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May 16, 2008 07:52 PM

Visiting Toronto and Trying to Find the Best Eats

I'm visiting Toronto for the first time soon and I've read through many of the threads here for resto suggestions - thank you for posting all your reviews and thoughts. I'm still trying to decide where to eat for lunch and supper during the trip, so any thoughts would be helpful.

I've booked a reservation for Grace - so excited about that.

I was considering Splendido but heard it wasn't as good as it's cracked up to be. The menu looks expensive and not that "unique". Any thoughts?

North 44 - what's the scoop? It seems it's well known but I haven't heard glowing reviews about it. The menu seems decently priced (for an upscale place). I was considering the beef two ways or duckling three ways. If anyone has tried either of those, would be great to hear about it.

I'm definitely visiting the Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar. The glowing reviews are convincing enough.

Also considering Lucien, Senses, and a few others.

Location is too much of an issue. Price point isn't too much of an issue either as I'll figure that out when I sift through the options. I'm looking for a variety of places - upscale and also reasonable priced but unique (from a visitor's perspective) and excellent. Anywhere from $20-$70 per person (not including wine). I'm looking for fresh, unique food that you just couldn't find elsewhere.

Would love to hear from everyone! Thanks so much!

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  1. Not sure where you are coming from, but I don't think Splendido, North 44, JKWB, Senses, Lucien is unique, these kind of restaurants are quite common in North America or any where in the world in the mid to high-end dining section. The food at North 44 is quite good, it is just another high end fine dining restaurant in Toronto. If you are talking about just service, the refined service of Splendido is quite unique in Toronto. If you want something unique and great in Toronto area, try the dim sum at Lai Wah Heen and the kaiseki at Hashimoto.

    1. Welcome (in advance) to Toronto! I hope you have a great visit

      For a high end meal,very good food, great atmosphere and service - Scaramouche any day over North 44. The food was beautifully presented, flavourful, and the service was great

      I was not impressed by North 44 - I found the food bland, not memorable, the service came with a bit of an attitude and I felt like I had been time warped back about 20 years with the decor. Mind you, I feel that way about the food at all of Mark McEwan's restaurants (One and Bymark)

      Other places if you like steak, Harbour 60 is fantastic. The food/steaks are not really more expensive than other high end steak places, but the meat is very tender, very flavourful and I personally reallylike the grilled peppers as a side. Also, the complimentary bread, olives, cheese and hot peppers plate they offer is wonderful. Beware the wine list at Harbour 60 - it is possible to completely break the bank, and that will be what drives your bill. Harbour 60 will likely be closer to $80-100pp (depending on the steak and sides) rather than the $70 upper end

      Another new-ish place in Toronto is Colborne Lane - he food is pretty good - it is done in the "molecular gastronomy" style. Small sharing style plates. Nice room/atmosphere. It's been about 6 or 8 months since I've been, but the food (particularly the steak) was good

      Alos, I completely agree with Skyline's Lai Wah Heen recommendation - incredible dim sum

      Have fun

      2 Replies
      1. re: mac n cheeze

        I would put Scaramouche at the top of your list.

        1. re: mac n cheeze

          Gotta say I disagree with mac n cheeze about North 44 v. Scaramouche. They're both fabulous and Scaramouche definitely beats North 44 in the atmosphere/view department. However, in my experience the food at North 44 is phenomenal and I also found the service to be impeccable (and without atttitude). For some reason, North 44 gets mentioned infrequently on Chowhound but, IMHO, it's right at/near the top of the list of Toronto's best restaurants. I'm not trying to dissuade you from going to Scaramouche, which is also great and which has a terrific view of the city (especially nice from a tourist's perspective), but I think North 44 is also a great option.

          Unfortunately, not having been, I can't comment on Splendido (though I think the negative reviews of it on this board are few and far between). Another restaurant which I haven't personally visited but have heard great things about is Perigee, in the Distillery District (a historic area in the east end of downtown, which is definitely worth a visit while you're here). However, I heard that they recently changed chefs, so perhaps you may want to hear from people who've been there lately.

        2. The place I always recommend to visitors and locals alike is The Rebel House.
          It's a quaint little pub located on Yonge St (Main St) just north of Bloor St.
          It's high on local micro brews and the food is first rate.

          If you're subwaying it, it's right across the street from the Rosedale subway station.

          We also really like Starfish for seafood and especially a wide selection of oysters shucked by a world oyster shucking champion.


          1. I've been lucky to dine Senses recently, as well as Lai Wah Heen and Splendido. I would definitely agree with SkylineR33's comment - in terms of 'unique' Torontonian experiences, I would recommend Lai Wah Heen for dim sum and would recommend you try out the chef's special dishes rather than the classic dim sum.

            As for Splendido, it sounds like you've looked at the menu. The food is expensive, and what you read from the menu is exactly what you get - without any embellishment at all, really. Simple, great ingredients, and not so exciting, in my opinion. I would recommend Susur but at $140 per person, it is pretty far beyond your estimated price range.

            JK Wine Bar is great, and so is Scaramouche, for a classic, decadent and delicious meal.

            1. Wow, thanks so much skylineR33, mac n cheeze, millygirl, torontofoodiegirl, Davwud, and Yum2MyTum! I really appreciate all your thoughts and suggestions. And thank you for the pre-welcome to your city!

              It's been hard picking where to eat, only because I'm weird in that I'm adverse to seafood, which I'm sure is so well done at most of the places in TO. And I'm not so much into ethnic food (even though I myself am Asian, I prefer more North American tastes being born here - haha). I'm coming from a city that isn't very foodie-caliber so I think anything in TO will be unique from my perspective. Stuff like foie gras and roasted bone marrow rarely gets served here and not very well.

              I wouldn't mind trying a top of the list French restaurant. And a place with the best desserts.

              I checked out the Scaramouche menus and I think the Grill menu would be most appealing to me. If I head there, I'm considering these choices. Has anyone tried them?

              Half Chicken, Roasted with Lemon and Rosemary
              Grilled Lamb Leg
              Fresh Ravioli
              Crispy Duck Spring Rolls

              As for North 44, thanks for your thoughts. I was a bit concerned it might be a bit "aged" and traditional, if that makes sense. We have a very upscale restaurant here in town that is very high end but also, formal (i.e. baby grand piano, etc.) but the food is indeed good. I suppose what might have appealed to me on the North 44 menu is the Duckling Three Ways. Anyone tried that dish?

              I do enjoy a fabulous steak so thanks for the suggestion. I'm not worried about the wine prices as I am a non imbiber so all that extra cash will be going towards the meal!

              I also considered Colbourne Lane as I am itching to try a molecular gastronomy style restaurant. But I wasn't so sure about the Asian influences (I don't like my people's food haha), but the Beef tenderloin + slow & soft poached egg + chorizo + fondant potato + smoked salt + steak sauce jelly + Yukon gold potato puree does sound really good. Is that what you had, mac n cheeze?

              Thanks for the recommendation on The Rebel. I checked out their menu and I think I like it! I will definitely try to stop by at lunch. It seems reasonably priced too and first rate food.

              Susur will be closed when I arrive, which sucks but I couldn't take advantage of the menu anyway since I'm not a seafood eater. But I really wish I could have gone nonetheless.

              I've heard nothing but great reviews from Splendido on Chowhound, so it was on my list. The only thing deterring me is someone I know told me it's basically a place to blow money if you have an expense account or want to impress people. I looked at their menu and it looks good but nothing exciting. I'd probably get Charcoal Grilled Naturally Raised Beef Tenderloin; Roasted Bone Marrow, Thyme Jus, if I were to get anything there.

              I think I will definitely try to make it to Senses. Their menu looked really good. Has anyone tried the Kobe burger? I've always wanted to try Kobe beef but not sure it will be worth it to try in burger form. But I suppose the cost is much more reasonable!

              Thanks so much Torontonians! I am so excited for the visit and foodie tour!

              PS. This is a really stupid question but what is the tipping ettiquette usually? I'm on a limited budget but don't want to cause any faux pas.

              11 Replies
              1. re: freelancer

                If/when you go to TRH, try the sausage of the sausage of the day. It's been a home run every time we've been there.


                1. re: freelancer

                  Two other favorite spots of ours are Mistura and Pastis Express. Mistura is italian and Pastis is french bistro. We are frequent at both and have never been disappointed. Both have a really nice atmosphere and service is excellent.

                  BTW, Scaramouche does the best steak frite in the city and they are known for their cococonut cream pie. It truly is to die for. I've tried the duck rolls and they are excellent.

                  I should mention our fav lunch spot is Caffe Doria, great panninis, thin crust pizza, soup and salads in the Yonge and Summerhill area which is fun to walk around in. Close by is a strip of 5 gourmet food shops (butcher, cheese and oils, bakery, fruit market Harvest Wagon). They have a wonderful stuff and very pricey, but a must to check out. Regulars refer to them as The Five Thieves.

                  Enjoy your visit and let us know where you end up.

                  1. re: millygirl

                    Ooh, thanks for the Pastis recommendation! And for the tip on the Steak frite and coconut cream pie at Scaramouche. It's always good to hear when someone has tried something! Boy, now I will really have a hard time picking the spots. I am only there for 5 days (and only planning on eating well on 4 of those nights as one of my days is too busy). I might have to knock out North 44 for Scaramouche now! And do other places that are open, for lunch. Caffe Doria sounds so lovely.

                    I'll definitely let you all know when I finalize my list and of course, my report when I'm back and my clothes are too tight. Ha ha!

                    1. re: millygirl

                      At Scaramouche, I would also recommend the coconut creme pie; also, I had an amazing dish involving scallops, and the chef sure knows his way around game meats.

                      Senses is fun and the chef is a charmer; I would recommend the truffle pasta, definitely (a dish the chef invented while at Truffles at the Four Seasons, so I understand).

                      air621's suggestion of tipping 15% - 20% in a fine dining establishment sounds about right.

                      Enjoy your trip, freelancer! And make sure you let us know how it all turned out.

                      1. re: Yum2MyTum

                        Thanks Yum2MyTum! Ok, you've both sold me - I promise to get the Coconut Cream Pie if I head to Scaramouche! It sounds delicious. I appreciate the truffle pasta recommendation as well. I was eyeing that and the Kobe burger. Mmmmm.

                        I can't wait to visit. It's going to be a blast. I'll just have to make sure I don't overeat and indulge too much or I will be too sick to shop. Ha ha. If only I could train my body for all the delights that will come!

                    2. re: freelancer

                      I have had good food and reasonably priced at Matigon on St. Nicolas Street (North of Wellesley, West of Yonge).

                      1. re: freelancer

                        regarding tipping, Torontonians tend to be generous tippers. If the meal is average but the service is good, definitely a 15% tip. If both the food and the service is good, 20% easily. If the service and food are shite, no tip is fine. But it's been a very long time since I felt this necessary.

                        1. re: air621

                          I agree. I note that there is some debate over whether to tip on the before- or after-tax total; personally, I think the tip should be on the after-tax.

                          1. re: torontofoodiegirl

                            Miss Manners always used to say pre-tax for the tip, since you did not order the tax. Lately the Toronto Star seems to be saying post tax for the tip but the columnist is getting some flac for that.

                        2. re: freelancer

                          Try to hit the Rebel House on a sunny day; they have a lovely patio out back.

                          1. re: freelancer

                            Colbourne Lane was just panned a week ago in the Globe and Mail, i think. review was quite negative. said they do some things well, but some things are so excessive and service was bad.