To say that I like dim sum is like saying that Lady GaGa politely appreciates your attention. I’ve grown up eating this collection of little dishes and have always loved it to its fullest. So when Beffy asked me to go try out Luckee, the new dim sum restaurant by Susur Lee, I told him “Get bent!” and chuckled uncontrollably by myself for being so witty. After his puzzled look subsided though, I finally embarrassingly mumbled something like “Thankyounowletsgo” and wasted no time going there for a little post-work tapas, Chinese style.
Walking in, Luckee felt strangely like a Canadian hipster joint that tries way too hard to be “old-school” Chinese. With red flurescent lighting accents, old-timey Asian pictures, and concrete brick wall accents, it’s really, really hard to see Luckee as anything other than a rich white kid who decided to have a really Chinese room in his house, but with the provision that said Chinese room can only be inspired by what that kid has seen in classic Chinese pop culture.
And I loved every bit of it.
The kitschyness mixed with the undoubtedly refined atmosphere (it was located in the ground floor of the Soho Metropolitan Hotel in Toronto after all) was actually a wonderful combination. Instead of being stuck up, the whole place to me seemed to shimmer in a semi self-awareness that became charming. The prices, on the other hand, were a little less thrilling. I mean, I know that I’m gonna be hit harder than in a regular dim sum place, but seeing that I’d have to fork out 9 bucks for four pieces of har gow was a little DIM on my SUM of money (I’m here all week, folks).
We ordered a little smorgasbord of morsels, but since listing them all will make this article super long and boring, I’ll give some of the highlights and lowlights, beginning with the latter. The crispy shrimp with tofu dumpling, for one, wasn’t too superb. It wasn’t bad, but it was basically a fry-up with shrimp. Fresh ingredients but not worth the $8 price they hit you with. Similar points for the crispy crab and tofu cake. I was just expecting so much more than a simple…well, crab and tofu cake (I guess they win points for naming accuracy). It was a bit underwhelming and I was hoping that they were able to put a unique twist on their fried stuff, but I was sorely disappointed.
In the winners section was the beautiful steamed har gow. Though a bit pricey, they were plump and juicy, and (shock) orange-coloured! I was told that the colouring came from carotene, the stuff you get in carrots, so it had the benefit of providing a stark and cool new look on an old favourite dish of mine without altering the actual flavour itself. The xiao long bao was also pretty good, although admittedly Ding Tai Fung’s are better. But my absolute fave was the shrimp cheung fun. Unlike its traditional counterpart which only uses steamed shrimp, this one has some fried dough/batter surrounding the shrimp, without turning it into an all-out fried snack. It was, most definitely, still true to its steamed roots. The flavours came alive extremely well for this dish, and it is the first one I would recommend to anyone coming here.
I would recommend Luckee for the sheer experience of it. I do think you’ll get more value for your money from a strictly food standpoint by going to one of the many awesome traditional dim sum places in town or in Markham, however for the chance of having a “haute couture” dim sum dining experience, Luckee delivers. Still, for me, this is strictly on the “so glad I came, but I don’t think I’ll come back” list.
Moral of the story? Order the steamed ones, and leave off the fried ones. Never thought I’d every say those words.
–Final verdict: Boleh Makan!
328 Wellington Street West
Toronto, ON M5V 3T4