It’s no easy feat operating a secretive and largely hidden restaurant in the social media vacuum we currently occupy, which makes Luke’s Underground Supper Table (or LUST) a culinary dining (and social experiment) second to none.
Luke, for the uninitiated, is the young Chef and host (with his mom/partner in crime Carrie) of LUST, a rotating supper club that features Luke’s colourful and creative takes on South East Asian (and beyond) food, curated into a four course tasting menu around the region or theme of the evening (Chinese New Year celebrations were a recent event). The premise is pretty straightforward: book tickets through his website, show up for a BYOB dinner party at a Kensington Market area venue. Luke keeps the location under wraps until two days prior, another element of surprise that adds to the overall allure and charm of his dinner parties.
Like the location, the menu is also a complete surprise. Luke only reveals the inspiration, whether it’s a city or celebration, and then offers wine pairing suggestions based on that. The secretive nature of LUST cultivates an element of trust, and curates a unique bond between Luke and his diners. He goes to great efforts to ensure there’s a sensual element to the evening - no LUST isn’t just a simple acronym - and wants guests to indulge, in not only his 4-5 course menu, but also in each other; another perk of communal dining with perfect strangers is the relationships that organically form after a bottle or two of shared bevvies.
The secretive nature of LUST cultivates an element of trust, and curates a unique bond between Luke and his diners.
Entering into the two level space, you’re greeted by a rec-room style restaurant, mismatched tables and chairs are set and hand drawn posters celebrating the ‘lusty’ atmosphere announce an evening like no other. Make your way downstairs and try and grab a seat at the chefs table, with front row access to the kitchen for proper gawking, as well as the communal ice bucket that serves as the bar. In typical Toronto fashion, most people are quiet and reserved, saving table talk to their immediate partner but after the first round of drinks evaporates quiet conversation dissipates as fast as that PBR tallboy.
Luke further guides this experience with his sensational playlist- disco party hits blend seamlessly with 80’s hair band hits, guaranteeing a groovy party-like experience for everyone.
The main attraction is the food though. And with a young self-taught chef manning the kitchen, skepticism is a natural first reaction. Fear not fickle Torontonians, you are in good lusty hands with Chef Luke, he is both skillful and playful, exuberant and inventive, so buckle up and hunker down, his menu encapsulates everything you crave in a meal but you’ll never find in a traditional restaurant.
Everything is made in house, with a careful and accurate approach; menus are planned and plotted weeks in advance paying homage to the dish’s origins. Being open for dinner only one night a week means Luke can spend his sweet time serenading you with his sexy menu, prepping food and having his mise en place ready (here, an unmovable glacier rock acts as a perfect prep table).
Chilli Shrimp echo the city theme of Singapore, with Chef Luke’s take on Singapore style hawker street food. Opting for shrimp instead of the traditional crab, Luke’s spicy shrimp are perfectly tender, garnished with precision cut egg whites and yolks, cut into slivers and served with warm steamed
buns. Bah Kut The arrives soon after, a rich and intense broth with crispy pork, Napa cabbage, scallion greens and red onion with a side of oolong tea for sipping. Luke wisely pairs this up with Youtiao, aka Chinese donuts which act as mini mops for soaking up the beefy broth. Hainanese Chicken Rice brings deep fried chicken pieces formed into patty like portions with chicken infused rice pressed into cubes soaked in a chicken broth sauce. Curls of scallions, fried shallots and ginger prove Chef Luke is taking no prisoners, and his side chilli hot sauce would be my new Sriracha (if he would only share his recipe).
Finishing on a sweet note, Luke’s take on the Singapore staple Kaya Toast marries coconut-panlan pain perdu draped in Kaffir lime ice cream with coffee sauce and salted caramel shards.
It’s clear Luke’s not into playing it safe, from the explosive spiciness to the unconventional cooking techniques to the very design of his supper club itself. For those looking for a respite from the same old Toronto restaurants consider LUST your answer.
Tickets average $55 per person and do not include tip or a free hug on the way out. They also sell out FAST so check out the list of upcoming events here