Neighbourhood: St. James
Address: 305 Madison St
Asian fusion food has a reputation for being a messy hybrid of cuisines or dumbing down the cooking of different cultures. But a new generation of cooks and restaurants is drawing on people’s curiosity about food and embracing the availability of global ingredients to present notable and exciting flavourful mash-ups of culinary cultures.
Damecca Lounge quietly opened this summer but is gaining steam on the culinary scene with its bold flavours that combine elements of various cuisines. Owner Nam Truong is simply a man with a dream who really loves food. The spacious open concept room is plainly furnished with booths and high-top seats, offset by exuberant service that builds anticipation for delicious dishes.
The menu draws on Truong’s heritage, with its influences of Vietnam and Japan. Typical sections (starters, pasta, salads, burgers, sushi and steak) don’t hint towards anything extraordinary. But read past the headlines, and you see ingredients like yuzu, truffle and miso appear through the menu, mingling in unexpected ways. Comfort foods like calamari, flatbread and pasta are given such flavour twists with great success.
House cured salmon in a truffle yuzu dressing is another stand out. Slices of salmon are rolled around fine slivers of red onion and topped with micro cilantro and black tobiko. The dish is anchored by a pool of the pungent dressing, which sings with zips of the grapefruit-like Japanese citrus.
Mushroom truffle pappardelle is filled with delights. Perfect pasta is generously lathered in miso cream sauce kissed with truffle oil. Chunky pieces of cremini, pickled grape tomatoes, shallots and fresh sage hits all the right notes to create a symphony of flavour that seamlessly melds Italian and Asian influence.
Caesar salad with romaine and kale introduces pickled red onion and crushed fried shallots to expand the texture profile. Grana Padano’s saltiness and flakes of briny bonito offsets the sourness of the pickles.
Each playful dish is a palate pleaser. The most elegant of all are the stunning sushi plates, most notably the sushi tower. The word, it seems, is out: it arrives at every table. This beauty is as delicious as it looks, layering seasoned rice, tuna, salmon, avocado and crab. Tempura crumbs, unagi sauce and spicy mayo bring it together. Salmon is equally impressive presented torched atop a pressed cake of rice. Much like his food, Truong’s approach to fusion dining is more about elegance than novelty, and the result is impressive. With each wow-worthy plate, diners sink further into his vision, experiencing flavour in unexpected ways—which is, of course, what eating out is all about.