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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.

                  2. 93 Harbord is good fun, and would definitely fit the price point. Very good service, eager to please.

                    Coquine is also quite good, more of a casual bistro atmosphere, but also very good service.

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: Snarf

                      Le Paradis - 166 Bedford Road,

                      I have been going to this place for years and have never had a bad meal. I cannot say the same for the big tab restaurants. They can be hit or miss.


                      1. re: theresah

                        I'm a big fan of Le Paradis - great value for the money. However, I'd call it simple bistro fare more than I'd call it fine dining. Also, though I haven't had a bad meal there, I've had mediocre ones (in particular, I recall eating a steak that was somewhat tough and not super-flavourful...but the frites were to die for).

                        My vote would go to Quince. It might not fully qualify as "fine dining" but it's close -- great food, great prices for the quality, a nice atmosphere and (usually) very good service.

                        1. re: torontofoodiegirl

                          I have enjoyed Le Paradis too.
                          I have a soft spot for Le Tournesol, Dupont West of Spadina. A good selection Prix Fix ($ 25 - 30) and very decent wines.

                          1. re: AzulH

                            I would also suggest Le Paradis for a good experience. Solid Parisian-style bistro fare. Nothing exciting. But it has the basics. Great prices. Great atmosphere.

                            1. re: AzulH

                              I ditto Le Paradis, even though it may not qualify as "fine dining" under the criteria of this post. The food and service is quite fine in my experience and very good value.

                              1. re: JamieK

                                I love Le Paradis. Not fancy but delicious - and an inexpensive French meal which is fairly unique in our city.

                                I'd also put in a vote for Nota Bene and I love Zucca as well.

                            2. re: torontofoodiegirl

                              I second Quince - the food is good and the vibe is nice and low-key... worth the trek uptown for.

                              I would also put Rosebud and Silver Spoon on my cozy and affordable list.

                        2. Quince on Yonge at Eg. Harbord Room, and I haven't tried Loire yet, but they've def got the chops. And the room is gorgeous.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: likescrab

                            Second Loire. I had a really good meal there their second night, and I can only imagine that they're improving with experience.

                            1. re: likescrab

                              Have now been to Loire twice. Once with husband and once with the rest of the family. Really like it, everyone was pleased. Good, though not extensive menu, which I think is a good thing. Very competent chef and the maitre d'/sommelier makes some excellent wine matches by the glass or bottle.

                              1. re: l_izzie

                                Just posting my update on Loire. Was there last night. Just wondering if the portions have shrunk? Still delicious tastes, but the first courses were microscopic. Service was patchy. Then again it was Saturday night. Would like to report happier things.

                            2. Citizen on Queen east--it's been a few months, though. The focus seemed to be on local food. My friend and I loved it.

                              1. And if you are looking for east end, I have never had a bad meal at Vincent's spot (http://www.chow.com/places/10136) in Scarborough -- if you like duck you can pre-order their special one.

                                Woodbine and Danforth area has Bibiche Bistro, they have decent presentation and portion, good service, great value. (http://www.chow.com/places/7473)

                                I have found some of these smaller neighborhood finds to be better for dates since they are less assuming and tend to be more relaxed.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: smr714

                                  Woodbine & Danforth doesn't have Bibiche for very much longer. It's moving to The Beach. Very close to Vivetha Bistro. Do I smell a new food hub forming? Add The Belgian Chocolate Shop to the trip and, well, there may finally be a reason to dine on Queen East East.

                                  1. re: Googs

                                    If Hugh of Bibiche takes a vacation and gets back in stride, Bibiche will be on the food map of North America. That's what it deserved in its earlier years.

                                    VVM- a customer for more than 20 years.

                                2. Try Vdara on Queen west of Bathurst. It just opened less then a month ago and has a great menu that is very reasonable we had 2 apps, 2 mains, 2 desserts and 6 cocktails for $115. The portions were generous and the flavour was amazing. I posted a review on chow if you want specifics of what we had..

                                  1. I think Forte deserves a place on this list. Here is it's discussion thread for more info:

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: graydyn

                                      Foxley on Ossington provides a pretty spectacular meal (wine in) for around $100 for two. Not sure if it's "fine dining" but it feels like an occasion when we eat there.

                                      1. re: Sarah Cat

                                        Yes! I highly recommend Foxley too. Every dish I had there (think we tried 12 that night) was delicious! Price point was very good. They were small plates and every thing from below $10 to $15. I can only eat 2 to 3 dishes. Another good tapas sharing style restaurant is Madeline's, the new Susur restaurant that replaced the old Susur. The decor is very warm compared to the old restaurant yet very New York chic. The food is even better than Lee.

                                    2. Depends on how cheap and how "fine" You can get a very good and nice meal at Bistro Camino for very little. Chef is Japanese, trained as French chef. A more enjoyable meal than at many of the "fancies" No fooling around, no pretense, cooking well within the kitchen's abilities and the available ingredients= minimal disappointments. Fish recommended especially. Cheap enough that you can go more often. Closed for vacation for another week?

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Vinnie Vidimangi

                                        They're open again! Fish is good, but I highly recommend the beef tongue... mmmmm tender. As everyone else who has commented on this great find, the decor could use an update, but seriously, I'm there for the food and to talk to my SO and friends. Decor is only eye candy and it gets old fast. As Vinnie says, there's no attitude here, just a relaxing atmosphere with very congenial servers. Even the chef comes out to talk to the patrons and get feed back.

                                      2. Just across the street from Splendido is 93 Harbord, which hardly gets mentioned here but it's an elegant room with plates as good as anywhere.