190 University Avenue, Third Floor
I will probably write shorter reviews in the future but since this is my first review on an upper casual fine dining asian restaurant, I wanted to spend some time to share the full experience both my wife and I had at Momofuku Daisho.
My wife has offered a couple times to dine with her at Momofuku Daisho. Unfortunately living on the west end of the GTA doesn’t give us much opportunity to travel into downtown, find parking then feed the meter or ticket machine, then walk to the restaurant. With Toronto’s Summerlicious program hitting the urban cuisine life, this was the perfect opportunity to give Momofuku Daisho a try.
I didn’t know much about what Momofuku Daisho had to offer so I checked out their website and also searched them on Google. New York’s top-rated chef, David Chang, opened Momofuku’s three-storey, four-in-one restaurant building in 2012 next to the prestigious, five-star Shangri-La hotel. Daisho’s theme is based on a steakhouse: burgers, steaks, salads, and seafood. They do not specifically serve Asian dishes, however some of their dishes do have some asian ingredients unlike the other two restos in the building: Noodle Bar and Shoto (“Nikai” is a bar and lounge while “Milk Bar” sells baked goods shipped in from their New York kitchen. Both are on the second floor). The concept design of Daisho is simple: a glass cube on the 3rd floor. I heard at night the lights illuminate the exterior of the entire building and showcases Daisho’s interior. Maybe next time I might drop in for dinner just to see it.
Calling into Momofuku for reservations was easy especially since they offered a separate connection specifically for Summerlicious. What I liked about their reservation line is that they called me the day before to confirm my reservation. Traffic was light and easy heading into T-dot late morning and my wife saved us a ton of money finding us street parking across the street from the underground parking entrance.
A short 5 minute walk around the corner to University Avenue and we made it. We weren’t entirely sure where the main entrance to the building was. We knew it was beside the Shangri-la hotel but not part of it. We saw the large entrance door behind the what appeared to be a large tree sculpture made out of stainless steel. Later I learned that the sculpture is reminiscent of a headless dragon adorned with doves to resemble world peace. Although it is placed in front of Momofuku’s megaplex, it was actually designed for the Shangri-la hotel.
We arrived early for our reservation and when we entered the small waiting area, my wife and I were a little confused as to where we needed to be. After a little walking around, we realized that the entrance to Momofuku hasn’t opened yet and so we sat down on the few benches until we were ready to go in. The restaurant promptly opened at 11:30am and the hostess at Noodle Bar directed us to the 3rd floor for Daisho by giving us a choice of using the stairs or elevator. I wanted a smooth ride so we took the obvious choice.
The hostess immediately greeted us as soon as we stepped out of the elevator and she sat us down at what my wife and I thought was the best table. Seated in the corner of the glass cube resto, my wife had the view of the restaurant and outside south of University Avenue while I enjoyed my view of my wife and north of downtown. Everything was clean and well-polished. The windows and ceiling stretched high and gave the entire restaurant so much natural light. Our waitress, Jasmine, gave us the time we needed to look over their Summerlicious menu. We talked for awhile and built up the questions what we needed to ask:
“What are these ingredients?”
“How large are these portions”
“If we wanted to try dishes on top of the three-course meal, is the option available?”
I have to tell you, she answered every single question with the fullest description but brief and to the point. It just made our ordering that much easier. We decided to hold off on ordering extra dishes in case we weren’t able to finish our prix fixe lunch.
For appetizers, my wife ordered the BBQ Pork Bun stuffed with red cabbage, bread and butter pickes, and avocado. I decided to try the roasted carrot soup with almond, crab, and chive. For the main/entrée dish I had the Pork Secreto SSam with pickled green papya, fish sauce and bibb lettuce while she had the Grilled Trout with roasted buckwheat, chanterelle mushrooms, and arugula. The desserts, a humble blueberry cheesecake and a shortcake for me.
We made our order and sipped on our hot green tea and had a delightful conversation about how excited we were to try our food. Within 10 minutes, our appetizers arrived. I have to tell you, we were absolutely impressed with the presentation. The BBQ Pork Bun was a hit. Everything was neatly packed inside the bun. Something so simple looked delicious! Although mine was a simple soup, it was presented to me with the ingredients inside the soup bowl while the actual carrot soup was inside a ceramic bottle with an open spout. The server place the bowl in front of me then poured the soup around the ingredients so that it wouldn’t drown and get soggy. Very smart!
Shortly after we finished our apps, our entrees arrived. We were both equally impressed with the presentation. The Grilled Trout was seasoned very well without any fishy taste. Roasted buckwheat was a complete surprise. We found ourselves using our fork to figure out exactly what else was inside it. The roasted buckwheat looked like couscous but tasted nothing like it.
My Pork Secreto SSam is similar to what I used to eat when I was a kid. The plate arrived with several slices of pork and bibb lettuce piled on one side, fish sauce and sticky rice in separate small bowls. Either you could take the pork and rice then place it inside the lettuce then spoon the sauce on top and eat it like a burrito or simply use your cutlery and let it ride. All the ingredients for this asian dish was subtle but very tasty.
The desserts: The cheesecake was not thick or dense as how you would normally buy or make. It was light but not runny and it was paired with a scoop of sorbet. The two combined made for a cream and tangy flavour that cleaned the palette. I could not finish my strawberry shortcake. My wife had to help me as shortcake is usually a little dense. I’m not saying that it wasn’t good, it was very good but I just couldn’t finish everything.
From beginning to end, our foodie experience at Momofuku Daisho did not disappoint. Although we came here during Toronto’s Summerlicious venue, I would definitely come back here and try some of their other dishes on their regular menus. I heard their Roasted Rice Cakes are worth trying. If you ever find your way into downtown Toronto, drop into Momofoku Daisho. I highly recommend their food and their service.