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New Yorker ISO Best Restaurants in Toronto

Any price range, within 5 miles of downtown, any cuisine -- places different from what one can find in NYC. Only have two days and two nights there.

So far have thought of Senses Bakery, Bistro 990, Centro, Lai Wah Heen, Nectar, Pangaea, and Splendido....

Many thanks!

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  1. Perigee, George, Susur, usually come up with this kind of ISO request.

    Some NYC-TO comparable places:
    JKWB, if you like The Stanton Social (Lower East Side)
    Gallery Grill (brunch), if you like the Morgan Library (37th & Lex)

    2 Replies
    1. re: xtal

      Based on my recent experiences, JKWB has much better food than Stanton Social and the atmosphere is more intimate (plus crowd is older/more mature).

      1. re: peppermint pate

        Interesting, I found the food comparable in quality. That being said, JKWB wins on atmosphere, as you can clearly tell that the Stanton is the 'in' place to be on the Lower East Side.

        Though, I did like some of the Stanton's more 'whimsical' dishes.

    2. If you want interesting, funky and upscale without being snooty - Habitat on Queen St W.

      1. While Splendido and Pangaea are definitely great restaurants, I think you have many similar upscale options in New York i.e. Daniel, Eleven Madison Park, etc. Nectar has gotten many hit and miss reviews so not sure I'd put that on my short list - haven't been to Centro since they renovated but again, not sure if it's a unique experience.

        I would, however, keep Lai Wah Heen on the list - either for dinner or perhaps even nicer, for an upscale dim sum lunch. Another option is Chiado, a high-end Portugese restaurant. I think these 2 places are "different" than what you'd find in New York. And although I don't think that JKWB is too reminiscent of The Stanton Social, I do like the food there and also at Lee so both of those are good rec's.

        For a couple of other uniquely Toronto chow experiences, consider a stroll through St. Lawrence Market on a week-day or Saturday morning (complete with the ubiquitous peameal bacon sandwich) and a grazing tour through Kensington Market (complete with papusas, falafel, burritos, empanadas, lattes, etc.).

        Enjoy!

        2 Replies
        1. re: peppermint pate

          Lai Wah Heen and Chiado are good recs. Lai Wah Heen is a little stiff in atmopsphere, but it really is the best dim sum this side of Hong Kong. Chiado is excellent high-end portuguese -- a bit of a rarity in NYC.

          A walk through the St. Lawrence Market (even not on Saturday when the farmer's side is open) or Kensington are also absoltuely excellent suggestions.

          Susur is the most unique (not avail. in NYC) of the high end. The amount of well-done east/west fusion and the reverse serving (largest portion first) are truly different and the food is excellent.

          I can't really think of anything else not available somewhere in NYC at a similar quality/price point/presentation.

          1. re: Atahualpa

            The third vote for the same places. Lai Wah Heen and Chiado are different from New York - most others in this thread have similarities to places you can try at home.
            And if you make it to Chiado, try the pata negra prosciutto (on the bar menu but you can order it at the table) - also not available in NY. Normally I'd add Susur, but my last visit wasn't up to the usual standard.

        2. As a New Yorker can trust James Beard I would go to CANOE. The chefs at Canoe will be going down to James Beard in New York this November. This is truly one of Canada's best. The 54th floor of the TD Tower gives a nice view as well.

          1. Lee (on King) and Jamie Kennedy's Wine Bar (on Church) both serve small plates (personally I'm into grazing). Like them both but I found Jamie Kennedy's consistently good and am going back again tomorrow night. While you may have to wait for a table, it's a nice atmosphere.

            Also, I rediscovered Nami recently (Japanese, on Adelaide). Excellent variety and comfortable atmosphere. And I've eaten at Nectar a few times, although not within the last 6 months, and found the food excellent.

            Enjoy!

            1. Sushi Kaji is a 25 minute drive from downtown Toronto but well worth it for its wonderful omikase menus

              http://www.sushikaji.com/

              1 Reply
              1. re: ElizabethS

                Yes, if you want to experience top notch omakase but don't want to pay Masa or Kurumazushi prices, then definitely head to kaji.

                Yes we all do sound boring, but I would cosign on LWH and Chiado as options you don't have in NYC. I just had a truffle siu mai at LWH last week, need I say more?

              2. If you were coming from almost anywhere else, there might be a long list of possibilities, but outdoing NY is much harder.

                People have mentioned Lai Wah Heen and Chiado, which are good recommendations. But you want something great that you can't get at home. That isn't so easy.

                You don't have anything exactly like Lai Wah Heen, but it is stuffy, pretentious, and unexciting. The food quality is certainly there, but I recall much better TASTING Chinese food in New York. I'd stick to their lunchtime Dim Sum!

                I don't think there is any place in NY similar to Chiado, and it's wonderful. However, Chiado's main attraction is impeccably fresh seafood, prepared simply. You have a vastly superior availability of fresh fish. You have Le Bernardin and the Fulton Fish Market -- we don't.

                For specific, unique experiences, I'd recommend Susur and Perigee. Which isn't to say that you won't do better at home. You have, among other things, Thomas Keller's new place and we don't. If you search the board, you'll find a wide range of experiences at both places, many of them mediocre or worse. But Susur and Perigee highlight the creations of two innovative chefs and, by definition, each is unique. Susur is arguably more creative; Perigee is quite theatrical and is much less rushed.

                For an overall good experience, Splendido is currently riding high. Senses recently lost their star chef. Neither Pangaea nor Centro is particularly unique. Canoe's main attraction is the view -- food is competent, but no more. Bistro 990 is just a "scene" -- not a source of memorable food. Nectar sounds interesting but inconsistent -- I haven't been there yet and can't really comment.

                Toronto's best food, in my opinion, comes from the "ethnic" places that are scattered far and wide. Some (though NOT all) are very cheap. You might try Avli on the Danforth for Greek or Lalibela on Bloor West for Ethiopian. Dining halls in the burbs lifted straight from Hong Kong. Via Allegro for Italian.

                Instead of considering only the big name places, browse around the board and see what sounds good to YOU. You might enjoy, say, the Lahore Tikka House as much as Susur, depending on your mood. I'd love a Katz's pastrami, a Totonno pizza, a Nathan's dog, or a Juniors burger (at least as these things tasted in the 80s) myself.

                1. You might try contacting Bonnie Stern (www.bonniestern.com). She's a local food personality who regularly writes up her experiences dining in other cities. She might have some Toronto suggestions that we haven't thought of.

                  1. I live in NY and used to live in toronto...i would say that you will find nothing that is Daniel/ducasse/perse Bernadin-like in toronto...what you can find is some extremely creative (SUSUR) and localy influenced more classic cuisine (Splendido)

                    I have not been to Perigee, but have heard good things. Having been to most of the "Zagat top 20" I would say that Susur and Splendido hold their own with Susur being the most artistic/creative place i have been to (not WD-50 creative, more Jean-Georges creative) It is art on a plate.

                    that said, from what i have heard Susur is getting a little less consistant as his star rises....but, 3 of my 4 meals there have been off the charts. with 2 of them being better than anything i have had over the last 3.5 years in manhattan.

                    FYI...if you are a wine geek, you might want to add OPUS to that list....food holds its own, but the wine list is off the charts.

                    1. Bymark -- best steak tartar in the city, and I love their white truffle rissoto, which is available now.

                      Mistura's white truffle tasting menu is excellent too.

                      But these, together with what you have listed are pretty NewYorky, iykwim.

                      When I've been in NYC for a while, the one thing I always eat first is Thai food at Golden Thai. For some reason, the thai food in NYC isn't quite right to me.

                      1. I have lived in NYC, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Toronto...

                        NYC chinese food is simply terrible.

                        Lai Wah heen is by far the best place on that list, everywhere else will just make you dissapointed.

                        1. I too have lived and eaten Chinese in Hong Kong, Southern China, San Francisco, Vancouver, London, Toronto and NYC. Depending on the food, there are a few stand out dishes in some NYC's Chinese restaurants, particularly those serving Northern style cuisine. But I agree with sOmemale that in general, NYC Chinese food is not up to par for us Chowhound,
                          As for Lai Wah Heen, the food is good and definitely the best amongst Chinese restaurants DOWNTOWN. However, FOODWISE (not the whole package ie., ambience,service,wine..etc), there are quite a few other Chinese restaurants in the Markham/Scarborough/Richmond Hill area ( such as Jade Dynasty, Finch/Leslie, O Mei, Hwy7 or Fantasy eatery, Finch/Midland...etc ) that are better, both in taste and value for money. However, for our NYC chowhound friend, who will be staying downtown, a trip up north will be too much of a hassle,I guess?!