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Americanized palates? The real deal?

Something that has bothered me in the 20+ years of my sojourn in this metropolis.

To me there seems to be an inordinate preference for, and subsequent proliferation, of restaurants that dumb-down their native cuisines to suit the traditionally bland and unadventurous Anglo (and assimilated population's) palate. This is obviously good business sense in operation but leads to true chowhounders embarking on all too frequent hit-or-miss excursions when searching for authentic exmaples of international cuisine.

So, fellow Toronto 'hounds, especially those who have sampled cuisines abroad or who have grown up in households where mom or dad still cooks food that schmecks, can you help us by suggesting restaurants which are true to their roots, i.e. spare no quarter in terms of providing genuine ancestral cuisine?

Many thanks in adavnce!

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  1. For Japanese: Sushi Kaji and Hashimoto I'd say fit the bill.

    1. Head to Biryani House on Roy Square, not the new one at Wellesley, for a true North Indian food experience.

      I'd say Rashnaa at Parliament & Wellesley fits the bill for South Indian fare.

      1. Thanks for the recs.

        A couple of personal favourites:

        Patisserie/boulangerie - Pain Perdu for impeccable, buttery croissants (not the doughy, sweetened imitations that are so prevalent here), beautiful baguettes, and toothsome pastries and gateaux.

        Knosherie - Mel's Montreal Diner for, duh, Montreal-style deli deliciousness.

        Any napkin-worthy East European restos out there?

        1. Not sit-downs, and I'm sure this an obvious suggestion, but on Roncesvalles there are many great little deli-type spots that have great traditional eastern-European fare available. Not for the carb-wary though.

          3 Replies
          1. re: jamesm

            I'm all eyes. Got any particular favourite restos/dishes that suggest babushka is toiling in the kitchen?

            1. re: jamesm

              I'd have to recommend Polonez for soups, pierogi, basically anything. I've heard some good things about Staropolska on Ronces as well, but haven't been there myself.

              1. re: Anna B

                Thank you Anna. Where exactly is Polonez located?

            2. I used to go to the Garden chinese food restaurant on Dundas and Bay with a freind of mine from Macau. He would order for us in chinese and the food would come out amazing. I then would go in without him and order the same dishes and get... bland canadianized food.. chenese vegies would be replaced by carrots and broccoli portions would be small and of course a knife and fork would be offered.. they assumed that that is what i wanted..

              I bet many other places also do this.. so my best advice is to talk to the manager and tell them that you want the "authentic food" and maybe you will get lucky...

              2 Replies
              1. re: OnDaGo

                Ah, the blessing and the curse. The desire to please and the sense of frustration.

                Your advice is sound when it comes to ordering "ethnic" cuisine in many restos. Except French of course, where what you order from the menu is what you get, and you better clean your plate or go hungry. ;) Seriously, if you do ask for the dishes to be prepared "as you like them yourself" some places are willing to oblige (and often staff will keep an eye on you out of curiosity).

                In what specific eateries have people found this to be a welcome experience?

                Anyone have recs for genuine Polish, Russian, Czech, Slovak, and/or Croatian restaurants/dishes?

                1. re: mrbozo

                  Not sure if you're still looking, but definitely Prague Deli, on Queen West (west of Spadina). They've recently renovated, and they now have more of a restaurant (but still have the deli, of course). I am Czech, and my mother very often shops there (I would too but I don't live in T.O. anymore). My favorites are the roast pork and the roast duck (with dumplings and sauerkraut). The deli is great too, you can take a lot of stuff home for the freezer (like bread dumplings, etc.).

              2. A place in Yorkville called the Courtyard Restaurant served me a nice schnitzel and chicken paprika.

                1. I would disagree about Rashnaa, it is watered down as is almost every South Asian place downtown. Great, authentic South Indian and Sr Lankan at innumerable little joints in Scarborough, most of them are takeout - if you want a proper eating experience for S Indian try Anjappar Chettinad on Eglinton or Hopper Hut for Sri Lankan. For North Indian/Pakistani, Iqbal Kebab House at Thorncliffe Drive - the paya (trotter stew) & nihari, are very good (as good as what I used to eat in Old Delhi), tho I think their kebabs and more conventional dishes are less special - anyway I rarely manage to try them...

                  1. Uh oh. Be careful not to invite the wrath of those chowhounders that hate the "Toronto dumbs down their food and isn't authentic" threads :)

                    For French: Celestin and Batifole no contest

                    Ghazale on Bloor (just east of Bathurst) has awesome shawarma

                    Please beware the recommendation regarding Mel's Diner. Its just nasty food and is not anywhere near authentic Montreal smoked meat.

                    Unfortunately, I have yet to find restos here serving great Eastern European fare (especially Slovak/Czech/Hungarian), so I am looking forward to trying Polonez and the Prague Deli. Thanks for the recs Anna B and littlegreenpea.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Splendid Wine Snob

                      Splendid Wine Snob, I just wanted to let you know that Prague Deli recently changed their name to "The Prague." Here's their website, with menu:


                      I'm drooling just looking at it. My personal favorites are the roast pork, the roast duck and especially the beef in sauerbrauten sauce, with dumplings and cranberries. I can assure you that these are very authentically Czech dishes. Can't wait 'til I'm back in T.O.!

                    2. Irish = The Tarra Inn on Eglinton

                      1. Mr.Bozo,
                        I don't like the title of this thread. Yes I know what you mean by 'Americanized', and your query is a valid one. But draining a transplanted cuisine of its distinctive elements to appeal to the local market is hardly a uniquely 'American' activity. Besides, I can't count the number of lame, Canadian takes on mesquite bbq, pecan pie and other southern US specialties I've suffered through over the years.