By Jamie Drummond

Some months back we covered the first incarnation of The Drake Hotel‘s Dining Roadshow Pop-Up Restaurant Series, and were suitably impressed by the kitchen’s playful take on Canadian comfort food.

Another publication found the Drake’s Chinatown trailer puzzling… personally I thought it was most excellent and amusing. Lighten up folks… It’s the Drake… What did you expect?

If you are having trouble viewing this video please click here.

Due to numerous travel obligations I have been unable to try out their new menu and original cocktails until just the other evening… hence the fact that almost everyone else has already covered this before GFR. Oh well, here is our own take on the proceedings:

They revamped dining room at the rear of the Drake looks mighty fine, and after a few cocktails began to become eerily reminiscent of the Shanghai restaurant scene that opens Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom… and that is not a bad thing… and it was by far the best part of that particular film.

The west wall’s shelves are populated by a glaring of waving cats of various shapes, statures, and demeanours, no doubt assembled to pass on good luck to the seated patrons as they peruse the Drake Chinatown offerings (presented on a tri-fold, red and black inked 8 1/2 by 11, à la one’s traditional Chinese takeout menu).

Thankfully very little luck is needed, with all the dishes we experienced exhibiting Chef Anthony Rose‘s flair for the whimsical, supported by some seriously good cooking.

The Chinatown menu has a few old Drake favourites on there, as well as a plethora of new dishes designed by Rose especially for this particular phase of the the dining room.

Highlights include the Firecracker Maple Shrimp with Walnuts, Cilantro, Jalapeno, and Maple Syrup… which was a lot spicier than I had first anticipated, but then I am a big wuss when it comes to spice/heat.

Another dish you have to try are the Egg Rolls (BBQ Orange Chicken and Shrimp, Roast Peanuts, and Saskatchewan Hot Mustard)… a fantastic combination of flavours with some seriously juicy chicken and shrimp… just be careful with that mustard though, unless you can really take the heat… it is H.O.T.T.E.R. than Veronica Jett in black latex stockings.

Jonathan Humphrey, The Drake’s unflappably affable Bar Manager has, along with his valiant team, spent an inordinate amount of time creating a fascinating list of original cocktails for the Chinatown chapter of the Dining Roadshow.

Not usually being one for cocktails myself (spending most of the time in my cups with the grape and the grain) I was pleasantly surprised at just how damn good some of them were… in particular the Faye Dunaway… comprised of Vodka, Mango Juice, Muddled Jalapeño, Agave Syrup, and Orange Bitters. The Jalapeño added an almost savoury edge to an ambrosial elixir thats balance made it astonishingly easy to knock back. I could get myself in to trouble with a few of these…

A stylin' new menu for the Drake's Chinatown makeover.

The new Chinatown interior is pretty impressive, and quite a change from from The Drake's Summer Camp.

I think that this is my favourite corner of the new space...

Firecracker Maple Shrimp with Walnuts, Cilantro, Jalapeno, and Maple Syrup.

Short Rib and Pumpkin Potstickers with Redcurrant and Plum Sauce.

Egg Rolls (BBQ Orange Chicken and Shrimp, Roast Peanuts, and Saskatchewan Hot Mustard)

Tiger Lily Tuna (Tuna Tartare, 5 Spice Taro Chips, Avocado, Coriander, and Chili Oil.

Peking Duck Crepes with Pickled Cucumber, Lychee, and Hoisin BBQ.

Drake Cocktails: The Lotus Blossom, The Kiwi Basil Smash, and the outstanding Faye Dunaway.

The Drake's Rickety Rickshaw.

The Drake Hotel‘s Chinatown will be in place until November 19th, from 6pm to 10pm daily.
Reservations are highly recommended.
The Drake Hotel is located at 1150 Queen Street West, Toronto.

Edinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution… and he’s trying to work out just how much he spends on drinks at the Drake in any given month.