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Oct 14, 2007 11:11 AM

Agonizing over dinner for hubby's b-day


I THOUGHT I had decided on North 44, but now I'm worried that it's going to cost $350... My husband is notorious for picking THE most expensive things on the menu. Not because of the price but just because his tastes run to the caviar dreams, rather than our tuna fish budget.

So twice a year, we have a blow out: my birthday and his.

We have done, in the past:

Truffles (twice)
Scaramouche (twice)

North 44 seemed a logical choice but now I'm not so sure... We like French food and when it comes to dining out elegantly for birthdays, there is only one real rule: no Italian.

North 44 seems to be at the upper end of the financial scale in Toronto though... am I wrong? Set me straight if I am!

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  1. If you like French, I'm thinking Batifole and Le Paradis might fit a budget a bit more. I've never been to either, but the board loves the former a lot and the latter somewhat, and both have romantic vibes as fars as i can gather.

    744 Gerrard St E, Toronto, ON M4M1Y3, CA

    Le Paradis
    166 Bedford Road, Toronto, ON M5R 2K9, CA

    6 Replies
    1. re: LemonLauren

      Been to both, though not for birthday occasions.... LOVE Batifole but as we went there recently..Also, I don't think he'll find it upscale enough... Hubby loved Paradis, I hated it....

      I'm willing to spend the bucks for this b-day but I'm just not convinced about North 44 yet. Maybe I've been watching HEAT too often on Food Network ;)

      1. re: kawarthagirl

        If you liked Truffles, Scaramouche and Celestin, then the obvious choice is Splendido. But its still going to cost an equivalent amount to North 44 (also a good choice). All are truly reliable.
        You could certainly save money at Pastis (Yonge and Summerhill). It's sort of an upscale Paradis. Much more light, smattering of celebrities and essentially tarted up bistro food. Very noisy and crowded though (but half the price). I'm not a fan of their wine list, but the food is reliable and 'pretty' as well as tasty. Certainly more upscale (but less authentic) than Batifole.

        1. re: estufarian

          I doubt you can get out of Splendido for less than $500 these days. When I took my wife there for her birthday over a year ago, it was around $530 with tax, not even including the tip. If North 44 is $350, it's a deal.

          1. re: foodyDudey

            Fair enough - at least Splendido is 'fixed' price ($115 for 4 courses). You can do it cheaper at North 44 - mains there are 45-60 (plus sides/veggies are extra); apps are $20-30, salads are $14-28; Desserts $14.
            Quick calculation still says they're about the same - maybe $350 is too low for North 44!

            1. re: estufarian

              I hadn't seen that shorter tasting menu before. I was assuming that it now costs ($135 + $98 for the wines + aperitifs + something after or with desert) x2 = $$$$$. Since it's a significant birthday dinner, it will be easy to surpass $400 with some drinks. (I wish I could go to Splendido for less, I don't have an expense account)

              1. re: estufarian

                It really depends on how much wine you order. I spent around $250 at North44 for a dinner of 2 a few months ago. We each order 1 glass of wine, 1 appetizer, 1 main course and 1 dessert. The main courses we ordered are high 40s. So it is much cheaper then Splendido for us. With the portion at North 44, our stomach is full after 3 courses.
                The food is just as good as Scaramouche, Celestin and Truffles IMO.

      2. I am confused by your post. Are you looking for upscale, but not wanting to feel the pinch on your wallet? (not that there's anything wrong with that). If so, take LLs advice and go to Batifole.
        I've been to N44 2-3 times and never got why everyone loved it.
        Loved Batifole. Really a gem.

        3 Replies
        1. re: dinin and dishin

          No but before I spend $350, I wanted to hear what people thought. You see, we were disappointed with Truffles the 2nd time we went and it's not like we're rolling in the huge bucks, so ....

          1. re: kawarthagirl

            Truffles has had several turnovers in chefs. Agreed they've been up and down - especially not good in 2006. They've come back (based on 1 visit this year) but not yet quite as the previous heights.

            1. re: kawarthagirl

              I understand the feeling. I went to Globe a few weeks ago and I agree with the others who've rec'd it. We thoroughly enjoyed it and just about fell off our chairs when we got the bill. It was about half what we expected. (under $150 with a bottle of wine, apps and mains) We sat upstairs in a booth and could look down on all the people and dishes. It definitely has the ambiance for a nice birthday dinner.

              Just an FYI...We called for a last minute reservation and the hostess tried to put us in the bar. I pushed for a regular table and was shocked when we arrived and the bar was empty and the restaurant was half empty.

          2. Not sure if this is what OP is asking for, but I agree that North 44 is at the upper end of the financial scale in Toronto (for a la carte menu).

            1. I have just two words for you: Globe Bistro. Mains are about $10-12 cheaper than at North 44. The atmosphere is certainly elegant and festive, and the new fall menu (tried it on Friday night) is spectacular. (I'll try to write a review in the next day or two, if I have time.)

              8 Replies
              1. re: estragon

                I second Globe too! (even though I also suggested Pastis above).

                1. re: estufarian

                  I do like Globe, and was there last week.
                  My concern for a festive evening, is that they serve the courses much too quickly when busy, and you probably don't want a place that rushes you in and out.
                  They won't say anything to you if you linger, but it isn't a slow romantic evening.

                  1. re: erly

                    If you do Globe, get the table in the corner on the landing. Nice view over the restaurant, and you get the feeling of being slightly out of the way.

                    1. re: Snarf

                      +1 on Globe and agree with Snarf on the location. When I was there we had a party of 8 so took up the entire landing. It was like having a private room but with the benfit of being to look out over the whole restaurant. Try to sit with your back to the wall or you lose this benefit.

                      1. re: Jean Georges

                        I wondered how it would feel sitting up there - noise wasn't an issue?
                        Did you have to book well in advance to get the landing? From the look of it, it seems that it would hold more than 8 - no? I'm thinking of going there for my hubby's birthday.

                        1. re: millygirl

                          The mezzanine has a whole bunch of booths on the side, though certainly the two or three (?) tables at the back, near the tree, are the best for watching the restaurant "dance."

                          1. re: millygirl

                            I was there about 1 week after it opened, so there was no need to book in advance. They didn't have their LLBO license yet but we were able to improvise with the help of the LCBO across the street and some large coat pockets. I don't remember it being noisy at all, but then we were pretty loud ourselves. I think our table for 8 filled the landing.

                  2. re: estragon

                    Ditto Globe or Pastis. Batifole IMO is good but not birthday material. You should also consider Mistura. The food is fantastic. The do amazing lamb ribs.

                  3. Pastis was mentioned. I would disagree with the categorization of it as an "upscale Paradis", as the food is much better. Classic fish soup constructed a la table, foie gras, and much more reasonable than North 44. Also the option of starting across the street at the tasting bar at Summerhill LCBO for some ancient whisky or cognac.

                    Didier is also a fairly classic place, a few blocks north.

                    Another option would be the tasting menu with pairings at Fat Cat. Much smaller, more intimate room, and you could also consult when making the reservations if you wanted to suggest a few ingredients.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: Snarf

                      Agree to disagree?
                      I can walk to both Paradis and Pastis - and go to Paradis more often. But for a 'special occasion" would choose Pastis. It's more formal, but the food is no better and the wine list is definitely worse - unbelievable when the flagship LCBO is just across the street. I don't bother walking to Didier - would choose to walk right past it to both of the others. 80's decor (blond wood) and disastrous service (although Didier is a talented chef).
                      I do like the Fat Cat - actually prefer it to all the others mentioned. But the room is very unfriendly and it's crowded. Not somewhere I'd choose for an Anniversary, but I end up there more often than Paradis - most recently last month.

                      1. re: estufarian

                        With all due respect, I have to agree with Snarf in that Pastis is nowhere close to Le Paradis. Last time I was at Le Paradis about 3 years ago I thought the food was horrible and the place was very tired looking - no make that just plain Dirty!!! The steak was extremely tough to the point of being unedible. I would not call Pastis formal either. I find the staff polished but casual at the same time. The service is top notch. And they make a mean cosmo and a memorable escargot dumpling appetizer. We've had some great meals there. The wine list is small but we've always found something that pleases us. Hey just my opinion, and as they say, to each is own.

                        1. re: millygirl

                          OK two recommendations - I think it's time for me to try this again. Have to admit my data point is now over a year old.
                          As for Paradis - I've never found it "dirty" - but it is very dark.

                          1. re: estufarian

                            Hmmm, perhaps they've turned down the lights to hide the dirt!! Sorry I couldn't resist :)