lee restaurant toronto

Lee Restaurant

Lee Restaurant re-opened after closing in late 2022. It now resides on Richmond St., not too far from where the original location once lived for 20 years.

The eponymous restaurant is helmed by award-winning Iron Chef Susur Lee who has been riding a new wave of popularity thanks to a TikTok account he runs with his son Jet Bent-Lee. 

lee restaurant torontoThe space was designed by Ali McQuaid of Futurestudio in a warm mid-century modern style. 

Low leather banquette seating runs through the centre of the restaurant, and you can find walnut abbacus-like detailing along the main doorway and staircases. 

lee restaurant torontoHanging sculptural light fixtures have an almost bone-like quality, with a blue and pink tartan carpet spanning half the room, green-backed seats, and Panton-esque chairs lending an eclectic 70's touch to the space. 

"I grew up in the 70's. There was disco and big sound. I want people to feel like they can kick back, eat interesting food, and listen to good music from a great sound system here," Chef Lee described to blogTO. 

lee restaurant toronto

Chef Lee tells me he sees the restaurant as his studio and that it was important to have the character and culture of the East and West represented — much like the food he makes. 

"I have a lot of ideas. I come here to create things. There are personal details in the room but all executed in a modern way," he explains.

lee restaurant toronto

In fact, his wife Brenda Bent (who is an interior designer), designed the large retractable woven tapestry that acts as a sectional wall for the back of the room, converting it into a private space. 

More of her personal touches can be seen in the silk drapes that hang over the bar, as well as in the vintage woven bar seats. 

lee restaurant torontoIn the private dining room, you'll find a more intimate space showcasing Chinese paintings from the 50's on the walls. 

lee restaurant torontoThe dining floor dips into a lower level, where there's additional seating and a full bar tucked against the wall. 

lee restaurant torontoBathed in golden light, the diffused light panels on the ceiling add a tea house-like calmness to what could be a frenzied corner during service. lee restaurant toronto

You can still expect to find the all the signature staples from Chef Lee's menu, such as his famous vegan Singapore Style Slaw ($39). It's a mountain of 24 ingredients and has a salted plum dressing that makes it a sweeter slaw than most.

It's a recipe Chef Lee has been working on for about 18 years and he tells blogTO he's still continuing to perfect it to this day, experimenting with new ingredients through the seasons. 

lee restaurant toronto

While it comes to the table in one impossible stack, staff will happily toss it tableside, so everything is well-incorporated (after you take enough photos and videos). 

lee restaurant torontoChar Siu BBQ Duck ($62) offers typical duck wraps on a plate for you to assemble. The duck is cooked half Beijing-style and half Cantonese-style before being sliced in strips. A side of fois gras pâté, maple mustard, cranberry compote, and green onion accompany the meat. lee restaurant torontoYou can create your own perfect bite by choosing what you want wrapped inside paper-thin steamed chun bing pancakes.lee restaurant toronto

Asian Slow Braised Beef ($47) is another familiar dish that's been on the menu for years. It's braised very slowly in Chef Lee's Cantonese five spice blend until it's tender and served on top of a potato leek butter purée, and sweet butter corn, before being topped with a maitake mushroom. 

Chef tells blogTO it's a guest favourite and thinks it is the best representation of the homey quality he wants to champion for the restaurant.

lee restaurant torontoThe Wild Caramelized Black Cod ($48) has been cooked to a perfect soft flake. The fish is marinated then baked and served with Cantonese-style preserved vegetables, just like Chef Lee's grandmother used to make. lee restaurant toronto

To finish, try another classic Chef Lee dessert, the French & Chinese Tong Yuen ($24). Instead of the typical peanut or sesame filling, these glutinous rice balls have French ganache. 

Presented on tiny spoons, it sits in passionfruit gastrique and vanilla anglaise and is finished with wild blueberry preserves and edible flowers, making for a dense, chewy treat.

lee restaurant toronto

To drink, we tried Birds of Nirvana ($20) which is a take on the tropical Jungle Bird. Rum, coconut oil-washed Campari, pineapple juice, ginger, and lime leaf make this a crowd-pleaser.

lee restaurant toronto

The Intercontinental ($21) is a striking black cocktail that uses peaty Laphroaig scotch, sombra mezcal, maraschino liquor, amaro nonino, green chartreuse, and activated charcoal. It's a refined sour and smokey drink.

lee restaurant torontoA perfect Oyster Caesar ($22) places a freshly shucked oyster on top of the glass with a sundried tomato to give a bit of acid to the salt. The rim is lined with salted chili, with hoisin, sriracha, and cilantro adding an interesting twist to the glass. lee restaurant toronto

There will soon be a brunch menu and Chef Lee hopes to appeal to a wider crowd of food lovers.

"It's been really exciting to see my old school regular clients and the next generation of patrons through my son['s TikTok] come through here," he says excitedly. "It's like the old meets the new."

lee restaurant torontoThe front patio also runs around the side and back of the restaurant for warmer month dining. lee restaurant toronto

Lee Restaurant is located at 497 Richmond St W.

Photos by

Fareen Karim

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