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Levetto Comes to Chinatown



The truffle oil-drizzled funghi pizza from Levetto.

The Chinatown outpost of Levetto boasts the same oven-baked pizzas and handmade pastas that have made the franchise’s other locations popular. But one menu offering is unique to the menu here: the Peking duck pizza, which use ingredients like hoisin sauce and medium cheddar cheese for an Asian take on an Italian staple. Among the other highlights are the carbonara with a generous helping of smoked bacon, the rigatoni with tender braised beef, and the fungi pizza with truffle oil.  —Karen Stevens

Summer Fun Guide: Take a Bite out of Toronto


R&D_Lobster Chow Mein_Image by Allison Woo

R&D’s Lobster Chow Mein. Photo by Allison Woo

The expansive St. Lawrence Market is packed full of specialty food items and made-to-order meals. St. Urbain Bagel is known for its Montreal-style bagels, which are baked fresh daily, are best hot out of the oven with a generous dollop of cream cheese. The peameal bacon sandwich from Carousal Bakery has been a market staple for over 30
years and is well worth the line up. Or, if you’re extra hungry, bite into a hearty deep-fried veal and eggplant sandwich at Uno Mustachio Sandwiches.

Join The Culinary Adventure Co. for a guided tour of some of the city’s most exciting neighbourhoods. Learn about the history and heritage of Chinatown and Kensington while enjoying everything from Mexican tortas to dim sum; adults $79, kids $59. Savour Toronto (1-855-472-8687; savourtoronto.com) offers a Best of the West tour for a taste of the hip and trendy dining scene along along Dundas Street West and Ossington Avenue; $75.

Treat yourself with Tasty Tours, which offers two excursions: The Kensington Market Sweet & Savoury food tour includes food samples from Chinese and Latin American eateries; $49 adults kids ages 7-12 $35, children age 7 and under free. Enjoy the chocolatiers around Trinity Bellwoods Park while learning about the history of chocolate and a chocolate-making demonstration in Toronto’s Ultimate Chocolate tour; $39 adults, kids ages 7-12 $25, children age 7 and under free.

Toronto’s vibrant dining scene is flourishing with world-class chefs, unique restaurant concepts, and innovative menus. Below are some dining highlights to whet your appetite.

 MasterChef Canada winner Eric Chong, along with one of the competition’s judges, Alvin Leung, has created a “modern Canadian Asian” menu at R&D. Dive into dishes like fried chicken with glazed cronuts, and venison spring rolls, complimented by intriguing drinks like the 510 Caesar made with garlic and shiitake-infused vodka. Chef Rob Gentile is known for his attention to detail and his obsession with using the freshest seasonal ingredients for his authentic Italian cuisine; try the hand-made pasta at Buca to find out what the fuss is about, or stop by Bar Buca for small sharing plates and a nightcap.  —Karen Stevens




R&D Boasts Modern Chinese Fare from Two Big Chefs


R&D Restaurant Chinatown Toronto Alvin Leung Eric Chong

R&D’s modern Chinese menu includes interpretations of sweetbreads and octopus (photos: Allison Woo)

It’s big news when the inaugural winner of Masterchef Canada opens his first restaurant. It’s even bigger news when that restaurant is a joint venture with one of the world’s most celebrated chefs. No surprise, then, that R&D would be one of the city’s buzzier spring openings. From chefs Eric Chong—the aforementioned Masterchef victor—and Alvin Leung, whose highly experimental Bo Innovation in Hong Kong holds three Michelin stars, the modish Chinatown dining room boasts contemporary Chinese-Canadian cuisine as its main draw. A few novel dim sum offerings lead in to a more robust menu of shareable dishes like lobster chow mein, General Sanders’ chicken (with kung pao sauce and Sichuan maple syrup), and a ceviche of scallops plus spot- and tiger prawns. Naturally, a selection of original Asian-inspired cocktails is also available.  —Craig Moy

• R&D, 214 Spadina Ave., 416-586-1241; rdspadina.com
Map and reviews

The Rubino Brothers Do Rustic Italian Right at Strada 241

Strada 241 Toronto

Strada 241 has ample space for fans of chef Guy Rubino’s Italian cooking.

Rustic Italian is hardly the most cutting-edge dining concept, but renowned restaurateurs Guy and Michael Rubino (a.k.a. the Rubino Brothers) get it right at Strada 241, their welcoming café, bar and dining room set chicly at the bottom end of Chinatown. Previously known for his complex Asian fusion fare, chef Guy now proffers well-honed Southern Italian dishes from his open kitchen—simple, flavour-rich pastas and thin-crust pizzas comprise the majority of the lunch and dinner menus. Feeling peckish in the morning or mid-afternoon? Stop in for a quick espresso and fresh-daily pastries from the in-house bakery.  —Craig Moy

>> Strada 241, 241 Spadina Ave.,647-351-1200; strada241.com
>> Map and reviews

Hot Date: Chinatown Street Festival

Interior of the Chinese Cultural Centre. Photo: Courtesy Travel Alberta.

This Saturday, the annual Chinatown Street Festival takes place in the vibrant historic area between Centre Street and First Street SE and along Second Avenue and Third Avenue SE.

Savour the flavours of authentic Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese and Chinese eats in the Dragon City Mall shopping complex or at one of the food booths located along Third Avenue. Merchant booths will also be set up along Third Avenue with various clothing, accessories and gifts for sale. Karaoke, tai chi and other demonstrations will be held along Second Avenue SE. (more…)

Hot Art: Chinatown Remixed

Colin White, Untitled #2

Celebrate one of Ottawa’s most vibrant communities with Chinatown Remixed, an annual art festival that takes place on Somerset Street West in Chinatown. Local artists are paired with more than 40 local businesses (Umi Café, Koreana, ZenKitchen, and more) to help put Chinatown on the map as a creative community worthy of exploration. Artwork stays up until June 12.



Hot Dining: Gourmet Vegan at ZenKitchen

Food is an art at ZenKitchen.

Whatever your preconceptions about vegan food, throw ’em out the window. Even meat eaters will have a change of heart when they sit down at ZenKitchen, Ottawa’s gourmet vegan restaurant that has earned rave reviews and numerous accolades (mostly recently, winning silver at the annual Gold Medal Plates competition). Nestled in an unassuming house in Chinatown, this eatery has a relaxed atmosphere that serves as a nice backdrop for the star of the show: the food. Chef Caroline Ishii and sommelier Dave Loan (also the owners) approach vegan cuisine and the accompanying wine list with thought and creativity, and each plate is as scrumptious as it is fun to look at. Popular dishes include the seitan, a wheat-based product with the look and texture of a cutlet, and the lively Mexican sopé. 634 Somerset St. W., 613-233-6404.

Hot Art: Ottawa in Images

This autumn scene is a familiar Chinatown sight. Photo credit: "Nanny Goat Hill (at Empress)" by Jay Anderson.

Sometimes art can create a distance between the viewer and the subject being portrayed. The opposite is true in the “Simply Ottawa” series by Jay Anderson, which draws people into scenes with familiar Ottawa landmarks, such as the Champlain Lookout, the Rideau River, Hog’s Back Falls, and Chinatown (featured). After three years in the works, Anderson’s exhibit will be on view at Foyer Gallery starting tomorrow, Nov. 16, and running until Dec. 4.

Hot Dining: World on a Plate

One need not cross the globe—or even, for that matter, this city—to experience international flavours. Skilled chef David Chrystian brings them all to your table at Victor with his Taste Toronto menu, which highlights cuisines of the world as represented by local ethnic pockets such as Little Italy and Chinatown. Like their main-menu counterparts, such as roasted elk and venison ($28), the seven shareable “Taste” dishes ($14 for one dish, up to $79 for all seven) are made with sustainable ingredients and can be matched with selections from a highly regarded list of wines and cocktails. Another reason to visit: the restaurant just received a flattering facelift.

Hot Dining: Off the Beaten Track

Mrs. Le Restaurant boasts an array of fresh, tasty Vietnamese dishes.

If you find yourself on Carling Avenue towards the west end of town, make a stop at Mrs. Le Restaurant. This Vietnamese eatery is pretty far from Ottawa’s Chinatown, where you’ll find a hub of good Asian restaurants, but its unusual location gives it a hidden gem appeal. Nosh on traditional homemade dishes, such as fresh salad rolls stuffed with tofu or your meat of choice, vermicelli bowls with grilled meats marinated in lemongrass, and the ever popular pho. Must-try dishes include fried rice with crispy, honey-glazed barbecue chicken and a sweet and sour soup (not to be confused with hot and sour soup) loaded with pineapple and tamarind sauce, which bursts with flavour. 1766 Carling Ave., 613-798-5697.

Ottawa on a Budget

Where Ottawa intern Dana Carman does a day in the city with just $30 and a sense of adventure.

In a town with a large population of students (and their visiting friends), lavish galas, gourmet restaurants, and pricey festival tickets can run a little deep in the linings of your pockets. But what is there in the capital for the purse-string-clasping visitor? Come with me on a day to see the best of Ottawa for under $30. Seriously. (more…)

Hot Attraction: The Magnificent Chinatown Arch

Located at Somerset Street West and Bronson Avenue. Photo credit: Philip Owen.

Feast your eyes on the newly completed Royal Arch, located in the heart of Ottawa’s Chinatown at Somerset Street West and Bronson Avenue. This is the first of its kind to be built outside China; unveiled last October, it took six months to construct and required the work of 26 Chinese technicians and artisans from Beijing. Notable features of the 12-metre-high structure include five metal coins hidden within it, which are said to bring blessings. The oldest of the five is from the Tang Dynasty in China and is more than 1,000 years old. Four mythic beasts – part lion, part tiger – guard each column of the arch. Go check it out for yourself to see what other amazing creatures you can spot!