R&D Restaurant Opening Review

Written by Dennis Ng (Good Food Toronto guest writer)

For those who are huge fans of Masterchef Canada, one would know that Alvin Leung and Eric Chong have opened up a brand new restaurant right in the heart of Chinatown. R&D Restaurant was opened up to the media on April 1, 2015 to allow the media and close friends to attend the grand opening of their restaurant. Boasted by 3-star Michelin star chef Alvin Leung and bringing his expertise from Bo Innovation in Hong Kong and London, this restaurant combines a blend of Chinese Asian foods and modern spices to bring together some of the best Asian fusion food this world has ever seen. I had the privilege to attend the opening to witness first hand the great foods made from these two master chefs.

When we got there, we were greeted by a couple of hostesses who took our jackets and led us to the bar. The place looked grand in the sense that there was a bar out front and about 15 tables in the back. We were given a menu as to what to expect for that day and for what was to come in the future. One could not help but notice a huge mural of Mao Tse Tung hanging in the back wall. The decor looked great with funky cylinder lights hanging from the roof.

At the bar they were serving three specialty drinks for the evening. Two of them we were told from the surrounding crowd that they were the real deal. The first one was the Pina Colada Bubble Tea and the other was the 510 Caesar. The Pina Colada Bubble Tea was pretty good. There wasn't a whole lot of rum in it and one could definitely taste the coconut milk and lime inside the drink. It was a pretty good pina colada from top to the bottom and went down smoothly. The other one was the 510 Caesar ($15.00) and this was far out. It was a regular Caesar drink however there was black garlic Chinese Shiitake mushrooms somehow blended in the drink along with some seaweed and some hoisin infused Worcestershire sauce. This drink was super amazing and an absolute must have. The drink tasted slightly thicker but all the extra flavors really made this drink a must have. I had never tasted a Caesar like this Caesar before. The only thing was that at $15.00, it might be just outside the price ranges of many of the regular folks.

Many of the dishes for this particular evening were the help yourself variety. Alvin was on hand to explain to us what each dish was and he even assisted in the making of his very own Chop Suey. One of the first dishes that we grabbed from the counter was the Ceviche. This was basically spot and tiger prawns and scallops mixed into what appeared to be a beautifully pureed guacamole sauce. The beauty of this dish was that the seafood presented were all nice and fresh and one could taste the absolute sweetness of the seafood that was present. The sauce was very smooth and pureed to perfection. It would have been a super appetizer and definitely of master chef quality.

Next to arrive were these wonderful fresh-from-the-oven BBQ buns. It is a huge trend these days where the BBQ pork buns are now made with the crunchy pineapple bun exterior. The buns were super hot on the inside when they arrived at the table. The pork meat inside was nice and juicy and had just the right amount of sauce in them so that one wasn't immersed in sauce as one was consuming the buns. One thing I was surprised too was that the pork meat wasn't overly salty or fatty which made this bun even more enjoyable to eat.

The next dish I grabbed was the General Sanders' Chicken and this was a little bit funky in my mind. I love chicken but even this one was a little bit off the charts for yours truly. Basically it was chicken that was deep fried and placed on a HK style egg waffle with some maple syrup on the side. It was definitely very interesting. There were a lot of tastes that were mashed together all at once which I wasn't really too sure whether they worked or not. The only time I had eaten sweet fried chicken before were with Honey Garlic but this wasn't quite the same. I will give it full marks for its innovation however, just not too sure where it stood in my heart.

I found the Octopus tentacles to be a little bit on the dry and bland side. They were not chewy as they were grilled to perfection and there was some small pieces of eggplant added to its side There were not really any major sauces that one could dip the octopus arms into. It did have a smoky taste to it but that was probably the fact that it had just came right off the grill. As Alvin once said, he loves his dishes nice and simple and this certainly had his fingerprints all over it.

The Beef Tongue was one of my favorites but it also had caught me by surprise. The beef tongue was very thin and tasted great but what knocked my socks off almost literally was the spicy hot sauce that came with it. I wasn't expecting it to be super spicy but the combination of a small piece of red pepper plus sichuan green sauce had quite the super kick to it. I actually thought it was jalapeno sauce that I was scooping into my mouth. The oyster itself certainly added a bit of a twist to the dish. It was certainly the first time I had an oyster on the same plate as my beef tongue. Overall, it was a great combination to have but yes, please be careful of the sauce.

The Brussels Sprouts and Ma Pao Sweet Potato Dish was another great combination dish that the gentlemen had served that evening. The creamy black bean butter sauce mixed with a small bit of rice was embedded inside a beautifully cooked brussels sprouts. The texture was smooth and the interior was super creamy. It was very delightful, almost tasting as if the brussels sprouts was melting in your mouth. The Ma Pao Sweet Potato was not on their regular menu or on their menu for that day. It was probably a late addition and it too blended well with the brussels sprouts in that it was nice and smooth and creamy. I wasn't too sure whether this will be on any future dishes or whether this was just a one time thing but it certainly could make an interesting appetizer to have. The brussels sprouts on the other hand was a definitely keeper for their menu. The Sweet and Sour Ribs certainly had a very interesting kick to it. A mixture of hawthorn, lemongrass and pineapple ginger slaw was added on top and beside the ribs. It was certainly the first time I have ever had this dish made in this way and it certainly was a great alternative to the original sweet and sour pork that is traditionally served in Chinese restaurants. I found the flavors to be much more stronger where both the sweetness and sourness were elevated to much higher levels. The ribs, not to be forgotten, were cooked to perfection where the meat had fallen right off the bone.

The Chop Suey comprised of about 9 different vegetables and what made this chop suey so special was that Alvin had used a special smoky plum sauce to mix all the vegetable together with. Afterwards, he placed the entire mixture into a piece of lettuce and voila, it was ready to be eaten. The wonderful and amazing part about this dish was that there were so many flavors and so many different vegetables in one's mouth that it felt as if there were fireworks going off inside your mouth. The smoky plum sauce was absolutely an amazing addition to the chop suey and brought out all the flavors out even more. I actually loved this dish and would highly recommended it to anyone who visits his restaurant.

The Crispy Smoked Milk was by far one of the highlight of the night and of course they saved it for the end. It didn't look too appealing at first and I guess they could have plated it better however the Crispy Smoked Milk was amazing and a definite must have if one ever went. The chef had created some sort of a homemade malted milk ice cream which was crazy delicious. It was sweet but not overly sweet and the filling inside the crispy shell was so smooth, so amazingly delicious and just so perfect that this was definitely the best dish for the evening. The chefs were absolute geniuses to use malted milk as it was unique and provided a whole new meaning to dessert.

Overall it was a fabulous evening. I had a chance to meet Eric, Alvin and Michael as they were all on hand to support the launch. Their food was definitely something that was worth going for. They also have a tasting menu that I believe that will be set for around $300.00 and will consist of ten courses that gave Alvin his three stars while in Hong Kong. Many of the dishes I had described tonight will be on his regular menu so when it opens on April 7, 2015 to the public go in and give a try. I don't think you will be disappointed. Overall it was a great evening. I give it a 4.5 out of 5.

R&D Restaurant
241 Spadina Avenue
Toronto, Ontario