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Boston Hound seeks best of Toronto

Restaurateur visting Toronto from Aug 22-24 while my Red Sox are in town. Staying at Westin. Seeking the best in: French, Seafood, Italian, Street food, anything that is a can't miss beloved neighborhood favorite, or just anything that is overly hospitable, and has excellent food. I'm wide open to suggestions, including tastings, app and drink multiple stop ideas. Killer brunch /breakfast would be awesoem too. Any chef's that I must check out? ....plz advise .. thanks to my northern neighbors.

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  1. For 'Best in French'. If you are looking for something that's in line with Boston's Aujourd'Hui or Pigalle, then Splendido would be your choice. Chef David Lee, who trained under a number of Michelin Star chefs including the famed Michelin 3* Anton Mosimann is arguably the best chef in town. ( now that Susur Lee has left town ). His tasting menu is awesome! On the otherhand, for a less formal destination, a la Boston's Hamersley Bistro, I would give Thuet a try.

    To recommend seafood in Toronto to someone from Boston would be a tough one! My own favourites are Starfish and Zeegrill. Both great by Toronto standard. They both execute fish very well. Starfish is also the best oyster bar in town IMO. However, for your visit, I would recommend the high end 'Portuguese' restaurant Chiado. They offer great seafood cooked in a style not easily find in Boston and their comprehensive Portuguese wine list is second to none.

    Though Toronto has tons of Italians, however IMHO, there are no great Italian restaurants in town. My favourite is Mistura for high end Italian. Some fellow chowhounders might favour Via Allegro, but personally, I find it over-rated. Great wine list though! ( Winespectator Grand award ).

    If you have the time, I would definitely make reservation at Sushi Kaji. Apart from New York, Kaji is one of the best Japanese restaurants east of LA/SF. The chef's Omakase menu would make your Toronto trip more than worthwhile. ( even if by chance our Bluejays do happen to sweep the Redsox. Ha!! ).

    Lastly, if you like Chinese, a top notch Dim Sum lunch at Lai Wah Heen is an eating experience not to be missed. Guaranty nothing like this in Boston. Actually, nothing like this in the States, not even San Fran or NYC.

    Have a nice time and enjoy the great food our city has to offer!

    1 Reply
    1. re: Charles Yu

      funny aside...just got back from Boston August 10..bumped into the chef from Mistura at the Boston Aquarium! Might be a good time to hit that restaurant and see how he enjoyed the city! I was dying to ask him where he was going for dinner...we had some GREAT eats there!

      I might recommend the patio at George (Queen and Jarvis area) for a nice meal...personally, I had one of the best burgers of my life at Boston's Pops Bistro in the South End - truly decadent!

    2. Welcome! ... Boston has great seafood and great Italian, so I fear you'll struggle finding anything that really measures up in TO.

      That said, I echo Charles in recommending Starfish and Chiado (Portuguese being a bit of a food zag... and for the solo diner, note Senhor Antonio, Chiado's next-door sister-resto, which I'd probably find more comfortable dining alone). Because of the proximity to your hotel you might think about Rodney's Oyster House or Oyster Boy... not because I think they could measure up to Boston standards, but because they're both fun, casual, neighbourhood-y spots if you're into that vibe.

      Italian... again echoing Charles on Mistura... or their upstairs sister resto Sopra Supper Club, a jazz spot with a fun and upscale-but-casual feeling. Tutti Matti or Terroni are more casual options relatively close to your hotel, but I don't think either will compare to Boston's Italian offerings.

      For French, Splendido or Thuet are high-end (and Splendido is not total, classic French). But I also like le Select (shoot me, Charles) for a more casual feel (great wine list, solid food, close-ish to your locale). Le Select is by no means in the same league as Splendido, but it's a nice, easy spot for hanging out (think Voile).

      General worth-mention-ing... Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar for "Canadian" cuisine (attention to seasonal and local ingredients... plus close to your hotel and an easy and alive vibe for solo diners). And Torito for great Spanish tapas in a fun nabe (Kensington). I also like Colborne Lane - again close-ish to your hotel, and playing with a gastro-menu. Very inventive. It would be fun to sit at the the bar dining solo. Finally, a spot that I've not yet been but feel OK recommending on pedigree is Nota Bene, the recently opened more-casual arm of the Splendido guys. On Queen Street West, it's relatively close to your accommodations and again seems to offer a lively (not gross) bar scene for the solo diner and an inventive small plate approach to food-ing.

      "Street"... get to the St. Lawrence market (again, close to your hotel but not open Sunday) and try a peameal bacon sandwich from one of the vendors. Some people swear by Toronto street-vendor hot dogs, but I don't get it (maybe I'm too native to appreciate their great-ness?).

      A warning: as a Canadian who does time in Boston (and loves your city), I can't find a bar here that even approximates Boston bartending. Sigh.

      8 Replies
      1. re: Rabbit

        avoid this city's street fares for another 1-2 years, unless you like hot dogs and chip trucks.

        bars....Bar Volo on Yonge is very hospitable and has an amazing beer selection. but its not a neighbourhood pub. a lot of people would probably go as far as saying that you shouldn't use "Toronto" and "hospitable" in the same breath....this city is not unfriendly, but its not a town where you'd necessarily go into a pub and start a conversation up with strangers.

        coming from Boston, do not try italian here. i mean, you guys have the North End. we have....a Little Italy area that focuses more on booze than on food.

        my comment to americans coming here would be: if you want diverse, ethnic food, you will have a field day here. and if you want high-end dining, lots to eat at. but italian or seafood...meh.

        1. re: Rabbit

          Sorry! I don't shoot fellow chowhound friends, even though the name is 'Rabbit'! Ha!
          Yup! Colborne Lane would be a fun and interesting destination. Totally skipped my mind. Unaware of any molecular gastronomy restaurants in Boston, therefore definitely a good choice for visiting Bostonians.
          Nota Bene is sharing the same website with its big brother Splendido ( www.splendido.ca ). Menu looks interesting. A few dishes varation on a theme and/or cloned from David Lee's signature dishes. Would love to hear any reviews!

          1. re: Charles Yu

            Hey Charles, the menu of Nota Bene indeed looks very interesting. Just wondering, what dishes would you consider as cloned or variation in NB's menu from David' Lee's signature dishes ?

            I do not have that much experience with Splendido like you do ! Thanks.

          2. re: Rabbit

            while i generally don't recommend oyster boy because of the lack of skill from their shuckers and the fact that i LOVE starfish, oysterboy does offer a selection of oysters that are only canadian and for the most part only east coast. it would certainly be a good way to get "local" flavour in terms of seafood. otherwise all signs point to starfish.

            as for street food... the peameal bacon might be the touristy thing to do, but if you want a dash of portuguese in your life then you should go to the place acrosss from paddingtons and north of carousel (by like 2 steps) and get their chicken or the oft tauted bifana instead. i think the saving grace of toronto streetdogs (which i love but always get the sausage) is the grilling! nyc boiled dogs are gross and i'm not sure what boston offers in that sense.

            something else that isn't exactly street food but you take it out on the street to eat would be bahn mi. grab one in chinatown at nguyen houng on spadina north of dundas. best when the bread is just fresh for ultimate crisp exterior and soft interior baguette style bun.

            jkwb is the ultimate rec for tourists wanting some local flavour, trendy atmosphere, and a selection of wine by the glass.

            1. re: pinstripeprincess

              OH, I forgot banh mi! Where else can about $2 produce such happiness(Banh mi is a Vietnamese sub... pate, mystery meats, shredded carrot, coriander... delicious. My fave is Rose Cafe on Broadview... get it spicy.)

              ChowKnopfski, you didn't say what sort of restaurateur you are, what style. That might help us direct you.

              1. re: hungry_pangolin

                I was hoping to not let that influence what is the best...of everything. I have multiple concepts, so I'm not married to a style, or price point, more looking to have a weekend that would make people there say, "wow, you did it right..."

                As for our hot dogs, we boast the best hot dog in america, as stated by NY Times & WSJ, Speed's Boston Dog Wagon plus the Fenway Frank... just had one too.. but I will have to try the Toronto version.

                1. re: ChowKnopfski

                  another not so street food but fun for walking with would be our great selection of jamaican patties. it would also be a good way to get a dose of the great west indies stuff we have available.

                  my fave place for patties is caribbean queen by bloor/lansdowne and i've moved down from spicy to mild since it's mind blowingly hot depending on her mood. she's definitely a character! otherwise there are many other versions with slight differentiations that others can suggest, from gravy-ed fillings, more veg, different crust, etc.

                  1. re: pinstripeprincess

                    Great suggestion on the patties!

                    Another thought for street food might to the papusas, empanada, etc, sold by the vendors in Kensington. A couple of the retailers have hotplates set up in their shops to build papusas, and Jumbo Empanadas is a nice spot.

                    Also street food-y, you can find Saigon subs in Chinatown. Mystery meat, but cheap and kinda tasty.

          3. It has been a long time since I've been to Boston, so I don't have much sense of the current scene there for comparison, but, chiming in with my $0.02...
            I've dined alone at Chiado, and I didn't feel at all uncomfortable. Highly recommend it.
            Certainly don't go to Little Italy for Italian, but I might add to Mistura, Big Ragu (different, but good.) But Mistura is more accessible to your hotel. Mia Romagna is quite good, IMHO.
            Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar I think is a must-do. He emphasises local products, has a very good wine list, and DO try to get a seat at the chef's station.
            Right Around the corner from JKWB is C'est What, a pub worth visiting for the selection of Canadian microbrews on tap. Just don't eat there (Unremarkable pub grub).
            For Japanese, another vote for Kaiseki Saikura. Also Hiro Sushi (someone was complaining about it recently, but when I was there in winter, it was the customary high standard). You might want to consider Korean as an option (Korea Town is Bloor St W between Bathurst and Christie.)

            Much as I love SLM, I don't get the obsession with peameal bacon sandwiches. I'd go for the Portuguese chicken sandwich at Churrasco of St Lawrence.

            Actually, I like the Polish sausages from street vendors. Generally of decent quality, and much better selection of condiments than I've encountered in the States.

            If you're in Kensington Market, in addition to Torito (very good tapas, indeed!), you might want to consider La Palette, a hole-in-the-hall boite. Interesting wine list (some unusual choices), but for me, it's the horse. It appears either as "quack and track" (duck confit and horse loin, separately on the same plate), or just a larger cut of horse.

            Enjoy your stay, and report back, please!

            1. Since I agree with most recommendations here, I will throw my hat in on the Peameal bacon sandwich from the St.Lawrence Market preferably from the carousel bakery. Make sure they give you a fresh one.

              2 Replies
              1. re: mlukan

                Rather than Carousel in the St. Lawrence Market, I get mine at Paddingtons, on the northwest corner, they make it fresh.

                1. re: mlukan

                  YES - make sure its fresh or keep walking.....

                2. This NY'er has visited TO at least 10 times (I love your city!) and echo some of the recommendations already made. We love Chiado for fish. I don't eat meat and find that Chiado's has the best. We've been to Joso's which is expensive for ok food (hubbie likes looking at the gals in their evening dresses), and keep going back to Chiado. It's elegant and fine dining.

                  We also ALWAYS go to Lai Wah Heen for dim sum...the best we've ever had and when we go to TO it is a must on our list.

                  I too am a fan of Jamie Kennedy's Wine Bar. Small plates, wine pairings, food wonderful.

                  We are going to all 3 for a long weekend trip for us in Oct. I might go to Starfish too as I've heard great things about that restaurant for seafood.

                  I also agree, we've been to a handful of italian places, but none memorable and none we wanted to return to. Forget mexican. We like some of the middle eastern places we've been.

                  1. I don't know why the negative on iallian in TO. There used to be some great places on St.Clair and college. I moved from the city a few years ago but there are still some good Italian. Sabatino on Eglinton. Cammaras on Dufferein to name a few.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: fatman0000

                      Don't forget Il Mulino. Very good italian on Eglinton.

                      1. re: fatman0000

                        its because Boston has a big Italian section called the North End, and they have something that would kill all Toronto foodists, called Mike's. The canolli's deliciously heart-attack inducing, and i beg my brother to bring them back if he's ever in Boston for business.

                      2. Hello! I'll make it short and sweet:
                        -for an all-round best restaurant experience, I'd have to say Colborne Lane. Amazing, creative food -- you *really* must pay a visit. It also has a great, trendy atmosphere, and a great wine list.
                        -a must-have app is the Lobster Poutine at Bymark (although the Kobe Beef sliders @ Trevor Kitchen are a close second)
                        -dim sum: Pink Pearl at the Harbourfront Centre. A great view, and really good dim sum (from an asian girl, this says alot!)
                        -dessert: the coconut creme pie at Scaramouche
                        So much food in our city, So little time!
                        Enjoy =)

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: juneplum

                          Respectfully, the wine list at Colborne Lane is crap... or at least sub-par for a resto of their calibre. You'll actually find this has been a consistent CH criticism of CL. Focus here is on food (unless they've made significant changes of late). Still, don't let this deter you from visiting this spot, just set expectations accordingly.

                          PS - Atomeyes... looovve Mike's! You should get your brother to stop off at Modern pastry next time too. Neighbourhood rivals and both fab.

                          1. re: Rabbit

                            thanks for the tp. my bro lived there for 4 years, so i would visit quite a bit. he's back in toronto, so he goes there once in a blue moon

                        2. I am a little surprised that no one has mentioned Susur's two restaurants, Lee and the newly opened Madeline both downtown

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: blogs

                            Why bother, if Susur is no longer at the helm. Besides, no way Lee and Madeline be consider 'best'!

                            1. re: Charles Yu

                              Susur is one of the best chefs in Canada, I would assume that it would be of interest to a restaurateur to see his restaurants. Madeline may be excellent and a new spot is always interesting.

                          2. Batifole at Broadview & Gerrard is another great option for French.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: jayzie1

                              Last time I dined at Batifole ( a few weeks ago ), food ordered were roughly executed and extremely greasy. ( Stew has oil floating on top, not unlike gee in a curry. Liver was overcooked and swimming in a huge pool of uninspired sauce.... ). As a French bistro, Pastis is much more refined and has tastier.food. Furthermore, Boston has a slew of French bistro that are more superior than Batifole!

                              1. re: Charles Yu

                                My experience of Batifole has been a mixed bag (last time I was there was in February, I think): much good, much not so. I would agree that Pastis is much better, at pretty much the same price point, but a Bostonian with only a few days could easily find something Pastis-like back home - no?

                            2. Just want to chime in with a breakfast/brunch recommendation... Morning Glory on King St. E, just east of Parliament.

                              1. As I frequently find myself in Boston (at least once a month), I would have to say that one would probably be able to secure better seafood and Italian food in Boston (at a level more available to the masses i.e. on average. Toronto has some notable high-end vanues, as the other CH's have aptly pointed out). Boston is a seaport right by the ocean, giving it ample access to the fruits of the sea. As well, Italian cuisine in North End is pretty massive and highly regarded (and with NYC nearby, you're never short of a good Italian resto). You would honestly fare better to venture outside the mentioned comfort zone and try signature foods of Toronto (known for its ethnic diversity, with a focus on Asian cuisine). As they say, when in Rome, eat [sic] as Romans eat...

                                My recommendation would be to definitely try some dim sum at Lai Wah Heen (in downtown Toronto at Metropolitan hotel) while you are out here, as I find that dim sum in Boston is quite attrocious for the most part - so please do not use this to gauge whether or not you enjoy dim sum (please correct me if I am wrong). If you're near the airport when flying in, then stop by Double Tree hotel for Grand Chinese restaurant (not as safe a bet as Lai Wah Heen for taste for most, but conveniently located for out of town Chowhounders). Toronto would be the closest you'll get to authentic Chinese fare that keeps up to Hong Kong standards. But those are just my thoughts...

                                Grand's Foie Gras Dumpling: http://www.flickr.com/photos/28531775...
                                Grand's Cod Pastry: http://www.flickr.com/photos/28531775...
                                Grand's Calamari: http://www.flickr.com/photos/28531775...
                                Grand's Scallop Dumpling: http://www.flickr.com/photos/28531775...
                                Lai Wah Heen Lobster Vermicelli: http://www.flickr.com/photos/28531775...

                                Cheers and Happy Eating!

                                1. Don't forget the Jamaican food. I'm not sure where you can get a goat curry roti in Boston.