First he took Toronto, and now acclaimed chef Susur Lee is taking another run at success south of the border. In 2011 Shang, his restaurant in NYC's Thompson Lower East Side hotel, closed its doors after a three-year run that lasted longer than expected. Back then Lee blamed his dismal numbers on New Yorkers' "boring palates." His new foray will include a restaurant and "grab 'n' go" shop in Manhattan's One World Trade Centre.
To Torontonians he's a wunderkind, having started his culinary career at the age of 16 in Hong Kong's Peninsula Hotel. But in New York, chef and restaurateur Lee may need to rebuild his reputation. Shang did not go over well.
In contrast, Lee's resto empire elsewhere remains strong: there's the eponymous Lee on King West, last year's Bent, a "family restaurant," situated at the McDonald's end of Dundas West's epicurean strip, and TungLok Heen in Singapore. The former Susur restaurant garnered him numerous accolades, including being called one of the World's 50 Best Restaurants by Restaurant magazine. Other than a four-year relationship with Zentan in Washington DC, Lee's track record has been so far so good. Maybe it's an American thing.
For a man who's been a TEDxToronto Conference speaker, Iron Chef competitor (tying with New Yorker Chef Bobby Flay) and Top Chef: Masters finalist, Lee knows his way around a kitchen. Only time will tell if he can navigate his next U.S. move a little more smoothly.
· Toronto Chef Susur Lee Returns to Manhattan With New Restaurant in One World Trade Center [Toronto Star]
· Two Years Later Than Expected, Shang Packs It In [Eater New York]
· Susur's Bent: Comeback? Or fallback? [Globe and Mail]