VENERABLE BAY STREET RESTAURANT FAR NIENTE BOASTS A HUNGRY NEW CHEF AND A REVITALIZED MENU
Chef Jun Geem presides over the kitchen and new menu at Far Niente (photos: Craig Moy)
For two decades, fine dining room Far Niente has been pleasing power lunchers, pre-theatre patrons, and post-work patio goers in the Financial District. It’s a well-liked, reliable place to eat. A new chef and updated menu, however, have given the institution a bit of a shake-up. Now heading the restaurant’s kitchen (as well as that of Four, Far Niente’s more casual PATH-level counterpart) is executive chef Jun Geem, an alumnus of George Brown College’s culinary program who’s cooked everywhere from London’s Fat Duck and Nobu to luxury hotels in Dubai, Mexico and Bermuda.
Easygoing, shareable fare like mussels is the new normal at Reds Wine Tavern
Cheers! Salute! Santé! No matter how you say it, a toast to Reds Wine Tavern is surely in order. The Financial District favourite, formerly dubbed Reds Bistro and Wine Bar, has undergone a significant reinvention, altering its ambience, its menu and even its lauded wine list. Featuring lots of brown leather, wood and exposed brick, the two-level space is simultaneously classy and more casual. The food, too, eschews stuffiness, with a focus on shareable bites and fresh, easygoing fare by chef Ryan Gallagher. And while the restaurant’s stock-in-trade wine list has been updated, it still features a huge number of by-the-glass and full-bottle offerings that are certain to please your palate. —Craig Moy
>> Reds Wine Tavern, 77 Adelaide St. W., 416-862-7337; redswinetavern.com
>> Map and reviews
Words like “upscale” and “fine dining” have begun creeping back into the repertoires of Toronto restaurateurs. After all, there are only so many rustic, casual establishments that a city can support. Thus the Financial District recently welcomed the opening of Modus, an airy and elegant space—think suede seating, white linens and statement chandeliers—where pedigreed chef Bruce Woods dishes out high-style interpretations of Italian classics. Among the seasonal, not-quite-like-your-nonna-makes mains are creamy and well-balanced lobster risotto ($29), spaghettini with mozzarella-stuffed meatballs ($24) and a perfectly braised lamb osso bucco on a bed of polenta and roasted root vegetables ($29).
Loosening the Danforth’s iron grip on all things Greek, Estiatorio Volos finally brings top-quality Hellenic cooking to the downtown core. Formerly the pastel-hued home of seafood-centric Mediterra, the space has been gussied up considerably with rustic-chic woods and stone, and, overall, a more sophisticated ambience to satisfy Bay Streeters and theatregoers alike. The kitchen rises to the occasion, too, turning out upmarket interpretations of rustic Greek fare, including a filling seafood salad ($25) with wild Pacific salmon, halibut, tiger prawns, calamari and mussels, and flaky lamb-stuffed phyllo pastry ($22). Choose from a selection of Greek wines—very in right now—to complement any dish.
The power-lunch and after-work cocktails crowd has yet another gathering place in the Financial District, where a second location of Blowfish has opened at the base of the Bay-Adelaide Centre. The capacious dining room is appointed with an eye toward trendiness, what with its Pyrex-tube chandelier and sleek incorporation of dark woods and metal, and attracts a suitably chic yet casual clientele that keeps the sushi rolling and the sake flowing. For those with a broader appetite for fusion fare, executive chef G.Q. Pan also offers such dishes as tuna tacos ($15) and Kobe beef tartare with pickled ginger and miso ($22).
photo by Craig Moy
On-trend dining, sophisticated beverages and a pliable atmosphere have quickly made Black Moon Bar and Lounge a triple-threat success with local power brokers. Though a darker colour scheme dominates, the lofty space with plush seating remains welcoming for a midday meal. At night the venue really shines, thanks to its spherical and industrial spider–like chandeliers, and the well-groomed patrons who gather beneath their flattering light, with knives and forks, or signature cocktails, in-hand. Veteran chef Kai Zyganiuk’s shareable French-influenced fare is worthy of the spotlight, too. His trofie pasta with smoked chicken and pistou porcini broth ($15) is a definite must-order.
photo by Gizelle Lau
When seeking sustenance in the Financial District, it’s easy to opt for a quick fix in one of the area’s many underground food courts. Topside, however, offers an alternative in The Gabardine, a bright and cheery bistro for those who prefer the family dining room to the boardroom. A tin ceiling, copious amounts of wood, and vintage advertisements on the whitewashed walls add to the homey charm, while congenial servers proffer an all-day menu of “fine grub” that includes sandwiches—grilled cheese with smoked ham plus sweet onion and tomato jam ($14), for example—and entrees such as beet and goat cheese risotto ($16), PEI mussels ($19) and steak frites ($23).
Financial District denizens: loosen those ties and let down that hair! A “West Coast casual” dining experience has arrived courtesy of Earls. The Alberta- and B.C.-based chain has opened its first Toronto destination for affordable, high-quality, globally inspired fare such as pastas, lauded burgers, signature steaks and Ocean Wise–certified fish. With a ceiling made from shipping pallets, a 44-foot marble feature wall and other chic adornments, the 10,000-square-foot restaurant also offers the kind of stylish yet welcoming setting that Torontonians—and Bay Streeters, especially—have come to expect.