and a slight pepper note. Gruners are always food friendly and this wine is no exception.

“Lobster, tandoor, lemon, fava” was buttery lobster tail cooked perfectly with tandoor spices, an intense puree of lemon, and fava beans, which are normally an ingredient I find a bit boring but within the context of the dish their delicate, spring-like flavor was very nice. The wine poured with this one was the best of the night, a 2009 Viognier from Stratus Wines in Niagara-on-the-Lake. It was a monster of a wine, buttery and rich and nicely oaked with great fruit and good acid. I have some of the Stratus wines in my cellar and quite like them; somehow I have missed this one over my trips there, and they are currently sold out but if they ever offer it again I will be getting a case posthaste.

“King oyster mushroom, macadamia, barley” was a gorgeously earthy mushroom covered in a macadamia foam and served over creamy barley grains. I noted an interesting citrus note which provided a refreshing contrast to the earth/nut/butter flavors in the dish; when asked, Chef Jensen volunteered that there was indeed some lemon in there (“a little surprise at the bottom”, as he put it). The first beer pairing of the night was poured with it, Asahi Black Lager, which tasted more like a stout and as one would expect married well with the hearty taste of the mushroom.

The final course before dessert was “veal cheek, green chili, Sichuan”. The piece of veal cheek was cooked sous vide and was sublimely tender; however, I would have liked a bit more spice on the plate, as the chili was fairly mild for my tastes. My server told me that about one in twenty of these chilies (I forget the exact variety) really blasts someone with heat. I certainly didn’t get one of those. I did like the wine, a Norman Hardie 2010 Pinot Noir from Prince Edward County and one which I’ve had several times.

The dessert courses began with “banana, cashew, mint, gula jawa”, which was paired with an ale from Bellwoods Brewery in Toronto called Lost River. I wondered to myself how this could possibly work, but it did, and the thing that actually tied the two together was the roasted sesame flavor in the dish which matched well with the malty, slightly nutty, almost toffee like taste of the ale.

Finally, the last course of the night was “hootenanny, orange, maple” and was described as a sort of breakfast for dessert: a small, light, delicious griddle cake with flavors of sausage and cinnamon, and maple ice cream with a bit of candied orange. I found it a very unusual and creative way to end the meal. It was paired with a sparkling rose, a Bugey-Cerdon from Patrick Bottex, which was refreshing and low in alcohol (appreciated as I had by this time of the night had rather a lot to drink).

I truly enjoyed my meal here and will be very interested to see where David Chang’s staff will take Shoto in the future. I plan on probably coming back about every six months or so just to see how it evolves. The meal was not cheap; $150 for the tasting plus $80 for the wine pairings, however I felt it was worth it and the cost was certainly in line with similar places I’ve been to. I can only surmise that having such a place on the Toronto culinary landscape will be a good thing, and as innovation tends to beget innovation we Toronto diners should all be winners.

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  1. Thanks for the report. Eventually I plan on making it to Shoto. It looks like some serious thought went into the beverage pairings and it's nice to see that some of our local products are included. Would you say this was the best dining experience you've had in Toronto?

    1 Reply
    1. re: dubchild

      I don't know if it was the best dining experience I've ever had in Toronto; I had a couple of great meals at Splendido. It would absolutely be top five.

    2. Seems like we almost 'rendevous'd' again.
      We had the almost identical menu.
      Agree, an excellent meal showing great promise.
      I wasn't as enthused about the wine pairings. Although good (mostly) I found the Viognier bizarre (aromaticaly fine but clumsy in taste); and the Bugey-Cerdon more of a 'pop-wine' than a serious one. I also liked the sake but found more earthy notes rather than the sweetness you found.
      But an excellent meal - one of my best in Toronto this year. There were several service mis-steps, but I cut them some slack there as it's only just opened.

      And enjoy Chicago - whatever you do don't cancel Schwa - consistently excellent (for me) with the last 2 visits being the best.

      1 Reply
      1. re: estufarian

        Yes, we seem to haunt the same establishments, don't we?

        As I mentioned I found the Viogner very much to my taste, but I do agree about the Bugey-Cerdon. It wasn't up to much, but I was pretty tipsy by this time (the pours I got were rather generous) and if they'd thrown a port or something at me it might have been a bit too much.

        I have every intention of going to Schwa (provided they do service the night I'm there!) and am also pretty excited about Elizabeth and Goosefoot.

      2. Thank you for a great review, dined here with my SO two days ago (and did Daisho the very next day!)

        I think the cuttlefish dish was a misstep - mine was certainly not tender, although it had a nicely charred flavour.

        The spaghetti with sardine was perfect, my favourite moment of the night and a knockout dish.

        The meal for both of us came close to $600 with only one wine pairing (she doesnt do whites so went with a half bottle). At that price point for me, I don't think there is enough value in the ingredients being used. A bit of lobster and quail were the two most expensive I identified. I know that the care, technique and flavour should be all that matters, and many of the dishes were very very good.

        However if I look at the meal as a whole, for $600 I would want an incredible experience, worthy of consideration as a top 10. I think 3 or 4 dishes were incredible, with the rest being tasty and a couple being meh.

        Also, and this may be nitpicky - I found the kitchen staff a bit surly and the plate descriptions too short and not informative enough, we had to ask a lot of follow up questions (which they did answer)

        1. Great report! I'm a big fan of Momofuku Ko in NYC, and was hoping to find a detailed report of Shoto; thanks! I don't believe that I've had any of the dishes at Ko that were on your menu so it's apparent that Chef Mitch didn't merely transplant what was on the menu in NYC to Toronto. I've always found the food at the Momofuku restaurants (and especially Ko) to be very creative, and will now need to schedule a visit to Toronto to dine at all of your new Momofuku restaurants! Two interesting differences between Shoto and Ko: at Shoto you were able to take photos, and you received a printed menu.

          7 Replies
          1. re: ellenost

            I actually wondered about whether the place would be a carbon copy of Ko. It seems like they're trying to make it a distinct experience, though certainly there are similarities.

            1. re: gourmandish

              The format is pretty much identical - but let's be fair, Shoto is still finding its feet.
              With approx 50% more seats at Shoto - and even those more widely separated, there seems to be less interaction between diners and chefs (and also between diners). By my count the same number of kitchen personnel in both places.
              Also the noise from Daisho (and the bar) (and the other floors) makes Shoto a more hectic venue than Ko.
              I rated the food at Shoto very close to Ko - except maybe fewer 'wow' courses (but all competent). Service was definitely a 'work-in-progress'.
              Wine selections were definitely below Ko - let's see if that changes over time.

              Overall certainly one of the 'finer' establishments in Toronto - but more competition in New York. If I lived in Chicago (say) I'd recommend going to Ko. But if already in Toronto, then Shoto is a very good approximation.

              Ko is probably in my top 10 meals anywhere of past year and Shoto in top 3 in Toronto - but only 1 place in Toronto makes the top 10 of the year (not trying to be mysterious here - just not relevant to this thread; regular Hounds will already know what it is!).

              1. re: estufarian

                I'm curious to know so when I do visit Toronto, I'll know where to dine. Thanks.

                1. re: ellenost

                  Splendido - but a recent thread here suggested that males seem to make this #1, whereas females prefer George!

                  Of course, given the dining options in New York - Splendido may be too similar to all the French/ital/California options you already have.

                  Edited to add that for a NY visitor I'd suggest checking out our other Asian cuisines - review Charles Yu posts for the best places in Toronto (albeit mostly in suburbs).

                    1. re: estufarian

                      Totally agree with estufarian's suggestions - I love Splendido, and it is well worth taking the trip out of downtown for (among other Asian cuisines) some of the best Cantonese food in North America, IMHO. Charles's posts are definitely a great place to start.

                      1. re: gourmandish

                        Thank you both for the very helpful suggestions. I've enjoyed reading Charles' posts on the Manhattan board.

            2. Went with a friend over the weekend.

              Was seated promptly and drink menus were presented. We generally don't drink when we are out eating so we opted just for water which seemed to confuse our server as she came back multiple times to make sure we didn't want any alcohol. Prices looked ridiculous anyway.

              We had four amuses (which can be seen in the photos below). The first and third were good but nothing great. The second - rice cube with pork fat - was an interesting idea but it needed something else to spice up the one dimensionality of the bite. The fourth was the standout by far with both of us commenting we could go for a bowl of this soup and a nice hunk of bread. The lamb belly pieces within the soup were full of flavour and everything melded nicely.

              The first course was "fluke - caper, dill, turnip." Nice combination of flavours and textures. Quite liked the crispy leek rings on top of everything. The softness of the fluke, the crunch of the turnip and the crispiness of the leek really combined for a nice mouthfeel. Definitely in the upper tier of the courses on offer that night.

              The second course was "geoduck - squash, black soy." There was slight confusion when the dish was presented to us as we both thought we heard gouda instead of geoduck and were immediately confused. We then thought we had misheard and that he had said grouper but upon tasting it was obvious it wasn't. It was only until we saw the geoduck being prepped in the kitchen that we made the connection. The flavours were nice but the fact that I have nothing more to say about it speaks for itself.

              The third course was "goose wonton - brussels sprout, shiitake." I quickly understood that the kitchen had a deft hand with broths/soups. The wontons were full of flavour and the goose consomme it was all sitting in was delicious. Excellent balance of flavours but unfortunately the brussels sprouts were left hanging. They didn't add anything to the dish and their flavour didn't harmonize with the overwhelming goose flavours in the wontons and broth.

              The fourth course was "egg - dashi, horseradish, ikura." I love ikura so this was very quickly an instant win for me. It could have used a touch more horseradish as I didn't pick up on it that much but otherwise a definite win. Contrary to gourmandish's comment on it, I thought there were no issues with the ikura getting lost and while not perfect it was well above the next course which seems to have fans on this board.

              The fifth course was "spaghetti - nori, sardine, lumpfish roe." This was probably the most confusing dish for me. And interesting to note that both gourmandish and themiguel were highly impressed by it. The flavour of neither the nori nor the roe came through and I found the entire thing limp, flavourless and just plain boring. I'd rank it at the bottom of all the savoury courses served.

              The sixth course was "monkfish - vadouvan, yogurt, carrot." Expertly cooked piece of fish - very tender and not chewy (a huge pet peeve of mine), great flavour from the vadouvan and nice creaminess from the yogurt to balance it out.

              The seventh course was "sunchoke consomme - sunflower granola, foie gras, black pepper." A successful dish except for the idea of putting the super cold slice of foie on there and letting it be warmed up by the broth. The initial bites provided a confused contrast and only towards the end when the foie was warmed did the flavour combinations make sense. Nice crunch and flavour from the granola and again the broth shone through.

              The eighth course was "veal cheek - green chili, sichuan." A very good final savoury course. Veal cheek was very well cooked. Super tender and delicious. I found more than enough spice(and im not averse) on the dish which balanced the sweetness of the meat very well. The largest and most filling of all the courses without a doubt. Upon completion I was left thinking why the kitchen didn't cook more red meat as part of the tasting as it was clear they knew what they were doing.

              The first desert course was "banana - cashew, mint, gula jawa." It was good but I thought the mint didn't really contribute anything to the overall harmony of flavours.

              The last desert course was "hootenanny - orange, maple." Not a bad effort but felt amused with the maple flavoured ice cream. I was hoping for something a bit more creative considering the stereotypes of Canada.

              Service all night was very prompt. Constant water filling and cutlery changing without delay. I will say though that none of the staff - service or kitchen - were warm in demeanour. There was a robotic nature to things which rubbed me the wrong way and was surprising considering how welcoming and friendly the hostess' at the podium for Daisho were.

              I would also add that it seemed there was a clear mix of people at Shoto that were truly interested in what the kitchen was putting out vs people who weren't interested at all but just had money to spend and wouldn't even give the chefs time to explain what they were about to eat. The chefs were particularly peeved with one corner of the table.

              Overall I'd say a worthwhile experience to try something new and interesting with my favourite courses being the veal cheek, the lamb belly soup amuse, and the ikura dish. My least favourite by far the spaghetti dish. I'd be interested in seeing how the menu evolved with time but I suppose it is most telling that at this time I don't think there is good value for dollar and that it isn't worth the $150pp.

              9 Replies
              1. re: radiopolitic

                Great review Radiopolitic, fully agree with your final assessment for the place. An interesting, often tasty experience but not good value for the price. And yes, I too thought the kitchen crew was a bit cold , I used the word surly, but cold is more accurate.

                1. re: radiopolitic

                  were you there on the Saturday? we were there as well and I think I know which section of the tavle you are referring to. I agree with your general comment in that I found the food not worth the price at all, particulalry given the reputation of Chang. So very few courses were better than average or in any ways interesting or memorable. Competent decent kitchen, but I expected oh so much more.

                  1. re: shekamoo

                    Yeah, Saturday. We were directly to the right of the corner that the chefs weren't too pleased with. My friend had a Lumix camera that looks a bit retro on the exterior.

                    Ian from Grand Electric was at the corner to the right of us.

                    It was a disappointment given the reputation of Chang indeed. As much as I don't care for Mallet, I think the National Post review that came out the weekend before metered my expectations a bit or I would have been even more disappointed.

                    1. re: radiopolitic

                      Interestingly enough I just chatted with an acquaintance the other day who said it was the best meal they have ever had in Toronto, and claimed it was better than his meal at French Laundry!

                      Different strokes for different folks....

                      1. re: themiguel

                        I agree with the French Laundry comparison.
                        I disagree that it's the best in Toronto (by a wide margin)!

                        1. re: estufarian

                          I would skip French Laundry then...

                          1. re: estufarian

                            Estufarian, you agree that its better than French Laundry, or that the style is similar to French Laundry?

                            1. re: themiguel

                              Better than - different style.
                              But French Laundry is 'more overrated' - if I can mangle the language a little!

                        2. re: radiopolitic

                          I remember the camera! we were on the south side of the table, the entrance side.

                          themiguel, my meal at Haisai was definitely better than this, and I think that Canoe, Splendido, Auberge, and many other fine dining establishments in Toronto are capable of producing comparable food at a lower price. This was really nothing special. Maybe as they evolve...

                    2. I went about a week ago with the hubby and while it was not the best meal ever, I'd rate it pretty high! I agree that the tasting menus I've had at Spendido and Sushi Kaji are comparable. But can't say I've had as creative food in Canoe or Auberge or George.

                      When I go out for a tasting menu, I look at not just the ingredients and execution but also the creativity of the chef. Lots of places in Toronto can put out well executed food. But part of the experience is seeing the chef's creativity and getting a glimpse of how his mind works.

                      I think that's why David Chang has the reputation that he does. It's not because he's the best chef, but because he's gutsy, and passionate, and thinks outside the box. That's also why I love reading his cookbook. It's inspirational to see someone who is so passionate about the creative process that goes into his craft. And like art, one may not necessarily agree with it or like it, but it challenges one to stop and take pause.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: ctl98

                        not intending to be unduly challenging, but honestly, I looked all night for outside-the-box stuff, and the more I looked the less impressed I was with my search. So I want to say something about my meal at Shoto and the Box, despite my general unfoodielike preference not to get analytic about food.

                        Some of the stuff that lies ordinarily outside the box, belongs outside the box. The box has walls and demarcations for a reason...this applied to most of the dishes that started the meal, where the combinations I found unnecessarily complicated the life of a main ingredient like geoduck that could have had a beautiful simple life inside the box.

                        As for the latter, heavier part of the meal, the veal cheek and the monkfish were quite inside-the-boxy dishes, and the frozen foie gras consommé was just simply gross (in fairness this was the only ‘bad’ dish of the night for me).

                        The only dish I really thought interesting and refreshing was the grilled rice with pork fat. Enough said there.

                        1. re: shekamoo

                          Not unduly challenging at all! We each have our own opinions and really, in the end, food is about preference :) Hey we can agree to like Zen and disagree on Shoto, right?

                          Our menu was slightly different and I'm sure that's the risk any kitchen takes with an ever changing menu. Two people can go on different nights and have completely opposite experiences.

                          For intstance, a poster above said the service was a bit surly while we had amazing service from one of the more junior chefs. He seemed very excited about each plate and really wanted to know what we thought of each dish. He's local (maybe that's why) and at the end of the evening we actually traded notes on our favorite places to eat.

                          As far as 'outside the box' goes, I agree that there are certain things that should be kept inside that box...like sublime sushi. We had several dishes though in Shoto that were very creative, I thought.

                          1. Amuse #2 was a cauliflower 'puree' that had the texture of chawan mushi, topped with smoked trout and a few other things. I thought the smokiness of the fish and the nuttiness of the cauliflower worked so well together. One of the best cauliflower preps I have ever had.

                          2. Amuse #3 was a seared beef heart sandwich. DH really liked this one. I thought the heart was seared well, and kept just rare enough to keep the heart from becoming tough.

                          3. Amuse #4 was the grilled rice. A very unexpected pop of flavour in such a small bite.

                          4. Amuse #5 was braised radish with sweet corn. Again, excellent balance of heat, sweet and bite. I could've eaten a bowl of this.

                          There were a few other stand out dishes: fluke, mushrooms with barley and macadamia, lobster with tandoori spices, etc.

                          So all in all, after 3 hours of eating and chatting, I was happy to pay what we did.

                          1. re: ctl98

                            Very true re Zen: The thought that the Shoto meal costs equal to two dinners at Zen really really bothers me hahaha

                      2. Went to Shoto on Saturday for a special celebratory dinner. We entered in the main Momofuku door, which leads right into the loud, busy noodle bar and were greeted by a somewhat frazzled host with an iPad who instructed us to go upstairs to the restaurant. With a tonne of prospective diners just standing all around the Noodle bar, waiting to be called for a table, it all felt a bit hectic and disorganized.
                        We had a very similar menu as the OP, which is interesting in retrospect because I would have thought the menu would change daily/weekly. First of all, the way service works at Shoto is that the chefs serve (and describe) your courses, while a few other servers walk around the seating bar to replace cutlery and glassware, remove soiled dishes, and pour (and describe) drinks. We both felt that this experience left a lot to be desired in terms of overall experience. The chefs, while friendly, seemed very annoyed each time they had to stop what they were doing to serve and describe a dish. The other servers (responsible for drink pours etc) did not really have much of an opportunity to interact with us diners, and that was definitely something I missed.
                        Speaking of drinks, I found the pairing combinations somewhat unusual. A number of the offerings (maybe 4?) were sparkling wine, which I don't mind, but it's definitely not a popular choice for many. Other than the sparkling, there was one red, a sake, a beer (which neither of us were a fan of), and a delicious cocktail with some fruit puree, cinnamon and wine. Regardless of the mediocre choices, I found the price point ($80 for 10 pours of 2 oz or more) very appropriate.

                        As for food, I found some dishes worked beautifully, and others, not so much.

                        Manitoba Roll- A flaky, buttery pastry (like so deliciously buttery, I saw some little pea-size bits of butter still inside). My only complaint was that the top of the bun was a bit dry and stale- these would have been much more appealing had they not been sitting long at all.
                        Sea Urchin with Cranberry and Almond Garnish- My partner thought this was one of the top dishes of the night, but I had a hard time with the flavour profile. The combination of a strong fish aroma with the mildly sweet cranberry jelly was a little too much of a reach for me to make.
                        Grilled Octopus with Tandoori Sauce and Breadcrumbs- This was a nice dish. The octopus was cooked perfectly, and I liked the mild heat and sweet aroma of the Indian inspired sauce.
                        Celeriac Soup with Lamb Belly and Apple- This was probably one of my top dishes of the night. The soup was creamy and luscious, but not heavy or thick. The lamb belly, much like pork belly, offered a crispy textural contrast, but with a more deep, gamy flavour. With all of those rich, fatty elements, that little bit of brunoise apple offered a sweet and mildly sour note. A really well composed amuse.
                        Fluke with Capers, Dill and Turnip- The fish was tender, and flavourful, and while I appreciated the freshness from the dill, I was a little overwhelmed by the sulfurous aroma of the turnip. I know, that's turnip, but there are ways to minimize that.
                        Geoduck with Squash and Black Soy- I can't say I am a huge fan of the geoduck texture in general, but I found the flavour profile appealing where the sweetness of the squash was beautifully complemented by the salty black soy.
                        Goose Wonton with Brussels Sprouts and Mustard Oil- Again, with the sulfurous aroma, but the flavours going on were so delicious, I made my nose shut down. The wonton filling was rich, moist, with a delicate gaminess, while the casing was tender with a satisfyingly chew. The broth was absolutely addictive. It was light but complex, salty, but palatable, and had a mild buzz of heat from the mustard. I would have traded one of my wine pairings for a 2 oz pour of this broth.
                        Slow cooked Egg, Dashi and Horseradish-The dashi was flavourful, but a little heavy on the strong fish flavours, so much so that I could not detect any horseradish.
                        Spaghetti with Nori, Fried Sardines and Lumpfish Roe- This was again a star dish. The pasta was cooked perfectly, and dressed in a tight savoury sauce that was really enhanced by the crispy salty sardines. It was a bit of a salt bomb, but when you're talking about sardines, those kinds of flavours are totally welcome.
                        Roasted Monkfish with Vadouvan (a French curry), Yogurt Foam, and Carrots- A beautifully composed dish. The fish was moist and tender, and a perfect vessel for the deeply aromatic, slightly sweet curry sauce, and the carrots were perfectly cooked. The yogurt foam had a pleasant creamy, but light texture, and a slightly tangy spiced flavour that complemented both the protein and veg on the plate.
                        Sunchoke Consomme with Foie Gras, Black Pepper and Sunflower Granola- I can't say this is the best foie gras dish I have ever had, but I have a theory that foie gras is pretty much always going to be good. And it definitely was. The consomme had a mellow sweet nutty aroma, which is really the essence of jerusalem artichokes. I particularly enjoyed the caramelized crunchy granola in stark counterpoint to the buttery foie gras torchon. It was nice to have a foie gras dish that really effectively balanced salty and sweet.
                        Veal Cheek with Green Chili and Sichuan Peppercorn- After a lot of fish and sea-food, I was really looking forward to some meat, and this was a generous portion of rich meat. With a pleasantly mild sweet glaze, the veal cheek was perfectly cooked with lots of rendered fat to cut all the heat on the plate. I just loved the numbing sensation from the peppercorn, and those smokey, toasty, slightly caramelized flavours of the chili. And while there was a substantial amount of pepper going on, it was all beautifully layered, palatable and not overwhelming in the least.
                        Banana Ice Cream with Cashew Butter, Mint, Gula Jawa and Dried Banana Bread- This was an unusual dish in that I found it difficult to identify whether it was best classified as sweet or savoury. The banana ice cream was a smooth as a dream, but lacked any distinct banana flavour or even sweetness. I enjoyed the sticky rich mouthfeel of the cashew butter, but there wasn't much sweetness coming out of that component either. Similarly, the crumbly crispy banana bread offered a nice textural contrast to the satin like ice cream, it didn't provide any distinct sweet or banana flavour. As long as I kept in my mind that this was a savoury course (which I'm not sure that it was), I enjoyed it.
                        Hootenanny (Country Pancake) with Maple Sorbet, Crumbled Sausage and Candied Orange- This was a hit and miss kind of dessert. The sorbet was beautiful, with lots of big aromatic flavour, and like the banana ice cream, lusciously smooth. I appreciated the smokey, spicy note from the crispy sausage, which also added a nice textural contrast, and the brightly sweet tangy flavour of the orange. My main issue with the dessert was the pancake, which while texturally delightful, was a little eggy for me. Actually, the whole dessert smelled a bit like cooked eggs, and that was pretty much all I could taste. I would have been happier had this bit been left off the plate.
                        Take Home Treat: House-made Pickles, Kimchi, BBQ Sauce and Sesame-This was a really interesting idea, as usually when you're sent home with goodies, they're of the sweet variety. I obviously wasn't going to dive into my vacuum pack that night when I got home after all this, but I did bust it out as a mid-day snack on Sunday. The pickles were delicious, a perfect balance of sweet, heat and tangy, and I also loved the slightly spicy Kimchi, which managed to retain its crunch fairly well. I wasn't crazy about the BBQ sauce though, which I found a bit grainy, thin, and flat in its flavour.
                        So for two tasting menus, a half drink pairings and full drink pairings, the bill was over $500 including tax and tip. Was I completely blown away? No, particularly not for the price. Was I really disappointed? Not necessarily. I can say that I don't think that Toronto's Momofuku Shoto really has lived up to its legacy, but that I can't completely expect that it should. It's still very young in its culinary life, and there is plenty of time to work out the kinks and menu. It was an enjoyable and creative meal and I really appreciated some of the menu risks (most of which I found successful), but it was a sub-par overall experience, and for that, it left me a little underwhelmed and unsatisfied. So for me, I certainly would not cross Shoto off of my return-to list, but that it will have to be limited to special occasions, and be down the road sometime once we've seen some growth happen.

                        See http://abbeyskitchenblog.blogspot.ca/ for pictures etc.

                        1. Went there recently. Loved the food. Reminds me of Kaji and Hashimoto (before they doubled their prices). Would definitely go back for special occasions. Other posters described the dishes in depth, so I won't (and can't in any case). Our servers were great. The chef who served us was from Toronto and very friendly and great to watch.

                          1 Reply
                          1. Chris Nuttall-Smith in the Globe: Momofuku Shoto: Yes, it’s the best restaurant in Toronto. Here’s why


                            17 Replies
                            1. re: canmark

                              I haven't had a better meal in Toronto this past year, so yeah, co-sign.

                              1. re: canmark

                                I was a bit surprised by the review; my experience matched almost precisely to the comments made by radiopolitic/themiguel/shekamoo. Offhandedly, I can only think of one dish that I found really striking; the rest of the dishes I found were, by turns, interesting, boring, or just not very good. And we also had some service issues which wound up making us feel pretty uncomfortable.

                                1. re: ggom1

                                  Thank you, I agree. It was definitely not my best meal (no where close) in Toronto so I was a bit disappointed for the price. There wasn't really any stand out amazing dishes that struck me and stuck with me, and there were even a few that I didn't care much for at all... best restaurant in TO? I'm not so sure, especially given the price tag and expectation of its brand.

                                2. re: canmark

                                  forget the Globe, even a 4 star review from NY Times wont make this place worth the money it charges in my book. best restaurant in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, whatEVER

                                  1. re: shekamoo

                                    shekamoo, in my books, having been twice, IMO is is better than anything in this city and it is well worth it. that said, there is no use in having a debate on these boards these days anyway.

                                    1. re: limitedtimeoffer

                                      Obviously there is nothing to debate if nothing critical is offered and instead all we get is empty statements like "IMHO it was good"

                                      1. re: dubchild

                                        I dont know if I am being accused of offering nothing critical here, in which case I would refer you to my posts above in my debate with ctl98 where we discussed the 'outside the box' quality of the food at Shoto, as well as my point about the price as compared to places like Haisai. I am suspicious of overly analyzing food so I tend to refrain from dissecting the food but rather to focus on my general enjoyment.

                                        I think the food is just not good enough for the very high price. It is not consistently creative, most of the creative dishes are not successful, and as a whole Chang fails to live up to the reputation of a world class chef in Shoto. $500 for two people is simply too much money for this. I was in Spain this summer, I went to Mugaritz, Arzak, Akelarre, San Pau, Can Roca, etc. all in the same price range, none of them even comparable to Shoto. I dont generallt compare Toronto food with that of Catalonia, but Chang has the reputation that invites the comparison. I went, I ate, I compared, and Chang comes up short big time.

                                        1. re: shekamoo

                                          Sorry about the confusion shekamoo, but my reply was to the post directly above mine, not yours. Estufarian managed to say what I was trying to say, but said it more eloquently.

                                          1. re: dubchild

                                            I had an extra hour to think about it.
                                            I'm sure my gut reaction was similar.
                                            For me 'points of disagreement' allow me to judge what others like/dislike - which only helps me in choosing places to try.
                                            And, as you said - "I like/dislike it" isn't really helpful - if everybody liked what I do, I probably couldn't afford it!

                                      2. re: limitedtimeoffer

                                        I'm trying to tread carefully here, as the philosophy is 'discuss the chow, not the hound".
                                        But you claim there is "no use having a debate on these boards" - yet you don't seem to have tried (yet at least).
                                        In this thread we have a detailed account, and some specific responses. Doesn't this refute your claim?

                                    2. re: canmark

                                      the article mentions: "It’s forward-looking, run by and for a new generation, with all of the skill and the hospitality" which from my meal there, i would disagree on the hospitality part.

                                      i am a reasonable diner, who has eaten in fine dining restaurants in Chicago, New York, Paris, San Francisco, Las Vegas, and even what goes to pass as the top ones in Toronto. having tasting menus or in general, paying for meals at price points similar to Shoto. there are a few foods i do not eat, and give advance notice to the restaurant of such. this has never been an issue, and i've found places to usually exceed my expectations in their concern that they don't accidentally make an error.

                                      when Shoto calls to confirm a dinner reservation 2 days in advance of the meal, and the person reads back this list of food restrictions supplied, they have had this info for at least 2 weeks. is it not reasonable to expect that the kitchen acknowledge and make some effort to work around said restrictions when the meal takes place? amongst other questions i wonder about, is a king oyster mushroom really a fair substitute (e.g. paying the same price) for the veal cheek?

                                      why else would a restaurant request information for food allergies/restrictions? especially to state so on their website that without advanced notice they may not be able to accommodate.

                                      to then be given attitude about my food restrictions at the start of my meal when the chef asks (and admits to having had no prior knowledge of the information that was confirmed back just a couple days earlier) is unacceptable to me. i have never experienced this at any other restaurant i have eaten at, certainly not one that charges this amount of money for a meal.

                                      feedback to management was equally disappointing and frustrating - the manager couldn't even acknowledge any wrong doing. this is a big fail, and has put me off from eating there again or recommending this place to others.

                                      1. re: auberginegal

                                        I also had a really annoying experience with their attitude regarding allergies and reservations.

                                        I mentioned my husband's onion allergy in my reservation, made two weeks in advance of our meal. I got a call from the manager 27 hours before my reservation to clarify the allergy, and whether it was just the raw form, or all forms (?). I said it was all forms. She then said that nope, sorry, they cannot create a menu for him, and that we would not be able to dine there. I found this to be very odd, considering they had notice for two full weeks -- and they cannot prepare a meal to accommodate an onion allergy? We've not had such problems anywhere else where tasting menus are concerned.

                                        As if this wasn't annoying enough, she then tells me that since w would not be honouring our reservation, we had better go to online to cancel the booking; otherwise, we would risk incurring their ridiculous $300 cancellation fee (within 24 hours of the reservation).

                                        I was so taken aback, I almost hung up the phone.

                                        1. re: sydneydelicious

                                          does anyone know if momofuku in general (i guess the nyc locations, maybe Ko specifically) operate this way or does it just seem to be Toronto? would be interesting to know if this type of treatment with food allergies/restrictions is consistent across the chain...

                                          1. re: auberginegal

                                            Provided a person indicates the allergy at the time he/she completes thereservation form at Momofuku Ko (NYC), I've never seen a problem. In fact when my sister dines with me at Ko (she doesn't eat pork, and I indicate it on the reservation form), the chefs will always confirm when we arrive that she doesn't eat pork. I have seen several times that the guest doesn't indicate the allergy ahead of time, and will inform the chefs only when they are asked by the chefs; the chefs have to come up with a substitute dish at the last minute.

                                            1. re: ellenost

                                              Actually that's not (exactly) my experience.
                                              Certainly they eliminate all the allergens. HOWEVER, they do not (necessarily) substitute. Depending on the dish they may eliminate entirely (i.e. you miss a dish), may serve an 'almost identical' dish (omitting the offending ingredient) or (if you're lucky) prepare a substitute dish.
                                              I have exact experience at Momofuku Ko (didn't occur at Shoto) and at several other multi-course menus (specifically including New York). In most there are (essentially) a couple of seatings. Even if start times are staggered, maybe half the seats have their plates prepared at the same time (i.e. one of the chefs actually prepares 6 (say) identical plates simultaneously). They will NOT prepare 5 plus a completely separate plate. This whole sequence is essentially choreographed, and timing is critical. An effort will be made as long as it doesn't interfere with the 'performance', but if you read the 'fine print' there's usually a disclaimer of some kind.
                                              At worst you just skip a dish - not too significant if it's 1 of 15 (say) even though annoying.
                                              Whether that's 'right' is another matter! I'm just reporting what actually happens - and if they can't accommodate you, of course they should say so up front.

                                            2. re: auberginegal

                                              I don't think it's consistent - Daisho seemed more conscious of allergies and restrictions when I went, which is why Shoto was so surprising. We almost ordered a shrimp dish at Daisho, not realizing our friend had a shrimp allergy - she was fine ordering and just not eating that dish but the server was really concerned and made a point of wanting to know of allergies so she could mention it to the kitchen.

                                          2. re: auberginegal

                                            As of last night, at least, they seem to have resolved this allergy issue. Not only did they confirm my shrimp allergy over the phone, not only did both the waiters and the chefs know about my allergy without me having to say a word, they cooked me a special separate dish for the one course that did include shrimp and it was amazing. I shared a bite of my beet-smoked cheese tortellini with my dining partner and he felt strongly that my dish was even better than his shrimp-pumpkin. They even printed me my own special menu with the substituted dish!

                                            On a separate topic, a word of warning to the light-weights among us. The 'long format' of the drink matching is quite a lot of alcohol! I was extremely impressed with the pairings, particularly the sake with subtle cherry notes matching the fluke with 'pickled cherry bombs' and the bitterness of the beer paired to cut through the extreme richness of the poached duck egg, but I am regretting that our reservation was on a work-night this morning!

                                        2. We went to Momofuko Shoto last night and, not surprisingly, our expectations were pretty high. I’d say they were met…and not.

                                          The restaurant was *very* loud. I wouldn't ever go with more than one other person - the set up just doesn't allow for it (you wouldn't be able to speak to more than the person beside you). As long as you know that going in the set up is fine.

                                          The food truly was exceptional. Even though the savory courses were almost exclusively fish and seafood (one course featured veal) it didn’t seem at all monotonous or repetitive. There was an incredible variety of flavours, but not fighting with each other. I’m a fan of molecular gastronomy and the surprises that it offers, but very much appreciated the fact that that *wasn’t* the approach at MS. The food was the food – it was presented with interesting preparations and other flavours, but it wasn’t pretending to be something else.

                                          All in all, the food was excellent.

                                          The wine pairings were entirely ‘meh’. A number of them (too many) were sparkling – not that I don’t like sparkling wine, but more variety would have been nice. There were two courses served with sake. When after the first one (which I hadn’t consumed and told the wine server, in a friendly way, that I’m not a sake fan) I was disappointed when he went to pour me another one 3 courses later. That said, when I reminded him I didn’t like sake he did bring something else. But all in all, I wouldn’t bother with the wine pairings – just not interesting or varied enough.

                                          The one really disappointing part of the experience for us was the staff. The open kitchen set up with awesome – the kitchen team worked together like clockwork and it was a pleasure to watch them. But it became quite clear that ‘watch’ was all we were expected to do. Any attempt to engage with them was quickly rebuffed. Initially I thought ‘ok, they have lots to do and they can’t afford to get out of rhythm by chatting – I get it’.

                                          However, because there is only one seating the kitchen staff is done, including clean up, by around 10:30. We were among the last several customers and thought it might be an opportunity to talk to them a bit about some of the food (like so many foodies we don’t only like eating great food, we enjoy cooking as well). Sadly, the fact that they were done their work and were enjoying a cocktail didn’t make them any more social with guests. Instead, several of them stood in a corner of the kitchen away from the remaining customers and again responded to any attempts to engage with one word answers or grunts.

                                          It was interesting – although initially very excited about the meal we’d had, on the way home our talk turned more and more to the unfriendly kitchen staff and by the time we got home we’d almost convinced ourselves that we hadn’t enjoyed the meal. Then when we really looked at it the distinction became clear: we loved the food, and really didn’t enjoy the rest of the experience. The fact is the interaction with staff has an incredible impact on the overall experience, especially in an environment that seems designed to encourage that interaction.

                                          We’re not at all sorry we went, but won’t go back. Next time I feel like an incredible Asian meal it will be back to Sushi Kaji for us!

                                          5 Replies
                                          1. re: T.O. Diner

                                            I agree with everything you said. I also though their drink pairings were strange.

                                            1. re: T.O. Diner

                                              agreed, esp the 2nd last paragraph, pretty much exactly

                                              1. re: auberginegal

                                                funny, found all the kitchen staff very hospitible in the three times i have been there...although granted they do recognize me now...YMMV

                                                1. re: limitedtimeoffer

                                                  My experience similar. They even recognized me the FIRST time I went - two of the chefs came from Ko in New York (which I visited in June).

                                                  1. re: estufarian

                                                    i don't bother posting detailed reviews any more but recently went a 4th time, and wow o wow....this place just keeps getting better.

                                                    i had not been since late last year but the menu, totally changed again. in the 4 times, 4 totally different meals.

                                                    this place is world class and IMO is just much better than any other option in the city. but hey, who am i. not a blogger, not a critic, just a fat cat with lots of clients to take out.

                                            2. Toronto Life review posted online: Shoto (4 stars), Daisho (3 stars), Noodle Bar (1 star)


                                              1. Just to add that, last night, Shoto was firing on all cylinders. The menu has turned over completely and the food is top-notch. Service has also improved substantially.
                                                Overall this deserves to be rated (IMO) as one of the top restaurants in Toronto.
                                                The 'noise bleed' from Daisho is still an impediment but everything else has settled in perfectly.

                                                And David Chang was 'in the house' last night too - good to see that he's giving such personal attention - certainly seems that it's part of the Chang 'family' and not just an outpost.

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: estufarian

                                                  Really great to hear. I will definitely return in the new year.

                                                  1. re: hungryabbey

                                                    Visited again this week - and the menu seemed about 80% different from last month. Wine pairings had also changed - and apparently do 'regularly'. When I was told that one of the wines was being served for the first time, I asked how often they change and was GREATLY encouraged by the reply that wine selections are discussed with the chefs, and may also be changed based on feedback from guests. Subsequently I was asked several times, alternately by server and sommelier, whether I thought various wines were a good match for the dishes.

                                                    1. re: estufarian

                                                      Thanks...I'm there in a couple of weeks, because of you.

                                                2. I myself have dined here and agree with your review. The price points are very fair for this level of execution. I can do without the quasi grunge but I think thats David's call and I'm not touching it further.

                                                  The wine pairings were fun and intelligent and young. They suited the menu. As did the staff. The crew was highly professional and approachable when you wanted them. I appreciate the distance.

                                                  All in all its one of the best tables in Toronto at the moment so enjoy it. One thing that stands out is the level of superiority shoto has over daisho.

                                                  1. Went to Shoto last night with three friends who all thanked me for suggesting the outing. This was our big blast to beat the January blahs.

                                                    We were all really pleased. Not everything was the most amazing dish we ever ate, but that means almost everything would have been no worse than a 7 or 8 out of 10 in any other restaurant. We all did long pairings ($80) with our meal and this was the area that I thought I would most be let down, but in fact the quality of the drinks they served and their suitability to what we were eating was really high.

                                                    We got 5 amuses, our 10 course meal, and 9 pairings. Service was impeccable, including the waitress at Nikai who made sure our bottomless sparkling water purchase was transfered up to the restaurant.

                                                    Let me add a note about making reservations. In my everday life I'm a vegetarian. After reading a number of reviews I really wanted to try the restaurant and found a likeminded posse to join me.

                                                    When I made the reservation, I got a confirmation call that said the best they could do was if I accepted eating seafood. For a business that requires on line booking and has an excellent q&a for each of its restaurants, Shoto shouldn't imply that vegetarians can be accomodated. They can't. (I also asked about living citrus out of my food for allergy reasons, and the woman on the phone balked at this too; I was beginning to feel like an Elaine Benes who might get a note that I'm a difficult patient in my doctor's record).

                                                    In the end there was nothing in my dishes that caused me any food problems, and I'm very happy I took a diet holiday. Really only encountered the positives that others have spoken about. Not at all feeling blah the day after.

                                                    4 Replies
                                                    1. re: Toucan67

                                                      so in the end, did they give you seafood or all vegetarian?

                                                      1. re: hungryabbey

                                                        When I arrived it was confirmed by the chef that I was "pescatarian".

                                                        Had a piece of mackeral in one of my 5 amuses.

                                                        Had seafood/fish in 5 of the 8 courses (before two for desert). I would say one amuse and 2 of the mains were substitured with something other than meat (twice mushrooms).

                                                        My "main" course was a wholly new creation or king mushroom on barley with hazelnets and mushroom liquid foam (instead of a half squab with greens and rutabaga), everything else paralleled my companions.

                                                        I've had my limited share of seafood nibbles around the world when eating with friends and family and on holiday. I wasn't angry with the restaurant as I clearly made my choice about how I wanted to eat. I just would suggest their website FAQ be changed to not suggest that a purely vegetarian serving might be available. They should state plainly the best they are willing to do is surf and no turf.

                                                        1. re: Toucan67

                                                          Gotcha. Yes, that is deceiving, but i'm glad you enjoyed your meal nonetheless.

                                                      2. re: Toucan67

                                                        I decided to put this off until my bday in March and I'm bursting with excitement. I really really hope I'm not building it up too much in my brain! :-)

                                                      3. I'm going to take a slightly opposing view than the glowing reviews that appear to dominate here. We went last night with another couple and the consensus was it was good but not great and certainly not value for money vis-a-vis similar high end restaurants.

                                                        It was interesting and somewhat unique. The dinner starts with 4 amuses and then the 10 courses with the last 2 being desserts. There were no petit 4 at the end that is common with many high end restaurants around the world. We had the "short" wine pairing ($45) and the total bill came to over $250 per person including tips.

                                                        The best dish (by consensus) was the halibut which was cooked to perfection. Other dishes were OK, interesting flavors, some worked and some didn't. There were no "wows" by any stretch of imagination. Normally when you're paying so much, you expect at least one dish with a "high end" ingredient (like lobster, fois gras, abalone or something). Not this time.

                                                        One of my hobbies is wine collecting and I search the world for interesting wines, so I know a little bit. The wines served last night were decent but not worth IMO. The pours were limited to 2 oz but it looked like in some cases, the server under-poured. The wines themselves were OK but all of the under $20 varieties many from Ontario. The 4 of us paid $180 total for the pairing which would've netted us a pretty good bottle or 2 had we ordered ourselves. I would not recommend the pairing in terms of value for money.

                                                        I would still recommend that anyone who hasn't tried, should go once, but I wouldn't call it good value compared to other high end establishments we've visited around the world. Not even compared to a few other restaurants in Toronto.

                                                        Overall, we agreed on a 7/10 rating for food, but if you consider we spent $250+ per person, that rating drops a notch or 2.

                                                        29 Replies
                                                        1. re: syoung

                                                          Do you agree with the following proposition:

                                                          "In Shoto, Chang has failed to deliver a world class restaurant to the TO dining scene".

                                                          World class restaurant meaning something at the upper levels of the high end establishments you've visited around the world.

                                                          1. re: shekamoo

                                                            To add to your question. Momufuku Ko in NYC has 2 Michelin stars. With a similar format, is there any reason to believe we might end up with as highly regarded a restaurant here?

                                                            1. re: Toucan67

                                                              Ko's two stars are somewhat controversial, the room is not that great, 2 of the 12 seats you are basically sitting on in the dishwasher steam zone.

                                                              I've eaten in both (Ko multiple times) and while there are some differences in the style of both on balance they are very close to the same, if Ko deserves it's two stars than so should Shoto

                                                              I actually find the service in Toronto to be better than at Ko (not the chefs, who serve the food, because they mainly are at this point the same people) but the folks who serve beverages and clear the settings.

                                                              To me based on, so far one visit, Shoto deserves to be in grouped with other 1 and 2 star level places I've been. It doesn't quite come up to the 3 star level but a lot of 3 star places despite amazing food felt stuffy (I include elbulli in that list).

                                                              Straight up yes or no answer was my meal at Shoto better than my weakest meal at a Michelin 3 star. Yes.

                                                            2. re: shekamoo

                                                              To answer the question, shekamoo, in my opinion, its not that he has failed to deliver it, its whether he decided not to deliver it.

                                                              I ask the question: is Toronto ready for a world class restaurant and I'm not talking about the food level here as much as I am about the other elements that make up the 'show'.

                                                              1. re: luxeat

                                                                Discussing how to define "it" doesn't interest me. What David Chang decided to deliver with Shoto is what we got, a 24 seat restaurant around an open kitchen, which strictly serves multiple course tasting menus and has a high staff to customer ratio. Given his reputation, this set up and that no one else in this city is doing something where so many elements should be working towards delivering an awesome food experience, he should have knocked it out of the park and stood clearly as one of the top in this city. Instead the reviews that come in seem to sit at around 50/50.

                                                                My question to luxeat is are you the same luxeat food blogger/fashion model or is the name just a coincidence?

                                                                1. re: dubchild

                                                                  I'm going to go out on a limb here and say no. No, it is not the same Luxeat.

                                                              2. re: shekamoo

                                                                I wouldn't say David Chang has "failed" per se, maybe a "C+" but not an "F". For example, I was at Les Amis (a supposed "top 50 restaurant in the world) in Singapore about a month ago and, I'm sorry, but it wasn't close. Their degustation was $300 SGD (or about $250 CDN) but it includes fois gras, lobster courses. Not just the ingredients but everything was simply much better, both food and service.

                                                                At Shoto, as themiguel noted below, it was pea soup, halibut, squab and beef cheek were the ingredient highlights. There was a dish with dumplings that weren't better than something you can find in a Chinese restaurant in Markham. I felt underwhelmed and then when you get the bill for almost $900 for the 4 of us (before tips), it didn't feel like we got $900 worth.

                                                                1. re: syoung

                                                                  Thanks for the reply. Well, I dont mean he has "failed per se" so much as he has "failed to deliver" a world class resto, if the distinction makes any sense.

                                                                  The reason I propose he has failed to deliver is along the exact same lines as what you say here: The only thing Shoto has in common with the top ranking restaurants I have been to around the world is the price point.

                                                                  For me, to call Shoto "world class", it does not need to compare favorably with say a world top 10 restaurant, but it should at least be comparable with them, and not just price-wise.

                                                                  Does this question matter at all? I dont know, I guess the same can be asked of Chowhound in its entirety, or to the very idea of seriously discussing the entrants to one's digestive tract. But since we are all here, I think the issue of demanding a world class restaurant for this world class city is worth keeping alive, regardless of the economics of such an enterprise or whether or not Torontonians have the ability to appreciate such a place (as I have been directly accused of on this board with astounding condescension, because I dont rank Shoto as 'world class'). Shoto is apparently packed, good for them. Maybe someone would take notice of their price point and service level and reevaluate the chances of success for a truly great culinary offering.

                                                                  1. re: shekamoo

                                                                    Frankly, I don't really know what "world class" mean, I was responding to other posts in this thread giving raving reviews. I just know that of the restaurants that I've been to around the world in Shoto's price range, this one would rank poorly. In fact, I'd say it's not even the best of Toronto at any price range.

                                                                    I think Toronto's high end restaurant scene has been in a doldrum since the recession. When you have better European (e.g., French or Italian) food restaurants in Asian cities as Singapore and Hong Kong, then it feels something seems not right. It tells you the top chefs are going where the money is and it's not here.

                                                                    When Daniel Boulud decided to come here it wasn't to open a Daniel (like in NYC) but it was the 2nd tier Café Boulud. We went last Nov/Dec and it was very mediocre for what you get, certainly below Café Boulud in NYC. Vancouver, a much smaller city, has surpassed Toronto as a food city.

                                                                    1. re: syoung

                                                                      well I was trying to agree with you...lol

                                                              3. re: syoung

                                                                THANK YOU! I agree with you completely, and am puzzled by the "value for money" reviews.

                                                                If you look at Shoto's food in a vacuum, without any context, it is a delicious multi-course meal with some standout dishes, a very few misses and some pretty good dishes.

                                                                However when you consider that a meal for two there with tax+tip can very very easily run into the $300 per person range, you have to assess the meal against the cost. I noted the exact same problem as you in my review above. Yes there were some very interesting and very well executed ideas - but you're getting stuff like pea soup, halibut, some quail or some beef cheek. Often delicious but at that price point I'm comparing you to Alinea, French Laundry, Ryugin in Tokyo etc.

                                                                Shoto's food doesn't reach that level, not even close.

                                                                There's an interesting discussion to be had here on the notion of "value" in a meal and how that relates to expensive ingredients. Are you getting value if you pay a lot of money for a well executed meal that doesnt contain foie, caviar etc? Shoto's food often looks simple, but of course it belies wonderful skill and imagination on the part of the people creating it.

                                                                And yet, I walked out of that meal with a distinct "meh" impression. It just didn't feel "special" enough at that price point, as hazy as that concept is.

                                                                1. re: themiguel

                                                                  Interesting conversation going on here and I think its a good thing when it comes to the Toronto food scene. I just came back from another stint at Shoto and I must agree with the reviewers of late that it was not on the level I experienced in the fall menu. That said, elements of it were again brilliant.

                                                                  This time around I opted for a bottle of champagne and felt it went very well with everything but unfortunately it did not last the ten courses. The 2002 vintage was well priced and hence of "good value". The wine parings were young but again they suited Toronto and what David is introducing here. Concentrating somewhat on regional wines is a step in the right direction. It makes perfect sense if you analyze the theme of the menu.

                                                                  Three star Michelin or two, ..... bla, bla, bla, thankfully Canada does not have this rating system (yet) and if it did I could count the restaurants that would get it on one hand (maybe one and a half). I assume when one refers to 'world class' the Michelin rating system is as good a place to start as any.

                                                                  Shoto would be there. Three star, no, but was it meant to be, no. One star, for sure and it fits very nicely into that category and hence into Toronto's food scene. It opens the door and for that I say thank you very much David!!

                                                                  I've not eaten in a three star Michelin rated restaurant for $ 150.00 per person so I am confused what the quibbling is all about when it comes to the "value" aspect here. Most three stars' I partake in, I can't get past the first coarse for less than $ 80 euros. Is that "value"? Who cares. I'm out for a show and some excitement on my plate and in my glass.

                                                                  Shoto serves this up consistently and on par for what it is.

                                                                  1. re: luxeat

                                                                    Haven't been to Shoto yet, but just throwing it out there that I ate at Eleven Madison Park for $125 in May 2012 (lunch). As it is, it's $200 for lunch or dinner right now. Worth every penny!

                                                                    Of course, I had a $300 meal at a Euro 3-star as well, and didn't think it held up to my EMP meal either, so...

                                                                    1. re: luxeat

                                                                      Have to join you in agreeing that when the price of admission gets to a certain high level, I'm there for the show.

                                                                      I wouldn't give my experience this week less than 8/10 (whatever that means in my head), so I was quite willing when it came time to pay the bill.

                                                                    2. re: themiguel

                                                                      I couldn't agree with your comment more. I have no trouble paying what some might see as a ridiculous amount of money for a meal, but when I drop $350 pp, I expect *value* for what I'm paying (Alinea, as an example, met the 'value for money' proposition very well).

                                                                      On that note, I think there are many restos in Toronto that excel in that regard. I'd be interested to hear others' thoughts on that topic.

                                                                      1. re: T.O. Diner

                                                                        I found Shoto fair value for money.
                                                                        Alinea at $1200 for two (with wine pairings) was my most disappointing meal last year. And I had more courses at Shoto than Alinea (OK I lied - just checked and both were 15 courses (including amuses), although 1 of the Alinea was a juice).
                                                                        I should add that Alinea, prior to their change to pay-in-advance, was one of my favourites. But 2 1/2 hours from start to finish and no replacement of wines I didn't drink and $1200 just doesn't do it for me!
                                                                        So there's my thought on the topic!

                                                                        1. re: estufarian

                                                                          1200 is steep. Per se was only 900 when we went.
                                                                          I'm not sure I understand what is meant by replacements for the wines you didn't drink.

                                                                          1. re: dubchild

                                                                            I originally asked for a wine list, as, on a previous visit, I had been disappointed with the wine pairings. It was explained that they now had a 'premium' wine pairing option ($250pp) that 'should be better' and said they'd replace anything I didn't find appropriate. The first 3 'pairings' were identical to the cheaper ($150) pairing option. When I suggested I was getting the cheaper (!) pairing it was explained that only 3 wines were different (aside for an extra $100, maybe 6 -8 ozs) - and the main red (a 2006 Bordeaux) was nowhere near drinkable - needed another 10 years at least. They removed it, never replaced it and did not adjust the bill! I did adjust the gratuity (on the wine not the food).

                                                                            1. re: estufarian

                                                                              That's now clear and a fair complaint.

                                                                              1. re: estufarian

                                                                                that is HORRIFIC, I cannot imagine anything close to that happening at Splendido.

                                                                                1. re: estufarian

                                                                                  Wow, in a weird way I'm glad to hear this... the ticketing thing to me is totally bogus. Can't even eat there as a solo diner anymore. Messrs. Achatz and Kokonas will not be getting any more of my money.

                                                                                  As I said in an earlier post, the value for money thing is highly subjective. I understand how some might think it's not worth spending the cash. For what it's worth, though, I spent WAY more money at both Alinea and The French Laundry than I did at Shoto. Not sure the comparison is entirely apt.

                                                                                  1. re: gourmandish

                                                                                    Good to see you're still alive & dining.
                                                                                    My experiences have shown me that great food (and wine) will get me to return to a restaurant; poor service will stop me from returning! Price 'occasionally' will influence that, but is rarely the dominant factor (although it could stop me from making a reservation in the first place).

                                                                                    And I'll be at Saison (& Atelier Crenn) next month - unless they cancel me!!!

                                                                            2. re: T.O. Diner

                                                                              I think that there are many restaurants in Toronto that are good value for money, but not high-end ones. I've only been to a few high-end places in general, but the Toronto places were all a bit disappointing in terms of food/service compared to the places I went to elsewhere. I had really low expectations going in to Shoto and unfortunately I still felt they fell a bit short. While "value for money" is going to be different for each person, when you're paying this much for a meal, I think that for most people it would be a special treat so it makes sense that expectations are a bit different. I felt uncomfortable at the start of dinner and seriously considered walking out, then there were one or two dishes that I found so underwhelming I started laughing - so, for me Shoto was poor value for money since I probably only spend this much on dinner once a year or so.

                                                                              1. re: ggom1

                                                                                why did you feel uncomfortable at the start of dinner?

                                                                                1. re: Apprentice

                                                                                  We gave Shoto a list of dietary restrictions that were confirmed by the restaurant, but when we arrived the information hadn't been communicated to the kitchen and we got a bit of attitude about the list (auberginegal goes into more details in one of her posts above). I thought about leaving to find someone who could explain what happened but I felt that would've made the meal even more awkward.

                                                                                  1. re: ggom1

                                                                                    That kitchen gives off a bunch of attitude. Felt the same way when trying to chat with the guys or trying to get more of a sense of techniques or additional information other than "brussel sprouts, corn, quail egg" as they plop the dish down.

                                                                                    I'm actually extremely happy that Shoto is a part of Toronto, I dont want them to leave, and I will more than likely return at some point. But for now count me on the side of "did not meet (very high) expectations".

                                                                                    1. re: themiguel

                                                                                      I know this whole open kitchen let's interact with the chefs thing might seem so cool to customers. You can bet all cooks hate doing it. Cooks hate getting distracted during service, the job is stressful enough as is.

                                                                                      So yes, the open kitchen concept does invite conversation. The cooks who work in such places put up with it, they do not look forward to talking to the customers.

                                                                                      I know it might seem this way, but an open kitchen doesn't equate to a customer service desk.

                                                                                      Personally, I don't mind talking to customers w/i reason. Then again, imagine someone asking you a question every 2-3 mins for an entire meal, especially a long tasting menu like Shoto. Unfortunately the few bad apples ruin it for everybody else.

                                                                                      Imagine someone coming to your cubicle asking you a question every 3 mins. Pretty annoying no?

                                                                                      Lesson of the day? Walk a mile in our shoes.

                                                                                      Then again, there are a lot of assholes that happen to be cooks.

                                                                                      1. re: aser

                                                                                        I definitely felt that at Momofuku. The chefs were definitely not excited to tell me what I was eating.

                                                                          2. Curiously for those who have dined here, what have you worn? What was the attire of other guests?

                                                                            6 Replies
                                                                            1. re: Apprentice

                                                                              I don't think I ever find myself feeling uncomfortable in restaurants no matter what I wear. I probably wore skinny jeans with a button up blouse, or a casual fall dress and tights. Probably booties or casual heels (not like spike heels). My SO would have worn jeans, closed toe shoes and a button up shirt. The older man beside me was in a suit but that was not the norm. His three daughters were dressed similar to me.

                                                                              1. re: hungryabbey

                                                                                Thanks for the response everyone. I just find Torontonians tend to dress down to the occasion vs other establishments/societies around the world. Just my opinion.

                                                                                1. re: Apprentice

                                                                                  I completely agree! When I dine out in most states I definitely dress up more.

                                                                              2. re: Apprentice

                                                                                I would dress how you feel comfortable. The night I was there, there was a businessman in a suit, foodies in jeans, tourists dressed in betwen (I'm making the personal backgrounds up, but you get the picture).

                                                                                1. re: Apprentice

                                                                                  We wore casual, dressy.

                                                                                  As an aside, one time I'd gone to Octogon in the middle of a sweltering summer wearing shorts. The staff had me wear dress pants from their supply. They were nice and apologetic about it and gave me some golf balls for my trouble.

                                                                                  In New Orleans, alot of older places require dress jackets.

                                                                                2. Had a great (if not expensive) meal at Shoto this weekend. Definitely some top notch cooking going on there. I will say it was as expensive as the newly minted, 2-michelin star, Grace restaurant in Chicago, however. Dinner for 2 w/ wine pairings came to $520 after tax and before tip, probably making it the most expensive restaurant in TO, by a fair margin.

                                                                                  14 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: justxpete

                                                                                    I was at Shoto Sat night. $150 + $80 for the wine pairings for each of us. So, almost $300 per person total with tax and tip. I enjoyed the 10 course meal and the pairings, but they sure are pretty light with the pourings. The food flavours were interesting, some absolutely delicious, a few were meh. I enjoyed watching the chefs prepare the food (but not as much as I used to when sitting at the bar at Jamie Kennedy's wine bar). Most of the preparation seemed to be taking things out of plastic containers, heating them up and then squirting liquids on them from plastic bottles.

                                                                                    I found there were so many different ingredients in each dish it was hard to discern sometimes what I was actually tasting. They did give us a menu when we left, but unfortunately it only listed the main ingredients and not the herbs and what was in the sauces.

                                                                                    Would I go again? Yes, but not more than once year, if that. I've had many other 'high end' dining experiences in Toronto for less that far exceed the food at Shoto. I don't really get all the hype about this place when it comes down to it but each to his own.

                                                                                    1. re: Flexitarian

                                                                                      I found the wine pairing portions pretty standard, and was feeling pretty good when I left. And funny, I was there that same night, sitting on the corner closest to the bar (early seating). Where were you?

                                                                                      Wait... We're you being served by the female 'sommelier' by any chance?

                                                                                      1. re: justxpete

                                                                                        Late seating, 8:30 but ended up being a bit after 9. Female sommelier who skimped when she poured.

                                                                                        On the whole Shoto is way overpriced. And, by the way, I was being treated to this meal.

                                                                                        1. re: Flexitarian

                                                                                          After thinking about it, I remembered that the one drink she served me was rather light - hence why I asked. There were two somms working that night. Mine was great. Had I had her the whole night, I probably wouldn't have been impressed either, and likely would have said something.

                                                                                          1. re: justxpete

                                                                                            I actually did. I asked her if she has ever heard of a driver with a 'lead foot' who drives too fast and then remarked it would be nice if she had more of a 'lead hand' when she poured.

                                                                                            When I have used this line before (albeit rarely) when orders come by the glass, the sommelier or pourer has laughed. She gave me a stern look and just walked away with no comment. Talk about no sense of humour and not getting the hint. The glasses that came later were not more generous, if anything she poured even less. Geez, if she even gave me a bit more in just one more glass I would have been happy.

                                                                                            1. re: Flexitarian

                                                                                              It's funny you say that, because it reminds me of the overall vibe of Shoto. Everyone is agressively severe, no time for a smile or pleasantries. I get that this is high end cooking and they're, but I dont really care for feeling like I am imposing on your day just by being there.

                                                                                              1. re: themiguel

                                                                                                I didn't get that sense at all. Not in the slightest. Everyone was overly friendly.

                                                                                                1. re: justxpete

                                                                                                  Interesting, maybe its changed. I was there back when it first opened so it's quite likely they have livened up.

                                                                                                  1. re: themiguel

                                                                                                    I was there on their first anniversary and a comment was made about the change in attitude. Apparently the opening crew were mainly 'imports' who were still adjusting to Toronto. After a few months they had found accommodation (and girl/boy friends) and generally were more confident and comfortable with the city. So they relaxed - and it shows in the cuisine which (IMO) has changed from a 'copy of Ko' to a restaurant with its own personality. AmuseGirl is more of a regular (she works around there) and is now well-recognised by all the staff - so I get some benefits too (e.g. when a dish has recently changed we may get different wines served to each of us so we can comment on which is the better match).

                                                                                              2. re: Flexitarian

                                                                                                I think it might of been her first day or first week or something along those lines. Or, she's just crushed.

                                                                                            2. re: Flexitarian

                                                                                              Sorry, but I could not disagree more. Comperable in quality to 2* places and priced according to the quality. Don't see much that comes close to the quality of this place in Toronto. I have been 3 times, had 3 totally separate meals, the only item that is the same was the bread at the start of the meal, and 3 totally different full beverage pourings.

                                                                                              I can not think of a better place to dine. As compared with Woods, Bero, the Chase, which i have been on others dimes very recently, these three are several levels below shoto. [sure, these three are not the be all and end all but they were...meh]

                                                                                              i would pay out of pocked for shoto in a second...and have. oh well, each to their own but to just it "is" way over priced is a little trite.

                                                                                              1. re: limitedtimeoffer

                                                                                                Well there were 3 of us and we all felt that it was way overpriced. Yes each to his own for sure. If you feel it is worth it then that is where you will dine when you feel like spending that kind of money. I sure am going to think twice.

                                                                                          2. re: Flexitarian

                                                                                            I've never felt they were light on the pourings either.
                                                                                            And the problem at the Kennedy Wine Bar (for me) was that the aromatics that wafted out weren't necessarily for the dish I was having. For that reason I used to try and sit as far away from the kitchen as possible.
                                                                                            I now only (or mostly) sit at a kitchen table/bar when my neighbours are having the same dishes at the same time (i.e. the format at Shoto) so that I don't get that mismatch of aromatics and flavours.

                                                                                            1. re: estufarian

                                                                                              yes. all 3 times i have been, the amounts of EtOH at shoto were either just right or too much.

                                                                                        2. When I first heard about Shoto opening I was excited and planned on going. Given the set up of the restaurant and the reputation of the chef I thought this should clearly standout as the best in the city. As the reviews came in and after visiting the noodle bar and Daisho, I started having doubts and I crossed Shoto of my list.
                                                                                          At the insistence of a friend I ended up going. The short of it is my meal was fantastic and worth the splurge. Has the kitchen evolved since those reviews, was my meal just better that night, or is it that the previous negative reviews were unkind are things nobody will know.
                                                                                          I won't go into detail about the menu but I found the flavours to be balanced, bold but not aggressive, and featured a variety of textures. Dishes featured many ingredients but didn't feel busy and there were some unique and successful food pairings. If I were hard pressed to find missteps the skate was a smidge over seasoned and the first bite of crab was cold because the broth hadn't had time to warm it, but these are minor and the 15 courses were spot on. There were several best I've had moments; lamb tartar, alkaline noodles, morel and foie, crispy rice cooked in pork fat, and the warm potato soup with smoked fish.
                                                                                          Wines pairings generally worked well. The fried egg dish was a bit too tart and spicy for any wine. Some complaints have been that the ingredients used are not expensive. The wines poured were basic wines, several Gamays a Verdicchio, a simple Greek muscat etc.. But it seems much thought and research goes into attempting to find an ideal pairing. The same with the food, there are no truffles, the amount of foie used is minuscule, but there were no dishes composed of of something as basic as root vegetables.
                                                                                          Is this the best I've had in the city? It is at least on par with the one memorable meal I had at Colborne lane (as oppose to the one I wish I could take back).
                                                                                          Is it worth the money? It was for the experience. I would definitely recommend it to others. I hope it wasn't a chance night I had and that Shoto will maintain this standard.

                                                                                          14 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: dubchild

                                                                                            I'm visiting Toronto next week (from NYC and am a "regular" at Momofuku Ko) for the purpose of dining at all of the Momofuku restaurants. Very much looking forward to dinner at Shoto. Thanks very much for your report (I would have been surprised if you didn't like Shoto).

                                                                                            1. re: dubchild

                                                                                              Shoto is currently one of the best places in the city.
                                                                                              I think the transition from good to great came about 6-9 months after opening. At that point it seemed (to me) to mature into a 'Toronto' restaurant from a 'Chang' restaurant. There was a new confidence and maturity that embraced using local ingredients, rather than copying the Ko template.
                                                                                              My most recent two meals there were my best of about a half-dozen visits (and none were bad).

                                                                                              1. re: estufarian

                                                                                                Have you tried the mid-week five courser? Worth it?

                                                                                                  1. re: BigBabyYeezuS

                                                                                                    I've done the $95/person one. I haven't had the longer one, so I can't compare. But my experience was wonderful, and I was beyond full afterwards.

                                                                                                    1. re: canadianbeaver

                                                                                                      Good to hear. I'm liable to try that before I'd go back for the full menu. My experience was good, but not good enough to justify the tag.

                                                                                                      In some abstract way, I think it's Toronto's "best" restaurant. It's the one that would get the most Michelin stars and the one that should get four stars from every paper. But I didn't find the execution high enough, the conception of the dishes sharp enough or the food personal enough to really love the place. Which is a shame, because I'd like a fine dining restaurant I can point to and call world class. My experience at Shoto wasn't quite that.

                                                                                                      1. re: BigBabyYeezuS

                                                                                                        I find Daisho offers the things that Shoto misses on. Have you been there yet?

                                                                                                        1. re: canadianbeaver

                                                                                                          Many a time. I think Daisho is very good but very different. Noodle has really found it's groove as well.

                                                                                                          1. re: BigBabyYeezuS

                                                                                                            Yeah, I think with Noodle Bar it's about strategic ordering. Not everything is good, but once you understand what you like and what you don't, it gets better.

                                                                                                            1. re: canadianbeaver

                                                                                                              Yeah. They've improved their execution too. It was basically a short, not quite as good version of the 2008 nyc menu when they opened, but the more they opened things up, the better it got.

                                                                                                              1. re: BigBabyYeezuS

                                                                                                                Yeah. There's still a lot of misses, and I do feel like quite a few items (such as the ramen or pork bao) are now better done by other restaurants in both Toronto and NYC... However, the items that are good are quite good, and easily worth returning for.

                                                                                                                Agree with canadianbeaver that strategic ordering is your best choice. If you go in expecting to be blown away by, say, their ramen or a bao, you're not going to be impressed... Most first-timers will go expecting this transcendent experience based on expectations that are already almost a decade old, when they should have tempered those expectations a bit.

                                                                                                                I've gotta say though, all parts of the Toronto location (except Milk Bar) have really stepped it up since opening, and I've had some really good food at each "venue" (again, except Milk Bar).

                                                                                                                1. re: yakionigiri

                                                                                                                  Milk Bar sucks even in New York. Ever since they moved to offsite production in Brooklyn, it hasn't been the same.

                                                                                                                  The Momofuku bao is an interesting thing. I remember the first time I tried it in 2007 it was new and revelatory. Different and much better than bao's I've had elsewhere. It's still good, but it's been so widely copied a dish (like much of what they do) that it doesn't have the same punch. A first timer who has heard about the "Momofuku pork bun" but has had variations at 416 and Banh Mi Boys and a dozen other places is going to be let down.

                                                                                                                  Also worth noting - the kimchi stew, which is great, is still available off menu.

                                                                                                  2. re: estufarian

                                                                                                    "Shoto is currently one of the best places in the city."

                                                                                                    Agree, 100%.

                                                                                                1. Went back to Shoto last night and my god did it fire on every cylinder. I think it might have been the best meal I've ever eaten in Toronto.

                                                                                                  1. (My first post seems to have disappeared-probably too many photos so I will re-post with photos on another post).

                                                                                                    Dinner at Shoto was the main reason for my trip to Toronto, and my most anticipated dinner of 2014; the meal exceeded my hopes.

                                                                                                    As a regular patron of Momofuku Ko in NYC for the past six years, I've been fortunate to have had Chef Mitch Bates cook many of my meals, so I wanted to see what he was doing at Shoto and whether there would be similarities with Ko.

                                                                                                    Very pleased to report that Chef Bates cuisine is not a clone of the cuisine at Ko, but is creative and delicious and different from Ko.

                                                                                                    Shoto is a larger and more elegant version of Ko with almost twice as many seats. The only similarities with Ko are that there are 10 courses with 2 of them as desserts. For anyone who has been to Ko and believes that it would be the same at Shoto, you would be making a mistake.

                                                                                                    Additional visits to Shoto will keep me returning to your lovely city.

                                                                                                    Service was very friendly and attentive.

                                                                                                    The following is my menu on 5/28:

                                                                                                    Amuses: 5 of them (didn't take notes since I knew that I would be receiving a printed menu at the end of the dinner, but didn't realize the amuses wouldn't be listed). I do recall the oyster, and the lamb tartare. They were larger in portion size than at Ko.

                                                                                                    Scallop, celery, water chestnut, poppyseed;

                                                                                                    Spot prawn, tamarind, pig ear, cabbage;

                                                                                                    Dungeness crab, asparagus, kimchi, yuba;

                                                                                                    Fried duck egg, Thai chili, crushed rice, herbs;

                                                                                                    Alkaline noodles, clam, octopus, kombu;

                                                                                                    Skate, pea, ramp, spring allium;

                                                                                                    Morel, foie gras, duck tongue, rhubarb;

                                                                                                    Chicken, seaweed, spring allium, cattail,

                                                                                                    Coconut-ginger, black tea, honey, bee pollen;

                                                                                                    Hootenanny, maple, orange.

                                                                                                    You're so lucky to have Shoto!

                                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: ellenost

                                                                                                      Here are the photos.

                                                                                                      1. re: ellenost

                                                                                                        Here are the additional photos.

                                                                                                    2. I went into my recent Shoto dinner with extremely high expectations, so perhaps that made it impossible for them to be met. Overall I thought it was very good but not consistently excellent. Several of the dishes were too salty or too complicated (with so many different flavours, textures and ingredients that the special-ness of the components was lost), or had really strong flavours which overpowered more subtle ones. Particularly memorable highlights were the grilled rice amuse, the hake, the fried green tomato and the boneless rib.

                                                                                                      The experience may have been marred by some personal preference issues – the bar stools turned out to be phenomenally uncomfortable for my back (agony distracts from food for sure…); I didn't enjoy the server coming around from behind my back all the time – he seemed to do his job well enough but I always felt like he was in my personal space (probably not his fault, just a set-up issue), and we would have liked more explanations on the food itself. The lists of ingredients were a bit perfunctory, with few comments on the actual techniques. And no tasting notes on the wines. The playlist suited one of us more than the other… it certainly was unusual to have fine dining while listening to the Beastie Boys, and Zeppelin’s Black Dog. The pacing was efficient to the point of seeming a bit driven: 10 courses in exactly two hours was impressive but not leisurely.

                                                                                                      We very much appreciated their offer to give us a reduced drinks pairing – we shared five drinks rather than the full eight, which was just the right amount for us.

                                                                                                      Here are the details:

                                                                                                      Sorrel drink, a version of the Caribbean hibiscus drink – bright red, herbal and somewhat sour, not too sweet.
                                                                                                      Juniper tonic – junipery, almost cucumbery, very pleasant and refreshing, a bit too sweet though – the juniper comes through more clearly when diluted.

                                                                                                      Oysters from PEI with pepper and chili – salty but with a nice kick, though the chili overpowered the oyster flavor. (And why didn’t they tell us where in PEI they were from?)

                                                                                                      Lamb tartare with black and white sesame seeds and wasabi, on bread with sprouts – quite salty, though I was glad the wasabi not overpowering. One of our portions had a little gristle in it.

                                                                                                      Grilled rice cube with pork fat and furikake – mmm! Hot and crisp and chewy, very bacon-y, with yummy salt explosions from the sprinkles.

                                                                                                      Chanterelle mushroom soup with fried duck tongue – duck tongue was hot and fatty, but I’m not clear it added much other than being something I don’t think I’ve had before. The soup was rich (glad we only had a thimbleful), creamy and very mushroomy, with nice little chunks of mushroom.

                                                                                                      Diver scallop in lemongrass oil, celery juice, poppyseeds, pickled myoga (ginger/shallot cross) and celery, water chestnut, poblano – my scallop was twitching! Nice and pickly and spicy (especially at the bottom of bowl) but I felt the scallop was overpowered by all the other flavours.

                                                                                                      Spanish mackerel tataki style (seared), pickled fennel, shiso cress, tiny balls of rice cracker, tamari soya sauce, yuzu vinaigrette, very tiny pepper slices – terrific, the mackerel was strong enough to stand up to the other flavours and there weren’t too many of them. Paired with West Avenue Heritage Dry apple cider.

                                                                                                      Daikon soup, grilled trout, smoked char roe, pickled and raw and grated radish, radish sprouts, almonds, dill – the separate ingredients were all lovely, especially the soup, but it was too busy for me. I found they distracted from each other rather than complementing. Paired with 2012 Chardonnay, Jean-Marie Chaland, “Domaine Saint Barbe, V.V”, Vire-Clesse, Burgundy.

                                                                                                      Tamago cooked in tomalley (making it pink) and poached lobster, jalapeno, coriander, black bean sauce, mizuna lettuce – on its own the tamago was quite impressive as it had a subtle lobster flavour from being cooked in tomalley, however it was completely overpowered by the very strong, salty and spicy black bean sauce. The sauce itself was great, but there was just too much of it as it obliterated the tamago and lobster.

                                                                                                      Veal sweetbreads and pistachio gyoza, pistachio puree, black vinegar, shaved smoked and dried albacore tuna (like a tuna bonito) – excellent light gyoza dough and great sweetbreads. Lovely flavours except the whole dish was too salty. Paired with 2013 Verdejo, Menade, Rueda, Spain.

                                                                                                      Dukkah-crusted pan-roasted hake, grilled white asparagus with fresh herbs, lambs lettuce, white miso Hollandaise – this was gorgeous, the fish was perfectly cooked and melted in the mouth, the dukkah was crunchy and flavourful, the asparagus was crisp and tangy and so well complemented by the herbs, and the super-lemony Hollandaise was a lovely accent.

                                                                                                      Cutlet of green super-pickled tomato, chicken liver pâté smear, sorrel, arugula and water cress salad, grated goat Gouda – very strong on pickle flavor but very delicious, crunchy and luscious. Paired with 2011 Reisling, CH Berres, Spaetlese, “Uziger Wurzgarten” Mosel, Germany.

                                                                                                      Maple-glazed boneless St. Louis Pork rib, charred little gem lettuce, caramelised plum – a rather slayingly fatty rib, whew (again, good thing there wasn’t a big portion), but incredible with the amazingly chewy maple crust and wonderful plum sauce, and the burnt but crisp and juicy lettuce went with it perfectly.

                                                                                                      Kiwi sorbet with freeze-dried kiwi, fresh almost unsweetened ricotta, digestive cookie crumbs – light and pleasant, not too sweet.

                                                                                                      Green tea custard, strawberry sorbet, strawberries, frothed milk, green tea powder, shortbread, strawberry licorice – nice, very pretty and not too sweet, but not that remarkable. Paired with Kir Imperial, Southbrook, “Framboise” Niagara-on-the-Lake (with prosecco).

                                                                                                      All in all, some dishes were huge hits, some were just good and a few were misses, at least for me. At that price point ($150) I’m not sure we’ll be hurrying back.