Eric Chong, winner of the first season of Masterchef Canada has opened up his restaurant to show Toronto how Chinese fusion is done. Or does he?
My visit there was actually brought on by one of my friends who is an avid fan of Eric to say the least.
I’m always skeptical of Asian fusion because I am so passionate about the skill required and balance of flavours that is so central to Chinese cooking. But, as always, I never know until I try so I sampled a good number of items from the menu to see how everything tasted.
R&D which officially stands for Rebel & Demon, is also a play on the phrase “Research and Development”. Both owners of the restaurant, Eric Chong and famous Hong Kong restaurant owner and 3-Michelin Star Chef Alvin Leung are formally educated engineers.
Before I begin, I really like the location of the restaurant being at the very heart of old Chinatown. The area quickly started eroding and emptying out since the Chinese population started moving north, but if more restaurants like R&D come to inhabit the area, I can totally see “Chinatown” being reinvented into a place that is trendy.
I understand that many of the visitors of R&D in the next few months will be fans of Eric or the show, so I will try my best to show you what I would order again and certain qualities of others which needed improvement.
On the menu, we tried:
Shiitake Polenta Fries ($8, Good. Recommend.)
These were surprisingly very good and crispy. The blend of the umami flavour of the shiitake mushrooms went perfectly with the creamy polenta. The ketchup on the other hand was supposed to have a shiitake undertone with it, but the flavour was rather amiss. Not bad though, still tastes like ketchup.
Duck Bak Kut Teh ($8, No.)
Heavily oversalted. I’m going to assume this as a technical error in the preparation but the one I got was like drinking slightly watered down hoisin sauce. The matzo ball on the other hand, wasn’t bad and it was well seasoned. However, since this dish was $8, we weren’t happy with the fact that we paid that much for one matzo ball (split into fours) with an over-salted soup. We actually did end up sending this dish back.
I’d like to think that this isn’t something that occurs often, but you never know. So try this one at your own risk.
Beef Tongue and Oysters ($18, No.)
Few things I felt were wrong with this dish. First of all, the beef tongue which is an expensive part of the cow was under-seasoned. Beef tongue when cooked correctly has a deep and rich beefy flavour but it does need to be cooked with some salt and pepper at the least. The ones at R&D were a bit bland even with the green Sichuan sauce. The oysters thrown into this dish also weren’t the freshest which didn’t work out for me at all. Most importantly, I don’t quite understand how any of the ingredients in this dish are supposed to come together; you have large slices of beef tongue, chilis, Sichuan green sauce, and raw oysters. The ingredients individually didn’t shine, and it definitely didn’t when put together in a bowl.
Eric’s Curry ($20, Okay)
This was an alright dish. The flavour is rather surface level in that it doesn’t taste like it has been cooking for hours to develop a strong beefy base to the curry. The flavours were balanced and it went very well with the wild rice that they recommend you order.
Salmon Belly ($18, Okay)
Now this is an underwhelming dish. Looks like something from Pinterest of what to make for a quick Wednesday evening dinner. Three strips of salmon belly which are pan-fried and served on top of wild rice and bok choy. It was good, just a bit underwhelming in uniqueness.
I was a bit cheesed with the fact that the bok choy was tough. I mean R&D, you are literally right next to a Chinese supermarket which has fresh produce every day. Get on it.
Sweetbreads ($18, a little salty but okay)
The seaweed in this dish makes it a bit salty, but it would go well with some rice if you make another order. The sweetbreads would be great if they weren’t cut up into such small pieces. The pieces of sweetbreads were so masked with the batter and sauce that they ended up singing backup vocals to the oyster sauce’s soprano. Sad.
I was going to go for dessert as well, but with how dinner was panning out, I didn’t want to order anything else.
It looks to me that Eric and Alvin still have some work to do to refine the menu items a bit and give the diners something to crave for. With something like the polenta fries, they definitely are on to something here and I want to see more execution on Chinese fusion like that. I’d be interested to see how the development of the restaurant goes in the next few months and see if they start incorporating seasonality into their fusion cuisine as well.
Until we dine again,
-The Piquey Eater
P.S. They get brownie points for having a good taste in Fonts for logo use.