Visiting Toronto from NYC
I'm visiting Toronto on the weekend of July 4th from NYC with my family. We're considering eating in Chinatown (a friend of mine told me there's 3 of them!) and wondering what Chinese bakeries and restaurants are great there? Dim sum spots to try out?
As for outside the Chinatown realm, I want to take out my dad (as well as my family) to dinner since it's his birthday. In terms of cuisine, he's typically safe sticking with Chinese (since we are), French and Italian. Maybe he's willing to try other Asian cuisines but it depends on his mood. As for budget, let's stick with $30 and under (without drinks).
Any suggestions for good European-style bakeries? I'm not sure if Toronto has any place that have great macarons (like Pierre Herme) but if you do, don't hesitate to speak up! But somewhere that has a good baguette or interesting breads would make me happy.
Thanks in advance!
The one thing I find missing from the NYC dining scene is really refined Cantonese cuisine. As such, rather than settling for mediocre 'Chinatown' Chinese food, I would splurge a bit and head over to our city's creme de la creme - Lai Wah Heen for Dim Sum ( Dim Sum chef was from Hong Kong's Peninsula Hotel Spring Moon Restauurant ). Your Dad would really appreciate the 'Hong Kong Quality'!
You can still stay close to Chinatown and head over to Toritos for some Spanish Tapas. As there are not a lot of good Portuguese eateries in the big apple, may be you can give the tapas bar next to our high end Portuguese restaurant - Chiado a try too. Food from the same kitchen but less expensive.
(BTW, I was from Hong Kong and now make annual pilgrimmage to visit relatives and feast on Chinese food).
For bakeries that I consider top notch and/or have a unique history in Toronto, I suggest the following:
Le Comptoir de Celestin 623 Mount Pleasant Road
Martial Ribreau is a top notch pastry chef and alongside his brother, Pascal, they run both a bakery and high end contemporary French bistrot. The baguettes (baked by Marc Thobor) are really the best in the city (especially the sesame seed ones). They also make excellent croissants, pain-au-chocolat, and by far the BEST mille-feuille I have had so far-even beating out the zillions I tried at the best bakeries/patisserie in Paris. Unfortunately, they only make the mille-feuille upon advance order, but I would pick up any of their excellent desserts. You will need to arrive early on the weekend as they often are sold out by noon.
Thuet Bistro and Bakery 609 King St. West
Marc Thuet's artisanal breadmaking is nothing short of outstanding. I live for bread, and his are incredible; dense, rich, and real. Try the Pain de Campagne, the Sourdough, or the Speck, Herbs and Yukon Gold Potato loaf.
Harbord Bakery 115 Harbord St.
Harbord Bakery is one of the oldest Jewish bakeries in Toronto (since 1926). They make an outstanding challah, and the most decadent and sinful chocolate/walnut cookies. You will need to arrive early to get freshly baked challah on Saturday or Sunday (before 10am). I need to avoid this place because I fear serious weight gain.
I do not like Cobbs-very average, and (to me) chemical tasting pastries.
Have fun, and welcome to Toronto!
For dimsum, try Dynasty on Bloor street or Kim Moon bakery on Dundas (they also have good pastries).
Rol san is really good for chinese food on Spadina
If interested in sushi, go for for Japango or Tokyo Sushi (st joseph street)
For bakeries, you can do the typical tourist thing and try;
Le pain quotidien (albeit the NYC versions are way better, i'd skip this)
If you like the nyc enoteca restaurants (batali's babbo) then i suggest you go to Terroni here.
I would avoid Cobbs and Le Pain Quotidien at all costs. For pastry shops, in addition to Rahier, I would add Celestin, Jules and Patisserie la Cigogne. These four are actually all relatively close to each other, a bit north of downtown. For bread bakeries, Epi is good (and in the same area as the pastry shops) and Thuet is good (and is downtown).
Oh, and I should add that Nova Era and Doce Minho are wonderful Portuguese pastry shops.
I just had this discussion on a different thread and would agree that of the Batali restos, Otto is the closest but 'inoteca is an even closer match.
Lots of good suggestions so far - I second the rec's for Rol San - that and Dynasty are my "go to" places for dim sum downtown. Lei Wah Heen is the place to splurge on dim sum but if you have a car, you may want to try one of the places north of the city.
In terms of French bakeries, Rahier is my fave, though I recently had a delicious pain au chocolat from Jules that has me hankering for more. Thuet makes fantastic breads. Another option is to go some place like Pusateri's or All the Best, upscale foodie shops that sell a selection of baked goods from all of the above-mentioned bakeries (and more). Personally, I prefer the original bakeries themselves but if you're pressed for time and want to enjoy a varied selection in one spot, those are good options. By the way, I love the baguettes from Celestin.
Out in Bloor West village and on Roncesvalles, there are Eastern European bakeries - I don't know the names off by heart but I'm sure others can provide you with specific rec's.
re: peppermint pate
Yup, I did know that - that's why I said "of the Batali restos, Otto is the closest..." - what I didn't know was that the 'ino restos had any chef connection to Babbo - cool. If you go to the new Terroni, it definitely feels a lot like Otto and now that they're focusing more on platters of prosciutto and other cured meats, the similarity is stronger. The menu may have a similarity with Lupa but the vibe is pretty different (and I pine for the day when I can go back and eat more prosciutto from Lupa - yummmy).
Just to clarify - not sure if this is what you meant - but both Otto and 'inoteca are in NYC. Otto, like Babbo and Lupa, are owned by Batali, 'inoteca is separate. Terroni, a great place to recommend here, is, IMO, most like 'inoteca - though the new Terroni downtown is perhaps more like Otto in atmosphere.
Rol San is my favourite place for dim sum in Chinatown. It would probably cost about $12-15 per person. I would say it is equal or slightly better than the dim sum I had last time I ate in Manhattan's Chinatown. If you want to splurge, I'd suggest Casa Imperial, Ambassador or Empire Court, all north of the city, where dim sum would typically cost $20-$25 per person. Or Lai Wah Heen (downtown) where it would be more than $30 per person.
Many of Toronto's better Italian places are going to cost more than $30 pp. For Italian that's under $30 per person, I'd suggest Il Sorriso on College. Terroni's pizzas and pastas are also quite good for basic, typical Italian, but I found the food at Il Sorriso to be more interesting. I would think the pizza in Toronto would be quite ordinary compared to what you can get in New York. Depending on what night you'd be dining, you might also check out Zucca- their prix fixe is $25 on Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays. http://www.zuccatrattoria.com/
For European bakeries, I like Rahier for French/Belgian, Serano for Greek, Doce Minho or Nova Era for Portuguese.
French macarons aren't to my taste, so I haven't tried any in Toronto, but here are 2 recent threads on the topic: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/519267