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Dec 4, 2012 02:08 PM


Had an odd first-time lunch at Daisho, am still processing it, and was wondering if anyone else has had a similar experience. My guest and I dropped $ 150 for lunch, no problem, but....

0. The joke: I loved that the menu announced that "None of the dishes are (sic) vegan." And I pity any mere vegetarian who stumbles in by mistake.

1. The room: The room is gorgeous, high-ceilinged, with dramatic views of (shrug) University, and plenty of space for a business lunch between the tables.

2. Seating: Unless you come with four people you will not get a chair with a back. Only the four-tops have proper chairs. Otherwise it's counter stools, or benches and stools at the sharing tables. My single guest and I were fortunate enough to be first to show, before noon, and the host kindly gave us decent seats...but he was careful to tell us that usually they reserve them for parties of four only. NOw, the lunch was less than half full, so I suppose he knew he was in for a world of pain if we struggled on two stools while half the chairs sat empty...... am I the only one who thinks for a reserved seat at $ 75 each a chair is a must?

3. Tables: no cloths. Not a problem in itself, but in that not only were they never crumbed, but in a two hour debauch with eight shared dishes they were never wiped and although we are by no means sloppy eaters, the food is inherently messy (in a GOOD way) and saucy when served back and forth. Even when we requested and were promptly brought extra napkins, and MOPPED THE TABLE OURSELVES, the pleasant but unbusy staff didn't take the hint.

4. Serving: no service pieces and cheap snap-apart chopsticks, one set per guest. Hardly substantial enough for the hearty fare, and too short for reversing for service...besides, who wants goo dripping down onto one's fingers? We requested, and thereafter were brought, spoons and forks with each dish. by the fifth or sixth dish, it would have been nice to have been offered clean plates. The pools of various dips and sauces were all good (see food, below) but started making some rather weird combinations on our two small luncheon plates.

5. FOOD: finally, the raison d'être. The food. Bold, rich, flavorful, yes. As stted on other threads. BUt not enough variety in ingredients, cooking method, or flavoring. We ordered FOUR protein mains ( duck sausage, chicken, beef, and fish cheeks) and were not told that the dishes were almost indistinguishable in presentation and saucing. All four came with two sauces, but each had one unique little dip for itself and one that was featured on at least one other dish. The lunch menu is limited, and although protein portions are hearty, the pricing on (very ordinary) pickles,( even MORE ordinary) kimchi, and vegetables is harder to justify. The eggplant, an intriguing fusion dish with pefectly cooked (firm but yielding) eggplant, the flesh distinctly eggplant in flavor without any bitterness, and exuberantly(but not hot-spicy) sauced, with sweet red bell pepper, was sensational. The brussel sprouts, OTOH, were perfect for people who....hate brussels sprouts. Deep fried, heavy in oil and flavour, with no trace of the cruciferous vegetable base. Even the texture was lost in the complicated melange.

My guest, an enthusiastic Asian-food lover with years of eating experience in Asia, Africa, the States and ...well, VANCOUVER.... was gracious, but also clear that it was not enough to justify a Daisho return, and although she will give SHoto one try for a dinner, she did not feel that she was the Daisho...demographic. She quite rightly described all dishes except the pickled vegetables as "heavy" and to her palate, unnecessarily so. The unrelieved greasiness transmits flavor, but she wished for some finessed lighter dishes for counterpoint.

I still haven't decided. Would I go with a crowd for Bo Ssam and the fish sandwich(custom sized loaf by Thuet) with oyster chowder? Wouldn't miss it, but only if they will give us chairs.

Lunch again for me alone? Daisho neither fish nor fowl. Not cheap and cheerful like the Noodle Bar, not elegant enough for the price. I liked the eggplant and three of the four "proteins" enough to dump in the next time I am in that area and grab some at the counter, but.....I wonder whether as a condition of the hotel location they were required to serve a sit-down lunch? Ssam Bar in NY does one, but with a bigger menu, and a lower price, although I've never tried it.

Has anyone else tried Toronto Daisho or the non-noodle bar Momofuku lunches in NY?

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  1. Overall, reviews have been mixed. You are not the only one to question the value. To call it a tourist trap seems unfair, but I imagine their business, given their location and strong brand image, is banking on the 21+ million visitors who spend 10 billion a year in Toronto. But I am getting the sense that Torontonians are willing to, somewhat regularly, spend $75 for lunch or $100+++ for dinner, if the quality and value is there. In other words, this could have been more than just a visit once or twice destination. Given the risk in opening a restaurant, most new restaurants in this city have gone the bistro route. With all the buzz around Momofuku, I think Toronto is hungry and ready to pay for a truly world class restaurant. I hope restauranteurs are talking note that Momofuku didn't quite deliver and that there is a gap that could be filled.

    19 Replies
    1. re: dubchild

      "Momofuku didn't quite deliver and that there is a gap that could be filled."

      Yes PLEASE someone take note of this fact! This city deserves a world class restaurant, and Chang has not delivered that.

      1. re: shekamoo

        "This city deserves a world class restaurant, and Chang has not delivered that."

        Just pointing out that Shoto is the 'top tier' place - NOT Daisho. And it's already a more difficult reservation than Momofuku Ko (which has 2 Michelin stars and listed in Top 100) - and Shoto has over 50% more seats.

        I suggest that Chang HAS delivered (at least) one world-class restaurant. Either that or Torontonians (in general) have palates that wouldn't appreciate a world-class restaurant anyway.

        (My evidence is attempting to get reservations this month for both Ko (12-14 seats) and Shoto (20+ seats). Ko seats were available for roughly 3 hours on opening day for reservations. Shoto were all gone in 5 minutes!)

        1. re: estufarian

          As I've mentioned in other posts, I haven't been to Shoto. I was very interested in going but after Daisho, the noodle bar, and the number of mixed reviews, I decided to pass.

          There are many restaurants in the city worth going to, but I keep on hoping for a restaurant that focusses on tasting menus which people constantly rave about. There have been restaurants which at one time or another have, for the most part, received glowing reviews from this board. Given the Momofuku brand, the staff brought over from the states and the quality of staff from here, I had hopes this would be such a restaurant.

          The problem with this discussion is the difficulty in determining things absolutely. I should mention, I also don't believe that because this is the case, that things are then arbitrary. It would be nice if a science of restaurant experiences existed where we could run it through an experiment and draw consistent conclusions. At best, on this board we have a collection of passionate individuals, who, I hope, can pick out technical flaws and can measure their experience against those at other top restaurants here and around the world.

          An appeal to popularity is never good because, quite simply, the masses may be wrong. I'm sure we all have examples of restaurants here and around the world which elicit glowing reviews from various critics only to leave us dumbfounded. Despite having said this, I was hoping for greater consensus regarding Shoto and Momofuku's other offerings.

          Like many of you, I also check rotten tomatoes, to determine if I see a two hour film. However flawed, Chowhounds and restaurant critics are the only tools I have to draw conclusions about going or not. The only thing I can safely concluded is that reviews are mixed and, granted, many world class restaurants get mixed reviews. In the end I was hoping for a restaurant that had many more glowing reviews then not. As such, it seems, Momofuku has not quite delivered on that implied promise.

          1. re: dubchild

            Why not go because you are interested and form your own views? I see movie trailers and decide to go based on those? But then again, cost is not a factor and now having been to Shoto 3 times, reviews, certainly here, mean nothing to me. Sort of like either like it or you do not. Just because my buddy likes Harlan estate and there is a consensus that it is a spectacular wine...does not mean I like it...

            1. re: limitedtimeoffer

              I think dinners at Daisho and the prix fixe at Shoto are horses of very different colors, and have threads of their own.

              My question here was more regarding the lunch experience, and the specific issues I thought I could identify, and the indefinable SOMETHING that I could "tell" was missing. What I truly hope is that someone can "tell" me what I couldn't tell for myself.

              But amen to committed diners sharing impressions and opinions. THat's the point of the enterprise, yes?

            2. re: dubchild

              Not really sure how you keep jumping into Momofuku threads when you haven't even been there, though? As for the worthiness of Shoto, seems like all the serious critics have weighed in with highly positive, in some case 4* reviews. To extend the Rotten Tomatoes analogy, the "Top Critics" carry more weight.

              1. re: childofthestorm

                I've posted about my experiences at Daisho and the noodle bar, so I think you meant to post how can I keep on jumping into Shoto threads, which I freely admit not having been to. My comment were about Momofuku as a whole but it has been pointed out that if we are going to talk about it as a world class restaurant we should only talk about their best offering, Shoto.

                The conclusion I drew, that Momofuku has not lived up to it's hype comes from a simple argument which looks like this:
                World class restaurants receive widespread praise
                Momofuku has not received widespread praise
                therefore Momofuku is not a wordclass restaurant.
                I tried as carefully as I could to point out the difficulty in absolutes, and the flaws in appeals to popularity, so I'm not going ot repeat all that. The two points of contention seem to be 1) not having been to Shoto I can't make this argument and 2) my premise that Shoto has not received widespread praise is false.

                The first point is easy to deal with because first hand knowledge of Shoto is not required to draw the conclusion. It is actually in line with statements we make all the time. Much hyped movie X gets mixed reviews, we conclude without seeing the movie "it doesn't seem to live up to the hype". It could very well turn out to be my favourite movie of all time but that doesn't change that I can and do make these statements. Most employers hire somewhat without having first hand knowledge of their employees work ethic.

                The second point about mixed reviews was something I said from a general impression, not something I researched. But since that premise is being challenged here's a quick view of what I've found about Shoto: Gina Mallet gave it 2 1/2* for food and 3* for service/vibe, Chris Nuthall-Smith gave it 4* and argued that it is the best restaurant in the city, Amy Pataki said it was Absatively worth the hype, and Toronto Life gave it 4*. Professional reviewers seem to mostly think it is top notch. Chowhounds have debated the merits of these critic and each hound can decide if the professional's opinion weights more than those of others.

                The hounds which seem to be in the positive camp are: childofthestorm, gourmandish, estufarian, ctl98, Yimahaji, and limitedtimeoffer. Of those, gourmandish, estufarian, and ctl98, said it was not the best in the city. I should point out with all of these some ups, I went through this quickly, there are nuances in what they have said which could sway a reader one way or another. I'm doing my best to not misrepresent someone.

                The hounds in the not so positive camp are: themiguel, radiopolitic, shekamoo, hungryabbey, ggom1, auberginegal, sydneydelicious, and T.O. Diner. Many of their comments related to lack of value and a couple to service issues.

                To some up, 3 professional reviews gave top marks, 1 gave average, 6 hounds gave top marks but three didn't consider it the best in the city, and 8 hounds were less thrilled. Is the premise that Shoto received mixed reviews false? I'll repeat what I said before: in the end I was hoping for a restaurant that had many more glowing reviews than not. As such, it seems, Momofuku has not quite delivered on that implied promise.

                1. re: dubchild

                  I've only been to Shoto once - and have a policy of not posting reviews until I've visited a place at least twice (although I will comment on others posts to provide a broader perspective).

                  My meal at Shoto was very good (from a food perspective) - potentially of a high international standard (i.e. below Ko, but still quite close). Service, ambiance and wine list were way below 'top restaurant' status. HOWEVER, it's easier to fix the latter issues than food - which WAS among Toronto's best. That's the problem with summarizing as 8/10 (say) or a star system – the context gets lost.

                  So if one rates the food – a top rating may be justified. But in rating the ‘experience’ Shoto may seem to fall short (as it did for me). But that’s why we have chowhound – to discuss these points. (Aside, but relevant, if a wine review STARTS with P#rk*r gives this 95 points, then I don’t, easily, have a description of the wine – but adding that score at the end ‘may be’ useful’).

                  At this point my Shoto meal is in my top 10 (in Toronto) of 2012. I hope that will be sufficient for an interested reader to decide whether the high cost would justify trying the experience. And my information that seats sell out within 5 minutes of being offered will also (I hope) be useful to anyone who wants to go – obviously popularity and quality have a dubious relationship (as any Sports Fan in Toronto clearly knows!).

                  And a final point – this portion of the thread would more properly be in the Shoto discussion – and leave the Daisho bits here. It’s not ‘strictly’ off-topic as the two restaurants are on the same floor with a single access point, but moving it (Moderators?) would enable potential contributors to find it more easily.

                  1. re: estufarian

                    i'll more fuel to the fire... i've been to all 3 (expense account-thank you) here and 2 in nyc. i preferred nyc as it was a new experience for me. overall i like my asian food more downscale in style, presentation and surroundings and maybe cost. i prefer my korean more traditional.

                    as for the movie analogy-how is this. if you didn't like the tv version you won't like the big screen remake, or how about spiderman-the first trilogy was okay but the reboot sucked.

                  2. re: dubchild

                    I swear, I usually aim to write as well informed a post as Dubchild has just written above but somewhere in there I just blow it and end up posting a snarky remark instead...


                    () (;,:) ()


              2. re: estufarian

                I have been to both Shoto and Daisho. My comment was on Shoto, more than Daisho, but more generally that the opening of Momofuku Toronto, while certainly a welcome culinary event, has not amounted to the opening of a world class restaurant in Toronto. I think both Splendido and Haisai have a better claim to that title. My views on Shoto can be found on its separate thread.

                That Shoto is a more difficult reservation than Ko, which is in a city with an INSANELY higher level of competition in its class is unhelpful where comparative quality is concerned.

                "Torontonians (in general) have palates that wouldn't appreciate a world-class restaurant anyway."

                Well we wont know until we actually get one, will we?

                1. re: shekamoo

                  I hope you appreciate that I deliberately gave you (and others) an alternative conclusion!

                  My comments fitted better under the Dubchild post a little later than yours - so I won't repeat them here.

                  1. re: estufarian

                    let me see if I understand your generous alternative-offering scheme:


                    I agree with your view that Shoto is a world class restaurant, regardless of my own experience at Shoto and what I take to be world class restaurants


                    I dont have the palate to appreciate a world class restaurant anyways.

                    in other words, those who dont agree with you (you being the clearly superior party here), dont 'matter' in the first place.

                    Ok. I am persuaded. where do I sign to join the party?

                    1. re: shekamoo

                      shoto is world class. not the best in the world, but world class. but then again, what does my opinion matter anway. i am no foodie and just like to eat and am fortunate that my employer sends me around the world to do interesting things and meet interesting people who like to take me out to top restaurants on their dimes...shoto holds its own very well. now, it is rather pricey but one could argue brunch at Cora's is expensive also given the price of eggs, bread and bacon...

                      1. re: shekamoo

                        Only you know where you fit!
                        Mine was a general comment, not specific.
                        But enjoy the party anyway.

              3. re: dubchild

                I tried Daisho a la carte a while ago. It was okay as meals go. I found some dishes overly salty and greasy (brussel sprouts). Also tried the grits and was reminded that I don't like grits (tried it on way down to Louisiana and didn't like it at the waffle shop down there either, so it's llikely my palate speaking). The hangar steak was flavourful, not overly chewy, was okay as a menu item. Our menu choices weren't memorable as meals go, not bad as meals go, but not something I'd go out of my way to reorder.

                That being said, looking forward to a large format meal someday soon. Just need a group of people with no food or calorie restricted diets to dine with.

                So, loved Shoto, liked the noodle bar (haven't yet gone to Sansotei, Santouka, Kiijin, Kinton), but have nothing to compare to other than Aijen and found Daisho a la carte so-so.

                World class.....don't know. I'm not well travelled as some, but I do appreciate others' opinions as some are able to compare to other places, whether a small village place in Italy, Spain or Michelin rated in Europe or perhaps they grew up with family recipes that add special nuance to their replies. Also appreciate the varied opinions on the board as others' different circumstances at times mesh with mine (price points, purpose for the meal).

                I myself can only compare my meals to what I've liked myself in the past.

                I do have the perception though that it's harder to get some quality, flavourful products into Ontario and Toronto than other cities around the world. I'm looking forward to more Iberico products, wish we had better access to true wild game and wish we had the cheese varieties they do in Europe (still having heck of a time getting some firm, aged, Pecorino Sardo despite going to Cheese Boutique, and those two places on Dufferin). And, gotta try a croissant in Paris as I'm told by my French teacher that you can't get the same butter quality in Ontario and thus you just cannot make the same flakey, light, all that is goodness croissants here as they do in Paris.

                But world class also pertains to service (from the phone reservation person/system to the water person), cleanliness, decor, plating, and a certain elegance, ease and discreet way in which the staff respond to each and every patrons needs - in which all patrons are treated as stars and all stars are treated as your regular patron.

                Lastly, need to mention, loved the bartender, server who was attending to us at the Daisho dinner. She was tops.

                1. re: Yimahaji

                  Yes, Yimahaji, I too wound up feeling that the a la carte lunch was merely... ok.... and that I would definitely come back for the large-group dinners (discussed elsewhere on Chowhound). I am GLAD you thought the brussels sprouts were greasy and over-seasoned...I htought my friend and I were the only two. QUESTION FOR YOU: what is the relatively light-looking dish second photo from the left, bottom row? It looks like something I might enjoy there. Your teacher is right; butter matters! If you yourself bake or eat butter on bread, have you tried the Cheese BOutique's handmade butter? It's MUCH better than anything commercially available here, although not as good as, say, the exquisite butter at The Ledbury (subtle, eh?). Also, CB's butter goes off in a week or two, so only buy as much as you will use promptly. I share my chunk with my neighbours .

                  1. re: KAYLO

                    Sorry, that was

                    1) Hot Wing Bun - I enjoyed that one. Tender juicy flavour packed chicken in pillow of a bun
                    2) Egg - That was nice as well. Poached with runny centre.
                    3) Bread and drippings - Was okay. Drippings seemed diluted a bit.
                    4) Herschberger Grits - Found out I don't like grits.
                    5) Halibut - Think I enjoyed it but can't recall.
                    6) Brussel Sprouts - Fish sauced flavoured punch in the face
                    7) Hanger Steak - Reinforced idea that nothing beats a bone-in rare ribeye, preferably wagyu, why bother ordering any other type?