Best of Fall 2012: How GwaiLo, Nick Liu’s soon-to-open Parkdale restaurant, just might rehabilitate Asian-fusion
In a dining scene rife with duck confit banh mi, peameal bulgogi and brisket steamed buns, the F-word crops up a lot. But you won’t hear Nick Liu use it. His new Asian brasserie, he insists, isn’t fusion. It’s Canadian. Which is why he chose to call it GwaiLo, the Cantonese slang for foreigners like himself—that is, a Markham-raised Chinese-Canadian who learned to make shumai from his grandmother, but also mastered rustic Italian food in Tuscany and French techniques at Splendido and Scaramouche. This gastronomic promiscuity led to the eclectic menus at Niagara Street Café, where, as chef from 2008 to 2012, Liu invented such brazenly hybrid dishes as Japanese bolognese: basil-flecked soba noodles, beef tataki, tomato water, Parmesan oil and truffle pearls. By the time he left to plan a restaurant of his own, he’d earned a reputation as a chef who pushed culinary creativity. The bolognese will be back at GwaiLo, as will his signature General Tso’s sweetbreads, which have been copied on menus all over town. But the most exciting plates are new: sweet-and-sour pork terrine with jellyfish slaw, and whole-fried trout with caramel-soy glaze and sweet Thai chili sauce. While Liu might not be comfortable dropping the F-bomb, we are: this is fusion at its irreverent, boundary-defying best.