Toronto-based celebrity chef Susur Lee does everything with at least a touch of glamour, and Luckee, his recently opened restaurant in the Forbes Travel Guide Recommended SoHo Metropolitan Hotel, Toronto is no exception.
Designed by Brenda Bent (Lee’s wife) and Karen Gable of Bent and Gable Designs, this downtown destination for dinner, drinks and dim sum is a stylish space, with Asian-style furnishings and a red-hued lounge. Food-wise, the Hong Kong-born Lee has gone back to his roots with Luckee, creating high-end Asian sharing plates based on Chinese classics, from the delicate lobster and asparagus dumplings to the tender black-pepper beef. Look for unique Susur innovations, too, such as the delicious salad of baby spinach, chrysanthemum leaf and tofu skin.
The always-busy chef with his signature black ponytail took a few minutes out of his hectic schedule (he also runs the restaurants Lee and Bent in Toronto and TungLok Heen in Singapore) to talk about why Toronto needs a place like Luckee, where his ideas come from and what’s next for the Lee empire.
What was your inspiration for creating Luckee?
I grew up in Hong Kong, and I’m Chinese-kitchen trained, so with Luckee, it was natural to do something close to my heart. I wanted to create a place with a fun, funky vibe and professionally done Chinese food. Toronto really needed somewhere very vibrant for Chinese food, with great music, great service. The foundation is Asian taste, with a new twist but, at the same time, it’s very international.
What else do you want people to know about Luckee?
The food is No. 1. It’s modern and healthy, with a great variety from the different regions of China. We have Sichuan, Shanghainese, Cantonese dishes all done in our restaurant and presented in a very modern way. Downtown doesn’t have a restaurant like this, so Luckee makes it easy for people to come in for something different.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not at one of your restaurants?
I don’t go out much in Toronto — it’s my working environment. And if I’m not working, I normally eat in. I spend time on Sundays with my family. My wife makes dinner. We play games. It’s very relaxing. Of course, I enjoy travel all around the world with my family. And when we travel, we don’t talk about the restaurant business.
Luckee is still new, but what’s your next project?
We’re opening a new place at the [Toronto Pearson International] Airport next year. It will be a full-service restaurant with grab-and-go food, and a dim sum counter.
You’ve worked all over the world. What’s special about Toronto?
We have a great city, a very urban place where people have creativity and drive. It’s a very nice quality of life, with lots of parks and everything very accessible. There’s great theater, so you don’t have to go all the way to London or New York. But most importantly, our city has a great mix of culture. Many people come to Toronto and find it so diverse. New immigrants are bringing new skills and new ideas into Canada. Toronto is very open minded, very welcoming. I think Luckee is very much like that, very international, very welcoming. Come and try it out.