Best New Restaurants 2015: #4, DaiLo

Best New Restaurants 2015: #4, DaiLo

DaiLo | 503 College St., 647-341-8882

Gotta feel for Nick Liu. The young chef left the Niagara Street Café in 2012 and, for two long years, held a series of pop-up dinners, swearing he was about to unveil his own place. When it finally happened last fall, he was nearly crushed under an avalanche of hype. But he prevailed: DaiLo was an instant hit. It’s a beauty of a restaurant, a sly take on a vintage tea house with cozy teal booths behind filigreed screens. Liu went beyond his formerly gimmicky gourmet riffs on fast food and tapped into his Hakka roots. My favourite dish on his menu sounds like a crime against fruit but is one of the most exciting innovations of the year: hot watermelon. He dredges cubes in cornstarch, deep-fries them to a crisp, and serves them with diced pickled watermelon rind and a salty tuft of pork floss. The watermelon dissolves on the tongue, its sweetness and acidity blooming with the heat. I could also rave about his crispy whole trout or his tart green papaya and spicy ground pork salad or his grilled curried quail, but it’s that plate of hot melon I’m craving.