Restaurant Review

Rating: NNNNNZINC (471 Richmond West, 504-6013) Intimate, futuristic space-age lounge -- ground zero for downtown fashion and advertising execs --.

Rating: NNNNN

ZINC (471 Richmond West, 504-6013) Intimate, futuristic space-age lounge — ground zero for downtown fashion and advertising execs — features the au courant cooking of New Zealand whiz kid Mook Sutton. Reservations recommended as there’s only one seating per table each evening. Complete dinners for $100 per person, including all taxes, tip, a glass of wine, unlimited complimentary fizzy water and espresso, plus free parking to boot. Open Tuesday to Saturday 6 to 10:30 pm. Closed Sunday and Monday. Fully licensed. Smoke-free. Access: short step at door, washrooms on same floor. Rating: NNNthe 80s are back big-time. on the charts, Bloodhound Gang samples Falco and Frankie Goes to Hollywood. In Paris, fashion runways are glutted with big-haired models sporting glitzy Joan Collins-inspired, shoulder-padded, over-the-top duds. And that’s just the guys.The restaurant scene’s no different. That long-gone decade of Scaramouche, North 44 and Centro-style over-indulgence has boomeranged with a vengeance. Hell, even Susur Lee has returned to Lotus-land.

And now there’s Zinc, a restaurant that doesn’t know the meaning of restraint.

Two years ago, the Temperato brothers of Sucre fame announced they’d be opening a second spot next door — named Zinc, just like the store that had been there previously — in the new year. It didn’t happen. Finally, six weeks ago, it materialized.

It’s not easy to find, though. There’s no sign, windows are covered with orange incandescent panels and the entry’s off a parking lot. But the minute the Device and I enter, our jaws drop in unison.

Move over Monsoon and goodbye Goldfish. Created by Del Terralongue, the room sets a new standard in restaurant design.

It’s visually sensational. Think space-age cocktail lounge — but without any Jetsons’ kitschy retro-futurism. It’s a timeless chamber similar to the one at the finale of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001.

Round-cornered walls painted dark grey shimmer from indirect blue tubular lighting. Grey flannel-covered tables are orbited by cast-aluminum Modernica Impala chairs.

Other than a solitary calla lily in a test-tube vase, there’s no decoration. Muted Blue Note jazz — Miles, Dexter, Herbie — echoes the stylish minimalism.

Coats checked, we’re seated quickly. We should be — we’re the only people here. Our smooth server pushes a button on each of the rectangular plastic boxes in front of us, and the menu literally lights up.

I nearly faint as I scope the damage — appetizers just under 20 bucks, main courses in the 40s. Zinc makes Susur seem affordable.

Passing on lobster bisque ($15!), we settle on sharing ostrich carpaccio paired with bison tartare on potato rosti ($17). After taking our order, the server returns with an amuse-gueule presented on the white postcard-sized plexi plates that had been sitting on our table earlier.

With their two tiny troughs, we’d assumed they were for doing lines of coke. Instead, they carry smallish mounds of bison tartare topped with crisp taro wafers on greasy miniature potato rosti.

Didn’t we just order this for a first course? We select an alternative, fois gras-and-hare pâté ($18). When it arrives, the Device asks what the green shoots are that lie beside it.

“Garnish,” replies the server.

Excuse us, but doesn’t pâté usually come with something to spread it on? A crust? A cracker? He returns with a bread basket and tongs us exactly one slice of bread, leaving with the rest. Butter? Don’t even ask. And don’t bother with the pâté — a boring liver spread surrounded by “Cabernet jus” that tastes like hoisin.

The Device gives thumbs-up to her rosemary-infused lamb sirloin ($29), especially the tagine-shaped puff pastry stuffed with minted squash and pooled with tarragon-scented jus that also tastes remarkably like hoisin. As does the red wine jus and bitter chocolate that accompanies my rubbery grilled squab ($40), alongside porcini gnocchi that recall turkey stuffing.

Two weeks later, the Device passes on a return visit. I convince club kid Jennifer Convertible instead, figuring she’ll be knocked out by the cool ambience. She is. Me, too — in this short time, Zinc has got its act together.

Ace focaccia arrives automatically on the drug plates, its grooves holding addictive dilled olive oil and smooth foie gras butter.

Convertible’s sizable salade ni&ccircoise ($18) sees thick, flash-seared tuna slices arranged over diced tomatoes and purple fingerling potatoes, haricots verts, baby black olives, anchovy fillets and hard-boiled quail eggs (see sidebar).

My watercress and mache ($12), a tangle of nutty greens dressed with roasted-squash vinaigrette and tossed with goat Brie, parsnip chips, pansies and nasturtiums, equally impresses.

Surfing on a bed of braised cabbage splashed with truffled cream, JC’s perfectly cooked, pan-seared salmon gets sided with a trio of scallop-stuffed har gow tied with Chinese chives, as well as baby turnips ‘n’ carrots. Sided with beets and a huge Cornish pasty-like ravioli stuffed with delicious wild boar, my succulent grilled bison striploin ($42) comes sauced with peppercorn-laced port glaze.

When the bill arrives, we notice that we haven’t been charged for the two bottles of fizzy water we drink through dinner or our post-prandial espressos. We haven’t been comped — they’re always gratis. Figure in free parking as well, and maybe Zinc’s not too exorbitant after all. With former Sarkis sous Mook Sutton in the kitchen and its drop-dead decor, Zinc is ready for blast-off.

Sucre team takes high-end dining into the stratosphere By STEVEN DAVEYThink zinc

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