Just a few Toronto questions, help me finalize make the most of my eating (I mean Conference)...
Will be in Toronto soon, for the International AIDS Conference (meaning I will be jockying for restaurant space with *lots* of other folks...)so, Chowhound that I am, I have no idea what sessions I am going to, but I have most of my restaurant reservations made...
But, I could still use help with a few questions:
1. I arrive late on Saturday night, and Thuet is close to my hotel, and open late. I figured that was a good choice for my first meal in Toronto...am I right?
2. I am on a perdiem, and my funds aren't unlimited...but I would like to have one really exception meal: I think I have narrowed it down to Splendido or George, so which should I choose, and why? or am I better off elsewhere? (yes, I've been following the thread on a meal if someone else was buying, but it doesn't give me a good sense of the why....)
3. I am seeking a spot near the King Street West/Downtown/Convention area for a dinner for six persons one night, that is very moderately priced or even inexpensive....unfortunately, it is a non-chowish group and there may be pushback if I go for anything 'ethnic', although they might agree to Thai or Vietnamese...any ideas?
4. and finally, does anyone have any feedback on Izakaya Restaurant?
I appreciate any help you can give! Thanks, and will report back..
Very interesting to read these posts about Toronto. I was born and raised in Toronto and just recently moved to Boston three months ago. In response to Juniper's post regarding Japanese food...there're tons of amazing Japanese restaurants in T.O. But there are also lots of "discount" sushi places as well. You just have to know which ones to avoid (I know..trust me). I'm a huge fan of sushi! Should anyone be in Toronto again...check out "Ematei" located on 30 St. Patrick's Street located just off Queen St. West. Very authentic....it reminds me of a typical Japanese restaurant in Tokyo. Also, with Thai food...I recommend "Golden Thai" located at 105 Church Street. Very good as well. Also, if anyone has access to a car...it's worth driving up north of the city to the suburb of "Markham"...there, you'll find North America's biggest Asian Mall -"Pacific Mall" and "Market Village" It's the next best thing to being in Asia. You'll find all sorts of cheap good eats, clothes, electronics and more! Dim Sum is also better in Markham-higher quality and more innovative (demanded by all the wealthy Asian immigrants from Hong Kong and Taiwan that live there). I highly recommend it.
For "Canadian" cuisine..try "Canoe" on the top floor of the Toronto-Dominion Centre in the financial district-fantastic food and view. Whatever you do...do not eat at "360" the revolving restaurant at the CN Tower-it's a tourist trap...high prices and mediocre food. I also love "Scaramouche"...hard to find restaurant..even for Torontonians...just look up the address and tell the cab driver. You'll be surprised at the location-it's situated in a residential condo..strange it is...but food is fantastic, and is very well known among foodies. Give these restaurants a try next time you're in town! (I'm sooo homesick right now!)
Susan: I have really enjoyed dim sum the last two times I've been in Toronto (last time being two years ago....)...but of course that's something lucky you can eat almost any day in SF. I don't have a particular restaurant in mind: last time I was there I just wandered down to Chinatown and looked for a place with a lot of Asians waiting to be seated. It worked. Check out the art museum nearby, even if you don't eat in Chinatown.
A few people have mentioned Rebel House - after going there for drinks many times, I recently tried it for dinner. I was surprisingly pleased by the range of menu and quality of food, given that it's basically a neighbourhood pub. I wouldn't classify it as a destination spot but for a "locals" experience with good food, it's a great spot - having said that, I think it's the patio that makes it extra special so if it's not an evening to sit outside, I might go with another option instead.
For another local favourite with great food and inexpensive prices, try Terroni - they have 3 locations, including two downtown (West Queen West and Richmond/Victoria). Great thin-crust pizzas, salads, friendly atmosphere, always buzzing - not necessarily anything you can't find in San Fran but a fun, tasty night out all the same.
Another vote for Perigee... I've lived in NYC for the past 17 years & eating at nice restaurants is my big vice. Having said that, when I travel I try to eat at nice restaurants that are representative of the local cuisine bc living in NYC I am spoiled by the abundance of amazing top notch restaurants that is unmatched by any other North American city. So my wife & I were in Toronto last October & after doing my due diligence I decided on Perigee for a splurge meal that would be uniquely Toronton (is that a word?). It blew us both away. It was like theater in that you are seated around the chefs/kitchen as they prepare the food. There are no menus-just tell them what you don't like/are allergic to and the bring you tons of food that will blow your mind. It is not cheap but well worth it. Also, it is located in the Distillery District which has plenty of other artisany vendors like painters, chocolate factory, micro brewery, jewelry, etc that you can wander around as well. Hope you have a good experience...
We lived in SF a few years ago... man, do I miss some of the gems we found there! Such a fantastic Chow city!
Anyway, given the fantastic Japanese food you have in SF, I would avoid anything Japanese in Toronto. You'll simply be disappointed. Both Izakaya and Blowfish are particularly bad - they're tragically hip in every sense of the term.
That said, we don't do Thai or Mexican particularly well either, unfortunately.
As others have suggested, Portuguese is a great option. Chiado is a great suggestion for a blowout, but you may want to try their sister restaurant, Adega, if you don't get a chance to go to Chiado. I've never been disappointed there and the prices are much lower. Neither are near your hotel, so it's a wash in terms of cab rides and distance.
I'm not someone who enjoys the Greek food in Greek town. Perhaps because I grew up with a Greek nanny who was an amazing cook, but the food in Greek town is not what Greek food should be - ever. You may find one or two places that do one or two dishes on the menu well, but you're going to find hit:miss ratios of about 1:9. The food is generally greasy and overly salted, and service is cliche and so jaded from being forced to say "Opa" a million times in one night.
For the group of 6, there is very little in the way of Chowish food in and around the convention centre. One of the few places I would bother to recommend is Porticello, which is a little Italian spot at the bottom of an ugly apartment building on the lake. Limited menu, but all well executed. You may also want to check out Lago on the lake, which is a lounge-y type place with adequate food (certainly nothing gourmet).
However, if you decide to split a cab and head elsewhere in the city, some good value places that I like include:
- Le Paradis (but you end up smelling like what you ate at the end of the night)
- Midi Bistro (prix fixe menu - top price is $29.95 for a three course meal)
- Czehoski (in a really funky neighbourhood as well. They have a pretty wide price range on their menu - there is an $8 burger or you can order a $20+ entree, but it's all worth it)
- Beer Bistro, as mentioned by others already
And I also like the recommendation for Rebel House for a casual dinner.
For Indian, I like Trimurti. But there is an Indian restaurant by your hotel, which is a sister to another popular Indian restaurant in Little India called Siddharta. I've not tried it, but if you give it a go, let us know how it turns out.
Enjoy your stay.
As you already know, there are thousands attending the conference, so it will be difficult finding space. If you can figure out how to use the subway/bus/streetcar system you will have great flexibility – but unfortunately none of the transit sites are particularly helpful in how to use the transfer system – which you’ll need from your location. Traffic in the city is pretty bad right now as it’s road repair season.
Given your normal residence there doesn’t seem much point in steering you to Italian, Chinese, Japanese or Bistro – you have equally good or better in SF. Similarly as a general rule avoid seafood here (you’ll be disappointed).
We have 3 upper end ‘different’ places: Susur (closed), Lai Wah Heen (excellent but Chinese) and Chiado (Portuguese – the best in North America). So I have to recommend Chiado for the blow-out. It’s also one of the few places that serves decent fish (as opposed to shellfish). But you’ll need a cab (about $15 each way) unless you figure out the streetcar system. And expensive ($100 per person without wine – and its wine list is one of the best in the city). I usually go to his tapas bar (same location – sctually just a different room – Senhor Antonio) which I find better value ($75 with a couple of glasses of wine) – the same menu (called the bar menu) is also available in Chiado, but it doesn’t feel quite right eating Tapas in a fine dining environment. And it’s open on Monday evenings – which is a dark night for many places.
Within walking distance of Convention Centre (15 mins) you might also consider Trimurti (excellent Indian and great value – although the lamb was substandard on my last visit there – incidentally this place is very presentable; white tablecloths etc and may suit your dinner for six choice):
Shanghai Cowgirl – an attempt at a trendy diner; food is OK and excellent patio:
Red Tomato (all appetizers all the time; they’re open until 10:30 on Sunday and used to offer a discounted menu (25-30% off) on Sundays and afternoons and late evening. Not sure if this discount still exists but a great grazing option – and don’t miss their crab & lobster soup). Incidentally this is where I take business visitors from SF whose stomachs haven’t yet adjusted to our time – it’s much easier to adjust portions.
If you can get there Greektown is great fun and some places have presentable food – most serve overcooked lamb (but well prepared). Probably a 25 minute cab ride ($25-30 depending on traffic). For a group who value ambiance rather than food, Avli is a good choice, but I always go to Pantheon (next door) where the locals eat and the same servers have been there for 20 years.
You mentioned Thai. When I have out-of-town visitors I always take them to Linda’s (caution last orders at 9:00). Maybe a $10 cab ride but 2 minutes from subway. This is the upstairs ‘fine dining’ part of Salad King (a student hangout and cheap). Thai unlike anything else in Toronto; breast of duck in red curry sauce; soft shell crab; quail; seafood; a superb Cornish hen (and dip it in the “salt” that’s supplied – a superb seasoning); even Foie Gras (although that’s not my favourite). Around $50-$60 per person with wine. Again a great choice for the dinner for 6 (they adjust seasoning for each serving).
Some comments on other recommendations:
Perigee is the most expensive place in town (exceeds Splendido and Susur) and has no menu (you get what the chef chooses).
Rebel House – a great local pub and the food (although pub menu) is surprisingly good and as close to Canadian as we get, but it gets VERY crowded and noisy. Right at Rosedale subway.
Jamie Kennedy: although good (mostly) you have many better places in SF. Not really a destination (and the winebar doesn’t take reservations - but that’s the better option).
Lee: excellent food (better than JK IMO) but VERY noisy and they will turn the table in 90 mins. But will be swamped with Conventioners!
Mexican: avoid everything! Weakest cuisine in Toronto.
And finally Splendido vs George. Both are excellent and in my list of most recommended in Toronto. But they resemble places in SF – not particularly ‘different’. If expense is no object, choose Splendido. Their July and September menus are on their website – but strangely no August. Quite simply this is the best all-round restaurant in Toronto right now and concentrates on Canadian ingredients. They also offer wines by the glass for each course and generally get everything right. This is the place to linger over a meal.
George is slightly cheaper and more casual. Their patio is perfect and the food and wine are pretty good (although I haven’t been since recent staff changes).
Check out this thread for Greek on Danforth.
If you don't have it in SF, it's not to be missed.
Another place you may wanna consider for something a little more laid back is
I have not been there yet (It's on my list) but it consistantly gets great reviews on here.
Enjoy your stay
Hi Susan - lots of good suggestions so far. In terms of your big meal, it's really a question of what you're in the mood for. Splendido gets raves on this board and is often touted as the best resto in the city. I was there a couple of months ago and while the food was delicious, I found the atmosphere and service to be a bit too "fine dining" (silver-domed platters all arriving at the same time, quiet room) for my taste on most evenings. It's also really expensive. If you want a very high-end experience, look no further. Personally, on most days of the week, I'd prefer a meal at Chiado or George. Another option is Perigee which is in the Distillery District - all tables are arranged around the fully-open kitchen. The Distillery is also a cool area to walk around - lots of week-end street festivals, art galleries, stores, a wonderful chocolatier (Soma - you have to try their chocolate), etc., in these renovated 19th century (?) buildings that used to house the Gooderham & Worts distillery.
I have to agree with pinstripe princess on Izakaya - gorgeous space, maybe a good spot for a drink, but the food is quite blah (haven't tried the katsu curry either). I wouldn't have it on my list.
I highly recommend any of Jamie Kennedy's restaurants - the wine bar, the restaurant (both downtown) and the newly opened restaurant in the Gardiner Ceramic Museum (though it may just be open for midweek lunches). Lots of posts on this board for these restaurants.
There are also a lot of street festivals going on in Toronto these days. Next week-end (the 12th/13th), there's the Taste of the Danforth - a crowded adventure in Greektown. The following week-end, there's the Festival of South Asia which is in Little India - lots of Indian and Pakistani treats on offer, not as crowded as the Danforth event. I love these kinds of events and I think they're fun things to do when you're visiting another city as they give a great sense of Toronto's multi-cultural communities (and of course, there's the chow).
Enjoy (and please post a report)!
Like I said - I love Izakaya's chicken katsu curry. Other than J-Grill in Richmond Hill (which does katsu curries as well as japanese fast food rice burgers), I haven't found anywhere downtownish that does chicken katsu curry or does it well. Can you recommend somewhere other than Izakaya? I don't even consider Izakaya a "Japanese experience" - it's just a place I go for one specific, lovable dish.
by all means, you're absolutely welcome to your own opinion and as i don't specifically seek out katsu curry it isn't a drawing point to me. but in terms of someone who's visiting toronto and not just checking out restaurants for the heck of it.... i wouldn't suggest it as a must go place. the food isn't terrible but i've had much better is all i'm saying.
so on that note, keeping in mind that i haven't sought out chicken katsu curry... i might actually try calling up ema-tei or double happiness to see if they do it.
someone's previous suggestion of r-shop (http://www.rshop.ca/) seems to do it up but they seem to also be only open for lunch. i wonder if konnichiwa does a version..... where have you tried?
Izakaya is great - modelled on the Wagamama chain in England. I'm addicted to the chicken katsu curry. It's a beautiful room. Menu's online - it would also work for your group dinner (no raw fish, really just noodle bowls and stir-fried noodles and sweet curries).
Thuet's a good choice
I second Lee/Susur for the blowout meal. Susur if you like the ceremony and surprise of tasting menus (service can be haughty, you might be rushed to leave by a certain time and don't order any wine without knowing how much it is). Lee is just fun. Menus should be at http://www.susur.com. Jamie Kennedy wine Bar - it's good, but not always a knockout - it's slip in on the weekend for lunch instead of dinner.
New upscale Mexican called Milagro opened this week very close to the convention area. Mercer and John across from Metro Hall. No word yet on how the food is - watch this board for reports
GreekTown has seen better days (I live there, and avoid it, heading a few blocks east for turkish, ethiopian, pakistani etc. instead) but with a group for a fun night out, people still like Mezes (http://www.mezes.com) and Avli (http://www.avlirestaurant.com). there is a lot of bad to mediocre greek on this strip so tread cautiously
I also second Beerbisto (if the menu appeals) for your group meal. Some of the dishes are fantastic + if you have a group that's willing to share.....
i have to chime in here... do NOT go to izakaya.
i think there are plenty other experiences out there that are far greater than what izakaya can offer you because once you go to a real izakaya you'll realize how much of a sham it was. i don't mean to sound so harsh but it really is just a trendoid version of what should be a fantastic ethnic experience. their ramen noodles are pathetic and seem far from hand made. the duck dumplings that seem to be so raved about barely taste of duck. i would sit and drink their sake-tinis any day but the food is lacking considering the truly tasty japanese experiences you can have for 1/3 the price.
i'm tossing in another vote for beerbistro, culinarily it's still quite nice while not the most adventurous. it's also a beer lover's haven. it's one of the go to places that my friends and i feel comfortable at.
thuet is tasty alsatian dining, but overall is quite spotty. the service often seems to peter off quite a bit by the end of the meal.
there is this place called eggplant in the king st. east area. i haven't been but have heard good things and is an interesting experience because the restaurant is housed as an extension of their recording studios. you do actually get to see all the media stuff in action. http://www.toronto.com/restaurants/ar...
does the aids conference go over a weekend or just during the week? (ps. i hear bill gates is speaking, that would be fantastic) if it does go into the weekend and overlaps the saturday, i would suggest going down to the harbourfront centre. while typically a tourist trap, there is a "world cafe" that's a giant tent enclosing several ethnic eateries selling their goods at stands. you can get some seriously good ethnic eats here for relatively cheap and it's not too far from the convention areas.
eggplant's food is very good. chef is ex of ultra supper club. don't go for all the media action -- as a member of the media, most of our action involves sitting around.
the food here is definitely worth standing up for. and that's from someone who loathes marche re another poster in this thread.
Susar is the upscale restaurant and Lee (next door) is the bistrot and much less expensive. The experiences are quite different. Reports from Susar have been excellent lately. The chef is Susar Lee, perhaps you saw him on American Iron Chef, battling Flay to a tie. Jeffery Steingarten was incredibly rude to him, but that is another story.
1. Yes - Thuet is a good choice. Make reservations.
2. I wouldn't pick George as my "one meal". There are other threads on people's fave restos, and I agree with other posters that Chiado is spectacular and different from most other places in the City (and that you should have fish). I happen to enjoy meals with a number of different dishes, and think that Lee is a fantastic value (moreso than Susur), and will guarantee tastes and combinations of food you won't have anywhere else. I'd also think about Perigee in the Distillery for "Canadian" food (don't know where you're from).
3. Tougher call, mainly because that area is absolutely littered with inexpensive tourist traps (on King east of Spadina) and chain restos (on Front). I absolutely despise Marche, mainly because it's nothing but a huge buffet with screaming children, and by the time I get to my table half my food is cold. I also hate lining up to pay BEFORE I eat, while staring at hot food turning cold. Call me crazy. I guess I'd hit up the Irish Embassy at Yonge and Wellington for a crowd that wasn't fussy but didn't want to eat crap.
4. I'll leave that for the other chowhounds.
re: Cereal Killer
great feedback, and no you are not crazy about the lining up to pay before eating thing; I just reamed out a local taqueria for the same sin :-) So, no Marche, your description convinced me...
I guess it isn't obvious from a quick look at my handle, but I am from San Francisco. So "Canadian" food, whatever that is, would be great!(I was recently in Vancouver where it appeared to mean salmon and other local Pacific Northwest ingredients.) As Melanie mentioned above, we don't have much Greek, nor do we have much Spanish, Portuguese (part of the appeal of Chiado, which you all have just about persuaded me to put on the list), though there are one or two good Portuguese places here, nor does SF have as many French Bistros as Toronto seems to have, based on my research. We do have great Italian, Chinese, Vietnamese, steak, Peruvian, more than enough tapas for my taste, some good Middle Eastern food, and, obviously, Californian. I also tend to find the Indian, Mexican and Thai here in SF to be relatively disappointing, so welcome those suggestions as well (though I gather Mexican isn't your strength either)...
So thanks, and keep the recommendations coming!
Susan - lots of posts from others now too, which is great. Perigee tends to do a lot with game (deer, elk, bison), and offers tasting menus (like Susur), so you can get a wide variety of flavours.
That said, you can't go wrong with Chiado (which I'm glad is getting its due on this board), but since you are from SF (sorry that I missed that), and you get fresh seafood whenever you want, I'd still lean towards something more "canadian", whatever that means.
Someone else posted that Susur is closed for August, which is too bad. That said, I prefer Lee to Susur, so what do I know!?
Beer Bistro (at Yonge and King, not far from the conference centre) fits the bill for your group dinner. It's not really cheap, but it's definitely not expensive. Fun atmosphere, good food, and of course and amazing beer list. And most menu items are prepared with beer, so it's a little "different" without being too out there.
Oh, and don't get it mixed up with Bier Markt. Awful.
I've been to Izakaya. Nice staff. Good potential. Some of the food we had was fantastic. Other things were ok. Can't remember specific items, it was about 6 months ago.
Jamie Kennedy's Wine Bar is great, although pricey.
I love Blowfish, also pricey. I hear Toshi Sushi is Susur's favourite sushi and it's inexpensive. Ki at King and Bay has good atmosphere and good spicy edamame and kiwi tuna maki. Also expensive.
If you are looking for very inexpensive for a non-chowish group, there's always Hot House at Front and Church, which seems to appeal to those types.
Chiado is wonderful. Best Portuguese restaurant in North America. Seafood is always the way to go there. It's always spectacularly fresh -- flown in daily from small fishermen in the Atlantic. And if it's your splurge night, it's definitely less expensive than Splendido or George.
Regarding your question about the two... Splendido is what I would consider an almost "perfect" evening out: amazing food, truly flawless service, lovely romantic atmosphere. George, IMO, is just a small step below Splendido on all counts. But the patio at George is really beautiful, so it wins there.
I just got back from a conference there yesterday. As for the non chowish group,I think the Richtree Marche would be a great choice. Only a couple of blocks from the convention center, it is as much a food "show" as it is a restaurant. The food is not stellar, but very good with something for everyone.
We had fantastic meals at Jamie Kennedys' Wine Bar on Church St., and at Chiado on College.
Too many choices and not enough time!!
Susan, it's been a decade since I've been to Toronto. But I used to be in the area monthly for business in the area of Greek town around Danforth. Coming from San Francisco where Greek restaurants are scarce, I used to love checking out the Greek eateries. Sitting outside on a warm summer night (also scarce in SF) with a simple grilled whole fish or plate of fresh sardines was heaven. Perhaps the Toronto 'hounds can give you some current recs. I think the food would satisfy your chowish desires and those less willing to be adventurous.
re: Melanie Wong
Greek sounds like it would be a great idea for the group, and yes, it is something that we don't have much of at home (the entire party that night will be from San Francisco). So, if anyone has any specific recommendations along those lines I'd really appreciate them!