NEW & NOTABLE
111 Queen St. E.
A welcome retreat from the craziness of Queen Street, just east of Yonge, George restaurant feels like a hidden treasure. The restaurant’s interior is a study in sophisticated elegance. Executive chef Lorenzo Loseto (formerly of Rain and Hemispheres) has designed a menu consisting of small, tapas-sized portions, which are often ordered in groups of three. A generous and varied selection of cheese makes up the fourth part of the meal. The fifth and final stage proffers a range of luscious desserts.
RAW RAW RAW
Live Health Cafe
264 Dupont St.
Live Health Cafe is sanctuary to T.O.’s difficult diners (No wheat, no gluten, no dairy—you know who you are.) The unique culinary gem covers all the alternative diet bases with raw food, vegan, organic, aryuvedic and macrobiotic dishes. Tasty, surprising combinations make for an energizing meal. The generously portioned rainbow salad—a kaleidoscopic mixture of avocado, tomato, greens, shredded beet and carrot—comes with almond butter drizzled celery stalks. Creative juice and smoothie menu features all the supplemental trimmings you could desire—bee pollen, gingko et al.
55 Adelaide St. E.
Forget fusion or pan-Asian trends when you walk through the door at Nami: this is old-school Japanese cuisine served in the most traditional of settings. Walking through the front door is like taking a trip from Toronto to Tokyo, the Tokyo of old that is. Kimono-clad servers serve patrons in the main dining area as well as private, tatami-lined rooms with sliding rice-paper doors, while the robata bar at the front serves up made-to-order grilled meat and super fresh seafood. A visit to Nami will likely leave you saying “Gochisosama deshita” (Thank you for the meal) after you’re done.
609 King St. W.
Alsace-born Marc Thuet is a fourth generation chef whose cuisine has garnered numerous international awards. Thuet, his latest endeavour, lives up to the chef’s stellar reputation. Thuet Cuisine’s Menu Degustation Surprise is a blind tasting menu which, according to Thuet, “…allows my brigade and I to assemble a sequence of small courses that we think reflect the best creations with the gifts du terroire et saison.” Thankfully this fusion-free approach concentrates on French classics: rich chocolate soufflé, mascarpone risotto with black perigord truffles and squab terrine; all are the kinds of dishes that create an unforgettable “taste memory.” The posh caviar and champagne bar menu provide similarly decadent distraction.PULP FICTION
898 Queen St. E.
The menu at vegan eatery Pulp Kitchen is clear: “All references to dairy, eggs or meat products are entirely fictional.” That means the mac ‘n’ cheese is most certainly without cheddar. No, you won’t find the easy to please dining staples here but dishes like almond beet salad (roasted beets, almonds, shallots and cranberries with baby spinach) and buckwheat noodle salad (soba noodles, seaweed, hijiki, cilantro, water spinach and edamame in yuzu dressing) offer their share of conciliatory satisfaction.
SWEET & SPICY DEAL
324 Broadview Ave.
The east end’s Rose Café offers the best bahn mi (Vietnamese subs) in the city—and at $1.50 each, these sweet and spicy lunch treats (pork, chicken, veggie) are a genuine bargain. Browse through the tiny deli’s extensive sweet selection while you’re there. Moon pies, sweet dense cakes of bean paste, sugar and egg, make a topping finisher to the tasty subs.
PORTUGUESE SILVER SERVICE
864 College St.
Elegant and serene, College Street’s Chiado is a real treat. A culinary rarity—a fine dining seafood restaurant—the menu features lobster risotto with saffron and fresh tomato and salt cod, grilled and slow roasted, in a caramelized citrus sauce among other entrées. The exclusively Portuguese wine list features the best of Portugal—Fojo, Barca Velha—many of which are not available in Canada.
FLAVOURS OF BRAZIL
922 Queen St. W.
Chef and owner Mario Cassini brings the flavour-rich dishes of his homeland to the boho badlands of Queen Street West. For the full Brazilian: start off with a traditional cocktail, the Caipirinha (which means ‘little peasant girl’ in Portuguese and consists of Cachaça, a tart sugar cane liquor, fresh squeezed lime and sugar) before you dig into the carnivore’s carnival that is Feijoada (pork tenderloin, beef and chorico sausage braised in a black bean stew). Spicy moqueca, a seafood stew in tomato and coconut milk broth and spiced with malagueta peppers and ginger is a lighter alternative.
200 Bathurst St.
Yum, that’s all we can say. Memories of our last meal at Albert and Sydni Banh’s crisp and clean Vietnamese restaurant, set adrift in the scrappy back pocket of Queen and Bathurst, still linger. A sampling: Nova Scotia lobster and shrimp spring rolls, garlic yu choy with enoki mushrooms, followed by caramelized clay pot Idaho catfish with fresh coconut juice, Thai chili and song be black peppercorns.
FOOD WITH A VIEW
66 Wellington St. W., 54th floor
360 The Restaurant at the CN Tower
301 Front St. W.
Yes, your dining companion is lovely, and looking at her while she speaks would be prudent but what about that fabulous skyline? Oliver Bonacini’s haute Canadian powerhouse Canoe is the preferred haunt of the city’s financial elite, and for good reason. The 54th floor view allows the gods of Bay Street to survey their empire below. Canoe has nothing on 360 The Restaurant at the CN Tower, however. Wrapped around the city’s most visible icon, the restaurant hovers nearly 2,000 feet above the city.
THAI IT ON
335 Yonge St.
Dine alone or with the family in hi-fi cafeteria-style (very busy = very loud) at one of Toronto’s most popular (and affordable) Thai restaurants. Sleek stainless steel tables and fast upbeat service along with good-sized portions make this restaurant a popular destination for food fanatics of all ages and incomes. State your chili scale (from mild to 20 chilies) before ordering and tuck into the dish of your choice from ‘catch from the sea’, ‘pleasing meat dishes’,’enjoyable fried rice’, ‘veg lover’, ‘exotic Thai soups’ and ‘delightful stir-fried noodle’. Reservations are recommended, but many show up unannounced and brave the line-up.
COLLEGE STREET COOL
503 College St.
596 College St.
Chef Brad Moore is known for his creative blending of Eastern/Western spices and ingredients. Dinner comes in small and large dishes: spiced paneer naan melt, tikka rabbit on missi roti with spiced onion yogurt, and goan-spiced trout with sautéed spinach and black lentils. Weekend brunch is a deluxe affair: choose from a croissant stuffed with spicy scrambled eggs and smoked salmon or banana/macadamia nut flapjacks with whipped banana butter and apple wood smoked bacon.
Taking the best of Japanese ingredients, preparation methods and contemporary aesthetics, chef Tom Thai serves up pan-Asian with a twist at trendy Tempo. A new izakaya (Japanese tapas) menu showcases Thai’s playfulness. Maki sushi rolls include ingredients like tempura-fried oysters as well as lobster, while a newly-introduced sea bream ceviche is all the rage, as is another menu fave—the tuna takaki.ITALIAN GROTTO FEEL
Sotto Sotto Trattoria
116A Avenue Rd.
This tiny, ground floor space attracts a boldface clientele. A suitably swish noshing ground for visiting celebs, the secret to the authentic Italian eatery’s warm atmosphere lies in its inviting décor. European touches like exposed brick, dim candle light and tables tightly spaced make for a romantic, communal dining space. The large menu is broken up into antipasti, pesce (fish), carni (meat), risotti and pasta. Dishes are simple and feature few ingredients. House specialties include the antipasto gordonia (grilled tiger shrimp, calamari, zucchini, eggplant and radicchio with caprese, roast peppers and asiago); and the Amalfi risotto, (arborio rice, clams, mussels, king crab, scallops, shrimp and calamari with garlic, basil and a white wine tomato sauce).
JAPANESE FUN FARE
69 Front Street E.
Reminiscent of traditional ramen shops popular in Japan for centuries, Izakaya offers the discerning diner a reasonably priced sushi-free experience in a sleek, contemporary setting. Delicate shrimp dumplings, crisp gyoza, tori kara age and textured salads set the pace for sumptuous ramen, udon, teppanyaki and yasai mains.
BANG FOR YOUR BUCK
601 King St.
66 Wellington St. W.
Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar
9 Church St.
Star chefs Susur Lee, Mark McEwan and Jamie Kennedy are Toronto’s culinary powerhouses and dinner at each of the chef’s eponymous restaurants is the happy preserve of the city’s moneyed foodies. Each master brand has dug out a unique niche. Lee is the mercurial virtuoso, continually challenging palates with his bold tasting menus; McEwan plays the consummate host, layering decadence upon decadence—grilled 8-ounce U.S.D.A prime burger with seared foie gras, anyone? Kennedy plays it cool with his earthy, slow-cooked fare, the humble Prius to McEwan’s Lexus.
1460 Gerrard St. E.
This no-frills South Indian eatery along Gerrard Street East is immaculate and eschews ethnic décor clichés. Tabla music and embroidered tapestries have been replaced by a spotless white dining hall and a small army of hyper-attendant servers. Still, the food is authentic and the restaurant is consistently busy with a menu that manifests everyone’s favourite chaat (small plates of savory snacks); masala dosa, utapam, puri, idly, wada and more.
915 Queen Street W.
A classic French patisserie on the Queen West strip, Clafouti is famous for its scrumptious morning pastries that will have you scrounging for fallen flakes. Croissant, pain au chocolat, brioche and the namesake clafouti—a fruit filled tart—all disappear in a flash, so get there early. Be forewarned: a tempting array of French pastilles and other assorted European bonbons clutter the counter while you wait for your Illy espresso. Light lunches span from inspired sandwiches and fluffy quiche to salads and a daily selection of hot dishes.
88 Harbord St.
318 Wellington St. W.
Soho Metropolitan Hotel
A tasting menu allows a talented chef to strut his stuff and provides the adventurous palate with a rapturous journey. Two tickets you ought to book: dinner at Senses and Splendido.
Senses’ chef Claudio Aprile’s name is on the lips of many a satisfied foodie. Aprile’s tasting menu changes frequently but has featured deluxe items like sake and passion fruit soda with Saskatoon berry foam, squab satay with caramelized peanut, yam and tonka beans and Chinese black vinegar, and potato, ricotta and piquillo cannelloni with beet root, smoked gouda and herbs.
Splendido chef de cuisine David Lee and sommelier Carlo Catallo choreograph a splendid pas-de-deux. Oversized mirrors and muted earth tones set the tempo for smooth, attentive service and the floor plan lends itself to intimate dining. Appetizers, seconds and mains include broiled, smoked Alaskan black cod, quail egg, lily bulb purée and wild boar bacon; Alberta bison loin with black trumpet mushroom purée; Haldimand County Dorset rack of lamb, lamb osso buco and rosemary garlic jus. Reservations are essential, and so is dessert.
124 Danforth Ave.
Dark, romantic, candlelit: the art deco-inspired décor of this one-of-a-kind Belgian brasserie is the perfect backdrop to a romantic evening or clandestine assignation (upstairs booth, of course). A menu consisting mainly of variations upon moules marinière—the steamy entrées are served in cast iron pots—makes for a surprisingly filling meal.
LA DOLCE VITA
111 Queen St. E.
You never had an espresso so good or service so enthusiastic. Owner Bruno Colozza employs a jovial crew of Italian expats and world travellers at his sleek, airy cafe—an ex tempore aria is a frequent occurrence—providing a welcome antidote to dreary hidebound North American style service.COCKTAILS
19 Mercer St.
The Laurentian Room
51A Winchester St.
You won’t find any jars of cranberry cocktail behind Michael Rubino’s bar at Rain. Fresh seasonal ingredients and creative innovations on signature drinks make for a dessert-like cocktail list: mixed berry mojito (dark rum, cane sugar, fresh lime, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and mint); lychee colada (coconut rum, lychee liqueur, coconut and lychee juice).
The Laurentian Room’s dark, sleek decor channels the heady drinks culture of the 1920s and 30s. The cocktail list is similarly nostalgic featuring contemporary takes on the brandy alexander, and mint julep as well as inspired concoctions like Breakfast at Tiffany’s (vodka and triple sec with orange marmalade).
7 West Café
7 Charles St. W.
20 College St.
One of the best things about being in a city is the fact that you can eat anytime you feel like it. Neither breakfast nor dinner, a meal at 4 a.m. is pure indulgence. Satisfy your craving for macaroni and cheese, fish and chips, or the always-desirable club sandwich at quintessential diner Fran’s. Catering to the lounge and club crowd, Yorkville nightspot 7 West Café is also open 24/7. There you’ll find pizza, pastas, and a savory Montreal smoked meat sandwich.
Lai Wah Heen
The Metropolitan Hotel’s Dim Sum chef Terrance Chan has been internationally recognized for his playful creations—glossy foodie bible Gourmet magazine touted Lai Wah Heen as a must-eat-at Dim Sum destination. Chan’s offerings include a bok choy dumpling filled with shrimp, pork and Chinese greens, steamed soft roulade of glutinous rice with lycii seeds and fresh seafood and shark’s fin dumpling in chicken broth.