CLOSED: Momofuku Daisho (Toronto)

Location: Toronto, Canada
Address: 190 University Avenue, 3rd floor
Type of Meal: Dinner

Looking up at Daisho from outside, it looks like you’re eating in a box in the sky.  Located on the third floor of the Momofuku complex I’d say it actually has the best view out of all three restaurants.  With floor to ceiling windows overlooking University Avenue and wooden tables it has a similar feel as Momofuku Noodle Bar except the tables have more space between them and those surrounding the windows actually have chairs rather than bench seating. However, the centre tables still have benches which makes balancing jackets and purses annoying.  A big feature bar separates Daisho from Shoto and kitchen, which is also located on the floor.

Not long after being seated, water arrives and once filled it’s never empty with their attentive service. Our waitress, although new, was knowledgeable about the menu and the wine list offering pairing suggestions which was impressive.  The young, laid back staff fits right into the attitude of Daisho – unfussy food with a bit of flare.  

After ordering wine, a complimentary dish of pickled cucumbers arrived.  Unlike the traditional kimchi cucumbers, they were more savoury rather than tart.  With a hint of spice from the Korean chili pepper the dish was a good starter to munch on while deciding what to order.

Daisho’s appetizers are a bit unconventional and a strange mix consisting of Asian inspired vegetables, pretzel bread, oysters and an array of starches (buns, noodles and rice cake).  We opted for maitaki mushrooms (really a side dish) and rice cakes which were a favourite of our waitress. 

Maitaki mushrooms ($15), also known as hen-of-the-woods, are more akin to a fungus than mushroom and almost has a leafy feel to it.  Topped with a sharp Monforte toscano (a local Ontario-made cheese) and bread crumbs, the au gratin was flavourful and not what I was expecting.  Drizzles of lemon basil (?) oil surrounded the mushrooms and calmed the richness of the dish.

Our spicy rice cakes ($15), meant to be an appetizer, didn’t arrive until after our main was served.  After seeing the size of the fried chicken, we decided to cancel the rice cakes.  But, our waitress wanted us to try them so much that she provided them on-the-house.  I loved the cubes of rice cakes which had a crispy crust and the right hint of spiciness to it.  The Chinese sausage ragu mixture, on the other hand, wasn’t as impressive and I felt too salty.  Nonetheless, the dish is worth a try, sort of like an Asian inspired crispy gnocchi.

Also arriving with the fried chicken was a complimentary order of ramps ($14).  Ramps are a wild leek and were much leafier than I expected.  Unlike the leeks in the supermarket which look like large green onions, ramps seem to have large leaves, that taste like Chinese broccoli, which Daisho chopped into slivers.  Topped with fried onion frizzles and a dash of lemon the dish was a great side to the heavy chicken.

Finally, for the main we shared the family style fried chicken ($125).  Sixteen pieces of tender, moist and crispy deliciousness arrived on a Chinese style platter. Served piping hot there were also a basket of thin scallion pancakes which were the thickness of a tortilla but had soft chewiness of a roti. The chicken shredded easily off the bone and the crusty layer of skin was seasoned but not overly salty or oily. Suggested for a group of 4-6, it's certainly a lot of food and easily satisfies six people.

Accompanying the chicken were a jar of pickled vegetables, bowls of sliced radishes and herbs, a plate of scallion and ginger paste, jalapeño soy sauce and Tabasco salt; all for allowing the patron to mix and match with or without the pancakes.  My favourite combination of the night was wrapping the chicken in the pancake with scallion and ginger paste, fresh herbs and a touch of Tabasco salt.

I enjoy the unhurried attitude at Daisho, with our waitress giving us plenty of time to peruse the menu and sit and chat.  Unlike the Noodle Bar, which depends on fast turnover, Daisho allows you to sit and relax – well as much as you can relax on a backless bench.  The fun family style dishes are a great excuse to grab a group of friends together and just enjoy.

Overall mark - 7.5 out of 10

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Gastro World's Grading System
  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!
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