Madeline’s massive make-over: name changes, construction and the return of Susur Lee

Madeline’s massive make-over: name changes, construction and the return of Susur Lee

Don’t panic at the sight of shuttered windows at Madeline’s. The place closed on April 10 but will re-emerge in early June as Susur Lee’s next Toronto restaurant.

Brenda Bent, Lee’s wife and the person in charge of redoing Madeline’s space, tells us that after Dominic Amaral’s departure last year to become head chef at Zucca Trattoria, it was time to give the place an update—especially since her husband will be cooking in Toronto more often now. Lee’s contracts say that he has to check up on Shang (in New York) only three times a month, Zentan (in Washington) three times every two months and Chinois (in Singapore) about four times a year.

“Madeline’s was more suited to Dominic’s cooking,” says Bent. “Susur wants to do more private dinners like what he was doing on Top Chef Masters. We get a lot of requests for tasting menus, and Susur likes to do it, and it’s what he does best. He wants to offer a more intense level of cooking.”

Much remains up in the air: Bent is waiting for Lee to come back from a business trip in Singapore to discuss the interior design, the restaurant’s new name and the specifics of the menu. “People who cook with Susur don’t know what they’ll be cooking that day,” Bent says with a laugh. “But if he’s behind the kitchen, you know that it’s going to be great.”

What is certain is that the exterior will be more open to passersby. “Right now, we’re just blowing off the front of the building. With the tiny windows, it makes the place look sequestered, so that’s going to change in a week.” The dining room will also be smaller, to make for a more intimate setting, and they’re in talks for a wine program. There will be tasting menus, but Bent says diners will still be allowed to order à la carte.

Next door, Lee will remain unchanged. Its recently launched lunch menu proved to be a big hit in what seems to be a continuing trend of restaurants stepping up their game on King West (see Brassaii and Buca). Bent also adds that Lee might open another restaurant in Chicago, but for now, she’s taking it one restaurant at a time.