241 Spadina Ave
Toronto, ON M5T 2E2
I've been wanting to go to R&D for quite some time. This restaurant was brought to my attention from friends who watched Master Chef Canada, where Eric Chong (the winner) is the sous chef. The menu is modern Asian fusion tapas with a lean towards Chinese cuisine (also in Chinatown...)
The place is real nice on the interior with a bar present at the front. On your way towards the main dining area, you walk by the kitchen with a good view of how much of your dinner will be prepared.
I came with a group of 5 (two couples and myself, so I was the fifth wheel tonight). We wanted to order everything off that menu but not very economical. We still ordered quite a bit though...
1. Venison Chili Spring Rolls looked more like those 7-11 tacquitos that you know you will regret eating at 2am, but you still get them anyways. Despite how it looked, these "spring rolls" were pretty good. Venison is a great meat so the chili only serves to mask the venison flavor, but the chili was good and the skin crunchy.
2. Crispy Pork Belly Baos were one of my favorites of the night. I enjoy pork belly baos, but they are almost always braised whenever I get them, so crispy is a nice change of pace. The crispy skin really balanced out the tender bao and the meat was so damn good
3. Fried Chicken and Cronuts. The fried chicken chunks were heavy battered and crispy. The meat was tender inside and piping hot so be careful. The cronuts were amazing. Nice, flaky, and glazed all over.
4. Wanted to get some starches in our bodies, because carbs are king. Their fried rice and seafood laksa chow mein will do. The fried rice was eggs, bean sprouts, mushroom, and green onions. It was my least favorite (and not just because of the veggies) because I thought the taste was a bit off and the veggies burnt. On the other end of the starch spectrum, the laksa noodles were another favorite. The noodles were spicy! Nice chunks of shrimp, clams, and small scallops.
5. Chili Crab Siu Mai was nice. The chili crab mixture atop was great. Little chunks and shreds of real crab meat tossed in a little spicy mixture. The siu mai was nothing special.
6. Duck Fat Fingerling Potatoes were bleh. Duck fat potatoes can be overrated in my mind. Pretty greasy and because it's thick cut, seasoning doesn't penetrate through. Thick veggies too.
7. Flat Iron Steak was incredible. I'm not the biggest fan of flat iron because it's a cheaper cut of meat, but they did an amazing job with it. Cooked a nice medium rare, the steak was tender and plump.
8. The main attraction was "The Best Duck In The City". First of all, just the title alone is a bit ambitious, borderline arrogant. There are lots of authentic Chinese establishments who try to lay claim on this. I'll just say this: This might have actually been the best Peking Duck I've had in the city...
Before the Peking Duck can arrive, our waitress comes by with the entire glazed duck on a plate to present to us. I'v been in plenty of board meetings and presentations and if there was a duck like this, they would be so much better. As she explains to us about the brining process and the way the duck is made, I couldn't help but stare at that damn shiny duck. It was beautiful.
Now... the reason I loved it was because the skin was crisp and the fat was slightly lean. There are places that barely have fat, or not enough fat. This was the ideal amount of fat. Now, other places also do their Peking Duck where it's cooked through and through. That boring gray tinge you see at Peking Duck restaurants. Throw it out. This duck is cooked a cool medium (yes, duck can be cooked medium to medium rare) and the nice red color accompanies a very tender piece of duck meat. It was amazing. The perfect finish to the dinner.
I left R&D feeling as though I just ate an AYCE buffet. The prices are good for tapas. There were some overpriced items (siu mai, fingerling potatoes, etc), but everything else was great. The service was outstanding. Our server was personable, funny, and really made us feel welcome. I don't know why, but I never have real high expectations for restaurants in Chinatown. This place is starting to change my mind...
Ambience: B | Service: A | Price: B | Food: B+