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Nov 30, 2008 05:40 PM

What's the best affordable fine dining in Toronto?

I suppose we all have a different definition of affordable fine dining, but I was thinking of restaurants where a dinner for two would include, 2 appetizers, 2 entrees, 1 shared dessert, 2 glasses (or half a bottle) of wine, tax and tip for safely under $150. I love Scaramouche, and North 44, but too easily can the bill reach $300. I was wondering what you thought the best or notable affordable fine dining places in Toronto are.

Sequel and Mildred Pierce come to mind.

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  1. I would say Nota Bene, if you haven't heard of it yet.. Scaled down version of Splendido.. but the service is hit and miss....

    11 Replies
    1. re: justpete

      Yes, I have heard of it. David Lee's restaurant right? I imagine he spends more time at Splendido than Nota Bene.

      I haven't tried it. But now it seems I must, lol. Keep them coming.

      1. re: stonedtoronto

        I actually haven't seen him at either, and have been to both numerous times. He's the "executive" chef.. I don't they generally spend much time in their own restaurants after they're finished setting it up and it's established... but I may be wrong. :)

        Blowfish is pretty good, and it's pretty reasonable. Haven't been there in at least a year though, so I don't know what it's like anymore.

        Oh! And almost forgot.. Lee, which is Susur Lee's downgraded version of Susur (which is now closed down)... I went there a couple of times, but didn't really enjoy it. Others may have had different experiences though...

        1. re: justpete

          I've seen David Lee at both places within the last month.

          1. re: estufarian

            I have seen David twice at Nota Bene in the past couple of months. The food is just as good, and oftentimes even better when he's not even there. So don't rule it out just because he may not be there all the time. His team is very well trained and are very good at what they do. I personally have never had a bad experience in terms of service. They were exceptionally gracious on my last visit (as well as the numerous times before that). The food was a touch off for my tastes last time, just because I like things exceptionally rare, but was very solid when compared with other fine-dining establishments around the city. All in all, I find them to be exceptional in terms of value in the Toronto dining scene and highly recommend them.

            There a bunch of places that come to mind that are a 'notch below' fine dining, so let me know if you are open to those suggestions. They fit comfortably into your budget, but they may not have the nice stemware/sumptuous ambiance you were looking for.

            Cheers and happy eating!

            1. re: BokChoi

              Of course. A "notch below" is certainly fine. What were you thinking?

                1. re: grandgourmand

                  That was definitely one of the ones I had in mind.

                  Another one is Zucca Trattoria for Italian dining. Great pastas - not so much a fan of their more substantial courses (still good though), but the pasta is always solid.


              1. re: BokChoi

                You misunderstood. Splendido is my fav restaurant in the city, and I also enjoy Nota Bene. I was making more of an observation than anything else. :)

                1. re: justpete

                  justpete, no worries. I was just pointing out that he has not abandoned the restos - I see him there about 50% of the times I have visited (and I visit pretty frequently). I just saw him last week during my last meal as well. Great guy, very humble.

                  1. re: BokChoi

                    ha. I was at Nota Bene for lunch again yesterday. No Mr. Lee! :\

        2. re: justpete

          With respect to Nota Bene's affordability - I think it differs drastically depending on whether or not you have beer/cocktails or drink wine with your dinner.

          While the food items are certainly well priced, the wine list is not quite what I would call affordable. When last I saw it, there were only 2 bottles under $50 (both Italian whites) and a very few red wines under $60.

          My other pet peeve from an affordability (and sometimes, sobriety) standpoint is that unless you share with someone at your table, there is no way to order 1 or 2 normal glasses of wine - you must purchase the equivalent of either approx. 1.5 or 3 glasses since the only way to buy the table wine other than in a bottle is in a 200ml carafe. This can significantly bump up the cost of drinks with a meal or in the bar.

          In terms of all-in affordability (including alcohol) I would throw out Niagara Street Cafe for consideration and second Quince and Zucca.

        3. We had a really great meal at Globe Bistro on Saturday night (recommend the crab app, both lamb and duck entrees, excellent "apple pudding"). I think you could do it for $150-ish.

          Also, if you liked Mildred Pierce, you may have read that Mildred's Temple Kitchen is now open, although I haven't visited yet so I can't vouch firsthand.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Rabbit

            I've been to Globe a few times as well. It's not bad. I'd rather spend my money at Nota Bene, however. But both are worth a visit.

          2. No question: Celestin on Mount Pleasant.

            No contest. Period.

            5 Replies
            1. re: Splendid Wine Snob

              I'm a little skeptical of a place with 17, yes, 17 different appetizers. How can they possibly keep all of that fresh?

              I'd go with Nota Bene, as one of the top new restaurants and now top restuarants in Canada first! (Although the service can be horrid)

              1. re: justpete

                You may want to consider that the website is an EXAMPLE of their menu.

                1. re: Splendid Wine Snob

                  Incorrect. I called and asked. They actually do have 17 appetizers on their current menu. Yum!

                  1. re: justpete

                    Yum indeed! 17 happens to be my lucky number. I'll check it out! Thanks you guys! I'm excited!

              2. You should be able to stay around the $150 mark at Frank, the new restaurant at the AGO.

                And as mentioned above, Mildred's Temple Kitchen is now open. We had a meal there (lunch, but the same menu as dinner) during the soft opening before they had their liquor license that included 2 apps, 2 mains, 2 desserts & 2 pops, and it came in at $100 with a good tip. So even with wine, you should be able to stay under $150 easily.

                Grace on College west of Bathurst is another good option. Or Tati Bistro on Harbord.

                2 Replies
                1. Spuntini and Bar Mercurio should both fit, though I never get dessert. I usually get a full bottle of wine, so that should make up for dessert. Great italian places with wonderful service. Despite being above Sotto Sotto, Spuntini has none of the attitude that is typical of Yorkville restaurants. Only problem is that they are fairly popular so it can be crushing on weekends.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: preppycuisine

                    went to spuntini last night and i though the food was pretty average, i'm not sure if it's because it was pretty busy that night. the food took quiet a while to arrive. my friend had the Risotto Pescatore, and the rice was under cook, i had the Gnocchi Quattro Fromaggio, and it felt very dull and heavy. but the service was very nice and friendly.