Visit in March
I will be in Toronto for a few days at the Beginning of March.
I have been a number of times before but none of these were particularly Chowhounding experiences and I have struggled to find much information in any of the guides I have.
This time I want to splurge a bit and see what the fair city has to offer. Can anyone make suggestions for
1) Money no object places - anywhere up to Can$200 per head
2) Seafood Places ( I need to wipe the thought of Red Lobster from my memory )
3) Good Chinese - of any region
4) Good stand up snack places
Finally, I will be staying with chums on Young and Eglington and want to make them a special meal. I recall that there was a spectacular farmers market somwhere near the big dome stadium thingy. Can anyone help me be more specific?
many thanks in advance
What an opportunity no expense spared in Toronto. OK here goes.
Without doubt the #1 restaurant to hit (reservation essential)
SUSUR on King St West near Bathurst. Tasting menu around $130 Cdn per person with tax and tip.
This would cost you double anywhere else in the world! But, if possible go on a Tuesday or Wednesday at 6-6:30 (first sitting). This is popular and busy, and a later reservation on a weekend can be chaotic. At its best, world-class cuisine, but the service and wine list are definitely not first-class. Try an Alsace wine it will probably go best with the food. Style is probably best described as fusion, but is based in classic French technique with oriental spicings and a sometimes spectacular creative flair (example a filet mignon pounded thin and placed on a hot plate, so it cooked on its way to the table). You will not find anything else like this for many a continent.
Best service and all-round dining experience Truffles in the Four Seasons Hotel, Yorkville. This is where you go to impress people with style (similar price).
Most Romantic Scaramouche (similar price).
SEAFOOD forget it. Toronto doesnt have any places that are sufficiently good. Too far from the ocean. Ironically, the best seafood is in the upscale Chinese restaurants (they keep it in tanks) but realistically in Toronto, go for the ethnic foods. Having said that, if you insist, then try Chiado on College Street. This is EASILY the best Portuguese restaurant in Toronto. Its fish is reasonably fresh, and its other Portuguese dishes are top-notch, so you can decide to have something different even if you intended to have fish. Wine list is great incredible depth in Portuguese wines this is where I take people from out-of-town who are jaded (not cheap say $50-70Cdn per person, but well worth it). Given the number of Portuguese in Toronto, saying this is the best means something.
Another alternative if you crave mussels is Café Brussel on Broadview mussels done 30 different ways and one of the best wine lists in Toronto.
CHINESE: Embarassment of choice. The best is Lai Wah Heen (on the 2nd floor of the Metropolitan Hotel on Chestnut Street). Dim Sum at lunchtime but ordered from a menu. Expensive but top quality (lunch $50 for two, dinner $100). Has stuff youve rarely seen before. Superior Cantonese.
Szechuan: Peters Chung King on College near Spadina. The best place for a crowd. Individual dishes may not be the best in Toronto, but every dish is excellent allow $15-20 per person. Nothing is poor.
Bargain Chowhound pick: Jing Peking on College near Bathurst. Open until 2a.m. rarely see an Occidental face here. The BEST hot and sour soup in town. But also recommend you order a sesame biscuit each to go with the soup (less than $1 per biscuit) these are on their dim sum menu (northern china, different from Cantonese style) at the beginning of the main menu and insist they serve the biscuit when the soup comes. Unbelievable combination. Other dishes are hit and miss, but incredible value - $10 per person max!
Another Chowhound rec Salad King great Thai food, cooked to order (almost a stand-up cafeteria you order and get a number) its east of yonge just north of dundas and serves Ryerson University - $10 max (and you may have to share a table).
Stand-up Snacks depends where you are (nothing much at yonge-eglinton that Ive found). When I worked downtown, 2 years ago, I liked the Village By The Grange (near the Art Gallery of Ontario). It caters to art students and all the stalls are family owned no chain restaurants. But all the ethnic areas have their own particularly the Chinese around Dundas & Spadina.
Other off-the-wall suggestion: For lunch or early dinner (its actually a reggae Bar from around 9:30 on) try Bamboo Club on Queen St near Spadina. It has the best Thai Noodles in town and a number of Caribbean dishes too ($15 per person).
Other respondents have confirmed the St Lawrence market although its pretty middle-class now. On a Saturday morning, the North Market (north side of Front) features local farmers produce. I hear it opens at 4:30, but 7:00 is my time to arrive. The alternative market is along Spadina between Dundas and College and going west along the side streets (Kensington Market). Thats where youll find the Oriental/West Indian/Portuguese foods. Its more ethnic and cheaper (and crowded).
Gios (mentioned below) is certainly to be recommended but its a friendly neighbourhood place not a destination. My guess is that theres a Gios in every city. Try and find something different for example, also on Yonge (east side) about 5 minutes south from Gios is Stork On A Roof a Dutch restaurant. Thats always a little different and Dutch cuisine hasnt conquered the world, so its a more exciting alternative for a visitor.
There are many more but you only have 3 days, and Toronto has around 200 cuisines (West African, Tibet, Ethiopia, etc etc etc). And try a Gryffes Bagel (its the best stand up snack).
re: Alan Gardner, Toronto
re: Simon Majumdar
What I forgot to say was that I am always truly astonished at how cheap Toronto is compared to London ( actually anywhere is cheap compared to London )
Can$130 = £50 right? For the quality you are describing, London would be nearer Can$250.
can't wait to try some of these tips
re: Simon Majumdar
Yes - exchange rate is about right. However, additional taxes in Ontario are 15% on food and 17% on alcohol, so play it safe with £1 =$2 and you'll still be pleasantly surprised. I gave all-in prices above (excluding tip).
I'm back to SUSUR next week (on a Tuesday) so will report back. The last time on a Tuesday was my best ever (going back 15 years and 3 different restaurants where he worked, but a Friday since was disappointing), so am very optimistic.
re: Alan Gardner
If you make it to kensington market (Spadina and west) then there are several oriental snack places on Spadina anywhere from 2 blocks south to 2 blocks north of Dundas. Too many to describe, but for those who aren't brave enough to point and hope, I can recommend the Furama Cake & Desserts Garden at 250 Spadina, where everything has both Chinese and English labels. They also have a 25-seating area - last week I had a curried beef bun, barbequed pork bun, raisin twist and coffee for under $5.
Also I've prepared a long review of my last trip to Susur, but have posted it separately as it will be of more general interest.
For your "special meal, I would recommend Sansur.( Asian/Western fusion) The "sample" meal will provide an good assortment.
Gio's (a.k.a. the nose) is a very good Italian restaurant very close to where you are staying, south of Eglinton on Younge.
Toronto has numerous very good eating establishments at comparatively cheap prices. Scroll down the Canada page for more info.
Good luck, let us know how you make out.