Toronto - Yorkville suggestions, sushi, small plates?
My husband and I are going to be in Toronto next month. The last time we went, we had some great dinners at Jamie Kennedy’s Wine Bar, Starfish and Perigee, and had a great time checking out the Kensington Market area. This time we’re staying at the Marriott Toronto Bloor Yorkville which I think is in a new area for us. While we would consider going back to some of the same places, we’d also like to try some new things. We’re going to see Mike Doughty at the Mod Club, so I was thinking about sushi d on Saturday night. Your thoughts? We’d also like to try dim sum – we went to an upscale hotel place last time and wouldn’t mind trying it again, but can’t remember the name. I’d also be interested in good lunch places in the area of the hotel, and good small plates places (tapas or the like.) I appreciate your help!
Thanks to all for their recommendations! We had a great time in Toronto and went almost everywhere we had planned. A quick synopsis, somewhat in order of preference:
Jamie Kennedy’s Wine Bar – we didn’t make it to the new place at the Gardiner for a couple of reasons, but we came here for dinner our first night and I had a chance to come back for lunch while Jack was working the next day. The first night we sat at the somewhat rowdy chef’s bar, the next day I chose a quiet table and read while eating and drinking. Both experiences were top-notch. I particularly loved a winter salad with beets, preserved burdock and pecorino fresco, and an almond tart with figs. We did the wine pairings with almost every dish – the wine list actually seems quite good and offers an array of intriguing and fairly reasonably priced options, but we so enjoyed the half-glass option it was worth the additional cost. I quite enjoyed both of our servers, who seemed to hit just the right note. The young chef working in front of us on night one was perhaps a bit over-exuberant, but still charming – it was cute to see how excited he got when they played Zeppelin. I thought for a second he was going to imitate those places where the staff dances on the bars. Though not inexpensive, I thought the bill was quite reasonable for what we had ($120 for two, $60 for my very elaborate lunch,) and honestly found myself wishing we had a chance to go back yet again.
Lai Wah Heen – We have had dim sum in a lot of places on several continents at various price points, but this is the most beautiful haute cuisine version we have yet to encounter. It is also the most expensive – it was well over $100 for a lunch for two (the “prestige dim sum,” as I recall, plus a couple of additional dumplings.) and we had more than enough room for a round of xiao long bao in Chinatown an hour later. While I couldn’t see going here often, it is worth a visit every few years. Everything was beautiful and delicious – like edible Faberge eggs!
Chiado – We did something a bit weird here, splitting a tasting menu of tapas from their bar menu, then one salad, entrée and dessert. The server was a bit confused at first and and had to ask management if this was OK (I suspect on a weekend there might have been an issue ordering “tapas” at a table) but once it was approved we had a great time. The tapas sampler had a number of things that weren’t listed tapas and included an array of amazing seafood (in particular I remember a grouper carpaccio and the shrimp piri piri. Portions are small so they warned us that they couldn’t divide the tapas orders onto two plates. This wasn’t an issue for us and we felt there was plenty for each of us to taste. We had a black cod entrée that was a special. (The specials are numerous – I really wish they printed them out as we had to bring the server back for questions at least twice.) It was delicious and quite large – I would never have wanted to eat a full portion, delicious as it was. The cheese plate looked great but we wound up being sucked in to a sort of almond tiramisu, which was light and lovely. We were really pleased with the knowledge and attentiveness of our server – being unused to Portuguese food and particularly Portuguese wines we really relied on her. Dinner was pricey (about $200 and I can’t remember if that was pre- or post-tip but suspect the former) but it was amazingly good seafood. I’d go back.
beerbistro – We had lunch here after our visit to St. Lawrence Market one day. We sat at the small chef’s bar. It looks like they’ve converted a sort of pass-through in the hall to seating, so it’s a bit isolated, but as Jack loves to watch cooking (gets him nostalgic for his back-of-the-house days) we requested it. They have an amazing beer menu and I had a draft trappist ale followed by a Cochonette – both delicious. Jack had the new Dogfish pale ale and a lambic. One of the kitchen guys said they just got in a bunch of new Dogfish beers, some of which they aren’t serving until after a special beer dinner later this month. The food was good but not as mind-blowing as the beer. We started with a spicy mussel dish, which included bits of sausage and chilis, and frites. This was great (though we joked the frites must be one of those “if you can finish this you can have it free” sort of things – I think the cone was as big as my head!) We also had a macaroni and cheese dish that was unnecessary, as we were full after our mussels, and a bit disappointing. On the way out, the bartender was juggling bottles, but in a remarkably quiet, laid-back (Canadian?) way, for some people in the bar area. I would definitely return to try more of the various mussel dishes and drink more of that amazing beer. I didn’t see the bill, but prices seemed good (though you can easily run up a big tab drinking Belgian beer.)
Grand Chinese Cuisine – we wanted to try dim sum here but didn’t manage it. We did go out for dinner one evening. I’d had my big lunch at JKWB, thinking it would be both my lunch and dinner, and then Jack’s business associates let him off the hook for dinner, so I wasn’t able to eat much. (Otherwise, this might be ranked higher.) We tried a pork shu mai app w/ scallop and fish roe – pretty and delicious! And the soft-shell crab was likewise among the best we’ve had. A corn/crab soup was good but not amazing. A mushroom/bok choy dish was simple and tasty. The duck with mango sauce was a disappointment – it sounded like a great idea but the mango was just overwhelming. This is a hotel restaurant and looks like a Chinese banquet hall. The dinner was not cheap – about $100 – but it was good and plentiful. I’d be interested in trying dim sum there if we are in the airport area.
Dynasty – We went here on our last morning for dim sum, as our time was limited and it was just down the street from our hotel. Food was fairly standard dim sum, with a couple of twists. The food was fine, tasty, but nothing special. The best thing was a rice crepe (I’ve usually seen these called “rice sheet rolls”) with chicken and mushrooms. It seemed slightly pricier than we would pay for similar ambiance and quality in the US (about $40 for two vs. $25.) I wouldn’t be in a hurry to return but it was a pleasant meal and under the same circumstances I would happily come back.
The Roxton – We went here before a show in the area. It looks like a neighborhood bar but has a more varied menu. It was quiet when we arrived at 6 but filled up quickly. We had a small spicy artichoke dip to start – it was substantial (glad we didn’t get the large) and the addition of mustard was a good choice. Our red lentil and ham soup, unfortunately was lukewarm initially (though the server was great about getting it heated it up) and remarkably thin, like the kitchen guy had just skimmed off the top of the kettle. We had a pork schnitzel dish and a pasta olio with shrimp that were OK – we thought later, watching other tables eat, that we probably should have stuck to the burgers, which looked great and seemed to be very popular. The bill, with a couple of beers, wasn’t bad (I think about $60.) I might go back if we went to the Mod Club again but wouldn’t make a special trip.
We unfortunately didn’t make it to Caren’s Wine and Cheese as we’d had that big lunch at beerbistro and also picked up some cheese at St. Lawrence Market, so we just had wine and cheese back at the hotel that night. We did stop in at Soma, a chocolatier in the Distillery district, and split a delicious, spicy Mayan hot chocolate. They also have gelato there but unfortunately only large-ish containers to take home. Perhaps they sell it to be eaten on-site in the warmer weather? I saw a five-spice and a honey lavender that definitely intrigued me.
Hi, I would suggest the restaurant on Yonge called Toko. It is a first of its kind with the
conveyor-belt style of serving sushi which is typically found in Japan. There is only one
other restaurant(a couple of places over from this one that has it too called Sushi Train). The plates of sushi pass by right in front of you and they start at $2 a plate and more.
Toko Bistro & Bar (Japanese Restaurant
)637 Yonge Street, Toronto, ON, M4Y1Z5
750 Yonge Street,, Toronto ON M4W2G4
55 Bloor Street West - Toronto(Bay & Bloor--right in the vicinity of where you are staying)
For Reservations pls call (416).967.0000
You must try this piano lounge/superb cocktails/romantic restaurant called Panorama on the 51st floor of the Manulife Centre here in Toronto. (There is a set of elevators inside the Manulife which you must take to access the restaurant).
See the website www.eatertainment.com/restaurants/pan...
The patios are enclosed by glass all around with a view of the city. This is a very
romantic must-see-and-experience while you are here if you have the chance.
OK, here's what we have down for our visit right now - we are still thinking about Grand Chinese Cuisine but my husband is concerned about the distance, I think. Many are suggestions from here - any thoughts on the plan? We will likely be doing museums and the like during the day
dinner, Jamie Kennedy's Wine Bar - 9 Church Street 416- 362-1957
Wednesday - unfortunately, business stuff (meaning, whatever overpriced, diappointing steakhouse the guys there pick.)
Thursday - dinner, Kaiseki Sakura, 556 Church St. 416-923-1010
10 am tour of St. Lawrence Market w/ Bruce Bell - 92 Front St. E., 416-410-9242
Dim sum, Lai Wah Heen, Metropolitan hotel, 108 Chestnut St. 416-977-9899
dinner, Caren's Wine and Cheese - 158 Cumberland Toronto 416-962-5158
Dim sum - Dynasty, 131 Bloor West 416-923-3323
dinner, The Roxton - 379 Harbourd St. 416-535-8181
Mike Doughty show, the Mod Club
Late night drink/dessert - Il Gatto Nero - 720 College St. 416-536-3132
If it is me, I will skip Kaiseki Sakura. Found it overpriced, food over-cooked, taste is brand, poor portion (but I heard it has improved it's portion lately). However, it is the only kaiseki place in Toronto downtown, I do not feel like I am eating kaiseki in there anyway.
Go to Susur or Splendido or Colborne Lane instead !
Following on your request for small plates or tapas, here are a couple.
Greg Couillard's Spice Room and Chutney Bar - if you sit at the bar, you will find many of the appetizers available in decent sized tasting portions for around 9$ per. A good saving, as the appetizers are usually in the mid to high teens.
The Roof bar at the Park Hyatt also does a number of small plates, and is a classic venue to have a drink in. If you get there relatively early, and are strategic, you can score one of the couches in front of the fireplace, though the tables are pretty good as well. Fantastic views of the city.
YORKVILLE AND ENVIRONS
Dynasty on Bloor (Bloor, just east of Avenue) - not quite as upscale as the hotel you were at (more like mid-high end) with decent renditions of classic dimsum fare and some variations on the classics.
Ichiriki (Bloor, just west of Church) - decent sushi, though I would recommend staying away from the marinated fish selections (mackerel, sardine, etc.) as I found the vinegar overpowering. Otherwise, they have a good selection and reasonable prices. Service is horribly slow and scattered, so make sure you're not in a rush to go anywhere.
Kokyo Sushi on Alexander (just off Yonge) may be a better bet as far as service, though the selection of fish isn't exciting and it's a bit further away from where you're staying than Ichiriki. It's a very basic sushi joint so don't expect anything that will make you say, "wow" (actually, sushi in Toronto rarely makes you say that, but I digress).
Keiseki Sakura (Church, just north of Wellesley) - not for sushi, but for Japanese Keiseki style dining. I haven't been myself but there are lots of opinions about the place on the board so just search to see if it sounds like your thing.
You may also want to check out the new restaurant at the Royal Ontario Museum, where Jamie Kennedy has an operation. The restaurant is in the newly built Crystal designed by famed architect, Daniel Liebeskind.
Truffles at the Four Seasons for high-end hotel dining, and as far as celebrity chefs go, there's also One (Mark McEwen) at the Hazelton Hotel and Spice Room (Greg Couillard) in the Hazelton Lanes Mall. Truffles get consistently good reviews on this board (of which I concur) and elsewhere. One has mainly positive reviews, and Spice Room seems to be very hit and miss, though I have yet to make it to these places to see for myself.
Also within reach is Mistura for solid high-end Italian. Wish for mid-range brunch and dinner, Foccacia for mid-range dinner (and possibly lunch/brunch, but I'm not sure myself of whether they are open during the day? I've never checked...). Fire on the East Side for casual comfort food.
As for lunch, I like the doner at A La Turque (Church, just north of Wellesley). They are generous with their fillings and friendly folks overall. Not a fancy sit-down place at all, as you can imagine. Crepes A Go Go is also a good lunch option if you like crepes. There's also a Montreal Bread Co. gourmet sandwich shop in the Yorkville area but I haven't had a chance to check it out -- perhaps another hound can chime in with some thoughts on this place?
LITTLE ITALY/SOUTH ANNEX
Sushi D is fine for AYCE sushi, if that's what you're looking for. Nothing fabulous, nothing awful either. They can also serve a la carte, but I think most go there for the AYCE, which is pretty reasonably priced.
In this area, I would recommend Utopia Cafe or The Roxton for good comfort food. Both are very casual and laid back. I live in the 'hood and these are by far my favourite haunts around here. The Roxton is a bit of a slowfood type of place, so maybe not the best choice before a show, but if you arrive early (like around 6PM, before the dinner rush, which is usually at 7:30) you should be okay. They changed the chef at the end of the summer and since then I've found the food to be very slightly underseasoned, but nothing that can't be fixed with a couple of shakes of the salt shaker.
I've also heard good things about Sorriso... there was a very recent thread, which I can't seem locate just at this moment, but you can search it on the board.
Karuchie is a newish spot, on the very western ends of the College Street strip. Here, I found the chef to be a bit heavy handed with the salt, but if you are a salt fiend it should work for you. The food is well executed otherwise... steaks are done exactly as ordered and they are nicely trimmed of gristle, pastas are al dente, side veggies are also al dente.
After your show, you may want to hang out across the street at Il Gatto Nero, which serves a great machiatto. Food is blah so I wouldn't recommend a midnight snack here, but the place is usually quite lively so it's a nice place for a beer or coffee. Or else, further down the street, there's Cucina, which is a nice place for desserts (house made and usually light on the sugar, which is my preference) and drinks. The atmosphere is more laid back and chill.
Anyway, I think that makes for a pretty long post. Sorry about that. Hope you enjoy your trip here though.
Don't be sorry - I'm thrilled to get so many good suggestions!
I am more a quality than quantity girl, so perhaps we'll skip Sushi D and go for your Utopia Cafe or Roxton suggestions, and Cuchina sounds ideal for post-show unwinding.
Thanks also for the lunch options.
I think Jamie Kennedy's museum restaurant was just opening the last time we were in town. Have you heard good things? I have, if anything, a mild aversion to the "celebrity chef" thing but will admit we had a great time at his wine bar last time.
Actually, Jamie Kennedy is across the road at the Gardiner Museum. Executive chef Ted Carrado runs C5 -
Haven't been to C5 but I highly recommend JK at the Gardiner, the meal I had there last week was delicious. And, if you are interested, there is an excellent exhibit of beautiful and amusing Staffordshire figures on right now at the musuem.
You'll need to make reservations at JK Gardiner, only open for lunch and a prix fixe Friday dinner -
Staffordshire - Man-Eating Tiger exhibit-
Jamie Kennedy Gardiner
111 Queens Park, Toronto, ON M5S, CA