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Nov 16, 2007 11:37 AM

Casual dinner for 2 foodie couples-excellent wine list a must

I'm seeking expert advice from fellow respected hounds.

Want your recommendations for dinner on a Monday night for 2 couples. All are serious foodies and wine drinkers. Budget is about $50 pp excluding wine/taxes/tip. Anywhere in the downtown core will do, as will any style of cuisine. The key point is that the resto should have an excellent wine list-covering a variety of regions with good price points and excluding crappy vintages at over-inflated prices. In other words-not interested in a wine list that represents good producers with the worst vintages at stupid markups for the unwitting consumer. Food should be solid.

Right now I'm thinking Reds because I've heard great things about Michael Steh and the wine list seems ok. Comments anyone?

Other suggestions greatly appreciated.



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    1. re: TorontoJo

      I was thinking Opus too but I'm annoyed that I can't access their wine list online. They have a Wine Spectator award winning list though. So how's Jason Cox's cooking?

    2. How about Kultura?
      Food is excellent. Wine list is exceptionally well-chosen with many by the glass or 1/3rd bottle.
      Reservations essential.

      1. I think Red's is quite excellent. And they do have a very well considered wine list, including a good selection of value priced glasses and bottles. But I'm not positive you could get out for $50 pp, even before extra... I would think that something-like $60-75 would be more like it for three courses.

        What about JKWB? You've probably been before, but the menu is varied enough that there's always something new.

        This is just me, but I was totally underwhelmed by Kultura. Very beautiful, but I thought the food was entirely meh, and the service a little bumbling and inexpert. Plus, our server "didn't know much about wine," which was kinda disappointing.

        4 Replies
        1. re: Rabbit

          Strangely, my experiences recently are the opposite of yours.
          At Reds in late summer, the food was disappointing. No pizazz; just ordinary. Good bottle wine list (although very recent vintages) but ordinary by the glass.
          I was at Kultura last Monday (first time in around 6 months) and was very impressed with the food. The samosas (in particular) were superb. And the sommelier (Kim Cyr - often rated as one of the finest in Toronto) found some very interesting wines for us (e.g. the Charles Baker riesling which is rarely found because of limited production). And each wine was served in a different shaped glass, according to varietal - not something I've found at Reds.
          JKWB is also good - but MUCH more casual (although the OP specified casual). I'm in a minority over JKWB - I 'hate' the open kitchen as the various smells from the food preparation destroy the wine matches of the food I'm eating. But good wine selection for sure.

          1. re: Rabbit

            I was underwhelmed by Kultura, too.

            The serving sizes were erratic. The servings of naan and edamame were extremely generous in comparison to the serving sizes of any meat/fish dishes we ordered, which tended to be on the small side.

            Our server insisted we try the naan with raita as a complement to the lobster ravioli that already came with a cream sauce. Not sure why he thought a sour yogurt sauce would complement the delicate taste of lobster in a cream sauce. I wondered if he encouraged the naan as a filler since the serving of ravioli was so small.

            1. re: clarendon hills

              Would love to hear what someone thinks of Chez Victor. Chef is David Chrystian, who has cooked at many places in his young career, beginning with To Go catering, then Patriot, and the Drake for a little while. Usually comes equipped with a good wine list.

              1. re: Snarf

                I found the winelist there pretty ordinary. Similarly the food.
                I used to enjoy Chrystian's food - but he seemed to hit a wall at Patriot and I have never been quite as impressed since.
                I was pleasantly surprised at the price at Chez Victor - I expected it to be more expensive, but neither the food nor the wine has dragged me back. So just the one 'adequate' experience for me.

          2. Crush wine bar might be of interest... I have never been blown away by the food, but I would describe it as solid. And I find that they have interesting wine pics, so you could probably have a pretty good time snobbing it up. It's a nice room, and a very fun place to spend the evening.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Rabbit

              Thanks for the great suggestions everyone!

              Crush is like a "local" for me-I love it there, and go frequently, so I'm looking for something different.

              I've heard mixed things about Kultura's food, and the space seems a little too "I'm trying way too hard to be cool". I have heard wonderful things about Kim Cyr however. I don't think the vibe will fit for anyone in the party.

              Looking at price points, Rabbit is correct in pointing out that Reds will be more in the $60-75 range. Same for Opus.

              This leaves Chez Victor and JKWB.

              Right now I'm leaning toward trying out JKWB again. I was immensely disappointed last year when I went (also incidentally on a Monday night). The food was VERY meh and oversalted, and the wines were such a bore that I honestly couldn't get over the hype this place generates. A very large group of experienced wine drinkers was with me so we tried every single wine by the glass that night, hoping that something would stand out. To no avail.

              So, this is all to say that I will give this place one more shot. I really want to figure out once and for all whether this place deserves the kudos it gets or if it's just really intelligent marketing.

              1. re: Splendid Wine Snob

                We just ate at Citizen, on Queen East (near Broadview).

                It's Rodney's (of Rosebud fame) new restaurant. There were 4 of us and we had a great time, followed by a good conversation with the chef himself.

                Italian leaning inspiration there these days (Bolognese Papardelle, Rabbit Gnocchi, Mixed Mushroom and Arugula salad). We had a wonderful Amarone by Zinardi for $59.. only a $16 markup Rodney informed us.

                Mains range from $15 - 25

                If you like rich food, but with good strong flavours, I'd recommend trying out Citizen.

                1. re: Splendid Wine Snob

                  Thanks for giving your reasons. Shows respect for all the posters who made the effort to help.