Third floor, 190 University Ave
Let’s continue on this “David Chang in Canada” journey shall we, by taking another flight upstairs to the third and top floor of Toronto’s house of Momofuku. With the tasting menu offerings of the impressive looking counter seat-only kitchen of Shoto unavailable this evening, the remaining choice was the ala carte menu offerings at Daisho. In case you are interested, I was informed by the hostess the two spaces are run by two seperate teams of chefs.
The large glass panels that feature prominently all along the outer barrier of the floor space is stunning. As you are led to your table and make your way through the aesthetically clean lined tables and seating, you get the sense that you will definitely be paying for this view in the menu prices. Watching the blue hour unfold if you time your visit nicely, is something I would recommend experiencing.
Now I’ve heard Daisho described as Momofuku’s modern interpretation of an Asian steakhouse. Despite that, there were some seafood and mainly vegetable-centred items on the menu. On this occassion, the seasonal section simply dubbed “Winter”, had a mix of farm and sea choices. In addition, a “large format” batch of feasts for the whole table could be had, and seemingly best if reserved for in advance. I did witness some other groups seated at the bigger picnic table like spots indulging on those big plates of meatiness later.
Kicking things off with some beers created specifically for Momofuku by the Oast House Brewers down in Niagara-on-the-Lake, our server gave us enough comfortable space and time to peruse the menu and ask some questions which she was well informed to answer. Perhaps it was the brew slowly seaping into my bloodstream, but I suddenly had a craving for fried chicken.
A variation of the famous pork buns, the crispy chicken buns were decorated colourfully with some thin slices of pickled turnips, and flavoured with a garlicy parsley sauce. There was a watery, spicey dip that came with duo of buns. The fried breading had a rich golden brown colour and the chicken was boldly seasoned and the exterior delightfully crunchy. The contrast with the softer textured buns was a solid match, I’d say even better than the pork buns.
My curiosity upon seeing the spicy tripe salad on the menu drew me in fully. It was decorated with a nicely poached egg on top of a bed of fresh frisee that hid most of the main ingredient below it. A rustic side of bread served as a nice vehicle for this slightly messy concotion. Despite the advertised heat, there really wasn’t much too it, or perhaps my tolerance is higher.
Now with the entrees, they can differ in portion size, so I made sure to inquire with our server who kindly gave me her advice on what would suffice. With more traditional steakhouses, you do find sides are a paid option, and Daisho was no exception. Hoping to negate some of the leftover taste in my mouth from the salad dressing, I wanted something big and brash to absorb it, hence the selection of these nugget potatoes.
Basted in an addictive combination of togarashi and of all things, kewpie mayonnaise, I was in love. The side was more than side dish portioned too, and I literally ate the entire bowl by myself. Oh, and let’s not forget the nice chunks of crispy spiced ham that found there way into this mixture. Very good.
A segway into fatty proteins leads me to the muscovy duck confit, served with a bed of mashed roasted turnips and drizzled in a light cranberry sauce. Boy, was this rich! A fantastic crispy cook on the skin, protecting a very juicy layer of duck breast that had a beautiful colour throughout. It was quite heavy and perhaps one-tone in flavour profile to really enjoy the whole thing on its own. Best as a shared item indeed.
I had a feeling this might be more miss than hit, the hanger steak ssam (procured from the local McGee Farms) came with some an unorthodox kimchi, and a green onion sauce, and Boston lettuce serving as the ssam (or wrap). Again, while I appreciate the slight twist on the original, something just didn’t scream excitement, from the moment the plate his the table. Don’t get me wrong though, the steak was again nicely cooked, the meat beautifully heated through and portioned in generous thick slices, although the marinade was a bit lacking in sweetness. I did not love this dish and interpretation but technically nothing wrong with the cook of the meat.
So to wrap, a mixed bag of both enjoyment and unimpressed takes on the meal this evening. Perhaps it was a matter of bad choices on my part, with other choices perhaps making a better combination. In any event, I would be inclined to do another visit if the opportunity presents itself. And even give the next door Shoto a try. I know Momofuku has a large contingent of fans and detractors (especially of the Toronto outposts), so I am of the mindset that I need to experience them myself and come to my own conclusions.