Tuyen Restaurant

Tuyen Restaurant 4860 Yonge Street, Toronto ON
Approx $30 per person
Local Food? some local ingredients
Local Wine/Beer? some available

Mon to Fri: 11am to 3pm
Mon to Thu: 5pm to 10pm
Fri: 4pm to 11pm
Sat & Sun: 4pm to 11pm

Chefs have a bubbling, sometimes even raging enthusiasm to experiment with new ingredients. Depending partly on their own cultural and ethnic backgrounds, sometimes applying Asian, Caribbean, Mediterranean or sometimes even familiar Western methods into what they are convinced is a uniquely North American culinary style. Along with being seen as new and trendy, these Asian fusion dishes also appeal to many customers because they tend to be lighter and are perceived to be healthier than other types of “’ethnic”’ cuisine.

So Fusion cuisine combines elements of various culinary traditions whilst not fitting specifically into any. The term generally refers to the innovations in many contemporary restaurant cuisines since the 1970s. But success of this type of restaurants depends on diversity of cultures in their clientele. Enter Tuyen.

Now you’re probably used to walking into a chic, loungy restaurant these days, and trying expressive new fusion dishes with a nice glass of red or Zinfandel (for the ladies of course). You’ve probably indulged in the melodic sounds of Paris’ glitzy nightspot Buddha Bar and its signature ambient environments. These places are trendily springing up one after the other. But I dare you to find a cool, relaxing comfort zone outside of the downtown core. Of all places, I dare you to find one in North York.

In a vicinity dominated by new high risers, banks, monstrous movie theatres, government offices, and palpable but boring take out joints, Tuyen (“Flow of Water”) definitely stands out from the rest. The juxtaposition of culinary options around the block is puzzling and disappointing, until you step through the glass doors.

Genteel is the word here. Neither the restaurant nor its customers need to flaunt their upscale position and social cachet, a welcome relief from the sometimes tacky, ostentatious Downtown scene. Tuyen’s dining room merely whispers luxury and elegance. A fine mix of clean lines and characteristic curves; its most notable feature is probably the long, glittery bar, Swiss chocolate chairs, the imported tiles, psychedelic shrine at the far wall, or the huge Chinese vases that were a gift to owner Jacky Fu. The vaguely Asian decor serves to highlight the flamboyant, artfully presented cuisine. The dinnerware is an exceptional conversation starter.

Owner Jacky Fu, already has his hands full with another Traditional Chinese restaurant that he runs in the heart of Scarborough. This time, he’s trying to take a swing and bring the fusion of Pan-Asian cuisines to the otherwise ‘boring’ North York Community.

Of course, I believe the best way to dine at Tuyen, is with a few close friends, and a huge sampling of Chef Shum’s creative masterpieces. I’ve always been a fan of sharing food with good company and after a quick glance at the menu, it was evident that it would be the only way I’d truly understand Jacky and Chef Andrew Shum’s vision. There’s just too many mouth watering dishes that you’ll want to try.

Ravishing ingredients like mango, lobster, and paratha breads impart a sensual tone to a menu full of “aphrodisiacal cuisine.” Starters include stunning spice salted calamari (a real treat and tease for seafood lovers), chili clams in a spicy tamarind broth, and the decadent Kyoto scallop cake.

I started with the Thai beef salad. A generous portion of Rib eye sliced Beef, served with onions, chili, coriander, chopped peanuts, in a lemon lime vinagrette over greens. It was amazing to enjoy such a dish when you don’t expect the cold beef to blend so well with the rest of the ingredients. Definitely a must try salad.

Then there’s the Viet lamb (the perfectly pink rack of new Zealand lamb seasoned with garlic, fresh herbs, spices in a mint sauce), a Malaysian seafood pot (prawns, mussels, squid, scallops, you name it), and volcano shrimp (definite must try if you like spicy seafood). Don’t miss a restaurant signature: Viet tamarind tiger prawn in a sweet tamarind sauce. Also save room for the luscious Grand Marnier soufflé and espresso crème brulee.

One of my favourite dishes was the Malaysian beef fried rice. An intimidating portion of fried rice served with fresh soft pineapple in a Malaysian sauce, all served in a pineapple shell.

The Typhoon Sea Bass is the piece de resistance. Chilean Sea Bass, lightly grilled, with chopped garlic & bird’s eye chili. If you love seafood, especially scallops, then this, my friends, is heavenly. One of the most tender and flavourful servings of sea bass I have had the privilege of trying.

But Fusion cookery is too often a jumble of confusing, contradictory culinary influences. At its best, it offers a feast for the senses that thrills and delights. But Chef Shum brilliantly melds East with West and infuses his dishes with uncommon creativity. Emerging from a rich culinary heritage starting off as a pastry chef (Try the soufflé and you’ll understand), the young chef has come into his own with his unique interpretation of East-West cuisines. Hints of Malay, Indonesian, Chinese, Thai, Viet, and Korean flavours can be spotted across the diverse menu. Crunchy seaweed, a staple of sushi bars that is usually served raw, joins spice salt, chili and garlic to flavor an aromatic crispy soft shell crab salad.

From start to finish, from Thai beef salad to gossamer Vanilla soufflé, my dinner at Tuyen’s was extraordinary in every respect: concept, design, ingredients and ecstatic attitude.

The best time to visit Tuyen is mid evening, during the week. The place is fairly quiet, bustling with a few regulars and some parties. If you decide to have dinner on the weekends, call ahead for reservations as it is recommended.

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Written by Spotlight Toronto

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