Had an odd first-time lunch at Daisho, am still processing it, and was wondering if anyone else has had a similar experience. My guest and I dropped $ 150 for lunch, no problem, but....
0. The joke: I loved that the menu announced that "None of the dishes are (sic) vegan." And I pity any mere vegetarian who stumbles in by mistake.
1. The room: The room is gorgeous, high-ceilinged, with dramatic views of (shrug) University, and plenty of space for a business lunch between the tables.
2. Seating: Unless you come with four people you will not get a chair with a back. Only the four-tops have proper chairs. Otherwise it's counter stools, or benches and stools at the sharing tables. My single guest and I were fortunate enough to be first to show, before noon, and the host kindly gave us decent seats...but he was careful to tell us that usually they reserve them for parties of four only. NOw, the lunch was less than half full, so I suppose he knew he was in for a world of pain if we struggled on two stools while half the chairs sat empty...... am I the only one who thinks for a reserved seat at $ 75 each a chair is a must?
3. Tables: no cloths. Not a problem in itself, but in that not only were they never crumbed, but in a two hour debauch with eight shared dishes they were never wiped and although we are by no means sloppy eaters, the food is inherently messy (in a GOOD way) and saucy when served back and forth. Even when we requested and were promptly brought extra napkins, and MOPPED THE TABLE OURSELVES, the pleasant but unbusy staff didn't take the hint.
4. Serving: no service pieces and cheap snap-apart chopsticks, one set per guest. Hardly substantial enough for the hearty fare, and too short for reversing for service...besides, who wants goo dripping down onto one's fingers? We requested, and thereafter were brought, spoons and forks with each dish. by the fifth or sixth dish, it would have been nice to have been offered clean plates. The pools of various dips and sauces were all good (see food, below) but started making some rather weird combinations on our two small luncheon plates.
5. FOOD: finally, the raison d'être. The food. Bold, rich, flavorful, yes. As stted on other threads. BUt not enough variety in ingredients, cooking method, or flavoring. We ordered FOUR protein mains ( duck sausage, chicken, beef, and fish cheeks) and were not told that the dishes were almost indistinguishable in presentation and saucing. All four came with two sauces, but each had one unique little dip for itself and one that was featured on at least one other dish. The lunch menu is limited, and although protein portions are hearty, the pricing on (very ordinary) pickles,( even MORE ordinary) kimchi, and vegetables is harder to justify. The eggplant, an intriguing fusion dish with pefectly cooked (firm but yielding) eggplant, the flesh distinctly eggplant in flavor without any bitterness, and exuberantly(but not hot-spicy) sauced, with sweet red bell pepper, was sensational. The brussel sprouts, OTOH, were perfect for people who....hate brussels sprouts. Deep fried, heavy in oil and flavour, with no trace of the cruciferous vegetable base. Even the texture was lost in the complicated melange.
My guest, an enthusiastic Asian-food lover with years of eating experience in Asia, Africa, the States and ...well, VANCOUVER.... was gracious, but also clear that it was not enough to justify a Daisho return, and although she will give SHoto one try for a dinner, she did not feel that she was the Daisho...demographic. She quite rightly described all dishes except the pickled vegetables as "heavy" and to her palate, unnecessarily so. The unrelieved greasiness transmits flavor, but she wished for some finessed lighter dishes for counterpoint.
I still haven't decided. Would I go with a crowd for Bo Ssam and the fish sandwich(custom sized loaf by Thuet) with oyster chowder? Wouldn't miss it, but only if they will give us chairs.
Lunch again for me alone? Daisho neither fish nor fowl. Not cheap and cheerful like the Noodle Bar, not elegant enough for the price. I liked the eggplant and three of the four "proteins" enough to dump in the next time I am in that area and grab some at the counter, but.....I wonder whether as a condition of the hotel location they were required to serve a sit-down lunch? Ssam Bar in NY does one, but with a bigger menu, and a lower price, although I've never tried it.
Has anyone else tried Toronto Daisho or the non-noodle bar Momofuku lunches in NY?
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