Dining at Reverie is the ultimate example of a blind tasting menu in London.
While the setting is minimalist and casual, with an open kitchen and seating for only 12 on unadorned wooden tables, this culinary adventure is anything but simple. Chef Brian Sua-an is unabashedly confident in how he and his wife, Jerrah Revilles, approach this unique restaurant. He offers that the concept is not for everyone and he is fine with that. Five courses of five to seven bites per plate are created by Chef and served to the guests of the evening at a set price of $75. “We only serve quality. I’d rather serve small but high quality. I want it to be straight-forward and also have a surprise factor when it comes out on the plate.”
Dinner starts promptly at 7:05 with a bread basket. Guests are to arrive at 7 pm in groups of four or less if they want to sit together in the small space. They pick up their own cutlery on the way in. Table service is limited to the serving of the plates by the couple and a wine pairing ($50/person, or whole bottles which guests pour for themselves). The whole experience lasts two to three hours. “Stay as long as you want,” says Chef.
“I didn’t want to work in a kitchen that is all about production, without creativity, like a factory,” he says. “So I try to be ahead of the curve, to be as creative as possible, but not that far off of the basics.”
So if it takes three days to create his now trademark lemon dessert, it takes three days. The resulting satisfaction, while a treat for guests, is ultimately for Chef himself. “The main concept is doing what we feel is really nice for us. At the end of the day what matters is we are happy with what we are putting out,” he says.
The couple has worked hard to land in London from the Philippines. Revilles is an occupational therapist who gained entrance to Canada in 2015, then sponsored her husband and their daughter, Saisha Sua-an. The couple had met while working as nurses. Chef decided to switch to culinary and “set my mind that I wanted to be the best.” He trained with Japanese teachers who he says taught him to be anything but ordinary. Once in Canada, he began working at a Yorkville pastry shop where he found a true love for dessert creations. His lemon dessert is an illusion; what looks like a lemon on the outside is actually white chocolate mousse with an intense lemon confit on the inside. “It takes three days to make and 30 seconds to eat,” he says laughing. “It’s like life, it’s fleeting, like a shooting star. It’s so nice and you love it and then it’s gone. It’s not about quantity but quality.”
Chef furthered his career as a pastry instructor at Centennial College. He also cooked at a French-Mediterranean restaurant in North York. Just as the couple was making plans to move to London, looking for a quieter life with less traffic, he was accepted as an apprentice at Noma, the renowned “best restaurant in the world” as selected four times by the World’s Best 50 Restaurants list. Chefs go to Noma as unpaid apprentices, staging, to learn new techniques. Sua-an also apprenticed at Noma’s sister restaurant, 108 in Copenhagen. There he developed his passion for locally sourced ingredients that drive the tasting menu concept he now puts forth at Reverie.
“I realized it should just be about the food. Skip all the gimmicks. So here at Reverie, I did away with a lot of things too. We have to be efficient.” There is also no storage –– the wine racks and tiny kitchen and supplies are on full display. While there, a delivery of beets, carrots, and onions arrived in a box from Urban Roots London. Chef preserves vegetables at the peak of their flavour, and keeps them on a rack at the side of the restaurant. He makes his own oils and buttermilk and sources ingredients regionally or from Toronto and Niagara. He only serves biodynamic wines that contain no sulfites or additives, such as A Pét-Nat, Nebulous by Rosewood, or 3XP Chardonnay, wild fermented by Nicholas Pearce. Otherwise, he offers guests water (no ice) and sometimes a house made kombucha.
Chef does enjoy talking to guests once the meal ends, often explaining his cooking techniques. For example, his McIntosh Farms lamb leg is cooked for 24 hours and served confit with buttermilk and a dill oil sauce. His “not your average beet” is cooked for an hour, dehydrated overnight, then rehydrated with lemon balm to one-third its original size. Chef describes it as having the rich texture of meat. He delights in this surprise for guests who are often shocked to realize it is a beet.
He does try to accommodate nut-free and gluten-free diets. However he says that vegan is a challenge for his tasting menu as he relies on butter. Despite these challenges, he is seeing a high percentage of repeat customers and private bookings since he opened in 2017, including other chefs from around the region and guests from Toronto. “It’s 100 percent what we want and we won’t compromise. It’s just Plan A and if we fail, we fail. I would rather fail then succeed and be unhappy.”
And what does the future hold? Chef hints he would love to start selling custom cakes, offer cooking classes, and possibly venture into some pop-ups. His adventure in London is evolving and by his own admission, he hates being bored. Clearly, Reverie is anything but boring.
1-208 Piccadilly Street, London
Thursday to Saturday evenings at 7 pm.
Private group bookings available on request.