Last weekend, I had the opportunity to dine at celebrity chef Susur Lee’s newest (?) addition to his ever-expanding empire: Bent. Uncertain feelings about the rather tasteless name aside (at least where Brits are concerned), I was actually quite looking forward to trying out a famed cook’s restaurant, and for the most part, I have to say that the place didn’t disappoint.
As it was part of a birthday dinner, and also due to us being a party of 8, the ultra-helpful servers (who always took the time to explain each dish to us as it came, while we pretended to hear them and nod meaningfully, as if the fantastical explanations actually meant something to us) recommended a chef’s selection of various tapas dishes for us. The great thing about this is that we don’t need to get overly confused as to what to order. The bad thing is that we don’t really end up knowing the names of each individual dish that was served to us, so you’re going to have to bear with my clumsy approximations and descriptions for the rest of the review. Sorry about that.
To simplify things, let’s just say that there were 6-7 dishes served to us, and I’m going to highlight some of the ones that were particularly memorable. The first dish that came
was a very fancy taco dish. It had a combination of raw fish and some vegetables inside, and was extremely delicious (this is going to be a pattern throughout the meal). The freshness of the ingredients really came through, and you can really taste the layers of flavours that come through and blend really well together. It was rich, but also very refreshing at the same time (not necessarily things that usually come together!). It was a cold dish, which was also interesting as I’ve never had cold crispy tacos before. It was dish full of juxtaposition, and the night was off to a great start, as far as I’m concerned.
The next dish that came was a kind of kale and tofu salad. Now before you go away at the sheer boredom of how that sounds, let me tell you once again that this dish was magnificent. It is served tower-like with an assortment of other vegetables and dipped
in a sweet soy sauce. The flavours on this little fella was even stronger than the previous dish, and I would be remiss if I didn’t say that by this point my tastebuds were so alive that it was freakin’ Saturday Night Fever in there. There was a perfect mix of the softness of the tofu, chewiness of the kale, and crispiness of the I-frankly-don’t-know-what. Another cold dish, but another memorable one, which also impressed me because frankly, I’ve never been a big fan of food that wasn’t hot (sushi being the lone exception).
Many excellent dishes then came and went. We totally had trouble keeping up and had to get creative in arranging the plates on our table as the dishes kept on coming and coming. In between all this hectic eating and Tetris-fitting the dishes, I got the chance to look at the interior of the restaurant. It wasn’t overly fancy, but it was nice, modern, with sleek clean lines and, charmingly, cute little pachinko (Japanese pinball) machines lining up the walls.
So in the interest of brevity (and also because I don’t want this article to be as long as a history textbook), let’s just say that there was a cacophony of dishes, all of which as memorable as the one before it, with the slight exception of the watermelon and tuna ceviche. I’m simply not a fan of cold AND watery dishes (I still can’t appreciate gazpacho) but WW seemed to like it as she loves watermelon, which I’m pretty sure is a Chinese thing as I’ve never seen a Chinese person who dislikes the fruit.
The final two highlights were the short ribs, which were marinated so thoroughly that every fibre of the meat was steeped in flavour (without any exaggeration), and the delicious shrimp and scallop plate because, well come on. Look at it!
We also got complimentary desserts, which were taster samples of various kinds of panna cota-like servings along with an Asian sesame pastry. While they certainly looked cute, I thought that these were the weakest offerings of the night, as none of them felt right. They all felt evocative of other, tastier desserts, but with an uncertainty as to what they were trying to be.
After the bill came back, it came down to about $60 per person, including tax and tips (we didn’t order drinks at all), which I suppose is very reasonable for food of this quality. It’s still a bit higher than my regular budget (and if my parents knew that I spent this much they’d probably think I’m insan-ohhiMomthanksforreading!) and because of that, I’d probably say that this place is ALMOST perfect. But keeping in mind the market pricing standard of these types of restaurants, I really can’t complain.
The service was extremely friendly and unpretentious, although most of the other patrons of the restaurant do seem of the hipster, too-cool-for-you, snobbish crowd. We, on the other hand, were wonderfully lovely people. And ridiculously good-looking too (but in an poignantly understated way, of course).
–Final verdict: Mari Makan!
777 Dundas St West
Markham, ON L3R 8X6