It’s been a long summer of BBQ and tacos on Toronto’s restaurant scene.
So we don’t blame you for wanting to shake it up a little. In fact, we’ve found the perfect place to do just that: the new Asian-inspired DaiLo (“big brother” in Cantonese).
Located at 503 College St., the former spot of the once-beloved Grace, this welcoming Chinese brasserie offers a new reason to revisit the College St. strip. It’s the product of a partnership between young professionals Chef Nick Liu, Anton Potvin, and husband and wife team David Dattels and Jen Grant.
And we can confirm that Chef Nick Liu’s New Asian menu is unique to what Toronto’s seen recently. It’s filled with unexpected fusions of old and new, rich with delicate textures and coupled with bold flavours, and even requires some well-worth-it risk-taking.
Quick crowd-pleasers are the Whole Fried Giggi Trout (conveniently served in bite-sized pieces), the Sweet and Sour Pork Hock (even if you’re not a pork lover), the Crispy Octopus Fresh Roll (but order two, they’re tiny) and the Hakka Pork and Shrimp Wonton, among others.
Though the menu appears pretty pork-heavy, there’s something to please the picky eater too.
Meatless options include the Singapore Curry Cauliflower (vegetarian or not, you need an order of this for the table) or the popular Eggnet Salad, an eggnet-covered green papaya, pomelo, bean sprout and nut crumble mixture with a coconut caramel dressing (“its been a creeper because people don’t expect it to be as delicious as it is,” says Potvin).
Word of advice: it’s pretty much mandatory to try the Big Mac Boas. Just trust us.
What Potvin calls “the guilt-free Big Mac” (a steamed bun filled with amazingness) is riding a novelty wave right now as the decided top seller and is perfect for both the beginning and end of a College St. bar hop. And like the ‘secret sauce’ of McDonald’s, the sauce used at DaiLo remains a closely guarded secret too.
The food’s accompanied by a cocktail list designed by Shane Mulvany, winner of Toronto’s Best Bartender during Toronto Cocktail Week. NBD.
Most of the cocktails, like the The Tom Yum Booze or the Five Spice Dark and Stormy, include Asian influences like lemongrass and Chinese spices. Naturally, there’s also a well-curated sake list. As for the carefully selected wine list, “it’s about paying respect to the food – the delicate textures with bold flavours,” says sommelier Potvin.
Designed by Solid Design and Build (the team behind La Carnita, Valdez, and The Citizen), the space is divided into three sections: a cozy upstairs dim sum bar (LoPan), the downstairs dining area, and a back bar area, complete with ample bar stools and high top tables. The back courtyard from the days of Grace is no longer, making better use of the space with the lively bar. “It was really beautiful for 12 days of the year; the rest of the time you were staring at snow,” says Potvin.
DaiLo is welcoming throughout, filled with eclectic décor and nods to the Chinese culture while managing to avoid being too over-the-top.
This means things like brass Chinese-inspired partition screens between booths, china on the walls, hand-painted murals, imported Chinese tile, and an atrium-style skylight complete with a massive custom chandelier reminiscent of a Chinese lantern. This, mixed with raw materials and rich leather, produces a comfortable feel and adds to the distinct, modern personality.
Upstairs, where dim sum is served until 2am, LoPan subtly channels Chinatown with items like a floating lighting installation designed to resemble dumplings and fortune cookies, neon signs, fortune cookie-patterned wallpaper, and a grouping of birdcages suspended from the ceiling.
Other DaiLo perks include hot towels before the meal, both wine and sake on tap, complimentary sparkling water, and a diet-breaking Asian Banana Split.
But don’t only rely on us – try out the #sickasianfood for yourself.
DaiLo is open Tuesday-Saturday for dinner from 5:30pm-2:00am.
Photo Credit: Shawn Goldberg