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Nota Bene

Tops in Taste: Toronto’s 2011 Where to Dine Awards

From quick and casual eateries to fine dining experiences inspired by global cuisines, Toronto has many hundreds of excellent restaurants. Only a handful, however,
can be true consensus favourites, and the winners of our annual Where to Dine
readers’ choice awards.

Canoe (photo by Kristina Doyle)

AMBIENCE
The Keg Steakhouse & Bar
Six locations of the popular steakhouse ensure diners can get a grilled-to-perfection sirloin, T-bone or filet mignon practically anywhere in Toronto. The brand’s most notable venue is in a circa-1868 mansion on Jarvis Street—the immaculately adorned interior is a conversation starter. Two other restaurants in the heart of downtown offer a more modern vibe for business lunches and pre-show dinners.
Honorable Mention: Auberge du Pommier

BREAKFAST/BRUNCH
Cora Breakfast & Lunch
Down-home country-kitchen dishes are the draw at this group of restaurants, originally from Quebec. Fresh fruit and eggs in various preparations comprise the majority of the menu, from the “10 Star” omelette—filled with ham, sausage, spinach, tomatoes and much more—to the “1990s Harvest” of cinnamon French toast with an egg, bacon and a mountain of seasonal fruit.
Honorable Mention: Fran’s (more…)

You Are Here: Queen Street West

The downtown segment of what is arguably Toronto’s coolest street becomes an even cooler destination as winter arrives.
View You Are Here: Queen Street West in a larger map

Kids can learn about animation in the NFB's winter wonderland workshop

HOLIDAY MOVIEHOUSE Edging into the Entertainment District you’ll find the National Film Board’s Toronto Mediatheque, an education centre and library of Canadian flicks that can be watched for free at one of many digital viewing stations. Like what you see? Sign up for a Winter Wonderland workshop, where kids (ages 6 to 13) can create animated films of their own.

DESIGN DEN Just north of Queen West is the distinctive facade of the Umbra Concept Store, the design company’s only standalone location in the world. Not only does this retail space feature the firm’s entire line of modern, affordable home products, it also showcases designers at work. For the holidays, nearly 100 brand-new items are on offer—perfect for stocking stuffers.

Chef David Lee oversees the action at Nota Bene (photo by Nikki Leigh McKean)

BOUNTIFUL BITE Nota Bene stands out on a section of Queen Street otherwise stocked with bars and Indian buffets. The stylish yet casual restaurant provides the perfect atmosphere for both intimate dinners and larger, more boisterous celebrations. For a winter warm-up, be sure to try chef David Lee’s Yucatan hot and sour soup, or pasta with hearty rabbit ragu.

MUSICAL GEM Home to some of the city’s top operatic and dance productions—including the National Ballet’s The Nutcracker, opening December 11—the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts is a local landmark. From street level it strikes a staid stance, but inside it’s a marvel of design. Take a docent-led tour on most Saturdays to learn more about the building’s architecture and incredible acoustics.

Marvel at The Bay's detailed holiday window displays

WINDOW SHOPPING Massive department store The Bay has eight floors of fashion, furniture, fragrances and more—something for everyone on your holiday gift list. As Canada’s oldest corporation, this store is an iconic part of our national history. The flagship location continues a Toronto tradition, too: each year its Queen Street frontage features intricate window displays with seasonal scenes.

GATHERING PLACE City Hall’s two curving towers overlook Nathan Phillips Square, an outdoor hub for concerts and cultural events. The multipurpose site offers something to look forward to when temperatures drop, as its reflecting pool turns into a public skating rink. Even in winter the square is bustling—the annual Citytv New Year’s Eve bash is just one can’t-miss activity.

2010 Dining Guide: Tasty Trademarks

For a most memorable meal, seek out these signature dishes at Toronto’s most acclaimed fine dining establishments.

Lucien's bincho-grilled octopus (photo by Margaret Mulligan)

BINCHO-GRILLED OCTOPUS WITH FINGERLING POTATOES, PIMENTO CAVIAR AND BLACK OLIVE FLAKE Grilled over Japanese bincho charcoal for a light, smoky flavour, the cephalopod at Lucien is rolled and sliced thin, then topped with crisp baby tentacles. House-made chorizo, pimento “caviar” and fingerling potatoes round out the dish.

BLACK COD A favourite of the discerning clientele at Scaramouche, this fish dish is a step beyond the miso-glazed versions found elsewhere. Here, it’s given a crisp, curried crust and accompanied by organic shrimp, preserved lemon, and a tarragon brown butter sauce.

Nota Bene's crisp duck salad (photo by Nikki Leigh McKean)

CRISP DUCK SALAD WITH SUMAC-DUSTED GREEN PAPAYA SLAW AND CASHEWS The inspiring salad at Nota Bene offers perfectly contrasting textures and flavours. It’s citrusy and fresh, crispy and crunchy. Diners will remember this appetizer through the entire meal—and until their next visit.

PRAIRIES VENISON New to the seasonal tasting menu at Canoe, this must-taste main is beautifully presented with mountain cranberries and a handcrafted Soma chocolate walnut, seamlessly melding both savoury and sweet.

Colborne Lane's seared scallop (photo by Will Fournier)

SEARED SCALLOP WITH CLOTTED COCONUT, SWEET CHILI, CITRUS FRUIT AND NITRO CRÈME FRAÎCHE This offering is exemplary of Claudio Aprile’s ever-intriguing menu at Colborne Lane. Small dots of liquid nitrogen–hardened crème fraîche top a perfectly caramelized scallop. A dollop of sweet coconut cream balances the citrus fruit and chili sauce to ensure perfection on the plate.

Two for the Show—The Canadian Opera Company in April

A duet of classic Italian operas hits all the right notes.
—By Amy Baker

Soaring arias, stunning sets, tales of tragedy—this month, experience dramatic performance at its finest as the Canadian Opera Company presents tour de force works by Giacomo Puccini and Giuseppe Verdi.

One of the most celebrated operas in history, La Bohème sets the stage for a love affair guaranteed to captivate the whole audience. Based on French novelist and poet Henri Murger’s autobiographical novel, Scènes de la vie de bohème, this four-act opera tells the story of Mimi and Rodolfo, two bohemians struggling over issues of infidelity, jealousy and poverty in 1830s Paris. Created by Puccini and his two librettists, Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa, the show premiered at Turin’s Teatro Regio in 1896 and received mixed reviews. However, more than a century later, it is a staple of the Italian repertory and one of the most widely performed operas in the world. As Thomas Edison once said: “Men die and governments change, but the songs of La Bohème will live forever.” The COC’s production, starring Canadians David Pomeroy and Frédérique Vézina in the lead roles, is sure to be a worthy addition to the canon of this timeless classic.

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