Introducing: DaiLo (formerly GwaiLo), Nick Liu’s long-awaited “Asian brasserie”

Introducing: DaiLo (formerly GwaiLo), Nick Liu’s long-awaited “Asian brasserie”

Introducing: DaiLo
Click to view gallery (Image: Renée Suen)

Name: DaiLo
Contact Info: 503 College St.,, @DaiLoTO
Previously: Grace bistro, which ended its six-year run last February
Neighbourhood: Little Italy
Owners: Nick Liu, Anton Potvin, and husband-and-wife team David Dattels and Jen Grant
Chef: Former Niagara Street Café chef Nick Liu, who’s been planning this restaurant for years

The Food: This is the latest Toronto restaurant to combine two culinary concepts in a single space. The ground floor is DaiLo, a sit-down restaurant with a full dinner menu. The second storey houses LoPan, a more casual snack bar. On the debut menu, Liu takes the kind of food he grew up with—mainly Chinese cuisine from the Hakka region—and reinterprets it using French techniques (and, in some cases, a hefty dose of irreverence). Some recipes stick fairly close to tradition, like the intricately folded pork-and-shrimp dumplings, which are served with house XO sauce. Others, like Liu’s much-anticipated “Big Mac bao,” are brazenly inauthentic.

The Drinks: The wine list, designed by lauded sommelier (and DaiLo co-owner) Anton Potvin, includes several kinds of sake, including Toronto’s own Izumi, which is available on tap. The short list of cocktails is perfectly on-theme: it includes a lemongrass gimlet (the “Tom Yum Booze”) and a riff on the dark and stormy laced with Chinese five spice.

The Place: Grace’s elegant bistro decor has been replaced with lots of teal leather and playful chinoiserie (Chinese lanterns; gold pagodas stamped on the walls). Old black-and-white photos of Liu’s family decorate the downstairs bar.