LA Hound visiting Toronto, check list and need more recommendations.
I'll be in Toronto for a conference in two weeks and staying in the Hilton there. I'll be there for 3 days and am looking for places to try. Need suggestions for all three meals, especially good coffee in the morning.. ;)
I've been searching and this is what I come up with:
breakfast, bagel: Bagel World and Gryfe's.
sushi: Japango (lunch specials or sushi bar/omasake?)
indian: Little India
poutine: blue chip truck on Queen St (crossstreet?)
chinese: Bright Pearl (for dim sum?), Yueh Tung (what kind of chinese is it?)
I know there's bunch of authentic chinese in the san gabriel valley area in LA and I live in that area. But I've been told that Toronto has even better chinese and would definitely want to try them out.
What are some not to miss places i should try? I'm also looking for uniquely regional or canadian that i can't find in LA.
chinese: i would avoid bright pearl as its glory days have passed and switch it to rol san across the street, unless you really want carts.
if you're a noodle and soup or congee fan, do go to king's noodles as they make everything in house and you can watch them do so. the service is a little haphazard when it's busy but it's fresh and great.
dumpling house in chinatown will satsify any and all dumpling wants/needs.
i know that someone is going to say that the better chinese food as moved upwards and east so that you'd need a car, but there are still great options downtown.
sushi: japango is fantastic, be forewarned that there isn't really a "bar" but they do a lovely omakase that's a touch more classic than innovative. discuss price and preferences ahead of time so as to not be surprised. ask if they have the baby crabs and get one fried up!
coffee: moonbean coffee in kensington off of st andrew is my particular favourite because their micro-roasted beans seem to be lower in phenols and are good to my stomach. they have a huge selection of coffees and teas from around the world. the atmosphere there is more sort of a indie hippie hectic.
bulldog coffee on church st is a really nice option for mellow wood panelled atmosphere and latte art to boot. the coffee there is top notch and done as one-offs of one type of bean. owned and run by a barista champion.
if you're up for doing canadian tapas, i hightly suggest jamie kennedy wine bar a 9 church st. the wine selection by tasting size is quite nice and you can try an upscale poutine along with local/organic small plate offerings.
for something that feels french bistro-esque go to la palette in kensington. the meats there are done absolutely deliciously.
there are a few threads for visitors going on right now and they also have great suggestions. hope you have a wonderful time and enjoy the eats we have to offer.
I spend about a quarter of my year in LA so I'll try to provide some comparative analysis for you in this post.
The Chinese food you will find in downtown's Chinatown will not be very different in quality as what you find in San Gabriel. The exception might be Lai Wah Heen at the Metropolitan Hotel on Chestnut and Dundas. It serves high-end dimsum that I've never seen in the Chinese restaurants I've been to in LA.
If you have time to kill and wheels, you can travel north to the suburbs of Richmondhill and Markham, where you can get excellent Cantonese and decent renditions of other Chinese regional cuisines. Ambassador and City Inn are frequently cited on this board for great Cantonese, while Magic Wok is a reliable stalwart.
As for sushi, Japango will satisfy a sushi craving - fish is very fresh and they have the best (IMHO) spicy scallop roll in the city. However, I tend to see a larger variety of fish in LA sushi joints, and so sushi is not something I would necessarily recommend to anyone coming from the west coast for that reason. I think you get a much more "exotic" sushi experience at places like Sushi Gen and Nobu.
In general, avoid Thai food in Toronto since it isn't even close to being as good as the Thai you find in Thai Town. Also, the Ethiopian on Fairfax is better than what I've found here in Toronto. Mexican is also not something that Toronto is good at... we don't have the critical mass of Mexicans needed for good Mexican food.
The poutine truck you speak of is located in front of City Hall, at the corner of Queen and Bay. BTW, did you know you can find poutine at the Canadian Cafe in Monrovia? :)
Toronto also has a glut of french bistros that I think are a much better value than what I've found in LA. La Palette on Augusta south of College is great for grilled meats and Le Paradis is a good neighbourhood place for comfort food.
LA also doesn't have much of a "pub culture"... Toronto has a number of fun pubs where you can have a pint and a bite to eat after work: The Irish Embassy and the Hair of the Dog get mentioned frequently on this board.
I've also found that Toronto has a higher concentration of Italians than in LA. Tutti Matti is a favourite of mine for southern Italian. 7 Numbers and Gio Rana's are fun and casual places for Italian that are a cab ride away.
Hope that helps, somewhat.
Oh, and I should add that while Little India is great for lunch buffet, you may want to check out Trimurti, next door, for good a la carte (especially their naan, and tandoori chicken and cauliflower).
Yueh Tung means "Canton East", so you'd expect it to serve Cantonese dishes, but it serves also "Hakka cooking" which has some Influences from India, some signature dishes being chili chicken and Mongolian chicken (I doubt it's really Mongolian in origin.) I myself would not recommend it to an out-of-towner.
Bright Pearl has the traditional dim sum carts, but the quality of food isn't the best. Rol San across the street is better, but it's menu based.
Just a word of warning.... You would have to get up pretty early if you would want breakfast at Bagel World and Gryfe's. While the other places you have in mind are located downtown and within walking distance, those two places are way,way uptown -- a good 40 minutes by TTC subway or if you are very adventurous, 45 mins by taking the Bathurst bus straight up. I should know, I live near both those places and years of experience travelling downtown and back home at all hours of the day.
While Bagel World has more of a sit-down restaurant feel with assortment(I'm guessing, haven't been there in years), Gryfe's is very small and busy "bakery" (they only make small bagels)and in my humble opinion, they have the best in Toronto.
But pinstripeprincess' and Juniper's suggestions regarding the downtown locations are pretty good.
But there are downtown places that serve Gryfes Bagels. For example, the Bento Nouveau place in Scotia Plaza (King between Yonge and Bay) serves a morning 'coffee and bagel' for $1.50. But be warned, they sell out quickly. There also used to be a coffee place that sold them in the underground 'PATH' just east of St Andrew station (north side of King) but I haven't checked recently.
As for Chinese, if you are looking for proper Sichuan style cooking, go to PALS WT (College at Borden on the North side), a non-descript, hole-in-the-wall restaurant that serves the best Sichuan style cold noodles, sauteed green beans, garlic chili eggplant, whole fish and marinated potato, that I've had south of Markham.
OK. My experience of Chinese food in LA versus Toronto is that it can be pretty much the same as long as you stick to the very Chinese areas. I might, however, try something that I haven't seen in LA and that's the char cheung soup at Swatow, which I haven't seen anywhere else. The Chinese food I've had in San Francisco, however, leaves both of these cities' efforts in the shade. I live in Chinatown (Spadina) so I've definitely tried them all. Another very different type of Chinese than I've seen in LA is at Spadina Garden, whose hot and spicy peanut dishes, either whole peanuts or their wonderful sauce (on noodles or on soft wonton) are a hakka delight, and the hot and sour soup is beyond comparison, IMO.
It's tough to find true Canadian cuisine, although Quebec does have some regional specialties. Poutine is definitely Canadian but again you'd have to go to Quebec to find the real thing. If you're at the Hilton, you're not far from the Montreal deli, which is as close as you're going to get while in Toronto.
I agree that sushi might be a disappointment for you. And, yes, stay well away from Mexican.
Bagels, I really like St Urbain bagels (again from Quebec - Montreal) and St Lawrence Market has a St Urbain bagel bakery at the back. I like the sweet cheese filled ones too as they remind me of Montreal. People are right. While Gryfes etc are good, they are pretty far from where you are and, unless you want to venture away from the city, maybe could be struck off your list.
I honestly don't like Little India and Trimurti as much as the mainstay, Babur, which is more expensive and a few steps west on Queeen Street.
I am great fan of the roti at Coconut Grove. Strangely, roti doesn't seem to be as popular in the USA as it is in Toronto so it could be a different taste experience for you. This is different than the roti you get at Ghandi which someone mentioned in this or the other visitor thread as it is Guyanan, made with potato and inside a dalpouri (dried lentils instead the roti 'skin.' Coconut Grove is on Dundas Street directly north of your hotel and slightly east and is open only during the week and until 7.30pm. I like a mixture of boneless chicken and eggplant for under $6 and it usually lasts for two meals with me.
Although it isn't Canadian per se and the food isn't amazing, the experience at the Marche on Yonge Street below King, is just so much fun for a visitor and it's housed within BCE Place which in my view is the most glorious building Toronto has.
Just a few more things to muddy the water!
I strongly disagree w/ your assessment of Chinese food in Toronto. Toronto hands down has the best Chinese food in N. America, nobody is coming close (sorry SF). Unfortunately, your sample base (Spadina area) is not a proper representation of Chinese food anymore. I know it's not downtown but the best is really out in the burbs (markham, richmond hill).
Now in light of the poster's original inquiry, I will highly recommend Lai Wah Heen. It is pricey, but you will NOT find anything better unless you plop down for a ticket to Hong Kong. Plus it is conveniently located close to your hotel.
I agree with many of your research results.
Breakfast/Coffee: Kensington Market
Go to Moonbean to pick up a great coffee, then wander a shade north to My Market Bakery to grab a morning bite. You can nibble and sip on the way to the conference.
My Market Bakery: http://tinyurl.com/n7vmm
Lunch: Little India
Best Indian lunch buffet I've had in Toronto, or elsewhere.
Little India: http://tinyurl.com/kxgmf
Great northern Chinese food. Try the shrimp dumpling soup, as well as the eggplant. The bean curd & vegetable hot pot is excellent also.
Have a great time!
Definitely have a Caesar (the drink) while you are here - it is very Canadian. Its like a Bloody Mary but made with Clamato juice instead of tomato juice. It is so yummy - especially if they add horseradish to it.
Highly recommend the Caesar at Hair of the dog. Most places should make a good one. Just make sure the Clamato comes from the bottle/can and not from the spritzer thing that the soft drinks are usually poured from.
Rebel House on Yonge St. across from the Rosedale Subway station has a good selection of Canadian food. Out back there is a cozy patio and they usually have 10 - 15 beers on tap.
Tokyo Sushi at 33 St. Joseph St., which is just north of Bay and Wellesley, has great straightforward sushi. The atmosphere is less then appealing, but the service is fantastic, the fish is always extremely fresh, and there is an excellent selection of rolls. Japango is also good and more centrally located, however, I have found that Tokyo Sushi is much better value.
Thanks for the great replies... really appreciate it. Especially thanks to Juniper and Calam1ty for pointing out the differences between LA and Toronto.
So many places.. so little time. Just hope I can get through most of them. I'll be there in a week... can't wait! :)
I agree with Ach - lease please please go to the Rebel House - the food is sublime and they have a great little patio out back. There's lots of typically 'canadian' stuff there. Make sure you get an extra side of charred tomato mayo with your fries and dip away. The bison burger is wonderful, and the soups, cheese pennies & daily flatbreads are fantastic starters.
Good brunch at Aunties & Uncles at College & Lippincott. They use the best ingredients and the eating is excellent. Get there before 10AM on weekends because it gets PACKED.
I would also give Rosebud on Queen West a try. The ribs are melt-in-your-mouth delicious, the hanger steak makes you want to cry. We're picky picky picky restraunt frequenters and this place is worth the hype.
There've been a couple of votes for the Rebel House and I'll add a third, and raise you a "they have the BEST poutine in the city". You can experience a whole lotta wonderful Canadian culture sloshing through their selection of microbrews and enjoying a fine bison burger, with a side of poutine...but you may want a whole order, not just an itty-bitty side...
One place I really enjoy is "Le Select Bistro" on Queen Street West, especially for their duck confit; the scallopped potatoes they serve with the confit are great. They have a table d'hote that is really good value. I once took a group of 10 there, and everyone enjoyed their meal; there were no complaints.