Thursday, December 6, 2018

Homage to The Indomitable Marika Hayek of Budapest Restaurant


It saddened me to read of Marika Hayek’s passing earlier this week. Budapest Dining Room and Tavern, a local gem with yards of red velvet and charming unintended kitsch continued to evolve while its grand interior remained virtually unchanged. The décor with plush velvet valances and curtained alcoves, brocades, red and gold wallpaper and comfortable armchair seating evokes another era. The Roma “Gypsy-style” aesthetic is also the restaurant's brand. It became both an anomaly and anachronism.
The restaurant's two main rooms lead back from Dundas Street and are linked by an arched passageway across the middle, an ornate banquet hall at the far end, and the kitchen at the other end. There is almost always a musician—a piano player with a penchant for delivering uninvited political observations—playing the sentimental melodies traditionally adopted by Hungarian Romani musicians. He plays to the Budapest's patrons between brief monologues. He is part of the idiosyncratic charm.
Before I go any further, I want to begin by saying, I have known Marika Hayek for several decades. We were friendly restaurant neighbours for 10 years and she was only too happy to lend me a pound of butter on a busy Saturday night. She once invited me to go on vacation with her to the city of Budapest as her companion. "All expenses paid." And by the way, Hayek alternatively referred to me as Bruce, Byron and Bryan. I answered to all three. It was endearing.
The Budapest happens to be the first fine dining restaurant I visited when my family when we moved to London in 1970. My stepfather's father's family is Hungarian. My stepfather an excellent cook acquainted me us the cuisine. Chicken paprikash is the Hungarian National dish, its name derived from liberal use of paprika, a spice emblematic of the cuisine. Last year he brought some very fine paprika back from a trip to Hungary and we celebrated my birthday with family and good friends at Budapest Restaurant. This year for my birthday in October, my parents hosted a dinner party for my friends and my stepfather showed everyone how to prepare spätzle and chicken paprikash. Everyone taking turns. She was not far from our thoughts.
On top of that, I have been a long-time patron Budapest. My friend Kathy and I have been long-time devotees of the stuffed pork. Hungary, of course, is known for all matter of stuffed things, from cabbage rolls, dumplings, and perogies to blintzes, which were among Hayek’s time-honoured specialties. Her warm hospitality, coupled with menus filled with goulash, schnitzels and meaty paprikash, always made dining at Budapest, feel like you were stepping back in time.
Hayek delighted clients by serving Hungarian specialties in this traditional old-world tavern setting. The offering always consisted of a large selection of proper Hungarian dishes. House-made chicken and rabbit paprikash, beef stroganoff, wiener schnitzel, combination platters or prix-fixe Hungarian dinners — spätzle and the gnocchi were always delicious — and we would save room for the palacsinta, strudels and the walnut roll. The a la carte desserts were always much larger portions. The desserts that arrive as part of the prix-fixe arrangement are presented minus mounds of whipped cream.
A couple of years ago, Hungarian Consul-General Dr. Stefania Szabo celebrated Hayek’s landmark achievements as a successful business owner and pillar of the London community. Hayek was no stranger to such fanfare. She was admired and well-regarded for her hospitality, wit and risqué repartee.
Hayek arrived in Canada in March of 1957, then 25, she and her husband were part of a wave of immigration to Canada that occurred after the 1956 Hungarian revolution against communist rule. Between 1956 and 1958, an estimated 200,000 fled to the west to avoid Soviet reprisals, leaving their possessions behind. Around 38,000 Hungarian refugees arrived in Canada. About 6,000 of these refugees arrived in Ontario. Hayek was among them. All were admitted and accepted into Canadian society within a two-year period. The impact of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution and the mass of emigration of Hungarians who consequently arrived in Canada forms a watershed moment in Canadian History. Knowing this helps to put Hayek’s formidable achievements into perspective.
A trained cook in Budapest, Hayek was drawn to the hospitality business when she arrived in London. Initially, she was employed by Moskie Delicatessen on Dundas Street at Waterloo. Always thinking ahead, Hayek bought the building that housed Moskie even before she purchased the delicatessen from its owners. That transaction included the Giant ice cream shop next door. In 1968 she and her husband merged the two storefronts into a single premise. Ripping out the interior they refurbished the basement and main floor areas to build the present-day restaurant.
A formidable restaurateur with a keen aptitude for the business and exacting standards, the fledgling businesswomen embodied the height of Mittel European elegance and sophistication in the 1970s. There are plenty of framed glamour photos of the striking Hayek in her prime.
Until last year, Hayek’s routine has been to rise before dawn, eat breakfast, exercise and swim laps in her indoor pool. She arrived at the restaurant early in the morning to begin the workday. Hayek insisted “Everything on the menu be made in-house.” She oversaw and helped to prepare the large variety of Hungarian staples for which she has built her reputation.
Hayek often greeted her guests with a gracious "please come in, my lovely peoples" or "my lovely ladies and gentlemen" and had a penchant for referring to guests as "dah-ling" in her Gabor-like Hungarian accent. She was known to be a harmless flirt; it is part of her shtick. She liked to engage men and women in bawdy repartee and often referred to what she called “make the sexy-sexy." Hayek was always on hand tableside to pepper a conversation with a compliment or relationship advice for patrons. A classic Hayek phrase, often repeated was, "If a man has money in the pocket he has nothing in the pants. If he has something in the pants he has nothing in the pocket."
Last year at 85, requiring a cane for added mobility, Hayek celebrated a mind-numbing 60 years in business. A long list of local luminaries and a loyal clientele of long-time regulars, whom she mostly knew by name or a derivation of their name, still frequented the restaurant. The Budapest Restaurant continued to delight Hungarian food fans who preferred old-fashioned dishes. Even those food enthusiasts who were inclined to moan and dismiss the restaurant as an anachronism will wish they had taken a closer look at the Budapest Restaurant's unique charms before it became a thing of the past. Hayek will be missed. The Budapest will remain in business as she wished. 

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Remembering Chef & Baker Extraordinaire Lindsay Todd Reid

By Bryan Lavery

I was saddened to hear early today that Lindsay Reid had passed away after a brief illness. Lindsay's motto was to “share really good baking,” made from scratch in small batches, using high quality ingredients. That required patience and precision – something Lindsay appeared to have in quantity. Lindsay incorporated only pure natural ingredients, unbleached organic flour, local eggs, honey and butter in his baking in the bake kitchen in the cellar of his Sebringville home. On offer were hand-made croissants, squares, tarts, muffins and seasonal specialties. Lindsay asked me not to refer to his baking as iconic – so instead I referred to his delicious baking as being emblematic. His baking represented everything good and comforting.

The first time I tasted his baking was at the Stratford Slow Food Market. I was hooked. I was very happy when he decided to join us as a vendor at the Western Fair Farmers’ Market, after receiving plenty of encouragement from Alan Mailloux of Downie Street Bakehouse.

Reid was been employed in just about every job in the “food biz”, beginning with an initial stint at age fifteen, as a busboy at the Church Restaurant in Stratford. “A traumatizing experience to say the least, at the time I vowed never to work in the food biz again,” Lindsay told me in 2013.

High school jobs included night and weekend baking at Buns Master Bakery and working in the kitchen at the local A&W drive-in. Reid attended the Stratford Chefs School after a two-year stint studying journalism at university. Lindsay said, “I felt the desire to follow a career path that involved creativity and working with my hands. A strong appreciation for food and entertaining was nurtured at home, so a career in food seemed a natural choice.”

“My imagination and creativity didn’t seem to be adequately fired, being in my early twenties where everything in life seems to be either black or white. I was much less experienced than the majority of the apprentices when I began the school. I remember Jim Morris (co-founder of Stratford Chefs School) telling me to not move around from job to job, best to stay in one place for a while and learn absolutely everything you can from the situation, ” recalled Lindsay.

Lindsay apprenticed with Chris Woolf at Woolfy’s (first incarnation) in Stratford. “Thanks to divorce and my ‘All About Eve’ phase, (a reference to the overly ambitious ingénue that insinuated herself in to the life of an established stage star (Bette Davis) and circle of theater friends in a ruthless climb to the top, in the film All About Eve) I ended up running the kitchen for Woolf’s ex, who became sole proprietor.”

In 1992, Reid’s sister Mari-Jane (M.J.), and her family returned to Stratford and she and Lindsay decided to go into business together. “We purchased Tastes on Wellington Street and turned it into Lindsay’s Food Shop, offering deli, bakery, and catering in 1997 and 1998. I also ran Lindsay’s Restaurant where Pazzo Taverna is now located,” Lindsay said.

Since leaving chefs school, Lindsay had been employed as a breakfast cook at the Westin Harbour Castle, server at Canoe, and catering and event manager at Senses Catering in Toronto. There was a stage at Grano with Ellen Greaves when she was briefly the chef at Winston’s.  “In Montreal, he was a sandwich maker at Café Titanic in Old Montreal until he took over the kitchen at Olive et Gourmando.”

Lindsay said, “My boss Dyan Solomon of Olive et Gourmando in Montreal and I would test items for inclusion in our selection of fresh baked goods. We would go over and over a particular item, i.e. brownies, until we got the exact result we wanted. And when it went on the menu we would not vary the item. The customer expects and should receive the exact same quality of a particular item every time they purchase it.”

Lindsay enjoyed the interaction with his regulars and clients. “Relationships that are built through weekly visits give meaning and feedback to a baker; it helps me with my product consistency and refinement,” Lindsay told me. It was essential to Lindsay to produce consistently tasty baking that he would want to eat himself.

At Christmas, crocks of mincemeat, made with locally harvested apples, would have been marinating since early fall, and fruit mixtures in brandy and rum have been baked into cakes and puddings. Lindsay ground whole almonds to make the almond paste for dark fruitcake.  He would prepare a selection of his and his family’s personal favourites: Christmas fruit cakes, puddings, mincemeat pies and tarts, panettone and gingerbread cookies.

“Small business depends on many variables lining up. Sometimes your concept gets adapted to fit the variables. My initial concept was to supply other businesses. I soon realized that I could better control the quality of my product by selling directly and that I could sell directly for a much better price than wholesale. So, I began doing farmers’ markets,” Lindsay explained.

After getting to know Lindsay we realized we had many friends and acquaintances in common. Lindsay left the Western Fair Farmers' Market in June 2016 to take an indefinite hiatus. He was, and will, continue to be sorely missed by a large community of people who genuinely cared about his well-being, his skill and talent as a baker.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Hunter & Co: Speakeasy Ambience with a Big City Vibe


Londoners can now enjoy the output of chef Matt Kershaw of Hamilton’s acclaimed restaurant group The Other Bird, at Hunter & Co. on Talbot Street

 Photos by Nick Lavery, Lavery Culinary Group

Restaurateur Erin Dunham and executive chef Matt Kershaw of The Other Bird restaurant group in Hamilton have expertly refurbished the former Kantina/Black George space on Talbot Street for their latest restaurant project. Hunter & Co. is a sultry cocktail bar/lounge with a speakeasy vibe featuring interesting hot food, as well as charcuterie and fresh oysters. We attended the soft opening and realized immediately that if you want a seriously well-crafted cocktail this is the place to go. We could sit at the bar all evening and watch Dave Fauteux and crew craft cocktails.

The restaurant’s urban vibe takes inspiration from two of their Hamilton-based restos: Rapscallion Rogue Eatery (offering culinary connoisseurs a full nose-to-tail experience) and a little bit of Two Black Sheep (offering oysters, charcuterie, salumi, cheese and pickles, carefully crafted cocktails, awesome wine and delicious craft beer). Menu items, described as “big-flavour-probably-bad-for-you cooking,” include Confit Lamb Shoulder, Tongue ‘n’ Cheek, “The Best Grilled Cheese,” Pumpkin Seed Crusted Whitefish, Pig Ear Poutine, Halloumi Tikka Masala, Fried Calamari and Korean Fried Chicken.

Whether you’re visiting the chef-driven and carnivore-focused Rapscallion Rogue Eatery, Two Black Sheep, or playful taco bar The Mule in Hamilton, Burro in Burlington (serving everything from ahi tuna ceviche to fish tacos), or the Woolf & Wilde at the elegant-and-boutique Arlington Hotel in Paris, Ontario, the motto is “And we just want satisfy you.”

Hunter & Co.
349 Talbot Street, London, ON

3:30 pm–until late, seven days a week

Los Lobos: Modern Mexican from the Invincible Wolfes


When Air Canada announced Canada’s top 30 best new restaurants on its longlist for 2017, Wolfe of Wortley, in London’s Wortley Village, made the prestigious list. Los Lobos is the latest creation from brothers Justin and Gregg Wolfe, who are also the proprietors of The Early Bird (and the former Rock au Taco and Nite Owl). Los Lobos literally means “the wolves” in Spanish.

     Left to right: Greg, Oliva, Jenn and Justin Wolfe at the visually arresting Los Lobos bar
Photos: Mariam Waliji 

Gregg and Justin both come from musical backgrounds. They spent years traveling as musicians and gaining valuable experience, which they put to use in their business ventures. Gregg spent a decade in Toronto working in nightclubs, while Justin worked as a chef at various restaurants in between travelling. The brothers went into business as Wolfe Pack Inc., and opened the Nite Owl rock lounge in December 2009. In 2012 they opened The Early Bird on Talbot Street, attached it to Nite Owl, and operated it all as one business. This “fine diner” made its name serving everything from Fat Elvis breakfast to Turducken sandwich.

Trying to introduce to London something it didn’t already have, the Wolfes brought Mexican street food downtown with Rock au Taco in the space the Nite Owl had occupied. In anticipation of the opening of the Los Lobos project, Rock au Taco was closed and The Early Bird expanded into the adjoining space.

The building has housed a number of restaurants over the years, including The Whiskey House, the Coates of Arms, Alex P Keaton and The Rose and Crown. At one time it was home to Marg or Rita’s, another Mexican hotspot with plenty of credibility in its day.

On our first visit we were greeted warmly by Olivia Wolfe, who is married to Gregg, and who was charming and conversational while expertly managing expectations to facilitate the brief crush in the kitchen. Open just under a week, Los Lobos was a busy and happening spot.

Think modern Mexican flavours, with innovative riffs and ideas and lots of cool Mexican imagery and local references. The dining room and bar is painted floor to ceiling in stunning, colourful murals, and one-of-a-kind art installations by Toronto artist Stu Andrenelli. There are plenty of colourful motifs and indigenous Mexican folk art featuring skeletons, skulls and crosses. It is the kind of iconography that people are used to seeing associated with the celebration of Mexico’s Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead).

“Chef Kyle Rose is my right hand and had a big hand in the menu with me at Los Lobos,” says Justin Wolfe. “He’s our first addition to Wolfe Pack Inc. outside of the family. Rose will continue to help me oversee, balance kitchen teams and menus as we continue to grow.”

The focus here is on platos pequeños (small plates). They predominate on a menu of gourmet Mexican-inspired fare with a modern twist. The menu shares the love for tacos but also covers a take on classics. We love the chilaquiles (corn tortillas cut in quarters and lightly fried) with mole, questo blando, and cilantro. The crispy cornmeal battered jalapeños rellenos stuffed with Monterey Jack and served with red salsa or mole sauce are sensational and never disappoint. The ceviche is prepared with bay scallops which are small, tender and slightly sweet. The marinade is fresh and prepared with red onion, radish, lime, cilantro and habanero giving it both citrus and heat.

Photo: Mariam Waliji 

 Los Lobos tacos are rooted in tradition and topped with various combinations of salsa, aioli, pickled vegetables and hot sauces

Los Lobos tacos offerings are generously topped with various combinations of salsa, aioli, pickled vegetables and hot sauces. Over several visits, we sampled all ten tacos on offer. We liked the beef cheek taco with pickled red onion, queso fresco and horseradish. The savoury pork belly taco is finished with lime sour cream, radish and jalapeño. Green salsa, pickled cabbage, corn and cilantro are perfect accompaniments for the bay scallop taco. The yuka taco (yuka is the plant from which tapioca flour is derived and not to be confused with the yucca plant) has a great texture and perfectly matched with pico de gallo, cumin crema and green onion. Forced to pick a stand out, it would be the crunchy battered cod taco with chipotle aioli, cabbage, pickled red onion and cilantro. There is also beef tongue with radish, red salsa and iceberg lettuce and other iterations with cauliflower and black beans. All tacos are priced at $5 each. Tacos can be made into a burrito with rice and or beans, served dry with crema, green or red sauce. The La Carne section includes beef cheeks that are chilli braised with fried yuka and pickled cabbage, and chicken a la plancha (grilled chicken) with Lobos mole and pico de gallo.

Karla Conde is Los Lobos’ dedicated, in-house Mexican pastry chef. Exquisitely prepared churros are served with a generous portion of thick and creamy chocolate ganache and chilli heat. We love the flourless chocolate cake with lots of chili heat.The plating and presentation of the food is top notch. Everything we sampled lived up to the promise of the Wolfes’ prodigious talents.

Photos: Mariam Waliji 

The Wolfes take the cocktail side of things very seriously. The cocktail list features craft cocktails that are prepared with fresh ingredients, homemade mixers and premium liquors. The bar serves up ice cold cervezas, smooth tequila, mezcal and bourbon-focused cocktails, and blended margaritas. The combination of cucumber, cilantro and tequila makes for knock-out margaritas. Other kindred flavours include strawberry and cumin; watermelon and apple; pineapple and jalapeno; and grapefruit ginger vanilla. You can expect the bartenders at Los Lobos to take blended drink classics and island-style beverages to a new level by offering plenty of options. We sampled and liked the strong and deeply flavoured Blood in Blood Out made with tequila, port, lime, ginger and bitters. We also tried the Los Lobos, a signature cocktail, prepared with tequila, Amaro Nonino, Cynar, maraschino and lemon.

Los Lobos has a fun, funky and eclectic vibe that is appealing. There is a no reservation policy. There’s plenty of room inside or, in season, outside on the spacious patio. In the meantime, Justin tells us that Nite Owl reopened in December above the restaurant, as a speakeasy type of cocktail bar focused on crafted cocktails. There is an unmarked back alley entrance beside Los Lobos. The Nite Owl operates Friday and Saturday evenings and is available through the week for private bookings.

The Wolfes have taken over the former Harvest Bakery in Wortley Village, and are slowly working out details for their next project. They are leaning towards an Italian vibe, but with a different look at Italian food and culture. The former bakery will also act as a small expansion for the Wolfe of Wortley out the back, which will be used for more production and storage space. They plan to continue to elevate and innovate their food offerings. Los Lobos’ business continues to be strong, and the Wolfes are getting ready to offer new menu items including adding a small brunch menu on weekends.

Jen, who is married to Justin, along with Oliva Wolfe, are often on hand to keeps things running smoothly and with style. Servers are knowledgeable, articulate and welcoming, as you’d expect from a restaurant that is modern and driven by a family of cutting-edge hospitality professionals.

Los Lobos
580 Talbot Street, London
Tuesday to Saturday: 11 am-11 pm
Sunday: 5 pm-11 pm
Closed Monday

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Chef Thomas Waite’s Go-To Neighbourhood Destination, Spruce on Wellington, Celebrates its One Year Anniversary

Spruce on Wellington is a seriously good neighbourhood restaurant. Chef/owner Thomas Waite and his staff are celebrating the restaurant’s first anniversary this month. The food is among the top-tier in London, Ontario. Waite and his staff are among a select group of restaurant professionals devoted to offering and advancing locally-focused contemporary Canadian cuisine in the city. The restaurant opened in January 2017 in a small house on Wellington Street between Oxford and Piccadilly Street. Its warm minimalist design has charm and is compact with 32 seats in the dining room and 22 on a nicely appointed seasonal patio.

Waite is celebrating the anniversary with updates to the warm décor, acoustic enhancement and the launch of new and accessibly priced menus. The friendly, intelligent staff includes chef Ashton Gillespie, Jamie Sandwith, Larissa McCutcheon and Jason Astels who are committed to delivering a professional restaurant experience. The culinary team is known for classic, seasonal food preparations, with a modern twist. Changing menus allow the team to express a focused and curated culinary point of view with an emphasis on locally-sourced ingredients. Innovation is the driving force to which Waite attributes the success of The Spruce, and of The In Home Chef as one of London’s most well-regarded caterers.

Acknowledging that he has been on a steep learning curve this past year, Waite has learned what to do better. He realizes that restaurants that continue to grow and prosper are the ones that are most willing and readily able to adapt to changing trends and shifts in the marketplace. To stay at the top of the game, Waite is constantly re-evaluating his approach to the restaurant business and on a continuing basis, developing fresh new menus. In a dedicated effort to avoid being pigeonholed by the “special occasion” restaurant moniker, Waite has intentionally encouraged patrons to view The Spruce as more of a go-to neighbourhood destination.

Streamlining his restaurant operations at The Spruce, to synchronize with his In Home Chef business, Waite anticipates that the operations will be more cohesive. He is also pleased to announce a new slate of immersive cooking classes to be held at the restaurant for culinary enthusiasts.
As modern dining experiences continue to change, Waite and his staff, appreciate shifting demands create the need for fresh ways to heighten the customer’s experience.

“Waite is a chef for whom work is everything — his consuming passion is for cooking and jobs he can really sink his teeth in. His cuisine is beautifully handcrafted, classic in its influences, innovative in sensibility and plating.” — Bryan Lavery, Food Editor, eatdrink Magazine

“To me, being a chef isn’t a job; it’s my life’s passion. When I am in a kitchen working with my hands, I feel complete. Being a chef isn’t just a part of me, it’s who I am.” — Thomas Waite

The Spruce on Wellington
731 Wellington St.
London, ON

MONDAY-Cooking Classes

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Craft Farmacy – Dispensing Deliciousness Farm to Table & FEAST ON Certified


The talented Jazey-Spoelstra and Wolwowicz are partnered in Craft Farmacy with Harmen Spoelstra. General Manager Geoff Hammond and Assistant Manager Cody Ballman round out a powerhouse restaurant team. This is the ultimate neighbourhood restaurant. With 112 seats, it features sharing plates, fabulous house cocktails, craft beer, a superior wine list and plenty of pizzazz. There is a private event space with room for 40 on the second floor.

Jazey-Spoelstra’s stylish design sensibility is reflected in Craft Farmacy, and delivers style and comfort, with attention to the smallest details. Setting the tone are a long bar, stunning fireplace, custom-made leather banquettes and repurposed tables with comfortable chairs. The servers’ leather aprons are custom designed by Coakley’s.

Jazey-Spoelstra delivers cutting-edge and quality food experiences combined with extraordinary service, her forte and hallmark as owner of North Moore Catering, River Room and Rhino Lounge. Wolwowicz (formerly of The Springs on Springbank Drive) cooks with reverence and purpose, sourcing ingredients from producers and farms dedicated to sustainable agriculture. Wolwowicz is aided by sous chef Kyle Trafford and cook Jayden Wickert. Menu items are progressive, rustic in style, featuring high quality ingredients crafted from local, region-specific and specialty products, and executed with aptitude, innovation and attention to detail.

At a couple of pre-opening menu tastings we watched Chef and Spoelstra tweak and fine-tune every nuance of the menu. Chef and his team are big on prep and having mise en place ready, allowing for a quick and easy execution of the dishes.

We enjoyed Roasted Bone Marrow with Ox Tail Marmalade; Lamb Belly Croquettes; Chicken Schnitzel with Warm Potato Salad, Forked River Abbey Jus and Rapini; and Black Pepper Crusted Duck Breast, Root Vegetable and Duck Confit Hash with Blood Orange Gastrique. There is a fresh oyster bar featuring a changing selection including Malpeque, Irish Point, Daisy Bay, Raspberry Point, Lucky Lime and Savage Blonde varieties.

Craft Farmacy is London’s first Feast ON certified “Taste of Ontario” restaurant. Feast ON is a criteria-based certification program designed to promote, market, and protect the authenticity of foodservice operators whose specific attributes qualify their commitment to local food. It is a program designed to help you experience restaurants that champion Ontario food and beverages. The program uses both verification and enforcement mechanisms to maintain its integrity.

Craft Farmacy
449 Wharncliffe Road South, 519-914-2699
11:30 am–Midnight
Sunday Brunch & Dinner
Closed Mondays

Reverie Restaurant: London's Best Kept Secret - Chef Brian Sua-an's Thoughtful Modern Canadian Cuisine


There has been a movement towards a modern, minimalist cuisine that is natural, but also resolutely seasonal, local, and with a focus on pristine ingredients and terroir. New Nordic Cuisine has been a phenomenal success, one that has resonated with chefs all over the world. London-based chef Brian Sua-an has adapted the Nordic discipline in refining the spectrum of Canadian flavours. This is a new concept, modern, minimalist and hyper-curated.
Before Reverie opened, I attended a tasting menu preview that garnered spectacular reviews. This is an intimate 500-square-foot space with four tables of two (or a communal table of eight) and four seats at the bar with an open kitchen. There is one five-course tasting menu that changes. The goal is to serve inventive and intelligent cuisine based on simple, high-quality ingredients and traditional techniques. Everything else is secondary. By keeping everything simple, from the pared-down equipment (dishes are hand-washed) to the minimalist interior, the environmental footprint is kept to bare bones. The focus is on innovation in a casual and relaxed setting.

Reverie is operated by Sua-an and his wife Jerrah Reville. Sua-an previously staged at NOMA and at 108 Restaurant in Copenhagen. It had been his dream to open a restaurant, but he never thought of it as a 12-seater, let alone serving a tasting menu only. Chef uses modern techniques and applies them to his cuisine to make a dish better, not less. Using seasonal and local produce is important, but quality is paramount. Chef plans food items months in advance, but also intends that the concept and development will evolve organically. Chef gravitates to perfect ingredients and goes to great lengths to source the very best of what is available. Forests, meadows and waters provide a diverse range of edible wild plants and funghi to forage for the menu. Chef encourages diners to eat specific courses with their hands.

The glassed frontage is reminiscent of a terrarium and somehow seems fitting allowing the outdoors to be part of the experience. Sua-an says, “Simplicity with quality comes first. Everything else is secondary.”

Reverie Restaurant
1–208 Piccadilly Street
Reservations only, Wednesday to Sunday or by special arrangement