Standing the Test of Time
Having browsed through lotsa posts on this board through the past couple of years, one thing that strikes me again and again is the lack of consistency of many Toronto restaurants. One chowhound loves a place, another hates it just as much. An example: someone on this board raved about a middle eastern joint in east Toronto a while back. So I thought I'd give it a workout. My opinion, even though I tried the dishes he recommended: it's a dud. Now I doubt that that hound was wong. Given many of his postings, he seems to know his stuff. I suspect the trouble was that many places can't deliver the goods day in and day out. They're inconsistent. And when dinner for two, with wine, ranges from $100 to $200 nowadays, we can't afford inconsistency.
So let me ask you all: which places do you nominate as being consistently consistent? By which I mean, which joints have you been to - at least half a dozen times over the last year or so - that delivers an enjoyable experience within its price range in terms of good food, service and atmosphere? It should be a place where you've tried a lot of menu items (not just the same old dishes every time out) and the place invariably delivers, sometimes above all expectations. And even when it doesn't deliver - restaurants being an intensely human endeavor, after all - it only dips a little, and can be counted on to bounce back to a high level next time out. From your nominations, let's leave out two restaurant categories: very high end joints like Susur and/or Splendido. At their prices, they damn well better be consistent. And the major chains: they're consistent, all right, but consistently mediocre - as we expect them to be. No harm there.
I'm referring instead to the vast majority of joints between the very high and very low end. Places that have been around awhile and continue to operate at a consistently high level, despite staff turnover, menu changes, and only occasional light inconsistencies. And I'll start us off with one spot I've found to be consistent since I started going there years ago: Ferro, a mid-echelon Italian joint on St. Clair Ave., west of Christie. I've been up and down the menu and haven't found a flaw. Starters, soups and salads, sandwiches, pizzas and pastas, main dishes, all are tasty and satisfying. The greeting is prompt, the service charming, the decor entertaining, the atmosphere upbeat. I try to get there at least once every couple of months and I'm rarely disappointed. The wine list is modestly priced. Even the house wines - which most joints put the highest markup on - are decently priced and eminently drinkable. It's a winner.
Now, what are your winners?
I don't think I've ever been disappointed by a meal at Epicure. The food is always well-prepared and tasty, the service is always friendly, and the prices are extremely reasonable. Even the relocation caused little to change in the quality department.
'Fantasy Eatery' - Finch/Midland. 14 years of the best tasting Chinese ( Cantonese ) cuisine in the GTA. Never miss a beat foodwise. However, service could be a bit spotty, especially during the weekend 7 pm rush. Try gauging your visit to their live BC spotted prawns or BC dungeness crab season specials. Tons of cooking variations at a terrific price. Try also, their stirred fry 'Sliced live conch meat with flowering chives' at around $10 ( compare to the $25+ charged by the likes of Dragon Dynasty, Jade Dunasty, Ambassador, Golden Court etc ). This dish is a steal, with more than expected conch meat and much more delicious than the so called highend restaurants. Also, not to be missed are their eternal favourites, 'Duck and taro casserole in a sublime coconut sauce' and the 'Rose essence top-soy marinated free range chicken'. The latter has a strict limit of 1/2 a chicken per table and frequently sold out by 8 pm!! This alone should tell you something!! Enjoy!
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Beerbistro is my consistent favourite. I've been there many times and eaten most of what's on the menu at least once or been with someone who ate it - lunch, brunch, dinner and bar food. I've had some of the dishes multiple times and know I can count on them to be just like I remembered. I've also enjoyed special occasion menus like New Year's and the Brooklyn Beer dinner. The staff has delivered consistently good food and great service since the day they opened.
Never dispappointing and usually GREAT (service and favorite dishes). Non high-end.
Shanghai Cowgirl - Burgers especially
Terroni QW - Funghi Assoluti, Pizza, Panini, Most apps
Island Foods King/Duff - Boneless Chicken Roti
Utopia - Chickpea Burrito
Bitondos - Panzerotti
Ghandi - Butter Chicken
Schnitzel House - Schnitzel
Pantheon - Calamari
Centre St Deli - Smoked Meat Platter - fries
Senator - always fresh and exactly the same
I am sure there are more without getting into higher end like Harbour Sixty etc...
The one resto I wish was more consistent is Camp 31 given how far away it is and how hit and miss it can be.