Friday, September 20, 2013

Louboutin Grand Soirée + Ki Modern Japanese

The London Design Museum’s acclaimed retrospective dedicated to iconic French shoe designer Christian Louboutin made its North American debut in Toronto at the Design Exchange this past summer, from June 21 to September 15, 2013. The exhibition entitled Christian Louboutin: An Exhibition Celebrating 20 years of Design, Artistry and Magic, celebrated Louboutin’s twenty years of designs and inspiration, revealing the artistry and theatricality of his shoe design from stilettos to lace-up boots, studded sneakers and bejeweled pumps. It was a magical journey of style, glamour, power, femininity and elegance. 

True to the designer’s theatrical spirit, the exhibit featured a fairground-like carousel, a giant spinning top, a topiary garden, a recreation of Louboutin’s Paris atelier and a sexy three-dimensional Dita von Teese hologram formed a stunning centrepiece of show. For total sensory overload, Grand Marnier even sponsored a party one Thursday each month during the exhibition, with free cocktails and complimentary appetizers, courtesy of Parts & Labour, and music spun by DJ Hannah Bronfman — and we were there to take full advantage of the 'Final Grand Soirée'. 

The mixologist is busy concocting the evening's signature cocktails

Upon entering the exhibition, we were handed two drink tickets to indulge in specialty cocktails concocted by Grand Marnier, with one cleverly named The Louboutini, which was served in a glossy Louboutin-red martini glass! The second cocktail served this evening was The Grand Garden Smash, made with Grand Marnier, lemon juice, strawberries, orange blossom water and garnished with a fresh basil leaf. Both cocktails were very tasty, perhaps too much so, and rekindled my admiration for this amber coloured orange-flavored liqueur.  

With stacks of Grand Marnier bottles at hand, the servers were efficiently handing out the evening's delicious signature cocktail, The Louboutini!

A complimentary charcuterie and cheese table was prepared courtesy of Parts + Labour

A bright and playful lighting exhibit marked the entrance to the show

Prestigious, expensive and aggressively high, Christian Louboutin's sexy stillettos are the stuff of legend. Louboutin, who began his career more than 20 years ago, hit the headlines when he called high heels 'pleasure with pain', adding, 'If you can't walk in them, don't wear them.' Visitors at the exhibition get a unique insight into his design process – from initial drawings to factory production – and, for those hardcore lovers of Louboutin, there’s even a Fetish room dedicated to the shoes he designed for the 2007 Paris exhibition of the same name, produced in collaboration with film auteur David Lynch. 

Louboutin fetish shoe — not meant to be worn standing up, 
but rather, reclining seductively in bed!

Louboutin, who guards his red soles jealously — Pantone 18 Chinese red to be exact — is currently embroiled in an ongoing legal battle with YSL over their use of a red sole

Pigalle Ring Strass shoe by Christian Louboutin

Delicate lace and intricately-beaded heels highlight this exquisite shoe

Louboutin, famous for the red soles on his stilettos, has made Von Teese, one of his most fiercely loyal customers, appear in the form of a three-dimensional holographic performance to illustrate Louboutin's earliest design inspiration - the showgirl. The burlesque performer's silhouette morphs from a Louboutin shoe to dance on stage before she transforms back into a stiletto. But despite his fondess for Von Teese, Louboutin, who opened his first boutique in Paris 20 years ago with Princess Caroline of Monaco as his first customer, has always maintained his passion lies not in impressing celebrity, but in creating shoes that are, he says, 'like jewels'.  

The jewel-like Dita Von Teese shoe that she uses in her famed cabaret act

A still from the Dita Von Teese hologram at the show

Louboutin at work in his studio

A Louboutin sketch of one of his creations

The wonderful entrance to Ki from the BCE Place interior courtyard with it's spectacular glass wall sculpture designed by Jeff Burnette, one of Canada's premier glass blowers

The 'Louboutin red' Ki signage in the restaurant's foyer

After enjoying our Grand Marnier cocktails and wandering through the Louboutin exhibit, we sauntered over to Ki for a light dinner in the restaurants elegant and refined sushi bar with it's spectacular 36-foot long black granite counter. Seated in the gracious round high-backed chairs, we were first handed two hot towels and then presented with a cocktail list and dinner menu. At Ki, chefs prepare dishes in both the hot kitchen and at the sushi bar, featuring an array of dishes that are meant to be shared, from soups and salads, kushiyaki skewers, tempura, nigiri + sashimi, classic makimonos, Ki modern makimonos, signature hot and cold plates and daily bento box selections. We ordered two glasses of Pinot Grigio and started with some Edamame tossed with a spicy seven spice mixture, while we perused the menu.

Ki dinner menu

We sat at Ki's beautiful sushi counter

We followed with a Kushiyaki of pancetta-wrapped unagi stuffed with grilled onion and pickled daikon, served with chili ponzu sauce. The two skewers were lightly sweet and salty with a delicate texture and fabulous flavour. We also chose the Ki modern makimono of sweet potato tempura yam, avocado, asparagus and kabayaki sauce, and an ikura salmon roe sushi. Warm with a light tempura batter, the Tempura sweet potato Makimono was outstanding. However, my favourite dish of the evening was the Spicy Maguro and Sake on Crispy Rice Cakes, similar to mini sushi pizza but better. To finish, we selected the Saikyo-marinated black cod with rapini, salmon roe and orange reduction, which was perfectly cooked and fragrant with the aromatic orange reduction. 

 Ki modern makimono: sweet potato tempura yam  avocado, asparagus and 
kabayaki sauce, with ikura salmon roe sushi

Ki tossed edamame with seven spice mixture

Spicy maguro (tuna) and sake (salmon) on crispy rice cakes, similar to mini sushi pizzas

Ki is not cheap, but it's worth every penny. Everything was excellent, from the service, to the décor, to the cuisine. Ki is a serene and sumptuous oasis in the middle of Toronto’s financial core — a culinary journey I hope to repeat with great regularity. Arigatou gozaimasu.

Saikyo-marinated black cod with rapini, salmon roe and orange reduction