Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Valentine's Day Dinner at Shōtō: The Food of Love

Acclaimed by many to be the best restaurant in Toronto, Shōtō is private culinary theatre at its best. Sharing the third floor with Daishō on the third floor of the lofty Momofuku complex, Shōtō's gleaming black granite bar with just 22 prized seats encircles an open central kitchen, where diners are treated to Toronto's ultimate tasting menu of artfully conceived dishes with elegant ingredients and sublime flavours. Enjoying a divinely decadent multi-course chef's tasting menu with wine pairings as a special Valentine's dinner from my sweetheart, centre-stage head chef de cuisine Jed Smith, who personally serves the special 9-course Valentine's dinner of individually plated dishes. Beverage Director Steve Sousa, who guided diners through the wine pairings and along with the chefs, explains each and every dish. Warm, relaxed and extraordinarily delicious, Shōtō is indeed the culinary jewel in Momofuku's gleaming crown. An absolutely superb evening, and unfortunately one of the last, the entire 3rd floor is being renovated in early 2018 in order to launch a new dining concept and layout for the space — my chopsticks are crossed that they know what they're doing and the new space will be equally outstanding. 

Dinner at Shōtō kicks off with small bites: the coronation chicken ball combines smoked chicken, raisins, cilantro, curry, and the sausage roll is filled with lamb sausage with a miso-mirin mustard

Lamb Sausage Roll with miso mirin mustard

Boulevardier Cocktail on the rocks with bourbon, sweet vermouth, Campari with orange peel

Coronation Chicken Ball combines smoked chicken, raisins, cilantro and curry

Spicy Pickled Mussels with greens

Domaine Baud Blanc de Blanc, Crémant de Jura Brut was the first of the wine pairings

Light and delicate with a forward nose of apply fruit with citrus, toasted brioche with a zesty, mineral, the crément was a bubbly start to the Valentine's evening

Sous chef slicing snapper for the next dish

Red Snapper Cracker with crème fraîche, red onion, caviar and chive batons

Raw Diver Scallops roasted maitake mushrooms and seaweed salad with maple syrup drizzle

Sous chef blow torching the mackerel aburi-style

Flame-Torched Spanish Mackerel with Meyer Lemon and green apple

2015 Domaine Marcel Deiss Pinot d'Alsace was the evenings 2nd wine pairing

Jed plating the noodle dish

Noodles with shrimp, 'nduja and baby kale

Homemade Sourdough Bread with sweet sorghum butter

2016 Gamay Marcel Lapierre 'Morgon' was the fifth wine pairing

Octopus with sun choke in a light yuzu kosho broth

Jed chatting with the Valentine's Night guests and giving me 'knowing' look as I snapped his photograph

2014 Viura Finca La Emperatriz, Vuira Cepas Viejas, the sixth wine pairing

A lovely white Rioja, this wine has a woody, this beautiful elegant wine paired
perfectly with the richness of the Crab with Rice

Crab with rice and chives in a savoury crab broth

Sous chef sautées bone-in rack of pork 

Pork Chop with tamarind and coconut

2014 Greco di Tufo by Fonzone from Campania, Italy was the seventh wine pairing of the evening

With a golden straw yellow colour, the bouquet is sweet and potent

Welsh Rarebit with 5-year old cheddar, comté and shaved truffle, and inspired by chef Jed's many visits to St. John's Restaurant in London

Sticky Toffee Pudding with hot rum-butterscotch sauce being poured overtop

Roasted Banana Iced Cream is then scooped on top

Chef Jed Smith uses his grandma's recipe made with dates and ovaltine, and tops it with hot rum-caramel sauce, banana meringue and roasted banana ice cream, then crowns it with shaved foie gras

Chef Smith personally makes this flan before each dinner and serves it as a tasty treat at the end of the meal

After slicing his flan, Jed adds sweet peanut and maple truffles rolled in crisp rice balls

Peanut and Maple Truffles with Jed's Leche Flan, rather like crème caramel, is a famous Filipino dessert

Angostura Clarified Milk Punch with sesame, tea and peppercorn, based on an old English preparation that dates back nearly three centuries

Scallops with Buttermilk, Soy & Poppy Seeds
Serves 8
Recipe courtesy of Chef David Chang

1 1/2 lb large sea scallops
2 tsp poppy seeds 
2 tbsp 1-inch-long chive batons 
Maldon salt

Buttermilk Dressing: 
1/3 cup buttermilk 
2 1/2 tbsp sour cream 
1/2 tsp Maldon salt, or more if needed 
1/4 tsp sriracha, or more if needed

Shiro Shoyu Vinaigrette:
1/4 cup shiro shoyu (white soy sauce) 
1/8 tsp bottled sudachi lime or yuzu juice 
1 1/2 tsp mirin 
A tiny dot of green yuzu kosho (jarred yuzu and chile paste)

Whisk together the buttermilk and sour cream in a small bowl. Whisk in the salt and sriracha, and taste: it should have some heat but it shouldn't be "spicy." Add more salt or sriracha to taste. Refrigerate until ready to use, or for up to a few days. Stir together the soy sauce, lime juice, mirin, and yuzu kosho in a small bowl. This can be stored for up to a month in the fridge.

To serve, put a tablespoon or so of the buttermilk dressing in the bottom of each of eight chilled shallow bowls. Thinly slice the scallops a little less than 1/4 inch thick and fan the slices out over the buttermilk dressing. Add 1/2 teaspoon of the vinaigrette to each plate, around the rim of the buttermilk sauce. Scatter 1/4 teaspoon poppy seeds over each serving, and follow with some chive batons and a tiny pinch of Maldon salt. Serve at once.

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