A fresh white space with room to lounge is a welcome change to the normally cramped, dark venues in what I call the "Barmuda Triangle" or as it's more commonly known-the Entertainment District.
At Dazzling Modern Restaurant & Bar, the light, airy, modern feel is a perfect setting for both the office folks of Bay and King Streets, and the tourist, theatre and club crowds.
There are 3 floors to accommodate the crowds-the first for dining and is complete with a long bar, the second for dining
and lounging, and the third holds a private dining room for up to 42 people.
And while the downtown area is full of Asian restaurants, having a menu of Thai, Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese dishes doesn't feel played out.
Executive Chef Andy Leung has created a wide-ranging menu with something for everyone-including an Express Lunch, A la Carte and Late Night menus.
Managers Sandy Zheng and Gary Cheung are working hard today to make sure everything is just so. They talk with staff about cocktail preparation, assess tables for perfect place settings and continually run up and down the flights of stairs, checking on the various parties and events happening in all the different rooms and spaces. Gary worked at the Hilton, so his expectation of service is high.
I, however, feel complete calm as I take in the scenery. The large, windowed red doors at the front allow me to still people watch and the exposed brick wall adds warmth to the space.
Looking over the menu, it's difficult to decide as there's so much to choose from.
An easy choice is the Dazzling Modern Salad ($8) with sliced beef steak, red onion, crispy sticky rice bits, cucumber, romaine and red pepper. The homemade dressing is tangy and sweet and the crispy sticky rice bits add a unique twist.
The Hot & Sour Soup ($5) is fantastic. Not too spicy, but enough that my cheeks feel hot. Snow peas, tofu, mushroom, bamboo and ribbons of carrot bob and weave in a thick broth.
The Dazzling Spicy on UFO ($8) consists of spicy salmon and tuna on top of sweet potatoes and cucumber. You certainly get your money's worth here. And boy it is filling and good.
The Dazzling Roll ($14) is even bigger, jam-packed with shrimp, eel, avocado, cucumber, smoked salmon, tobiko and soft shell crab. It is impossible to get it all in a single bite, so it makes for a fun challenge. The juxtaposition of so many textures and flavours makes for a tasting frenzy! Each bite is completely different, sometimes with smoked salmon leading and other times it's all about the eel.
Just as my cheeks are puffed out like a blowfish, the Malaysia Style Paste Fried Noodles ($11) arrive.
Fried noodles are tossed in shrimp and crab paste sauce with chicken, shrimp and fresh mixed vegetables. The noodles are cooked perfectly, with just a little bite still left in them. The accompaniments are all fresh and the sauce flavourful, yet delicate - not at all overpowering.
But seriously, how can 1 person eat all of this food? This is definitely enough for a family of 4.
Other than hearty portions and reasonable prices, there are a lot of interesting dishes that I don't try but would like to come back for. Like the Dim Sum (Ha Gow, Siu Mai and Chow Gaow), the Thai curries, Rack of Lamb and the Rice Less Rolls, where one is topped with green tea paste.
I like being able to choose from a big menu like this, having a host of flavours and dishes to choose from. I can come in and satiate my craving for Thai or get a bunch of sushi rolls, if I'm feeling like Japanese.
In other words, it would take you a lot of trips to have the same thing twice.
The food here is fresh, lively and unique and the atmosphere is everything from calm and serene to raucous and party-like.
That's the great thing about it-it is so many things to so many people.