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Finally Getting Out Again - Help Me Rank These New(ish) Spots

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peppermint pate Apr 30, 2008 07:15 AM

So now that our little babes are nearing a year old, my husband and I are easing ourselves back into the dining out scene. With few exceptions, if it's opened in the last year, we haven't tried it yet. My list of spots to try is as follows: Foxley, Delux, Nyood, Citizen, Pravda, Tabla, Avant Gout, Quattro Regazze, Globe, Sidecar, Tati, Mengrai and maybe Bistro Camino (yeesh - big list!!). I'm saving Colbourne Lane for a big event.

My first priority is always great food and I'm always happy with some cool atmosphere in a funky room to enjoy it in. Service must be friendly and good - if I'm going to get attitude, I'm not interested, no matter how great the food. And I really want consistency - acknowledging that any place can have a bad night, I'd rather try and avoid any obvious clunkers since my nights out have become so precious. And finally, since we're sometimes dining out at 6, I'm curious to know which places have either a nice bar to eat at or might otherwise have some other patrons at an early hour - even the best restaurants can feel a little blah if you're sitting at a lone table in a big room.

So with all that to chew on, which spots do you think should be on the top of my list or off my list? Any other places you can think of that I've missed (note - I have been to L'Unita and Simple)? Thanks!!!!

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    miranda RE: peppermint pate Apr 30, 2008 07:20 AM

    Delux is great esp the food...Alice's Restaurant on College just West of Ossington is also new and wonderful...great food and service....both places under-stated and cool...Miranda

    1 Reply
    1. re: miranda
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      millygirl RE: miranda Apr 30, 2008 07:32 AM

      If you want to avoid attitude and poor service, I'd cross Tati off the list. We've not been but others have voiced utter dismay. Have fun!

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      mac n cheeze RE: peppermint pate Apr 30, 2008 07:39 AM

      Good food with no attitude at both Globe and Nyood. I have eaten early at both (6.30ish) and never felt like I wasn in an empty room. Globe does have the wine bar area at the front

      I haven't eaten at Pravda, but whn I have gone for drinks, the place feels more "nightclubbish" than it did in its old location

      2 Replies
      1. re: mac n cheeze
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        Mila RE: mac n cheeze Apr 30, 2008 07:43 AM

        Concur on the Pravda. We went a few Fridays ago and it is very young, pick-up club-like vibe.

        1. re: mac n cheeze
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          Medira RE: mac n cheeze May 5, 2008 10:04 AM

          I'd like to add in my (positive) vote for Globe.

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          Julie McCoy RE: peppermint pate Apr 30, 2008 08:25 AM

          Of your list, I can talk about Citizen and Tabla. Citizen is an interesting (in a good way) atmosphere. The menu is small, with maybe 4 items to choose from in each course, so depending on your tastes, you could conceivably end up with the awful situation of not knowing what to pick because nothing speaks to you. The food was good, though not amazing. Great for being relatively local. Music level good, servers friendly. There was some discussion on another thread about spraying neighbouring tables while eating, but that didn't happen to me. Relaxed spot.
          Similarly, I enjoyed Tabla without feeling I really need to go back. Food was good with a large selection. Room was also pleasant, avoiding the 'standard' Indian look. It's a great choice if you want Indian in a sit-down, quiet environment. When I went, it was not busy so it was a very quiet affair. Not sure what a Friday or Saturday night would be like in comparison.
          Both were satisfying choices without feeling like they offered me something breakthrough.

          -----
          Tabla
          2727 Yonge, Toronto, ON M4N2H8, CA

          5 Replies
          1. re: Julie McCoy
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            placebo RE: Julie McCoy May 3, 2008 07:13 PM

            I find it hard to understand the raves for Tabla. It's a standard curry house - a 10 sauces, 5 meats sort of menu done competently, but nothing to rave about. Vindaloo is a thin brown gravy with an overbearing taste of cardomum and not much of the promised heat. They do have a few interesting items - the Malabar Fish and Eggplant Bharta among the better. Brie Pakoras sound interesting but are hard and dry and the Naan is always greasy. Chai at $3 a cup is some hot water and a teabag. For some reason there's penne on the menu in the rice section. Mango Lhasis stain the tablecloth a weird fluorescent orange and taste artificial. Service is prompt and friendly without being overbearing.

            Amaya has a higher price tag but far more interesting food. The eggplant steak, tandoori tenderloin, paneer and chaat are excellent, as is the dessert sampler. Service is a combination of haughty wait staff and bumbling runners.

            Amaya's take-out, just down the road from the restaurant is a disappointment. It's expensive and unexceptional. For Indian take-out I always go to Iqbal off Thorncliffe for their excellent biryanis, butter chicken and kebabs.

            1. re: placebo
              estufarian RE: placebo May 5, 2008 06:21 AM

              I think you may have unwittingly recommended Tabla. You mention 10 sauces - which is approximately 9 more than you find at 'standard curry house(s)' - they mostly seem to use a single "mother" sauce that is supplemented just before serving - but the underlying flavour is identical for most dishes.
              I do agree that not everything is 'perfect' at Tabla - but my (at least half dozen) experiences with the Vindaloo have been consistently good. I can understand a preference for less tamarind in this dish, but have never found the cardamom out of balance. Maybe you were there on a bad day.
              I recently tried Amaya again - and IMO it has gone downhill from my 'worth trying' first-time reaction. The second time the sauces tasted similar and the okra was mushy rather than firm and textured.

              Turning to Iqbal - the store is one of my 'hidden treasures' in Toronto - I've been shopping there for years. However, the two times I tried the food (I'm assuming you mean in their cafe next door) I found it absolutely the 'one sauce fits all' experience. No complexity in spicing. Certainly cheap (always a good thing), but I prefer the Afghan restaurant, Bamiyan, in the tiny plaza just east on Thorncliffe. Not strictly Indian, but uses mainly Indian spices.

              1. re: estufarian
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                pakmode RE: estufarian May 5, 2008 11:19 AM

                Estufarian,

                If you enjoy Bamiyan you will probably enjoy the Afghani place I prefer - Afghan Village Restaurant at Don Mills/Eglinton (747 Don Mills Rd -in the McDonalds plaza).
                The quality, portions and prices are better then Bamiyan, IMO. For $10 you get 2 skewers (I always get lamb & chicken) and enough rice, salad and naan to fill 2 big guys. It's cheaper to order the $10 'assorted' platter because you get 2 skewers instead of 1 for only a dollar more.
                My 2 cents...

                1. re: estufarian
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                  placebo RE: estufarian May 10, 2008 07:14 AM

                  At Iqbal, I'd recommend the butter chicken, chicken biryani, naan, kebabs and chana masala at Iqbal. The biryani is very good. Their few curries are greasy and bland. The sweets are very good.

                  I've been to Bamiyan a few times but was unimpressed. It's the Afghan version of "Jimmy the Greek". Fairly plain meat skewers on bland rice and salad, and I don't really care for their Naan - it's dry and crunchy. I did have an unusual bread with spinach and potatoes? and it was excellent. I wish they'd expand their menu from the kebabs and rice fare.

                  I'll give Afghan Village a try. The Thorncliffe Park area really is a great area for interesting food.

                  1. re: placebo
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                    jutrilando RE: placebo May 11, 2008 05:44 PM

                    I have to disagree with your comments on Bamiyan. I have eaten there several times. They have different meats in either kebab or patty style and each has a unique taste. The rice is made the Afghani way, not the Indian way which most people are accustomed to so it tastes different. It is not bland but they do provided a hot sauce so you might want to use that on the rice. The restaurant is extremely popular with both locals and outsiders. The food is consistent and the meats are of good quality. They don't actually server naan, it's Afghani bread and it is not the same as naan. The bread at Afghan Village is the same as at Bamiyan. People buy dozens of loaves at Afghan Village because it is a true Afghani bread. Give Bamiyan another try. My friends have enjoyed the Chaplee Kebab and the Tandoori Chicken. I'm partial to the chicken kebab myself.

            2. JamieK RE: peppermint pate Apr 30, 2008 08:28 AM

              Quattro Ragazze is casual (even with white tablecloths) and the service is friendly, definitely no attitude there. The decor is decent as they had a restaurant make-over a while back but I wouldn't call it a cool atmosphere or funky at all. I'd try to sit in the front dining area if possible as it has a little more "atmosphere" than the windowless back room. And you would feel less isolated at the front if you happened to be the first early diners.

              It's family owned and operated so you might have one of the children serving you (Quattro Ragazze means "four daughters"), but the food is very good and the price is great (the other night we had one app, two pasta mains, one bottle of wine = $76 before tip), well worth checking out.

              As far as consistency goes, I've only been once (the first of many visits to come!) but found my experience consistent with other comments and reviews on the board.

              1 Reply
              1. re: JamieK
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                JamesJT RE: JamieK Apr 30, 2008 08:46 AM

                Nyood - Went for opening and a couple of times for drinks, so can't comment on the food, but the atmosphere /decor is great.
                Citizen - Went once, great food, small but nice.
                Pravda - More of a bay street drinking hangout...not fused about this place at all.
                Globe - People seem to be divided about this one, my experience was medicore..

                To the list I would at One @ The Hazelton,

              2. Googs RE: peppermint pate Apr 30, 2008 11:04 AM

                I can't help you rank all of your choices although I think your list would make anyone happy. I will offer this advice: Start with places closest to home so when separation anxiety hits it isn't a long trip. Save the cross-town trips for later.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Googs
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                  peppermint pate RE: Googs Apr 30, 2008 12:45 PM

                  Ha - good advice! Almost all baby-free outings in the past year have been to the handful of (thankfully good) restaurants within walking distance of our house. We're hoping to start fanning out in concentric circles from there...with cell phone in hand...:)

                2. JamieK RE: peppermint pate Apr 30, 2008 11:38 AM

                  . . .

                  -----
                  Tabla
                  2727 Yonge, Toronto, ON M4N2H8, CA

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                    peppermint pate RE: peppermint pate Apr 30, 2008 12:58 PM

                    Thank you all for your feedback. Three strikes for Pravda so it's off the list. I'm particularly keen to see what they've done with the space at Nyood as we had originally planned our wedding there (when it was an art gallery). Interesting comment about "One" JamesJT - I went there last year during the filmfest and while the food was good (I'd say "B+"), I was stunningly underwhelmed by the service. I haven't seen much in the way of recent postings to make me believe things have changed that much - have things improved? Quattro Ragazze sounds like a slightly more upscale version of The Big Ragu (which I happened into late one night after Italy won the World Cup and loved) - I love homey places like that too.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: peppermint pate
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                      mac n cheeze RE: peppermint pate Apr 30, 2008 02:32 PM

                      Nothing has changed at One

                      Nyood's space is really neat - lots of interesting light fixtures

                      1. re: peppermint pate
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                        embee RE: peppermint pate May 5, 2008 06:56 AM

                        I wouldn't call Quattro Ragazze an "upscale" version of anything. It's a family operation, they live upstairs, and you may be served by the kids. They know what they can do and they do it consistently and well. No pretension, no airs, no crap.

                        It's a very limited menu of old fashioned red sauce Italian food. Beautiful bread, which they use to make wonderful, overstuffed hot sandwiches - chicken, veal, meatball, etc.. (Ask for mushrooms, peppers, and onions, which aren't mentioned on the menu). Generous mains made from similar ingredients. Boring, though not bad, Caesar salad. Excellent hot artichoke starter. Good pastas. Homemade gelato in summer.

                        We've shared one sandwich and one salad and left stuffed. Limited wine selection - the wine by the glass is drinkable, though no better than that.

                        We love this place. I've got to mention the chairs, though. I always wondered how Restaurant Makeover could supply custom designed, custom made chairs on their budget. Now I know. The chairs at the back have no padding in the seats and neither of us can sit on the damn things. The banquettes and bar chairs are better.

                      2. estufarian RE: peppermint pate May 1, 2008 04:34 AM

                        Although I haven't been to all on your list, I do top 50% and, honestly, most are 'good neighbourhood' places - not worth a 'detour' but OK if you're in the neighbourhood.
                        The exceptions are
                        Globe- always very good to excellent for me. And I've been at 6:00 (pre-show) when it's mostly empty but still good and attentive.
                        Tabla - IMO the best Indian in the city. Excellent spicing and maybe over-formal.
                        Nyood - absolutely trendy and noisy but excellent winelist and the ribs and tagine are standout dishes. After 9:30 REALLY busy.
                        Don't recall if you've tried Linda's (upstairs at Salad King). Their monthly prix-fixe (at $30) is stunning value in a bistro-type atmosphere. And their regular dishes are also superb, with a well-chosen wine list.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: estufarian
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                          peppermint pate RE: estufarian May 1, 2008 07:52 AM

                          Thanks for the rec's estufarian. In fact, Tabla is pretty much on my list because of your many positive posts. I love Indian, remain a Maroli fan on the lower end of the price/formal scale, wasn't wowed by Jaadu, but must admit I'm getting happier with Amaya Express delivery. As for Linda's, yes, I have been there a couple of times and quite like it (though I appreciate the reminder - it's never foremost in my mind). I'm always loathe to join the Thai food threads as I'm in agreement with the many others who lament the state of Thai food in this city (I would kill for a place like New York's Sripraphai here). Other than 2 great meals I had at Coco Rice a few years ago, Linda's is the closest here to anything I ate in Thailand - their leaf-wrapped appetizers (with peanuts, coconut, chili, shallots, etc.) brings back great memories of this cool little resto I used to go to in Bangkok. By "monthly prix-fixe", I'm assuming you mean the menu changes monthly but it's available every night - yes?

                          1. re: peppermint pate
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                            Kasia RE: peppermint pate May 1, 2008 08:04 AM

                            your 6 o'clock requirement is actually pretty perfect for foxley - it's the time we go when we want to be assured of getting a table without a wait. by 7 the place is packed with a line-up out the door. no reservations. i agree it's a neighbourhood place, but worth the trip. food is good (search the board for dish recs), atmosphere fun and casual, space is warm, and decent wine list by the glass.

                            ditto for delux just down the street from foxley, except that you do need reservations even for an early dinner. i once got a spot at the bar w/o reservations, but wouldn't count on it, the place is full all the time. very pretty and more grown up than the previous sparrow incarnation, food is tasty classic bistro. won't blow you away, since the dishes are familiar comfort food, but i'd recommend it for a relaxing evening out in an adult atmosphere.

                            1. re: Kasia
                              atomeyes RE: Kasia May 4, 2008 07:55 AM

                              i haven't dined any any of the Ossington hot-spots, but my girlfriend and I paid a visit to Ossignton last night...our 5th attempt at understanding the hype of the 'hood.

                              I live in the golden triangle, and we cannot understand the hype about Ossington. unless the restos there are amazing (and I understand that Foxly's is supposed to be quite good) it doesn't seem to be worth the drive.

                            2. re: peppermint pate
                              estufarian RE: peppermint pate May 1, 2008 11:17 AM

                              Exactly. The prix-fixe changes each month. It used to only be available Mon-Thur - but recently it's been offered on weekends too.

                              And I was back at Tabla last Sunday. Still like the Vindaloo and Xacutti best. Those two dishes show clearly that Tabla doesn't use a 'mother' sauce. The appetizers are not as outstanding - but I now always order the Keema Naan as an appetizer instead.

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                            jutrilando RE: peppermint pate May 11, 2008 05:46 PM

                            A great place is Matagali on Elm Street. It is basically Indian fare. They have the best butter chicken I've ever tasted!

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