Wednesday, April 4, 2012

GwaiLo's Sneak Preview Dinner

Has it been two months already? Two months since I had an 11-course dinner on chef Nick Liu's last night of service at Niagara Street Café? To answer my own rhetorical question: yes. Yes it has. Time flies *sigh* but lets move on...

After four years as Executive Chef at Niagara Street Café, chef Liu's (@Ninjachefnick) new project, GwaiLo (@GwaiLoToronto), is a soon-to-be Asian brasserie that will feature traditional Asian cuisine with the incorporation of modern techniques and adaptations from a wide range of Asian influences. Chef Liu's business partner Christina Kuypers (@deKuypers) (formerly The Black Hoof, Splendido and The Drake Hotel) will be running the front of house. Although with no location secured as yet, the GwaiLo team has already hosted two preview dinners and several pop-up events, all of which have created quite a buzz for the up-coming restaurant already.

I was invited to the first of two GwaiLo preview dinners a couple of weeks ago. With a six-course meal which was hosted on the second floor of Niagara Street Café (soon to be Edulis) I had a chance to taste what's to come at GwaiLo.

Chinese Fried Bread 
Congee and XO dipping sauce

Double Happiness 
Jim Beam 6yr, Amaro Montenegro, pineapple shrub, ginger

Course One: Crispy Silken Tofu
Smokey miso broth, toasted nori

Course Two: Eggnet Salad 
Green papaya, mung bean, pomelo, mint, lime leaf, ontario pecan, caramelized coconut dressing (learn how to make the salad here!)

Course Three:

Course Four: Whole Fried Trilliam Farms Trout 
Dipping sauce: nahm jim, green curry mayo, soy glaze

Course Five: Roasted Nagano Pork Loin 
Chili black bean fried brussle sprouts, blue fingerlings, sun chokes, pork bone broth

Josh Lindley (@josh_lindley) and Christina at the bar getting our Viet coffees ready.

Viet Coffee 
Coconut foam, toasted coconut

Course Six: Tapioca Pudding 
Caramelized palm sugar, buckthorn berry sorbet, crispy crepe roll, peking duck almond brittle 

Traditional Asian dishes with a modern twist, chef Liu brings new light to Asian cuisine in the city. Being Chinese and from Hong Kong,  I was able to relate to a lot of ingredients that night and the dinner felt close to home. For example, the jelly fish slaw, a favourite of mine ever since I was little (I referred to them as "rubber bands" in Cantonese when I was a kid hehe), the pork floss (I bought a whole container of pork floss when I was in Macau in December), tapioca (very popular in Chinese desserts) and goji berries, which my Mom uses often for traditional Chinese soups...these are all traditional Asian ingredients that I love and Chef Liu added an up-to-date, contemporary take to them. I gotta say though, the most unique component that night was the Peking duck almond brittle made from Peking duck skin. Really, how awesome is that??? Peking duck in brittle form. Mind-blowing =P

Everyone received a GwaiLo t-shirt at the dinner and here's me sporting mine in Maui last week. Although taken indoors, I swear that this picture was taken in Maui (it got all wrinkly from being in the suitcase for way too long....stupid wildcat Air Canada strike....don't get me started!)

For those of you who do not know what GwaiLo means, it is basically a Cantonese slang term for foreigners ("鬼佬" in Chinese). It literally means "ghost man", or if translated to English, means "foreign devil". Don't take it seriously though, as it is meant to be a light-hearted play on the fact that both chef Liu and Kuypers grew up with the term (Liu says he has been called a "gwai lo" all his life due to the fact that he was raised in Canada).