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Ki, Doku 15, or Starfish for great value? (GTA)

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Taking a tired, 30-something suburban mom away from her kids to stay at the Cosmopolitan Hotel (near King and Yonge) on Friday, March 2 for an overnight spa getaway at Shizen. Her husband often goes to Ki on expense account and he recommends it, but we might prefer to stay in and have dinner at Doku and simply order room service breakfast. Neither Ki nor Doku sound like they have Chowish food or good value for money, but correct me if I'm wrong. Starfish is on my must-try list but we want to stay as close to the hotel as possible. (Don't want to take her to JKWB, Kultura, Trevor, Perigee, etc.) Any advice or recent reviews from 'hounds? Thanks.

http://www.doku15.com/
http://www.starfishoysterbed.com/

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  1. Starfish is out of this world, with lovely, intimate service and really close to your hotel -Adelaide west of Jarvis. I was at Ki in the summer- a real scene and IMHO highly overrated food and poor service. I don't see much about it on Chowhound, but I really like Nami. (also right near your hotel). You can get a cool Japanese room to eat in. I think their sushi is very fresh and I adore the grilled sardines from the Robata Grill. Enjoy your weekend.

    1. I don't mind some of the items on the menu at Ki, but I wouldn't call it value for the money or a chowfind. Best left for expense accounts.
      Haven't been to the other two, but I keep hearing good things about Starfish. There's also Beerbistro.

      1. You could give Biff's a whirl. That's a short stroll from the hotel at Yonge/Front.

        Otherwise I'd say Starfish is the best bet of the three you mentioned.

        1. KI definitely is not up to par with the food. Environment is cool though. Have not been to Doku 15, but I believe Starfish is the one with the most value and best food, the price on the main are very reasonable.

          I would recommend Reds Bistro on Adelaide. Went there recently, the food and service are great. The place is also very nice with big table not close to each other. Probably because they got a new chef Michael Steh who was a sous at Splendido before.

          1. Starfish is by far the best of the three..Doku 15 can get kind of a young clubby feel depending on the customers. KI is actually owned by the Keg (enough said!!)...If you like oysters and seafood Sarfish is in the top couple of places in Toronto.

            6 Replies
            1. re: tasoid

              Yah, I think Doku 15 is probably not the kind of place your looking for, its a little too much on the bar/lounge side.

              1. re: tasoid

                KI is actually owned by the Keg (enough said!!)...

                what do you mean, exactly? The guys that own Ki and the Keg on York have a booming business that is very successful. I really admire that; the restaurant business is brutal,

                now chowishly, I would never eat at Ki on my own dime, it's totally an expense account place. Many of the dishes are quite enjoyable, they're just very expensive.

                1. re: orangewasabi

                  There's a generally derisive attitude towards The Keg on this board for a number of reason - essentially the criticisms being that it is the McKeg for steaks instead of burgers.

                  I guess one would assume that The Keg owners would 'play it safe' and charge slightly higher price for very adequate food...

                  1. re: orangewasabi

                    Yes, I had the same reaction to this comment., and I really get tired of the foodie snobbishness that often emerges on this board. I had one meal exactly at Ki, and while it really is aimed at bay street type on expense accounts (ie not good value for money), it was perfectly fine, with decent fresh ingredients and some interesting combinations. Safe fusion Japanese, and it succeeds quite well in what it is trying to achieve. I'd go back (if someone else were paying!), and look forward to it.

                    1. re: bluedog

                      I've not been to the Keg but I believe it's a chain restaurant like Milestones or Outback which doesn't necessarily mean it's bad but rather nothing special and not really fine dining (nothing wrong with that) like nearby Bymark or Jamie Kennedy, which is I think what orangewasabi meant in his offhand reference to the Keg.

                      But isn't your statement about Ki being "not good value for money" just as damning against the restaurant as any references to the Keg? I mean I would rather be like the Keg than be not a good value for money!

                      1. re: syoung

                        of course we should recognise the keg's success, but eating @ chains is just plain boring and for people who value repetition over innovation...that being said ki is ok, if u can handle the macaroni cowboy bay street jr execs that u want to punch out for being drunken rude louts.

                2. Are you wanting comfort, rustic, ethnic food? or a relaxing place to feel shiny and grownup?
                  Or a girls sleepover of chatting and treats?

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: orangewasabi

                    Bright lights, big city all the way! Elegant yet trendy. A place to dress up and feel special.

                    Just found out her hubbie recommended JKWB also. I've been many times and like it but was kind of hoping to try something different. I'm leaving it up to her to choose but I've sent her this link so she can make an educated decision! (Welcome to the board, KT!)

                    1. re: Food Tourist

                      if it's BLBC you're looking for, then I am going to put in a plug for the Bymark bar for the highend vibe. I love eating in the bar with the girls -- it feels like we're young and prowling again but the food is adult and fineness is all around (it's pricey though, hardly a value for money place). you can walk inside from just across the street
                      and Doku might not be a bad choice after all, kinda young and flirty

                      1. re: orangewasabi

                        Well, the lobster poutine is pretty amazing! I've eaten at Bymark twice and unfortunately both times were in private rooms so I've no concept of the "vibe" in the main dining room or bar. Does the bar have the downstairs menu or anything different?

                        1. re: Food Tourist

                          the bar has some of the downstairs menu plus some additional things. I have always been able to order from the dinner menu when at the bar though, esp if it's after 8ish - my favs are the tartare, the dumplings that are only on the bar menu and the truffle risotto and black cod from the dinner menu. Music's good and you can still hold a convo, seating is comfy enough to spend a while yet stylish. When I need to feel a bit spiffy and shiny again, it's one of my fav places to go. if you are in the 'hood and can check out the Friday evening vibe before your weekend, it might be worth a cruise by.

                  2. vertical isn't too far from where you are either... there seems to be a greater number of negative reviews here than positive though. my friend has been several times, but considering he is friends with a waiter i get the feeling his experience has been tainted. he really enjoys it though...

                    anyhow, i'm going to run with the pack and vote for starfish. i've been to ki, unfortunately on thursdays for drinks, and i really think the decor is terrible and very bankerish. it's a shame that they dont' dim the lights more because the creep factor from staring men is really offputting. but back to starfish... if you two want to just hang out you two and catch up with chat and what not, see if you can get a booth or a corner of the cozy banquettes. otherwise sit at the bar, everyone working there is so friendly that you'll definitely have a fun time.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: pinstripeprincess

                      I would not recommend going to vertical. I've been. Unless something major has changed since then.

                    2. Starfish is AMAZING. Great oysters, great fish, and even some incredible meat dishes. You could also try Colborne Lane, just off of Church between King and Front (on Colborne Street). Claudio Aprile has some very creative and delicious offerings on the menu.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: CravinMaven

                        CL is on my must-try short list along with Starfish, Splendido, Rosebud and Manyata-Spice Room (coming soon to Hazelton Lanes). If KT doesn't want to go this time around, I'm going to take my parents to CL after a "We Will Rock You" matinee show in April!

                      2. I am not sure if you request was based around fish or simply a nice spot. Doku is ok, Ki is ok, Starfish is best. If you want to try something new, your hotel is on Colborne Street, which has two new restaurants that have opened in the last week and literally a 2 minute walk from your hotel. One I have had the pleasure of dining at and highly recommend, for food service, ambience and great value - Colborne Lane. The other is a few doors along in the old Spinello's space, on Colborne; but I have yet to eat theree. When I popped in on Thursday night to say hi, they hadn't yet received their liquor license. The following day I received an email informing me that they had got it that very day. That restaurarnt is called Six Steps and looks interesting; but I cannot provide a review.
                        A number of shared experiences have already appeaared on this site on Colborne Lane and I would highly recomend it.

                        1. Have you tried George at 111 Queen (E of Church) about a 10 min walk from your hotel? I've been a couple of times and food quality is very good, the Toronto Life review (http://www.torontolife.com/guide/rest...) is quite favourable and the ambiance (as I recall the restaurant) is that of quiet elegance which wouldn't be a bad thing for a tired suburban Mom. Also, it's connected to a women's club/spa (Verity) which is fitting for the occasion!

                          1. Disagree with all the posts on Ki. Granted it has a slightly more upscale KEG feeling to it, but their beef brochette appetizer and lobster tempura maki were two of the best items I've had in a Japanese restaurant. Watch your wallet though, close to $20 for an item...

                            1. In order to curb our hunger, KT and I had a very small 5:30 pm snack at
                              a very empty Doku 15. We enjoyed delicious smoked salmon rolls ($12)
                              and thick-cut butterfish (keriorrhoea, anyone?) sashimi ($5) -- though I
                              had ordered sushi. Very disappointing, thinly-sliced Kobe beef sushi
                              ($9) was neither Kobe nor raw. Lacklustre service wasn't surprising. The
                              lounge area certainly seems to attract more customers than their actual
                              dining room.

                              KT chose Colborne Lane for our big night on the town.

                              Turns out Cosmo Hotel doesn't offer room service for breakfast, so we
                              were forced to venture out to Le Petit Dejeuner on King St. What a
                              mistake! We arrived at 12:20 pm on Saturday and were forced to "stand
                              behind the curtain" which creates a most unwelcoming environment. When
                              finally seated, service was extremely slow, and eventually KT had to
                              cancel her food order in order to be on time for her 1:30 spa service back
                              at the hotel. When my so-so breakfast crepe (stuffed with three-cheese
                              mix, scrambled eggs, "rosti" and peameal bacon, and accompanied by
                              matchstick apples coated in thousand-island dressing as well as a
                              small, very delicious fruit salad) finally arrived, the server announced
                              that my bill (including two fresh juices from the market) was
                              complimentary due to the long wait. The customers beside us complained about the
                              long wait, and the cook came out to argue with them. Nice.

                              Cosmopolitan Hotel offers room service for lunch and dinner, either
                              from Doku 15 or from HotHouse nearby. Unfortunately, the spa doesn't
                              offer any food other than bulk trail mix.

                              Thanks to all of you for great suggestions and advice!

                              1. I was fortunate enough to get taken out to Ki recently. Our table ordered a chef's sampling of sashimi, sushi and maki.

                                Although it was a good meal quality-wise, and the setting was quite fun, the meal was far from 'amazing' or even particularly memorable.

                                Most importantly: 'good value' is not a phrase I would even remotely associate with Ki - it was around $75 per person, including tax and tip for lunch. We ate well, but I didn't think it warranted that kind of bill!

                                1. Starfish, in my opinion, has one the best 'fish' kitchen in town. I believe the 'Mum' would enjoy the perfectly cooked, delicious and 'healthy' fish entree. In addition to their great selection of oysters ( their French oysters arrive on Fridays ), their raw bar frequently features interesting products like giant surf clams, east coast abalone or giant red sea urchins! As well, both their hot and cold appertizers are very original and tasty too!