Lee Restaurant
By YP Contributor

Susur Lee’s flagship restaurant

For years Susur Lee has been at the top of Canada’s culinary scene. In the early 2000s, his restaurant Susur was named the best restaurant in Canada. The high-end restaurant catered to the city’s elite but the award-winning celebrity chef wanted something that better reflected his personality.

“I said to myself, I need a more casual place so people don’t need to break the bank and can still taste my food,” he recalls. “So I opened Lee right next to my building in 2005. It was extremely successful. It was like upscale casual dining.” When the economy took a turn, Susur switched game plans – he closed Susur and expanded Lee.

Susur now runs multiple restaurants in Toronto and overseas, but Lee is still the flagship of his restaurant empire. “It has my name, my family name. This is very close to me,” he says. “I have been in that space since 2000, so it’s a long journey. It has a very close relationship to me.”

I said to myself, I need a more casual place so people don’t need to break the bank and can still taste my food. So I opened Lee right next to my building. - Susur Lee, owner
Lee Restaurant is the flagship restaurant of owner Susur Lee, an award-winning celebrity chef.
Photo by Jason Finestone

Creative dishes

Susur Lee’s fusion-inspired menu features ingredients from coast to coast. There are mainstays on the menu but also daily specials that allow for improvisation. “My job as a chef is to create new things. That’s what I love,” says Susur. “The dishes are a new creation of authenticity. You don’t find these dishes down the street. Every single item is identified with its own character, where it comes from but with a twist. So the staff training has to be very intense so they can tell people what they are eating.”

Lee has also brought in a tasting menu so that people don’t have to worry about choosing from the delectable signature dishes; instead, they can have a sample of each one.

To be this successful, Lee Restaurant constantly aspires to meet the high expectations of its customers. “You build that through consistency. You don’t want to have things that aren’t the same, especially with food,” says Susur. “We’re serving hundreds of people and we have to make certain that the dishes are consistent.”

As an example, Susur refers to the Singaporean Slaw, which has been prepared the exact same way as when it first appeared on the menu on day one. “All the ingredients have to be exactly the same,” he says. “The way of serving is exactly the same, the style, the pace. So we are very particular about that.”

A Canadian restaurant

Since its inception, Lee Restaurant has aimed to be accessible to everyone. “There’s nothing uptight about it. We are Canadians. We are not uptight people,” Susur says. “We have no prejudices in any form of style or service. It’s multicultural in my cuisine, which really reflects my personality and also the way we do our business.”

Susur adds that this diversity and tolerance is a big part of the restaurant's culture and also that of our country. “It’s a restaurant that is very Canadian that way. We don’t want to sound like a restaurant that takes itself too seriously,” he points out. “We are serious in food but we still try to keep it light in spirit so people enjoy it.”

Photo credit: courtesy of Lee Restaurant
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