Showing posts with label shrimp curry. Show all posts
Showing posts with label shrimp curry. Show all posts

LUST Supper Club (Toronto)

I’ve never been a fan of surprises. As a child, I would secretly open Christmas presents and re-wrap them while my parents were out. As an adult, I usually set plans in motion for big days to avoid a surprise later on. Yet, when it comes to eating, a secret menu is one surprise I don’t mind. At LUST (Luke’s Underground Supper Table) you sign up knowing only the date and theme, even the location (somewhere in downtown Toronto) is a secret with the exact address being released two days before the dinner.

After a pandemic hiatus, February marked the launch of LUST 2.0, my first foray at dining at Luke’s table. The theme of the menu ($100 per person) would be influenced by his travels around India and LUST described the experience as, “a dinner party atmosphere, combined with sexy foods from around the world. It’s about laughing, sipping, chatting, and eating groovy comfort food.”

True to their promise, the Thursday before the dinner, they announced the event was being held at an event space at Queen and Bathurst. Based on website photos and past articles, I was expecting a long communal table amongst an open kitchen where guests could watch him cook while they mingled and conversed. Somehow, the 2.0 version downgraded the dinner party to packing thirty people into a small dark room with terrible lighting (hence the weird sepia hued photos) seated at a mishmash of tables and chairs that seemed to be borrowed from different homes. If you enjoy eating dinner on a barstool at a console table, LUST 2.0 is the place for you.

The open kitchen was also a pipe dream, rather our meal seemed to be reheated in toaster ovens before being assembled and served on disposable dishes. Sure, the dinner invite said to BYOB; little did I realize I should also bring my own wine glass as well. For a dinner series that is reoccurring, I’m surprised LUST isn’t investing in a set of dishes, cups, and utensils that would certainly increase the enjoyment factor of the meal.

Still, it’s amazing what Chef Luke can do with five toaster ovens and a small table for plating. The first course was a chicken “lollipop”. Generally, this dish features the drumette of a chicken wing where the meat is frenched from the bone to create a sphere of meat that can be bitten off in a bite. LUST’s version is more ice cream cone sized than a lollipop, with minced dark meat mixed with spices, reformed onto the bone, and coated with panko crumbs.

The lollipop was described as stuffed with butter, which will ooze out in a sexy tantalizing manner and enhanced with an addictive spicy garlic sauce. In reality, the chicken was too pulverized and the butter must have already soaked into the binding ingredients as there wasn’t a drop to ooze. The accompanying sauce was also run-of-the-mill (it reminds of Trader Joe’s crunchy chili oil) and didn’t go well with the lollipop; a traditional chili mint chutney would have been preferred.

Luckily, as the menu progressed, it improved. Although the chaat looked messy and wasn’t the easiest to eat, this oversized “king” version was delicious. Chef Luke noted 25 ingredients were used in the dish including black and white channa (chickpea curries), nori, yogurt, a host of spices, and various tasty bits on top. As I cut through the different parts of the chaat and scooped up the various elements into the bite, the mix of flavours and textures pulled together deliciously. There was too much yoghurt, its saucy tanginess overpowering a lot of the other ingredients, but at least it helped bind the 20+ ingredients together.

With the limited counter space, plating seemed to be a challenging affair. Consequently, dishes took a while to assemble causing the shrimp curry to arrive lukewarm. Nonetheless, the flavours were on point, the spicy ginger curry having enough kick to leave the tongue tingling but still mellowed with the coconut milk. Served on top of a mound of cumin-laced jeera rice, the grain was interestingly the sticky variety (rather than a traditional basmati rice), likely to help with the dish’s presentation.

The shrimp curry was only the warmup as the heat increased in the following Kerala pepper pork and had everyone requesting more water – why didn’t I save the bowl of chaat yoghurt? The chunks of shredded pork shoulder were rather lean tasting but still tender. We were greeted with big bursts of peppery bites that ended with a savoury acidic finish. And while the dish lacked the cooling raita it desperately needed, there was a chilled cucumber and onion salad to create a brief respite against the spice.

The end of the meal brought what I’ll describe as silver leaf cookies with a thick creamy rose water sauce. While I was stuffed by dessert, the soft cookies were delicious and satisfied the sweet tooth without the heavy sugariness of traditional Indian sweets. Alas, the cookies were missing a cup of chai.

Chef Luke’s attention also fizzled out as the evening progressed. With the chicken lollipops, he introduced the dish before it was served – a practice you’d expect from a chef led dinner. With the second and third courses, the explanations came later, and by dessert he didn’t even bother announcing what we were having.

Ultimately, the experience ended awkwardly with no final announcement. Finally, a few tables just started leaving spurring us and about half the restaurant to do the same. There was no goodbye speech, a missed opportunity to promote the next dinner or Chef Luke’s catering business.

Consequently, while the food was decent, what the experience lacked was the “groovy” dinner party atmosphere you’d expect a supper club would capture. The dimly lit packed environment made it difficult to walk around and meet the other guests. People ended up keeping to themselves and the loud music made it hard to even converse with the strangers at our table. By the end of the three-and-a-half-hour meal, guests just seemed tired and ready to leave. It certainly wasn’t a sexy event and not something I’d LUST after experiencing again. 

Overall mark - 6 out of 10

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada

Follow me on twitter to chat, be notified about new posts and more -
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!

Is That It? I Want More!

Other Gastro World posts similar to this: