Momofuku Shōtō http://momofuku.com/toronto/shoto/ dinner tues – sat online reservation only
Being one of the hardest restaurants to get into, I had high expectations going in. What I left with was quite the opposite. I’m all about being honest, and no matter how much hype a restaurant gets, nothing sways my judgment. The following is an accurate portrayal of my dining experience at Momofuku Shōtō.
The only way to get a seat around the open kitchen restaurant is by online reservation. After trying for about a month, I finally get a seat. The menu changing slightly every one or two weeks is set; wine pairings are available with each course or, every other. I chose to enjoy wine with each course and I’m glad I did, one of the best pairings I’ve had. The room is loud, exciting and modern, sleek looking while still having a warm like I’m eating-in-a-friends-kitchen feeling. Staff is extremely knowledgeable. However the entire experience has left me undecided. The kitchen seems to throw together random ingredients hoping for grandeur but hitting a mishmash of flavour and confusion.
Not one but four amuses start the evening. Soft and chewy Manitoba rolls are slightly greasy. Grilled rice with smoky pork fat served steaming hot lacks seasoning. Uni cranberry squab is creamy but fails by finishing waxy on the palate. Beef tenderloin “pho style” vinaigrette with coriander and peanuts served cold is dry without the classic broth. The last amuse – celery root soup with diced apples and lamb belly – is smooth and flavourful.
The first course brings fluke and black bean sauce with myoga and pickled cherry bomb peppers. The creamy fish finishes with a peppery bite and the sake paired with this is excellent bringing out more flavour in the dish. Lobster sashimi with salsify and pomelo lacks punch until a burst of flavour from the wine pairing. Gorgeous goose dumplings with Brussel sprouts and goose broth comfort the soul with the aromas of earthy vegetables and spiced meat.
The Thai style fried duck egg slow poached with Thai basil, coriander and daikon is a bit rubbery and heavily spiced. Pumpkin tortellini with shrimp sausage, ricotta salata and pumpkin leaf is buttery rich and nostalgic. Poached halibut cheek with chorizo, oyster cream and leeks is smoky with heat but the fish honestly tastes like it was frozen, instead of fresh flaky is was mushy and waterlogged.
Fois gras braised Jerusalem artichoke and broth with sunflower seed is nutty and rich (my favorite dish so far). Fried squab with mustard greens rutabaga is a letdown; raw flour and burnt caramelized spice forms a hard coated on the raw poultry inside – I can’t believe they served it!!!
A palate cleanser ice cream float of Japanese peppercorn ice cream and poached apple is overwhelmed with soda. Lastly, concord grapes, black sesame with toasted bread and crumbled waffle cone are a failed attempt of the classic peanut butter and jelly – summing up the entire evening.