Toronto | 503 College St. | 647-341-8882 | dailoto.com
DaiLo is Cantonese slang for a gangster boss. And there’s a whiff of danger – or is that black truffles? – as we saunter into Nick Liu’s joint on College. The sight of that whole fried Giggie trout, its eyes open and head propped up on the plate, reminds me of the yakuza board-meeting scene in the movie Kill Bill.
Chef Liu sharpened his French technique at Niagara Street Café, then set out on his own with a series of GwaiLo (Cantonese slang for foreigner) pop-ups that married those classic skills to his Hakka-Chinese heritage. The brilliant Big Mac bao is filled with beef and house-processed cheddar cheese, set on a bed of lettuce and aioli “special sauce” and sprinkled with black sesame seeds. “There’s even a pickle in it!” my wife shrieks with her mouth full. Technically, the bao is only on the menu at DaiLo’s upstairs bar, LoPan (the baddie from Big Trouble in Little China), but you can get them downstairs if you order with authority, like a kingpin. “I’m supposed to offer some perfunctory resistance,” the waiter says before relenting with a knowing wink.
Sommelier Anton Potvin, Liu’s former running mate at Niagara Street Café and co-owner here, hands me an Austrian grüner that helps to wash down sweet-and-sour pork hock, a bowl of crispy-edged cubes with fatty centres that set my eyes rolling back in my head. “My record in one sitting is 42,” Potvin confesses.
We inflict quick damage on the wooden sushi board of desserts: soju-poached pear, moist kasu-infused white-sugar cakes, Filipino maple leche flan. I point to the tea menu’s “Spadina Blend,” hopeful that this is Chinatown code for a pot full of beer. Surprise: The lychee- and lemongrass-scented black tea is a better kicker. The boss wouldn’t do us wrong.