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Toronto Life's Star Ratings

Don't know if anyone knows , but Toronto Life has completly changed it's restaurant star rating system. A lot of previously 4 stars are now 3 and 3 and half star restaurants. The explanation is that the stars now have a different meaning, and it doesn't really change the quality of the restaurant. For a pro cook myself I feel that the star system is important for the chefs, as far as buisness goes, and I don't understand really how the restaurants are rated. For example a restaurant like Didier was a 3 and half star restaurant and now is a 2 and a half star restaurant. According to Toronto Life that rating is the same , but looking at the stars it can have a negative affect on certain restaurants. Lee is a two star restaurant, Perigee 3 star, IL Mulino 2 star, I mean that's pretty brutal. I don't want to name names but some restaurants are way underrated and some way overrated.Thoughts everyone??

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  1. Chef, you may well be right - but panic, imho, not the order of the day - don't believe that anyone has ever taken TL's restaurant ratings very seriously. They provide a useful listing of restaurants in the GTA and beyond, but their capsulated comments and stars - revised or not - have always been of very limited insight and importance, more a rough "bunching" of top places and their competitors again "bunched" in descending order. Other comments ?

    1 Reply
    1. re: Bigtigger

      The problem is that Toronto , believe it or not is recognized as a top stop for restaurants . I mean I know quite a few people who are working in big name restaurants in the US, who have started their cooking careers here in TO. I think that Toronto, or even Canada itself should get a dining guide much like the Zagat in the States. I know the Zagat has a Toronto section but if anyone has read it ,it is desperatly lacking in it's creditabilty.It feels like they asked some diners on the way out of the restaurants how their meals were, and based their reviews solely on that response.

    2. Yes, like yourself, I too was at a lost when I first noticed their so-called revised star rating. The thing is, if one compares their new rating with their old ones and applies it to a restaurant like Susur. Susur, with its current 4.5 stars rating from Chatto would convert back to the old system as "at least a 5 star"!! Thats perfection!! Even Michelin 3 star chefs like Thomas Keller, Adria Ferran or Alain Ducasse do not get this type of accolade!!! And Susur Lee is NO Michelin 3 star chef!! Especially if he can only tie with a non-Michelin star rated Iron Chef Bobby Fay!!! Furthermore, Susur's tasting menu is NOWHERE NEAR the French Laundry's!! The same can be said with Eigensinn Farm ( another current 4.5 stars ). Once again Stadtlander's cooking is good ( a lot of help comes from the use of super-fresh produce and meat from his own backyard ) but his dishes is far from perfection. Actually, I found a lot of Alice Water's Chez Panisse food ( like the 'farm', this restaurant also uses tons of super-fresh organic products from nearby farms ) tasting better than Stadtlander's. And Chez Panisse is only a Michelin 1 star!!.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Charles Yu

        Most viewers thought Susar was robbed of victory in the match with Fay (sic).
        And apparently they won't give him a rematch.

        1. re: Charles Yu

          Charles Yu, I agree with everything you said. We just recently dined at Per Se (3 stars Michelin). Spectacular!
          I am not sure were some of those Toronto Life ratings come from. The food editors / writers / critics must be friends with the chefs of some those places. Or Toronto Life's people are just plain star struck food groupies.........yeah, that's it!

        2. Two words: who cares?

          I've never taken Toronto Life reviews all that seriously.

          And while I respect Michelin ratings and have eaten at Michelin starred restaurants, there's always politics involved there too.

          1. No offense to to you, but I guarantee you that those silly little stars mean a whole lot to the professionals who work in these kitchens everyday.Toronto is not a small food market, and I think it's about time we got more serious about our Star Ratings, or get our own equiviliant to the Michealin Star system.People who have never worked in a real kitchen would make that kind of comment "who cares".

            7 Replies
            1. re: chef223

              right on. whenever a restaurant gets a promotion or demotion on the ratings, it's a HUGE deal in most of the kitchen's I've worked in. Recognizing that it's not perfect, it's still a "report card" that allows some comparison between peers.

              chefs and owners pay attention when they get demoted (unless they really don't care about their business).

              1. re: doctorandchef

                Thank you finally someone understands, out of curiousity what kicthens have you been in?

                1. re: doctorandchef

                  "it's still a "report card" that allows some comparison between peers".

                  In principle, that should apply. In Toronto Life it does not.
                  CAVA 3 1/2 stars. Tapas / small plates. A favourable mention is made about their Serrano Ham. A must have, says the last reviewer. They buy the stuff like everyone else, slice it and plate it (lol....the art of cooking).
                  LEE 2 stars. small plates. They make everything in house.
                  The difference is 1 1/2 stars, the rating Fat Cat received. Come on!
                  Is Cava really 1 1/2 stars better then Lee. NO. So then what is it? You tell me!.

                  1. re: fatboy44

                    As a former TL writer... (1) In part, the differences result from the fact that it's not one person reviewing all the restos, it's a team of writers reviewing different restos, so there's bound to be a degree of 'incoherence'. That said, I find the new system a bit odd. (2) I never reviewed anyone who was my friend (and I have a few in the industry). (3) "Star struck food groupies" is unfair and offensive. (4) Whatever Toronto needs, it certainly is not something like Zagat, which is worse than useless.

                    1. re: hungry_pangolin

                      Come on, read the 'TL' food blogs and you've got to come to a conclusion that some chefs get preferential treatment.
                      Here are just a couple of examples. There are plenty more of these if you look for them.
                      James Chatto on a excursion to Manhattan with the chef of Czehoski?
                      How can he ever say anything serious about Czehoski again?

                      Look at this blog, http://www.torontolife.com/features/g...
                      Is this serious food research? Or is this, friends patsing around with friends.

                      Read Charles' entree above, 4 1/2 stars for Susur would mean 5 stars or BETTER in the old rating system.
                      Why did Susur get this?
                      Brand new cook book, Iron Chef appearance, STAR STATUS!!

                      Nobody at TL dares to review him and rate him for what it really is.
                      Actually, nobody in Toronto dares to. Amy Pataky blasted his menu some weeks back with all kind of negative comments and then ends up giving him 3.1/2 stars. Go figure.

                      Eigensin Farm was rated in the top ten of the Worlds Best Restaurants.
                      Mind you that was a few years ago but, Stadlander was recognized as one of the best and 'TL' is not going to mess with that ever. 4 1/2 stars!!

                      I'll bet you any amount that YOU never got to review Eigensin Farm. That privilege is for James Chatto and his friend the food editor, what ever his name may be.

                      1. re: fatboy44

                        (1) I was referring to the reviews, not the blogs. There's a difference in intent and style. The unsigned reviews were done by a large team. I think that there were 14 of us at the time. Don't know how many now. (2) I said that the I found the new star system odd. (3) I have said in previous postings elsewhere that Susur Lee, good as he is, is over-rated, and have pined for the days of Lotus. That said, that was already the case before the book and IC. (4) Don't get me started on Pataki. But that has nothing to do with TL. Interesting, but irrelevant. (5) My experience with Eigensinn has been on my dime, you are correct. I don't think that you *can* mess with Stadlander. But perhaps that's my opinion because his is an approach to food that I find more sympathetic than I do Susur Lee's.

                    2. re: fooded

                      Just a point of clarification: When I wrote "a degree of 'incoherence'", I was referring to the fact that whether a restaurant receives 2 or 2.5 stars might well depend on the individual reviewer, and that with such a large team of writers, there will necessarily be a degree of inconsistancy in the assigning of stars. It's unavoidable, as a team of 12 cannot share a single palate. I didn't mean that the system was inherently logically incoherent. That was my poor choice of words.