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Favorite Toronto Restaurants?

I'm planning a trip to Toronto in a couple of months, and I'd like to solicit recommendations for my 4-day trip.

I'm extremely open to any cuisine or area. Price range is open, too. I'd like to try one or two upscale restaurants (cap it at around $100 per person) and fill the rest of my time with more casual places (sit-down restaurants, stands, carts, dives, anything goes here). I just want recommendations for GREAT food. And if there's anything quintessentially Toronto, that would be great, too.

I am completely aware of how open my question is, and I welcome any suggestions! No boundaries or limits, just tell me some must-try places!

Thanks!

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    1. re: ChalkBoy

      I will have access to a car. If you think there's a restaurant worth a drive, let me know! Of course, I don't want to spend all 4 days driving all over the place, but I am willing to travel if it sounds good enough.

      1. re: angiebc290

        Where will you be based/spending time? The reason I ask is its a huge city with CH-worthy spots all over the place not just downtown near hotels.

        1. re: ChalkBoy

          Fair point. I'm actually not staying in a touristy area. I'm staying at a family member's house, though I'm not sure where it is. Definitely not downtown.

          I don't know the city at all, but I am completely willing to travel for a great meal. I'm just hoping to bring in any suggestions at all. If it sounds good, I'll do my best to get there.

    2. angiebc290:

      High end: Scaramouche (my personal favourite for a splurge -- delicious, well-executed food with a beautiful view of the city!) http://www.scaramoucherestaurant.com/

      Lai Wah Heen (http://www.metropolitan.com/lwh/) or Grand Chinese Cuisine (http://www.toronto.com/restaurants/li...) for high-end dim sum -- best outside of Hong Kong and BC!

      I love Nota Bene as well (http://notabenerestaurant.com/) for a high-end experience at mid-range prices -- you'll see plentiful reviews of the restaurant on this board.

      Foodie must visits: St. Lawrence Market on a Saturday morning (try the Breakfast on a Bun at Carousel Bakery -- yum!) ; Kensington Market on a weekend afternoon.

      I'll post more if I think of anything... but in any event, enjoy your visit, and the food!

      15 Replies
      1. re: Yum2MyTum

        Great suggestions, thanks! Will definitely have to check out the St. Lawrence Market - I love that kind of thing.

        I really like the idea of Nota Bene, great looking menu and good prices!

        Am I right in thinking that Toronto has a really good Chinatown area? I seem to have that impression, but I may be wrong. I love dim sum!

        1. re: angiebc290

          Go to Spadina for chinatown. Depending on what suburb you are in, there may be other chinatowns closer to you. There are 5 chinatowns, but only one "real" chinatown which is Spadina and Dundas. Also Kensington Market is there, which was suggested above. If you like Dim Sum, you can't beat lai wah heen which was suggested above as well. It is high end. There are better value places on Spadina, but the best dim sum is actually in the chinese area suburbs, especially markham. Many other posts on that. Find out where you are staying.

          1. re: tribe

            Oh, foo. Spadina "Chinatown" is much more Vietnamese these days. Much better food, at much better prices available in Richmond Hill/Markham. Lai Wah Heen is significantly over-rated, IMHO; very expensive, and the food is no better than what you can get in Richmond Hill for 2/3 to 1/2 the price.

            Visit the Danforth for multiple Greek spots, at a variety of price and service levels.

            Second the recommendation for Scaramouche, as it won't be around much longer.

            1. re: KevinB

              Several issues:
              I've found the better Chinese places in Richmond Hill/Markham to be just as expensive as the top places downtown (read Lai Wah Heen). Certainly the 'average' quality in the 'burbs is better - but don't go there to save money..
              And I've yet to have better food there than the BEST at Lai Wah Heen - doesn't mean it doesn't exist - just that I haven't found it.

              You don't mention 'quality' at the Greek places. Because of the price competition I've found Danforth food to have 'dumbed down' - they seem to be competing on price and the food has suffered.

              And what don't I know about Scaramouche? They certainly are expected to be there for the next two years - the proposed refurbishing into condos fell through some time back - apparently there are some housing effects rippling through the economy.

              1. re: estufarian

                Hi estufarian,

                I guess when you write "Chinese" restaurant, you actually mean "Cantonese" ? If I want Szechuan food (which is also one kind of Chinese food), I won't go to Lai Wah Heen. It really depends on what you want to eat when it goes down to Chinese food.

                Also, just some other examples,
                - if one wants some shark fin or the double-boiled soup and do not want to pay the premium, you go to those good one in RH/Markham, it is significantly cheaper and they are also good.

                - if one wants to eat Lobster, go to Omei or Ngau Kee,etc, it is significantly cheaper than Lai Wah Heen, and quality probably even better or at par.

                - if one wants to eat BBQ, go to John's BBQ, it beats LWH hands down.

                But I agree if you want to just order 4 ordinary dishes (either meat, seafood, veggie) to be share among 4 people and order plain rice to go with it, it may end up around the same price as LWH or even less. Really depends on what you order, but the chance is it will be more expensive.

                The menu selection of a chinese restaurant (either it is cantonese, Shanghai, Sichuan...) are usually hugh with a big price range. Anyway, Lai Wah Heen is the most expensive chinese restaurant in GTA area and I think it is one of the best.

                1. re: skylineR33

                  Yeah, for me, at least when it comes to foie, the end justifies the means. Shark fin soup, not so much. It's such an accepted delicacy in chinese cuisine, though, that nobody questions whether it's actually any good or not.

                  Speaking of shark fin soup, what would your number one pick in RH/Markham for northern chinese food be? I'll be going next weekend and I'm on a real northern chinese kick.

                  1. re: redearth

                    For northern chinese food, I suppose you are looking for food from north of Canton (Cantonese cuisine), the most popular in Toronto are Szechuan, Shanghai. Many restaurants provide a combination of these kinds of chinese cuisine in Toronto. In Richmond Hill, I like going to Chili Secret (North of Hwy 7 on Leslie), Good Taste (自家人) in Commerce Gate and Chung King (outside Market Village).

                  2. re: skylineR33

                    Fair enough - I was a bit sloppy - essentially I was referring to the places/cuisines already mentioned in this specific sub-thread (which are mostly Cantonese - with some outlying dishes). I pretty much agree with your examples (although haven't eaten at all the places you mention). And my palate leans more towards spicy cuisines anyway - but I didn't want to stray too far from other items in the thread.
                    The best 'ever' dim sum I've had in Toronto was actually at the Metropolitan Soho - but it was a 'guest appearance' by the chefs from Lai Wah Heen. And the finest meal I had at Lai Wah Heen was prepared by Patrick Lin - who is the chef at Senses!
                    But, for a visitor to Toronto, who doesn't have unlimited time - I don't think you can go 'wrong' with Lai Wah Heen, especially for dim sum.. I've taken several 'Americans' there and all have been impressed. There may indeed be better (there always is) but it's a safe choice for most things (except the wine list!).

                    1. re: estufarian

                      For your best 'ever' dim sum in Toronto, when was that ? Was it sometime late last year ?

                      1. re: skylineR33

                        It was when Metropolitan hosted the James Beard Dinner a few years back. It was held at Soho, but on the Sunday the chefs from City Hall came over and did a demonstration and served 'brunch'.

            2. re: angiebc290

              I would personally recommend Hua Sang Seafood restaurant on Baldwin St.....one of my favourites and I travel an hour from Toronto suburb to go there to me it is just that good.

            3. re: Yum2MyTum

              some of my favorites that can be done under $100pp:
              nota bene- queen & university
              starfish -the best oysters/seafood on adelaide east
              george (if you order carefully)-queen east
              colbourne lane

              1. re: Yum2MyTum

                yum2mytum or anyone else, how does pearl (harbourfront) compare to lai wah heen? because of time, i sadly was not able to make it to lai wah heen, as intended, but i did do a quick dim sum meal at pearl, which was very close to where i stayed.

                we had a few unusual (to me) dim sum items like a taro pastry with curried meat on the inside, topped with a slice of scallop (a little greasy, but the flavor was great). we also had: daikon radish cake speckled with those tiny dried shrimps and chinese sausage, sweet "pumpkin cake" (pumpkin flavored glutinous rice cake with sweet red bean paste on the inside), roast pork bun (filling made with good quality meat, bun part not too thick), pork and shrimp crystal dumplings, shrimp cheung fun, green beans with black bean sauce, deep fried tofu, probably some other dishes i'm forgetting.

                most dishes were good. i thought the wrappers for the crystal dumplings and the cheung fun could've been thinner and more delicate, but all the food was enjoyable. flavors were clear and fresh for the most part. the shrimp in cheung fun had been previously frozen, but that is probably the case at almost every dim sum place i've eaten at in n. america.

                1. re: cimui

                  Hi cimui. I'm no expert, by any means, but I'd describe Pearl as a solid bistro and Lai Wah Heen as a fine dining experience. Pearl does what it does well, and has a few innovative dishes to complement the classics; Lai Wah Heen is a top end restaurant: better ingredients, better execution and better presentation. More attention to detail overall, and more expensive. LWH would not use frozen shrimp in their cheung fun, I would think.

                  Next time you make it to Toronto, do try out LWH, or Grand Chinese Cuisine on the west border of Toronto if you have time.

                  I'm glad you at least seemed to enjoy Pearl!

              2. Globe Bistro. Not Greek but it's at the edge of our Greektown. Right at the Broadview subway station. They've got a fabulous lunch deal going on right now, about $20 for cassoulet or moules frites, including a wine pairing! Haven't tried yet but planning to go.
                http://www.globebistro.com

                Map at the link below

                -----
                Globe
                124 Danforth Avenue, Toronto, ON M4K1N1, CA

                1 Reply
                1. re: JamieK

                  The Globe special is also evenings, in the front wine lounge only. Sweet deal.

                2. What region are you coming FROM? I ask because Toronto has many kinds of ethnic cuisine that are well represented, and if you cannot get one of these on your home turf then it's worth checking out while you're here. People on this board can recommend really good examples of places to try food representative of Chinese (especially Hong Kong), Ethiopian, Portuguese, and Polish to give some examples. In fact, if I were to say anything were 'quintessentially Toronto' about the food, it woudl be the tremendous diversity.

                  11 Replies
                  1. re: thought_for_food

                    Looking at the OP's profile, looks like NYC - Manhattan.

                    1. re: JamieK

                      Hmmm...in that case, I'm not sure Toronto has much unusual to offer. Except perhaps the price?

                      1. re: thought_for_food

                        Wasn't suggesting Globe Bistro just because of the well-priced lunch special. The food/service there always good, so a special lunch is a bonus. The OP asked for favourite restaurants, with no limit to cuisine or price range, didn't see anything about "unusual". Depending on the weather, also a way to see another part of the city if they choose to wander around the neighbourhood.

                        1. re: JamieK

                          I live in New York, so in terms of variety, I've got access to just about anything. I am really just looking for any suggestions from fancy to dirt cheap. Just want good food! So far, I've seen some great recs and really look forward to reading more.

                          Another question, though: would the Toronto Star be a good place to do some research? I don't know what locals would rely for restaurant/food searches.

                          1. re: angiebc290

                            For researching the Toronto food scene -

                            - Corey Mintz is the food critic at the Toronto Star and I really like his writing.
                            - James Chatto of Toronto Life is also a great Toronto food writer. You can find extensive restaurant reviews at www.torontolife.com.
                            - Now Toronto is a weekly entertainment rag that does a pretty good job at restaurant reviewing - www.nowtoronto.com
                            And two more local sites:
                            www.martiniboys.com and www.tasteto.com

                            1. re: Rabbit

                              Add to that Gina Mallet who writes for the National Post: http://blog.ginamallet.com/

                              And Joanne Kates, arguably Toronto's best food critic, writes for the Globe and Mail: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/f...

                              1. re: Rabbit

                                I had thought that Mr. Chatto had moved on from TL. I agree he is a good writer.

                                1. re: Snarf

                                  I heard that too , Snarf... but his writing keeps popping up in TL, so I dunno.

                                  1. re: Rabbit

                                    Thanks for this - I'll have plenty to read up on before my trip!

                              2. re: angiebc290

                                Don't try Toronto pizza; it's a far cry from what you get in NYC. But our Chinese food is waaaay better, as my Chinese brother-in-law from Long Island would attest.

                                Avoid Toronto outposts of US chains, especially Morton's/Ruth's Chris. Very overpriced, and native Toronto institutions like Barberians and Carmen's offer a better value.

                                And one other street people haven't mentioned is Baldwin Street - lots of different options on one little street, which is easy walking distance from the Royal Ontario Museum or the Art Gallery of Ontario, if you want to imbibe a little culture with your meal.

                                1. re: KevinB

                                  Careful with Baldwin Street, though... there are some fantastic restaurants, and some definite misses, and it can be easy to pick erroneously. I'd highly recommend Matahari Grill, although it's not really upscale (just midscale but excellent Malaysian food). Apart from that, I find there's fairly good Indian and Japanese, but not much else.

                      2. The Prague (www.theprague.ca) I highly recommend the Svickova or Beef in Sauerbraten sauce (roast beef slices, covered with vegetable cream sauce and cranberry compote with a side of bread dumplings) all for around $15 incl. tax and tip.

                        1. Given the availability of great food in Manhattan, I can only think of a couple of cuisines that we do better. Portuguese and High-end Asian (Chinese in particular).
                          The 'best' (high prices) around Toronto centre are Lai Wah Heen (in the Metropolitan Hotel - their Dim Sum is expensive, but good) and Chiado for Portuguese - especially the more modern/creative dishes. We also have suburban high-end Chinese - but that's not in my regular dining area.
                          With respect to most of the suggestions already, these are mostly good 'neighbourhood' places, rather than 'destinations'. Decent (sometimes excellent) food at fair prices, but you'll find just as good - even better, back home.
                          St Lawrence market is pretty good - but again, you'll not likely find anything you can't get in New York (except the peameal sandwich).
                          It might be worth narrowing the search by both area and cuisine.

                          17 Replies
                          1. re: estufarian

                            With this in mind...

                            CHEAP
                            Manpuku. Good, homestyle Japanese fast food. And no, not like teriyaki burgers and crap like that. Japanese curries, Udon bowls, Takoyaki, etc. And I think the most expensive dish is $9 for a mammoth sized bowl. I know New York has Minka, Ippudo, and so on, but this is pretty different.

                            Caplansky's - try a Toronto/Montreal smoked meat sandwich. It's a tad bit different than New York delis.

                            Lahore Tikka (or any East Indian restaurant in Little India) - I don't know where you live in New York, but I don't exactly relish the idea of traveling to Queens to eat good, authentic Indian food. Thing is with Toronto, we have a large Indian population which results in a glut of good, Pakistani, East Indian or Sri Lankan food (South Dosa Mahal on Bloor) peppered around the city.

                            California Sandwich (if you are in the mood for a dirty, heavy, but oh-so-delicious Italian Veal Sandwich during your days here). Again, I'm sure this exists back in New York, but hey if you are in the mood for it, why not.

                            Pho (Golden Turtle, Pho Asia 21, etc.). Pho is something I find kinda lacking in New York. Or maybe not. Maybe it's just that I don't really like hanging in and around Doyer trying to find Pho when I'm in New York. But in any case, there's a laundry list of good to great Pho spots in Toronto.

                            Smokes Poutinery - it's nowhere close to being as good as anything from Quebec, but trust me, if you've ever been to Pomme Frites in the East Vil, it's 100 times better.

                            MID/HIGH END
                            JKWB (Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar). He's to Toronto like what David Chang is to New York. Not in the style of food, or the demeanor, but in the sense that said chefs are their respective city's media darlings and the current talk of the town. They're also similar in that a handful of Torontonians love to ride Jamie Kennedy just like a lot of New Yorkers like to call Chang an asshole. Worth trying out.

                            Cafe Du Lac - This is all the way out in Mimico (distance wise, this would be like going from the East Vil to Bushwick - but minus the sketchiness of Bushwick) but is a good take on French Canadian fare. I think if you have a car, it could be worth the drive as this type of food is seldom available outside of Canada...errr Quebec.

                            Chiado - I don't think this type of restaurant exists at all in New York. I'd definitely hit it up.

                            HIPSTER EATS
                            Odd Fellows - Food is good, it's cheap, atmosphere is nice, and you'll be surrounded by the Queen St. locals (which in your terms I guess would be the equivalent of the Williamsburg locals).

                            Delux - Man I love this place. Cubano Sandwich is a must. Price is right. Atmosphere is great. And to boot, you can finish it off with milk and cookies.

                            COFFEE

                            Hanks Cafe - right next to JKWB. Best coffee in town if Sam James is pulling shots. No exaggeration here. He literally is the best barrista this side of the Great Lakes. If you like Grumpy, Gimmee or 9th Street Espresso, then trust me, this will blow your mind.

                            There's also Lit, Crema, Cherry Bomb, Mercury and so forth if you are into good coffee.

                            1. re: goodcookiedrift

                              Nice selection! Definitely enjoy the java experience at Hank's. My pain au chocolat reviewing team also puts theirs on the shortlist for best in the city.

                              1. re: goodcookiedrift

                                Intrigued by Jamie Kennedy - I've actually heard of him but know very little. I am one who would call David Chang an asshole, but his food is oh so delicious. I'm not one to judge food based on the chef's personality.

                                A lot of great recommendations in this post - thanks!

                                1. re: angiebc290

                                  If you want to get more of a flavour of JK, Gilead Cafe shows much of what he's up to, or the Wine Bar next to Hank's. Gilead is also the catering kitchen, and has a broad light menu, as well as many of the prepared foods. The wine bar is the state of the art, and a nice place to have some light dishes.

                                  As far as personality goes, I've never had a conversation with him, but can pass on that he is generally thought of as more of a low-key encourager than high-ego evangelist. Often the guy who lends his name and efforts to good causes, and sweats at the local organic markets and events to support that cause. Would probably tower over Ramsay while confusing him with calmness.

                                  1. re: Snarf

                                    I'm definitely putting JK high on my list. I checked out the Wine Bar menu on his website, but I can't find anything on Gilead. It seems to be a fairly new place?

                                    1. re: angiebc290

                                      Here's the link to Gilead -
                                      http://www.gileadcafe.ca/21CB4F07-38E...

                                      JamieK
                                      (not the chef

                                      )

                                      -----
                                      Gilead - duplicate
                                      4 Gilead Pl, Toronto, ON M5A, CA

                                  2. re: angiebc290

                                    Chang is the real deal... JK is a pretender, but he does operate one of the best casual restaurants in the city (although highly variable due to massive staff turnover). If you strip Chang of his creativity completely, hire $12/hr cooks and use ingredients that are roughly the same quality... you get JKWB. Still, due to limited options... you should eat there because its better than almost everywhere else.

                                  3. re: goodcookiedrift

                                    I definitely second a visit to one of Jamie Kennedy's restaurants. Every lunch I've had at the Gardner has been nothing short of fantastic.

                                    I do have to disagree respectfully with the recommendation of Lahore Tikka or any Little India restaurant for that matter: I find that while there's nothing particularly wrong with any of them, they don't do much right, either: cheaply prepared food lacking any depth of flavour. In fact, I would say that while there is much better Indian in Toronto, I'm of the opinion that good Indian food is hard to find in Toronto and I certainly wouldn't blow a meal opportunity eating that type of cuisine on a visit to the city when there are other far better restaurants. For example, I've found Toronto does Ethiopian very well if you're looking for cheap eats: indeed, coming from Ottawa, I did not care for Ethiopian food (despite the fact that I *so* very much wanted to like it) until I came to Toronto and decided to once again give it a try.

                                    1. re: vorpal

                                      There are a handful of Ethiopian restaurants in New York that are just as good if not better than the stuff here. But again, if I was a New Yorker visiting, I'd definitely try it.

                                      Also, if you have ever had Indian food in New York (Manhattan area) you'll know that it's absolute garbage. Even our worse Indian joints are leagues beyond what New York has to offer (outside of Queens). Okay that could be a bit of an exaggeration but you get my point.

                                      1. re: vorpal

                                        Sorry, Vorpal, but have you tried 786 in Little India? Because the food there is fantastic.

                                    2. re: estufarian

                                      Speaking of high end Chinese, what is the general consensus on Susur Lee? He's gotten quite a bit of buzz since opening his restaurant in New York, but it seems off to a shaky start. From what I've read, though, people seem to LOVE his restaurants in Toronto. Would one of his restaurants be worth a visit?

                                      1. re: angiebc290

                                        Susur Lee's food is not chinese food, it is high end asian influenced western food at his flagship restaurant 'Susur' (which is now closed), I had some fantastic dish there. The other one 'Lee' (which is still around) is a more economical asian influenced restaurant, but I had some of the worst and roughest tofu there from my memory.

                                        Madeline, which is now at the old Susur's location, is not even asian influences. The chef there was Susur's sous chef before, I like the food and atmosphere there but the food is not memorable for me.

                                        1. re: skylineR33

                                          Skyline is 'mostly' right. Certainly it's not "Chinese". I've had good meals at both Lee and Madeleine - but both are now doing 'small plates for sharing'. The Asian influence is now subdued. But you'll probably find both more interesting than ANY of the Italian places mentioned. However good they are - they pale in comparison to what's available in New York (at every level).

                                          1. re: estufarian

                                            Not sure what you mean, Madeline is for sure not Asian influence, but do you think Lee is also not quite asian influenced ? I am seeing words like "Thai", "Tempura", "Singapore", "Beijing", "tamarind sauce, "satay" on Lee's on-line menu with the Singaporean style slaw as their signature dish. I have not been there for a while as I really find the food not that interesting. But it is quite Asian influenced to me eventhough it may not be done right.

                                            By the way, on special occasion like the past Valentine's day, Madeline offers only multi courses set dinner, but on a regular day, it is small plates for sharing.

                                        2. re: angiebc290

                                          There was a recent article in Toronto Life about the still early days of Susur Lee's NY restaurant. I'm too lazy too get off the couch to quote it but it did describe it as high end Chinese, an approach that is different from what he did in Toronto. Susur (the restaurant) was considered THE best in TO by many. His two remaining restaurants in TO (Madeline, Lee) are less ambitious, but certainly worth a visit. I'd keep a close eye on his NY place, thats his baby right now.

                                          1. re: haggisdragon

                                            I think we are all talking about Susur's restauruants in Toronto, not the one in NYC. BTW I read that one of the signature dish at Shang (Susur's restaurant in NYC) is the Singaporean style slaw. Singaporean is not Chinese.

                                            1. re: haggisdragon

                                              I may keep Lee on my list of possible places, it still sounds interesting to me. From what I've read on Shang in NYC, there are some really high highs, but there are also a few lows. Hopefully, this all gets ironed out over time. I think it would be worth a visit if the consistency of dishes improves.

                                              Too bad that Susur is closed, I would've loved to try that!

                                        3. While in T.O. gotta check out Terroni, food is authentic Southern Italian and really exceptional. Thin crust pizzas, homemade pastas, delicious salads. Been around for along time and still packs em in every night. three location in T.O one in L.A. . www.terroni.ca. I've been eating there for 13yrs always had amazing food every time, not often I can say that about any restaurant. Atmosphere is loud with lots of energy, cool vibe. Decor is ecletic.

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: EM2

                                            I have no idea why people keep recommending Terroni when Pizzeria Libretto is around. Libretto wins hands down on service (not that it's hard to beat Terroni on this score). The first time I went to Terroni (Queen W location), there was an inexplicable 10-15 minute wait (despite several empty tables in evidence, and we were only a pair), and it took quite a while for our server to show up. A couple next to us, meanwhile, had ordered a full three-course meal and was so unhappy that one partner wanted to leave. My other experience, on a weeknight at the Adelaide location, was better service-wise but was nevertheless average at best. Libretto also has a more affordable wine list, and I like their pies better. The only thing that could be said for Terroni is that they have pasta while Libretto doesn't, but a friend of a friend ordered some and complained that the portion was a bit small...

                                            1. re: morefoodplz

                                              I have no idea why someone would recommend either to someone who lives in NY?

                                              1. re: tjr

                                                While I rather enjoy Terroni, you're quite right that it doesn't really have a place in this thread.

                                          2. Yeah, skip Terroni. While their pizza is one of Toronto's best, it certainly can't compete with NYC's best pies. You're better off going for ethnic cuisine that NYC is not known for, but Toronto is, such as Chinese (Lai Wah Heen, Asian Legend, Northern Dumpling Kitchen, Yang's, etc., etc.), Vietnamese (Pho Linh or, if you'd prefer to be in Chinatown, Pho Hung, Xe Lua, or Pho Pasteur), Ethiopian (Dukem or Nazareth), Portuguese (Chiado), or Tibetan (Tibet Kitchen)...

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: redearth

                                              So, judging from everyone's comments, it seems Chinese is a definite must - whether high end or not.

                                              I've had Ethiopian at one restaurant in New York. It was good (maybe even very good), but they had some issues with keeping the food hot both times that I was there. I definitely liked the flavors, though, so maybe I will try that in Toronto.

                                              1. re: angiebc290

                                                Here is Blog TO's list of the best Ethiopian restaurants in Toronto, but keep in mind that these are voted on by the readers, so I'd take all the reviews with a grain of salt (Ethiopian House, for example, would definitely not be my number one pick...):

                                                http://www.blogto.com/toronto/the_bes...

                                            2. If you don't mind travelling a bit for a high end restaurant, I will recommend Sushi Kaji as I had one of the most memorable and delightful meals there recently. It doesn't look like much from the outside, but don't let that throw you off.

                                              -----
                                              Sushi Kaji
                                              860 The Queensway, Toronto, ON M8Z1N7, CA

                                              25 Replies
                                              1. re: Pincus

                                                Second Sushi Kaji - sit at the sushi bar and be entertained by chef Mitsuhiro Kaji's antics while he serves you Toronto's best sushi and other delightful morsels from their kitchen!

                                                1. re: redearth

                                                  a "famous" blogger chuckeats put Kaji up there with Urusawa and Yasuda for omakase which I found amazing. Makes me wanna go Kaji even more!!!

                                                  1. re: CoffeeAddict416

                                                    Sushi Kaji looks amazing. It looks like a tasting menu only place, right?

                                                    1. re: angiebc290

                                                      That's correct. There is no a la carte menu. You can get either the chef's $80, $100, or $120 tasting menu, with saké pairings to match, as well, if you so choose. You should also know that Kaji is about a 10 - 15 minute drive from downtown and it's situated in a rather bleak area (unlike the downtown there's not a lot of foot traffic in Kaji's neighbourhood, particularly at night). Kaji's really the only reason to visit the area, unless you need to go to Costco for some reason. ;)

                                                          1. re: redearth

                                                            All my serious foodie NYC friends ask me to bring them to cantonese restaurant in Richmond Hill/Markham whenever they visit Toronto such as Omei, none ever ask me to bring them to any Japanese restaurant whatsoever. However, they are not "famous" blogger though, oh well.

                                                            1. re: skylineR33

                                                              Personally, I don't think chuck (the blogger) has a good palate for Japanese food (or understands it in general), but that is just my opinion. I would definitely take anyone coming to Toronto for Chinese, as that is what Toronto does well. For a city like NYC, pretty much everything else is easily eclipsed, but our Chinese is far better than the fare in NYC.

                                                              Kaji is great... for Toronto, and Canada in general. Coming from NYC though, I doubt it would be that impressive. Splendido, while a good restaurant for Toronto, would not, I feel, impress for someone from NYC. The only thing I can think of (with friends from NYC who come to Toronto and generally want to go for Chinese) is Chinese, in Markham/Richmond Hill. Charles_Yu's posts will lead you in the right direction!

                                                              1. re: tjr

                                                                I think Kaji has a lot of places in NYC beat for value in general. Maybe not for quality but for sheer volume of food, you get a lot for $80-$120. Thing is that the quality is not that far off from other comparable japanese restaurants in NY. Also, if you do end up going, they're not going to serve you 2nd grade versions of the same thing you can get at 15 East or Yasuda, or for cooked dishes Sugiyama. You will most likely try something new and different there.

                                                                Bottom line is this, I would definitely go for Chinese no questions asked but you have 3 more nights here after that and where you to go to Kaji I think you would have a nice experience.

                                                                1. re: Notorious P.I.G.

                                                                  The value is there, but I don't think Kaji always gets the best product due to being in Toronto (and the complications of being in Toronto vs. NYC which we all know).

                                                                  Don't get me wrong, I love Kaji, and am there pretty often. It's by far my favourite Japanese restaurant in the GTA. I think Yasuda is better than Kaji though.

                                                                  1. re: tjr

                                                                    Definitely, a point that's been beaten to death.

                                                                    That said, I have had inconsistent sushi at both places. Yasuda is obviously still fresher with a wider selection but I've definitely had sushi that wasn't as fresh as Kaji at Yasuda in the past. Yasuda doesn't go to the same degree with cooked dishes though, which plays almost an even bigger role at Kaji. You get a good assortment of cooked dishes and Sushi.

                                                                    I would even go as far as to say that I enjoy the cooked dishes as much as the sushi or even more so.

                                                                    1. re: Notorious P.I.G.

                                                                      I think I'll keep Kaji on my list in case I start craving sushi while I'm there.

                                                                      I actually don't eat much sushi in New York mainly because I feel like it generally costs too much to get the really good stuff. But Kajii seems to be a pretty good value for what sounds like high quality stuff. And, at the moment, the US dollar is worth SLIGHTLY more than the Canadian dollar...

                                                                      1. re: Notorious P.I.G.

                                                                        Yeah, for sure. I think the cooked dishes thing might be why I rank Yasuda higher (not a lot higher, but the times I've been to Yasuda -- only three times, compared to the 10 or so times I've been to Kaji just this year alone -- I found there to be more variety and mostly very good quality.

                                                                        I've had some not-so-great cooked dishes at Kaji. Not often, but at times. In general they are very good, but it's easier to get a dish that doesn't work quite so well than it is to bad sushi (like something being overcooked, or a sauce not working well, etc.). It might be because some of the items are risky, and therefore not as likely to please everyone (sort of like Pierre Gagnaire). When the cooked dishes are great, they can definitely be as good as the sushi. What I love about Kaji is that there is a lot of creativity that you don't find at Yasuda, and it pays off most of the time.

                                                                        Not to discourage anyone from Kaji, because the food is incredible; it's easily one of my favourite restaurants in Toronto.

                                                                          1. re: Notorious P.I.G.

                                                                            I feel like often when someone says they're visiting from NYC (or certain XYZ city), there is a sort of mentality that kicks in that quashes a bunch of valid suggestions because "NYC does it better", or "you can find that in NYC". Well sure, you can find pretty much anything you like there, but sometimes people are just soliciting suggestions for good picks in general (admittedly, may be with a slant towards, but not restricted to, unique or interesting choices), as opposed to, "only give me ideas for something I can't find in NYC!" There is a qualitative difference there. And since, for example, the OP has time to check out a fair number of restaurants and Kaji is arguably the best place in town, it's a pretty reasonable choice.

                                                                            Having said all that, quintessential Torontontonian choices would include:

                                                                            Toronto hot dog: Sausage in a bun on the street corners

                                                                            Jamaican/Caribbean: Albert’s at St. Clair & Bathurst is an institution (and get a skewer of anticuchos at El Fogon across the street). OXTAIL/curry goat/jerk chicken/roti.

                                                                            Portuguese: from high-end Chiado to bakeries with the wonderful Portuguese tarts and other treats

                                                                            Chinese in Richmond Hill: consensus is O’Mei for the lobster 4 ways when you have a sufficiently sized group. Yang’s is also a recent favourite (both dinner and dim sum). Rum & cream giant crab at Ngau Kee, First Markham Place. Shanghainese at Ding Tai Fung or Northern Kitchen.

                                                                            Shawarma/falafel: choices all around. Banu at Queen St. W. for more upscale Persian and the hookah. http://www.blogto.com/restaurants/banu

                                                                            Neighbourhoods: I usually take visitors to interesting neighbourhoods as opposed to specific locales which may not give a sense of space, e.g.:

                                                                            Leaside, roughly (the stretches of Bayview and Mt. Pleasant south of Eglinton) A cluster of patisseries: Rahier, La Cicogne, Jules, Celestin. Cumbrae’s (top butcher). Alex Farm for cheese. Bagel House. The best gelato in town at il Gelatiere, plus Hollywood Gelato. Churrasco Villa (piri-piri chicken, beef ribs, sardines). Flaky Tart (pumpkin pies and butter tarts, the latter not my thing there). The Culinarium for Ontario-centric foodstuffs.

                                                                            St. Lawrence Market for sure. Distillery District is also in the area, as is Weezie's for the luxe mac'n'cheese.

                                                                            Little Italy (College & Bathurst): Caplansky’s for our distinctive version of smoked meat. The Fish Store for a ready-grilled seafood sandwich. Head up a block north and you have Harbord Room, 93 Harbord (Middle East), or Splendido. Another block up to Bloor and there’s all kinds – Mt. Everest for Nepalese, Greg’s for roasted marshmallow ice cream, and Koreatown as you walk west.

                                                                            Pacific Mall - http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/568605, and a rec for Singaporean in a recent thread: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/583819 . There's not too much selection for Southeast Asian around here, unfortunately.

                                                                            Great writeup on a visit: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/502682

                                                                            Angie: Can you find out from your relatives the area you’ll be staying in? It’d help in picking out more specific places close to you. As for Black Hoof, it’s open till late, so make it a nightcap!

                                                                            1. re: Chester Eleganté

                                                                              Good list.

                                                                              I'll second Banu for their offal offerings that aren't common in most Persian restaurants and the replacement of rice with lavash in accompanying kabobs. Love it when the juices of the meat soak into the bread.

                                                                              Shawarma in Toronto I wouldn't recommend at all.

                                                                              1. re: Chester Eleganté

                                                                                Thanks for the many great suggestions. Chiado is looking more and more likely to become a stop on my trip.

                                                                                Good tip on the "hot dog." I'm a big fan of street food. I'll be on the lookout for that. Like I said, not everything I eat has to be an upscale or "destination" place. I'm just as happy in dumpy little holes in the wall!

                                                                                For the record, I don't think New York does it better. I think every major city has restaurants that are equal to New York's best. The thing with New York is that there's SO MANY places in such a small area, which makes finding the right place a bit easier. But overall, I don't think New York has better food than any other city.

                                                                                Unless we're talking about Babbo. :)

                                                                                1. re: angiebc290

                                                                                  While you (still) can't get a decent poutine in Toronto, you could have the one at Caplansky's, try Smoke's (though will probably be disappointed), or go to Bymark for the lobster "poutine."

                                                                                  1. re: angiebc290

                                                                                    " I think every major city has restaurants that are equal to New York's best"

                                                                                    What is the equivalent of Per Se in Toronto ? I would like to find out, or Ippudo in Toronto ?

                                                                                    1. re: skylineR33

                                                                                      Well, I don't know Toronto, but I can think of places in the US that are certainly more exciting than Per Se. French Laundry and Alinea come to mind.

                                                                                      As for Ippudo, I wouldn't say that is the best that New York has to offer.

                                                                                      1. re: angiebc290

                                                                                        I am not asking about other places in US or what is the best in US, I know there are better restaurants in other city or other country, ... But then why do you say every major city has restaurants that are equal to New York's best if you are not familiar with Toronto ?

                                                                                        1. re: angiebc290

                                                                                          We in Toronto enjoy self-deprecating discussions about how we're not as good as other cities. I attribute that to 42 years without a Stanley Cup.

                                                                                          1. re: Snarf

                                                                                            Hey, Snarf, we're 6-1-3 in our last 10 and finally at our usual .500 for the season. We've made it in with this little before. Self-deprecating, yes, but ever hopeful we may reach the top.

                                                                2. re: CoffeeAddict416

                                                                  Absolutely incorrect. I've taken Chuck to Kaji twice and although it was decent the first time (2006?), it was mediocre at best the second (2008). To say Kaji, although the best in Toronto, is in the same league as Urasawa is fallacy. On a near perfect day, Kaji can compete with Yasuda on an average day.

                                                                  I eat at Kaji on a semi-regular basis, but even Kaji will tell you he is 2nd-4th tier in the grand scheme. To Kaji's credit, he does offer the best fish in the city and what you get for the money is quite reasonable. He has told me many times that there aren't enough people in the city that will pay for the good stuff, so he makes do with what fits within his budget. I agree, if he was serving Masa-quality ingredients, his food cost would exceed what he was charging.

                                                                  Kaji has his niche, and that is to provide the best Japanese food in Toronto... which he does, consistently.

                                                                  More on topic and Kaji related... Kaji's favorite restaurants in the city are Scaramouche and Lai Wah Heen, FWIW. I don't find Scaramouche too exciting, but LWH does have some of the best dim sum outside of HK/China and I think we should point to our strengths, rather than send him/her to Toronto's strengths.

                                                                3. re: redearth

                                                                  went to kaji a couple of months ago, and all the posts and reviews about the food are as accurate as they come. the food is beautifully prepared and delicious. the "antics" of kaji-san are a little questionable in fact. my gf and i sat at the sushi bar along, and kaji-san is a bit of a "sukebe" with young non-japanese women.

                                                              2. I loved Black Hoof, Toronto's #1 charcuterie hotspot. Get yourself a bottle of Cava and share a few plates. Drool, can I come?

                                                                4 Replies
                                                                1. re: haggisdragon

                                                                  Does Black Hoof have a website? I quickly googled and didn't see one.

                                                                  1. re: grandgourmand

                                                                    I don't believe so, but the chef at the Black Hoof has a fantastically readable blog:

                                                                    http://charcuteriesundays.blogspot.com/

                                                                  2. re: haggisdragon

                                                                    I found a review of Black Hoof by Corey Mintz that makes it sound like heaven. And he gives a price of $85 for dinner for two - is that accurate? It sounds like an incredible deal.

                                                                    The review makes it seem like they don't serve lunch, though, so now Black Hoof is fighting for one my dinners on a 4 day trip...this is going to be tough.

                                                                    1. re: angiebc290

                                                                      If you're into charcuterie, then I would consider "The Hoof" (as it's known) a must try. Grant is doing great things with animal bits, and Jen, who's behind the bar, is a very gracious hostess and a highly skilled mixologist. The place is tiny, very casual, and my new favorite restaurant.

                                                                  3. angiebc290:
                                                                    For Chinese without controversy -- high end dim sum in the downtown core is achievable and your easiest bet: Lai Wah Heen, which I've already recommended as have a few others.
                                                                    I've only had the most positive experiences with any of Susur's restaurants. He's an extraordinary talent and I think there are some illegitimate reasons why he has so many vociferous detractors. I would say try out Lee -- it's fun, it's different, it's very Toronto. And it's not a huge investment, cash-wise.

                                                                    13 Replies
                                                                    1. re: Yum2MyTum

                                                                      Yes, Lai Wah Heen has made it onto my "definitely" list.

                                                                      To be honest, I generally avoid Manhattan's Chinatown because the quality of food really isn't that spectacular, and it's way too crowded. I'm sometimes go out to Flushing in Queens which has so much better to offer. In any case, I'm really looking forward to some scrumptious Chinese food in Toronto.

                                                                      1. re: angiebc290

                                                                        I've only been to Manhattan's Chinatown once, but it reminds of the one we have here on Spadina. As in, ok but not great. The better ones are in the suburbs.

                                                                        1. re: angiebc290

                                                                          Honestly, don't be misled by all the positive notes for Lai Wah Heen; most of those are made by downtown Toronto snobs who feel that travelling north of the 401 Highway is like Manhattanites travelling to Jersey. The suburbs have many more 1) wealthy and 2) cosmopolitan Chinese, who like to eat. O-Mei beats LWH hands down, on innovative food, quality of food, and price. Ambassador, a block away from O-Mei, offers elegant surroundings, excellent seafood, and again, better value. For example, 2-course Peking Duck at LWH is $52; same dish at Ambassador is $39, and just as good. Kung Pao chicken at LWH is $18; at O-Mei, it's $9.50. A simple dim sum dish like Har Gaw (shrimp dumplings) is $6 for 4 pieces at LWH; at O-Mei, you get 6 pieces for $4. At LWH, you pay through the nose for the expensive real estate and, admittedly, more upscale surroundings than most downtown Chinese spots offer. In the 'burbs, you get the same nice surroundings and service at significantly lower prices. Search this board for reports from people like Charles Yu, or Skyline - they'll give you much more detailed reports which will only reinforce this post.

                                                                          1. re: KevinB

                                                                            The food at Omei is very good, however I do not agree it beats LWH. It is two different price level restaurant. LWH is a more high end chinese (actually Cantonese) restaurant in Toronto, actually it is the most expensive chinese restaurant in Toronto where one can have a $300 meal before tax and tip there.

                                                                            I found the food at LWH more innovative especially with its dim sum. The dim sum at Omei is not at the same level as LWH, LWH has much better dim sum (as in Toronto standard), however a dim sum meal at LWH is easily more than double of what you pay at Omei, so one may not found it worthswhile.

                                                                            You are right on the price point. LWH is much more expensive with hotel level service and setting whereas Omei has a standard cantonese seafood restaurant setting. So a portion of what you pay go to service and setting, this is the same as in other high end restaurant.

                                                                            Omei serves a more simple traditional approach cantonese dishes compared to LWH's newer interpretation of cantonese cuisine. I have had good and bad dishes at both places. Quality at LWH can be better with a price to match especially with its dried stock dishes in shark fin, abalone, etc... Admittedly not everyone appreciate the newer HK style expensive dishes at LWH. However, both are in charged by experienced chef from HK, so they all have a solid foundation of cantonese cuisine.

                                                                            1. re: skylineR33

                                                                              I hope the average price of a meal at Lai Wah Heen isn't $300! I know I said I'm open to price, but that would be a bit extreme.

                                                                              If that is the price of a meal at LWH, I might choose Omei instead...thoughts?

                                                                              1. re: angiebc290

                                                                                no, no, no, it is just that one can have a very expensive meal at LWH, as LWH has a big menu with a hugh price range. I would say a good dim sum meal at LWH is around $40 per person, whereas dinner is around $100 per person (for tasting menu) or $50 if not ordering the tasting menu and those very expensive items. Sorry if my post is misleading.

                                                                              2. re: skylineR33

                                                                                Well, I have to say that "newer interpretation" is a kind way to put it. I've travelled extensively throughout Asia, and never encountered foie gras, truffles, or shrimp mousse in any of the banquets, restaurants, or homes where I've eaten. (And I've never seen O-Mei's 'lobster four ways' offered anywhere else, so I wouldn't say LWH has a lock on innovation.)

                                                                                And while the shark's fin, etc. may well be of higher quality, I've always found the taste too subtle to notice whether I'm getting good, bad, or indifferent ingredients.

                                                                                I guess it boils down to personal preference. The meals I've had at LWH verged on bland, and had a very high price tag. The meals I get in Richmond Hill are more aggressively flavoured, which I like, and much more reasonably priced. Our prospective guest could come up, spend the day at Pacific Mall shopping and noshing, and then head up to Richmond Hill for an excellent meal for less money than she'd spend for one meal at LWH. Opinions will differ, but that's what makes CH fun, isn't it?

                                                                                1. re: KevinB

                                                                                  My background is HK and I still travel back to it regularly, foie gras, truffles or shrimp mousse are ingradient being used nowaday in today's chinese restaurant in HK, with shrimp mousse a very very regular ingradient. Restaurants such as Lei Garden, Lung King Heen, Yan Toh Heen, Tang Court all use them on some of their dishes, and the style of LWH is similiar (does not mean that it is as good as) to these high end "innovative" cantonese restaurant of HK. O-Mei's 4 ways lobster (Garlic and Vermicelli, Salt and Chili, Maggie Sauce and lobster roe fried rice) are also very common dishes that can be found in many many cantonese restaurant in HK or even here, it is just no places has all four ways combined and served them together as a single entity.

                                                                                  There are many different grade in dried stock ingadients such as shark fin, abalone and the process of preparing them are complex, I guess these all takes time to learn, it is a whole universe of knowledge in there...

                                                                                  Maybe you want to visit HK again ...

                                                                                  1. re: skylineR33

                                                                                    Way to digress from a topic on restaurant suggestions for an out-of-towner to a full-blown debate on cantonese restaurant authenticity! Very entertaining!

                                                                                    1. re: redearth

                                                                                      Hi redearth,

                                                                                      Don't you think it is useful for the out-of-towner to know more about the cantonese restaurants in Toronto to narrow down what he/she wants to eat in here ?

                                                                                      1. re: skylineR33

                                                                                        Absolutely, but up to a reasonable point, of course. Discussing what ingredients are being used in HK restaurants is hardly pertinent to the topic at hand. Darn, now I'm contributing to this digression! Quick, redearth, make a recommendation!

                                                                                        Tati Bistro! Harbord Room! JKWB!

                                                                                        1. re: redearth

                                                                                          yeah, it is more a reply to KevinB those ingradient are in fact very common in Asia. And also there are people who are looking for the HK "newer style" cantonese cuisine, and this is the way to go at LWH.

                                                                                          My recommendation is Omei for dinner and LWH for dim sum !

                                                                                          1. re: skylineR33

                                                                                            I come from a Chinese family, actually, so I'm pretty familiar with the more traditional style (mostly HK and Shanghainese), so I'm thinking LWH may be a fun experiment in trying some more "new age" kind of stuff.

                                                                                            Skyline, thanks for clarifying the price issue. $40 is much more manageable than $300! The dim sum seems like the best bet, judging by all the comments.

                                                                        2. For what it's worth, I have two under $100 spots that I consider not-so-hidden gems where i take all my outta towners - particularly those who aren't in to the overtly ethnic stuff.

                                                                          93 Harbord is a lovely ambiant space with exposed brick and dark wood that serves Med/Mid-Eastern influenced bisto-ish cuisine. The service is stellar and the flavours never fail to delight in complexity and sophistication.

                                                                          Next door, Harbord Room is a bit more hip and happening, does the "small, medium, large plate" thing for ease of late night noshing, and has what my SO calls the city's best burgers. I loved the fries enough to eat them without guilt, so that's saying something. They also have a great ONtario centric wine list and I'm told some lovely mussels.

                                                                          If you're looking for a nice lingering dinner, either is very centrally located and worth a visit.

                                                                          -----
                                                                          93 Harbord
                                                                          93 Harbord St, Toronto, ON M5S1G4, CA

                                                                          Harbord Room
                                                                          89 Harbord St, Toronto, ON M5S1G4, CA

                                                                          1. Okay, I'm guessing your list is looking something like this:

                                                                            1. Chinese (Lai Wah Heen, and possibly something north of Toronto, in Markham or Richmond Hill)
                                                                            2. Kaji, possibly.
                                                                            3. Black Hoof, possibly.
                                                                            4. Chiado, possibly.
                                                                            5. ?

                                                                            It's tough to decide where to eat when you only have a little time and too many options, isn't it? Good luck! ;)

                                                                            6 Replies
                                                                            1. re: redearth

                                                                              It's still early, but here's my list at the moment:

                                                                              1. Lai Wah Heen, almost 100%
                                                                              2. Black Hoof, highly likely
                                                                              3. Chiado, highly likely
                                                                              4. Nota Bene, possibly
                                                                              5. Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar, possibly

                                                                              And I've kept notes of a lot of other places to fill in my time. I made myself a handy little Google map, with more restaurants tagged than attractions...

                                                                              What I think will end up happening is I'll book most of my dinners before I go, and everything else will depend on where I happen to be when I get hungry. Which is where the map comes in handy!

                                                                              1. re: angiebc290

                                                                                One more recommendation, just to throw a wrench in the works, is Torito, for a relaxed, convivial atmosphere with excellent Spanish tapas and sangria in one of Toronto's most exciting and vibrant neighborhoods, Kensington Market... A great place for an evening stroll, which would lead you into the heart of Chinatown. Perhaps tapas and sangria before wandering down to Lai Wah Heen?

                                                                                1. re: angiebc290

                                                                                  google maps is the best. i made one for my summer trip to the uk and ended having to have four for the different areas of london i wanted to explore. it you are at lai wah heen on a weekend day, please take a stroll on mount pleasant and sample the lovely baked goods at Flaky Tart and check out the ONtario fare at Culinarium!

                                                                                  1. re: LemonLauren

                                                                                    oh i forgot that Lai WAH is downtown, Lai TOH is uptown.

                                                                                  2. re: angiebc290

                                                                                    I like the look of your list angie, if I got to eat at any 3 of those places within 3-4 days, I would be a very happy boy.

                                                                                    1. re: angiebc290

                                                                                      I think you are on the right path, but you might want to delete Black Hoof if you are from NYC... unless you are going for the hipster scene, rather than the food. I would bump JKWB up if you want casual, but if you are here for 4 days/8 meals... you probably want to do all of those anyways. LWH should be your #1 pick, because Chinese food sucks in NYC and may as well play to Toronto's strengths.

                                                                                      I think Cava has better charcuterie than BH, but its definitely more expensive and you don't want to eat anything else other than the charcuterie... its also empty and soul-less.

                                                                                  3. I would limit my spend to one amazing restaurant (and unlike any experience you will have) and see if you can get a seat at Michael Stadtlander's joint at Eigensinn Farm Tel: 519.922.3128

                                                                                    I believe it's $250 per person at the moment, bring your own wine (free) and enjoy a tasting menu from locally grown and raised products most of which he tries to use are organic.

                                                                                    So one extremely memorable meal then enjoy the exchange rate and some of Toronto's finest ethnic cuisines.

                                                                                    I would also suggest Jerusalem on eglington for some great Israeli cuisine. Make sure you order their fried eggplant, baba ganouche, chumus and tachina are a must as are the falafel.

                                                                                    To throw it in there - for some fantastic Thai check out Thai Shen Inn on Eglington W - little hole in the wall run by a Thai family, mom and grandma do the cooking. Get a large Tom Yum!

                                                                                    16 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: Sadistick

                                                                                      My thoughts are that a visit to Eiginsinn would be something you might consider on a longer trip... First, I don't believe that they are taking reservations at the moment, and second, a dinner at Eiginsinn would necessitate a stay overnight nearby the restaurant, probably in Collingwood. The restaurant is a couple of hours away from Toronto. This is, in my opinion, not something that you should even entertain the thought of, considering your somewhat tight schedule.

                                                                                      1. re: redearth

                                                                                        I did a quick search of Eiginsinn, and it seems like a destination unto itself. I can certainly see the appeal, but I probably won't be making the trip. After all, I do want to save SOME time to go around and do touristy things while in Toronto!

                                                                                        1. re: angiebc290

                                                                                          Someone may have mentioned it already but try the sausage on the bun from one of the street vendors. Not the hotdog! Mild ( German or Polish) , spicy (Italian). A busy guy won't have dried-up one. In Toronto it's grilled unlike NYC . If you like mayo, ask for it some keep it in the ice-box. (it's against Toronto health regulation to have it. ) . Street carts around city hall and Union station is usually busy. Avoid the ones run by CN tower, they only have hotdog and no condiments other than ketchup mustard and relish. If you do have Japanese food craving, I do recommend Kaji, it's great value for the money ( in terms of food cost.)

                                                                                          1. re: katana750

                                                                                            Yeah, the "street meat" here is quite unlike the sabretts or NYC. It's worth a try. As katana750 suggested, the ones near city hall and union station are a good bet, as is the one at the corner of Spadina and Queen. Be prepared to be overwhelmed by the number of toppings and condiments available.

                                                                                            1. re: redearth

                                                                                              Thanks katana and redearth. The sausages will definitely be consumed at some point during my trip. I actually find the boiled Sabrett hot dogs that most vendors in NYC do to be pretty disgusting!

                                                                                              What toppings would you recommend?

                                                                                              1. re: angiebc290

                                                                                                If you do decide to visit "Koreatown North", take the subway up to Finch Station. At the regional bus station just north of the subway, there's an outdoor stand with quite an array of condiments, including sauerkraut, chopped onion, and hot peppers, along with all the usual sauces, including 3 types of mustard and hot sauce. I like to put the kraut and onions first (i.e. before they put the sausage on), and then relish and hot mustard on top. Then you can wander southbound on Yonge, checking out the dozens of Korean places while deciding where to have dinner!

                                                                                                Totally agree with other posters that the sausage (which is usually about $1 more expensive than a dog) is way tastier, and stands up well to a boiled NYC street dog.

                                                                                                1. re: angiebc290

                                                                                                  my perfect sausage: saurkraut, at least 3 kinds of mustard, hot peppers, onion, a dill pickle slice.

                                                                                                  1. re: angiebc290

                                                                                                    I'm pretty basic when it comes to topping my dog: spicy mustard, mayo, sauerkraut, and sometimes hot peppers.

                                                                                                    1. re: redearth

                                                                                                      Is mayo a Canadian thing? I would never have thought to put mayo on a hot dog...but maybe that's just me.

                                                                                                      1. re: angiebc290

                                                                                                        :O

                                                                                                        I couldn't eat a hot dog, burger or fries without mayo but that's just me.

                                                                                                        1. re: angiebc290

                                                                                                          No, I wouldn't say it's a Canadian thing. I just grew up in a household that consumed jarfuls of the stuff on a weekly basis, so I've always loved it. My father's scottish and my mother's irish-american. Neither culture is known for consuming large amounts of mayo, so I guess, at least for me, it's a family-specific phenomenon. If I were Dutch or Belgian, I'd have a better excuse, but the fact of the matter is, I just love mayo. Like radiopolitic, I couldn't imagine a hot dog, burger or fries without it. Hellmann's has always been my brand of choice. NEVER MIRACLE WHIP. Unfortunately for me, most hot dog vendors don't carry the stuff any more, due to health regulations (the need to refrigerate it), and when you find one that does store a squeeze bottle full in their cooler, it tends to be either Miracle Whip or Kraft mayo or some generic brand that just isn't that great... But as you probably won't be adorning your tube steak with it, then it really doesn't matter. No matter how you find yourself topping your dog when you're here, I sincerely hope you enjoy it!

                                                                                                          1. re: redearth

                                                                                                            Interesting...maybe I've gone through my entire life completely ignorant of the mayo-hot dog combo. Mayo was always reserved for sandwiches and chicken salad for me.

                                                                                                            I might just have to give it a try.

                                                                                                            1. re: angiebc290

                                                                                                              This is an offshoot of the British tradition of dipping their fries, pardon me, chips in mayo. I wouldn't eat a dog or burger without it. You can counterbalance the creamy mayo with some hot peppers. Garlic mayo on a burger. I want to saint the person who invented garlic mayo.

                                                                                                              1. re: Googs

                                                                                                                While I don't eat it on a hot dog, I could imagine why people would. People are insane about hot dogs and what toppings are allowed in the States... thankfully few people scoff at you here for your choice of toppings!

                                                                                                                1. re: Googs

                                                                                                                  British tradition? Uh, try Belgian actually...

                                                                                                                  1. re: Splendid Wine Snob

                                                                                                                    Don't forget the Dutch! Hard to know who started it. They all still do it. Who really cares as long as it tastes good?

                                                                                            2. my favorite restaurant right now is Celestin. Amazing french food and incredible service, lovely atmosphere.
                                                                                              Mount Pleasant, south of Eglinton

                                                                                              Celestin.sites.toronto.com

                                                                                              1. Wow, what a great resource! Thanks, angibc290 for starting this thread and all the rest of you for answering...

                                                                                                I am, like angibc, a New Yorker and am visiting Toronto this weekend. Wasn't able to score a reservation at Nota Bene, since I didn't find out about this trip 'till yesterday. I was able to get a reservation at Chiado. The menu doesn't look all *that* different from what I might be able to find in New York -- though perhaps its greatness lies in far superior execution?

                                                                                                My question to you is: Is Chiado worth it? Should I spend my only real dinner in Toronto elsewhere, and if so, where would be possible with so little advance planning? I'm hoping to take advantage of Toronto's relative strengths, which I know include Chinese (Cantonese and Szechuan, yes?) and pho. I am already planning on having dim sum at Lai Wah Heen on Saturday a.m. and pho on Sunday. (Also planning on visiting either Kensington Market or St. Lawrence Market for lunch one or both days.) No price limits, though good value is always appreciated.

                                                                                                Appreciate any and all advice!

                                                                                                42 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: cimui

                                                                                                  Chiado is wonderful, particularly if you stick to the Portuguese seafood dishes or small plates (i.e., don't go and order a steak). I don't believe any other city does fine dining Portuguese as well as Chiado. Be sure to ask for the bar menu, which has a wonderful selection of small plates that you could easily make a meal out of. The wine list is exclusively Portuguese, so ask for some guidance and I think you'll be pleasantly surprised. Do be warned, though, wine markups are brutal in Canada, so don't be expecting NYC wine prices at restaurants.

                                                                                                  1. re: TorontoJo

                                                                                                    Actually Chiado now features some Canadian wines as well - but their Portuguese selection is unmatched in North America (and maybe anywhere outside Portugal).
                                                                                                    I'm a fan of their food too - except avoid their 'traditional' dishes which tend towwards stodgy and stick to the more creative stuff (or their fresh fish - which could be varieties you've never experienced before). And indeed check out the 'wine bar' small plates menu (as recommended by TorontoJo).
                                                                                                    St Lawrence is closed Sun & Mon.

                                                                                                    1. re: estufarian

                                                                                                      Yes, I agree. Chiado is definitely the type of restaurant in Toronto that will probably impress someone from out of town. The fresh fish is pretty much always incredible (and interesting), and I also think the wine bar small plates are quite good.

                                                                                                      1. re: tjr

                                                                                                        thank you, torontojo, estufarian and tjr! can you ID for me what might be some of the more creative menu options? and do you think anyone would look askance at me if i were to sit in the dining room and eat all small plates? (i'd like to try as many things as possible!)

                                                                                                        1. re: cimui

                                                                                                          I just checked their on-line menu and most of the things I would 'miss' were heavier stews - which no longer appear! Similarly the 'nouvelle' items are not apparent (he uses fresh fruit and maybe they'll be back in the summer). Even the tapas have changed - although the pir-piri Tiger shrimp is amazing - but not cheap 1 shrimp for $12 - sounds outrageous but it is a huge shrimp (oxymoron?). Unless you're a fan I'd avoid the acora (stew again) and concentrate on the fresh fish 'of the day'. He occasionally gets espada - definitely worth a try. And try the ham (if it's offered). In my opinion he excels in the 'lighter' dishes - but I'm not a particular fan of salt-cod (although Chiado's is probably the best I've ever had) or sardines which I generally find too oily. I love his octopus - but again that's a personal preference.
                                                                                                          And I've eaten at a table and only had the bar menu. It doesn't feel 'quite right' - but that's my issue I guess - they're MUCH too professional to worry about things like that. And they have a Portuguese sparkling red wine by the glass that I like (especially with the ham) - something that most people won't have tried.

                                                                                                          And a comment on 'why' it's different. This is an upscale dining venue. Don't think 'Portuguese' think 'French' - we also have a pretty good selection of downscale and family Portuguese places - but Chiado is the 'fine dining' version.

                                                                                                          1. re: estufarian

                                                                                                            thanks a gazillion for the rundown, estufarian. i enjoy reading your takes on the individual dishes. and i'll be sure to try the octopus!

                                                                                                            1. re: cimui

                                                                                                              check out this detailed essay for some more useful notes about the Chiado experience (it's more towards the end): http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/546596

                                                                                                              an impressive piece, by the by.

                                                                                                              1. re: Chester Eleganté

                                                                                                                by goodness. that whets my tastebuds!!

                                                                                                                1. re: Chester Eleganté

                                                                                                                  What are your (or anyone else for that matter) comments on her note that the fish was slightly overdone. I've never been to Chiado and have considered going but I absolutely despise fish that's overcooked.

                                                                                                                  I had a delicious meal at Joso's back in January and it was cooked perfectly.

                                                                                                                  1. re: radiopolitic

                                                                                                                    "by goodness"

                                                                                                                    i guess my nose was stuffy that day. i meant "my goodness"!

                                                                                                                    re: overdone fish, my dining companion's lobster in his lobster risotto dish was overdone. my monkfish was actually quite underdone -- or at least i've never had it served to me quite as rare as i had it at chiado. my grilled octopus appetizer was perfect and wonderfully tender. i guess you could say that on average, everything was perfectly cooked... =)

                                                                                                                    still, i do not regret going. the service was fantastic, some of the food was stellar (i.e. the sauce that came with my monkfish and the octopus), and all of it was fresh. it was a nice experience and i appreciate the recommendation.

                                                                                                              2. re: estufarian

                                                                                                                I agree that the piri-piri shrimp is amazing -- just as long as you are mentally prepared to get one shrimp only. Biggest shrimp I've ever seen, but still just one nonetheless! I will put in a vote for the grilled sardines. They are slightly oily, but if you've never had fresh sardines, they are a minor revelation. The last time I ordered the chourizo, it was also served with the best blood sausage I've ever had. You should ask if they have any.

                                                                                                                I've also eaten at a table and only ordered from the bar menu. The service is very gracious and you'll never get a raised eyebrow or sneer. But you should know that the owner sources the freshest Atlantic fish in the city -- stuff you'll never see at other restaurants. So if you love fish, it's worth indulging in one of the fresh catches.

                                                                                                      2. re: cimui

                                                                                                        Not sure how Pho is in NYC but Toronto's Pho is not very good. Coming from Calgary, almost everything (food related) is better in Toronto but the Pho is extremely disappointing. I went from eating it twice a week in Calgary to once a month in Toronto.

                                                                                                        1. re: szw

                                                                                                          Is it possible you just haven't found the right pho for you? I was on a Bun Bo Hue kick for a while there, but now I'm back to trying all the pho the city has to offer. Yesterday, Pho Mi 99 (meh, it was okay). Today, Pho Pasteur. I will report back.

                                                                                                          1. re: redearth

                                                                                                            pho hung, pho phuong, and rua vang are all on my list based on prior posts. any clear frontrunners are weak links i should cull?

                                                                                                            1. re: cimui

                                                                                                              Pho Phuong has a more elaborate menu than Pho Hung- broken rice platters, crab dishes, etc. I don't order Pho when I'm in Vietnamese restaurants, so I was impressed that Pho Phuong had so many other options.

                                                                                                              I use Pho Hung as a pitstop if I need to eat and I'm in the area, but wouldn't go out of my way to visit.

                                                                                                              1. re: phoenikia

                                                                                                                hi phoenikia! thanks for the input. really look forward to trying this place. If I can stuff anything else down, i'll try one of the non-pho dishes, too.

                                                                                                                1. re: cimui

                                                                                                                  If you're craving a sweet after the Pho, there's a good Portuguese bakery (the name is escaping me) across the street from Pho Phuong, on the north side of Dundas. The pasteis de natas (Portuguese custard tarts) are around $1.25 each- one of my favourite Toronto treats. Most of the Portuguese bakeries seem to bake them fresh daily (which is not the case with many of their cream-filled pastries) .

                                                                                                                  I realize that you're also planning to visit Chiado (which would be upscale & refined Portuguese), but if you like custard, creme brulee or galataboureko, definitely try a custard tart while you're in TO.

                                                                                                              2. re: cimui

                                                                                                                Definitely Pho Phuong. Little more modern environment, and most of what I've tried there has been very good. Pho Linh is also excellent. BTW, I tried Pho Pasteur for lunch and was not impressed, particularly having had such high expectations due to the number of positive reviews on this board.

                                                                                                                Also, if you're feeling adventurous, try the Bun Bo Hue. Northern style vietnamese soup - not for the faint of heart, though.

                                                                                                                1. re: redearth

                                                                                                                  man... you know just how to push my buttons. "not for the faint of heart", indeed! ;)

                                                                                                                  ok, so pho phuong will be target #1.

                                                                                                                  much obliged, redearth.

                                                                                                                  1. re: cimui

                                                                                                                    i'm so glad more people are visiting pho phuong and i'll echo comments that pho is actually their weak point... well that and sometimes the odd mixture of thai on a smaller menu they have. i would suggest that you focus on the appetizers section of the menu that tends to have much more interesting breakfast type dishes. i really think they do a very nice bahn cuon and bahn xeo. other really amazing dishes include the beef salad with starfruit on the extra menu.... it is pricey but i swear a whole star fruit is in there. they also make wickedly smooth shakes, my fave being the durian. oh! and the jicama is the way to go if you're considering a rice paper roll.

                                                                                                                    the dish for me that would be "not for the faint of heart" is the duck noodle soup... between the preserved bamboo and pig's blood as secondary ingredients, i have dining companions that can't stand the smell!

                                                                                                                    also the bakery across the road is called "brazil bakery" and if you're there earlier in the day i would see if they have any fresh malasadas (portuguese donuts). nice lemony tang, good chewiness and not very greasy at all. they have my favourite natas (custard tarts) but my current thing are the bean ones that remind me of fermented rice cake slabs from chinese bakery shops (though you can get them from vietnamese ones too).

                                                                                                                    pho hung once was pretty decent/good but they had petered off and my experiences at rua vang haven't been very exciting though i have a few friends who swear by their pho and their pho only.

                                                                                                                    btw, re chiado. i didn't notice it mentioned but senhor antonio is the wine bar side where you get the tapas menu. as far as i've seen they have no issue whatsoever with you sitting there eating tapas until you can't contain yourself any longer. so go for it and enjoy all the awesome seafood quality.

                                                                                                                    1. re: pinstripeprincess

                                                                                                                      Re: Senhor Antonio,
                                                                                                                      The last 3 times I've tried to go (admittedly it tends to be on a Monday as few alternatives exist on Mondays) the 'bar itself' has been closed and we've been seated in the restaurant. Once, the whole back room was closed.

                                                                                                                      1. re: pinstripeprincess

                                                                                                                        pho phuong was great, pinstripe. thanks to you, phoenikia, redearth and the others for suggesting it!

                                                                                                                        i ordered the pho with rare ribeye, tendon and tripe. the tendon came in large hunks, rather than in strips -- unusual in my experience. the broth was very flavorful. i shared a bowl of beef stew with glass noodles with my dining companion, which was rich and hearty. and i had the durian shake. delicious, indeed. my only complaint with the food is that it left me terribly thirsty for the rest of the day.

                                                                                                                        i have to say something about the stellar service, too. the older woman who waited on us was tremendously nice. i couldn't finish all of my pho and ended up leaving a substantial pile of noodles. she offered to wrap it for me and even included extra broth.

                                                                                                                        i don't know how pho phuong compares to other pho places in downtown toronto; it really stands out in comparison to the nyc pho i've had. can't wait to go back to try the pig's blood / duck noodle soup, bahn, and more generally, to eat my way through the entire menu.

                                                                                                                        for the wonderful food and people, i really do hope to be back in toronto frequently!

                                                                                                                        1. re: cimui

                                                                                                                          Happy to hear you enjoyed Pho Phuong, cimui!
                                                                                                                          It's my favourite place for Vietnamese food in TO.

                                                                                                                          1. re: cimui

                                                                                                                            Yay! Glad you enjoyed it! Now I'm craving pho.... I think I'll go tomorrow...

                                                                                                                2. re: szw

                                                                                                                  NYC pho isn't very good, either. Pho is one of the things I'm really, really looking forward to trying in Toronto. My guess is that even if it's worse than in Calgary, it'll be better than in NYC. As much as I love NYC, it is not much of a pho town. =)

                                                                                                                  1. re: cimui

                                                                                                                    To preface this Cimui, Calgary has a very large Vietnamese population many of which are recent immigrants. For this reason, their pho is going to be king.

                                                                                                                    Also, I have no idea where SZW is going for his/her pho in Toronto. Toronto is a very large and sprawling city (it's roughly 50KM east/west) with various cultural pockets. SZW's experiences could be based on their location. For instance,Pho in Parkdale (traditionally an old destination for many Vietnamese) will be better than Pho in the Annex (college town of the city).

                                                                                                                    I frequently travel to New York and I'm pretty familiar with the food scene there. Your suspicions are right: while you guys trump us (and the world) in all areas of good food, Pho is seriously lacking in the Rotten Apple.

                                                                                                                    If you are in the downtown area, try Pho Asia 21 (Parkdale), Golden Turtle (Ossington), Pho Thien Thanh (Ossington). Those IMO are the three best Pho spots in downtown Toronto. And if it means anything, the latter two always get referenced as default pho spots for Toronto's culinary elite (Claudio Aprile, Susur Lee, David Lee, etc).

                                                                                                                    1. re: goodcookiedrift

                                                                                                                      added to my googlemaps, thanks goodcookiedrift... i so wish i had longer to spend in toronto. =(

                                                                                                                      1. re: goodcookiedrift

                                                                                                                        oh no.. i really cannot agree with this post. pho asia 21 was lacklustre... not awful but certainly not the best in to. much of their fresh veg/herb was browning on the ends. the last straw for me there was the old oil and burnt greasy spring rolls.

                                                                                                                        pho thien thanh was suggested to me by someone else and dear lord was that a bad experience. pho was the only suggested dish there but the noodles were so soggy that we tried to get a second helping of just rice noodles but they just microwaved the bowl more! then when we finally got through, they just said the manufacturer of the noodles were now of worse quality. that was it. their simple explanation was that they didn't want to get another source when they were full knowing that it was such poor quality. otherwise the soup and meats were just ok.

                                                                                                                        1. re: goodcookiedrift

                                                                                                                          my current favs are in order...(do try other dishes like banh cuon and bun bo hue besides pho at que ling).

                                                                                                                          1) pho my duyen
                                                                                                                          2) que ling
                                                                                                                          3) thien thanh
                                                                                                                          4) pho pasteur

                                                                                                                          I would suggest you fit in one more Chinese meal besides Lai Wah Heen dim sum. There is so much variety for Chinese here so you're guaranteed to not repeat yourself in flavours. Again after Lai Wah Heen, the quality dips considerably downtown. What do you prefer, northern dumplings, chinese bbq, sichuan, xinjiang lamb kebabs, wonton mein, lai mein....

                                                                                                                          The best uptown are....

                                                                                                                          yang's
                                                                                                                          omei
                                                                                                                          casa imperial/casa victoria (same ownership)
                                                                                                                          dragon dynasty/grand chinese cuisine/big mouth kee (same ownership)
                                                                                                                          maple yip
                                                                                                                          fantasy eatery
                                                                                                                          northern dumpling kitchen
                                                                                                                          empire court
                                                                                                                          ambassador
                                                                                                                          golden court
                                                                                                                          john's bbq
                                                                                                                          peaktop

                                                                                                                          I personally find you get more bang for buck w/ whitey restaurants in NYC than here. Nota Bene is good, but for that price you can get a better meal in NYC at countless places (prune, dovetail, jean-georges lunch special, etc, etc). Black Hoof is something interesting if you're into charcuterie from Bar Boulud.

                                                                                                                    2. re: cimui

                                                                                                                      keep in mind that St Lawrence Market is closed on Sunday.

                                                                                                                      1. re: JamieK

                                                                                                                        Oh -- thanks for the heads up!

                                                                                                                        1. re: JamieK

                                                                                                                          St. Lawrence Market is at its best (read: most thriving) early on Saturday mornings. There is also a large farmers market in the north hall (across the street) on Saturdays.

                                                                                                                        2. re: cimui

                                                                                                                          Toronto 'Hounds, I'm overwhelmed by your generosity and passionate, informed love of the food in your city. I really do hope to reciprocate for you when you come to NYC. A million thank yous!

                                                                                                                          1. re: cimui

                                                                                                                            Cimui, I suppose I have the advantage of having another 2 months to plan my meals! After the discussion on Chiado following your post, I'm becoming more and more interested. I appreciate good seafood, which is not always easy to come by.

                                                                                                                            A question for anyone with an answer: I've had Portuguese cuisine once, so I don't remember it too well (I think I also blocked out this meal from my memory because I got food poisoning from it), but what is the difference between Spanish and Portuguese? I always imagined them to be pretty similar...

                                                                                                                            1. re: angiebc290

                                                                                                                              Both cuisines use similar ingredients, to be sure, but they use them in very different ways. Portuguese Arroz de Marisco, for example, while using many of the same ingredients as Spanish Paella, is a much different dish. Also, Portuguese cuisine is more well known for its heavy reliance on seafood, particularly fish, while Spain is famous for its cured hams. From Wikipedia:

                                                                                                                              " The country has Europe's highest fish consumption per capita and is among the top four in the world for this indicator. Fish is served grilled, boiled (including poached and simmered), fried or deep-fried, stewed (often in clay pot cooking) or even roasted. Foremost amongst these is bacalhau (cod), which is the type of fish most consumed in Portugal."

                                                                                                                              1. re: angiebc290

                                                                                                                                If you're coming from NYC, don't expect too much from the seafood in TO. We only have a handful of good seafood restaurants (Chiado, Starfish, some people would also add Zee Grill, Joso's, Rodney's). They probably wouldn't be considered anything special in NYC. Chiado flies their fish in from Portugal- it's very good for TO, but I would think that you have better sources in NYC.

                                                                                                                                1. re: phoenikia

                                                                                                                                  phoenikia, i think you're spot on in your assessment (based on my completely unscientific sample). i thought the food at chiado was on par with what one might find at a good restaurant in nyc that did not specialize in seafood, but not quite as good as a place like, say, le bernardin. still, it was so nice to try a variety of portuguese wines, many of which i'd never heard of. i don't know of a place that has as comprehensive and well-chosen a list of portuguese wines in nyc.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: cimui

                                                                                                                                    Thanks cimui;) I tend to focus specifically on seafood when I visit NYC (and SF) because I find the seafood to be so disappointing in TO.

                                                                                                                                    Haven't had an opportunity to try Le Bernardin yet- maybe on my next trip!

                                                                                                                                2. re: angiebc290

                                                                                                                                  angiebc, that is a really good question. i was wondering the same thing after browsing chiado's tapas menu and thinking of how there was some overlap with tapas menus at places like casa mono and tia pol.

                                                                                                                                  i think redearth gives a completely plausible answer (though i seem to recall eating a lot of fish in coastal regions of spain... not sure if tourist-swarmed places in malaga really represent regional cuisine...)

                                                                                                                                  mind if i post the question to "general chowhounding topics"?

                                                                                                                                  1. re: cimui

                                                                                                                                    Cimui, sorry I have been rather inactive lately. Life getting in the way...

                                                                                                                                    It is difficult to generalize a cuisine because there is so much variation regionally in any country. I agree that redearth's answer is probably fair, though I'm sure there are regions of Spain that also do a lot of seafood.

                                                                                                                                    Feel free to post the topic to the general board if you haven't already, but I guess the best way to figure out the difference between Spanish and Portuguese cuisine is to just eat it! Which means I may have to make a trip to Chiado while in Toronto.

                                                                                                                              2. So, now that my trip is actually imminent, I've been more actively planning and reading through everyone's requests.

                                                                                                                                So far, this is the plan:
                                                                                                                                Day 1 - lunch at Lai Wah Heen, dinner at Chiado
                                                                                                                                Day 2 - lunch at Jamie Kennedy Wine bar, dinner TBD
                                                                                                                                Day 3 - dinner at Black Hoof (no plans for lunch since I'll be at a baseball game)

                                                                                                                                My fourth day is going to be spent at Niagara Falls, so the meals on that day are not as important.

                                                                                                                                My dilemma now is dinner on Day 2. I'm torn between Scaramouche, Lee, and Nota Bene. I suspect it may be a bit late now to get a reservation at Scaramouche (my trip is just over a week away)? Anyway, I'd like to hear any opinions on the best of the three. I'd really like to have a great overall experience in terms of service and atmosphere.

                                                                                                                                Thanks in advance for everyone's help!

                                                                                                                                19 Replies
                                                                                                                                1. re: angiebc290

                                                                                                                                  Hi angiebc290,

                                                                                                                                  Sounds like a great itinerary!

                                                                                                                                  I'm a fan of all three options you've named. Nota Bene is great for a moderately priced, reliable, simple meal. Lee is sceney, and very fun. But Scaramouche is sublime! I have enjoyed every meal there, the view is fantastic, service is the best in the city, and their seafood and desserts are absolutely delicious.

                                                                                                                                  I think reservations will still be available at all three.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: Yum2MyTum

                                                                                                                                    I was leaning toward Scaramouche, but it is really hard to decide! I called yesterday to see if I could get a reservation but ended up leaving a message.

                                                                                                                                    But just in case Scaramouche falls through, Lee or Nota Bene? My boyfriend, who is coming with me on this trip, says he'd rather try Lee than Nota Bene. I, on the other hand, think I'd rather try Nota Bene. Of course, neither of us really have much to go on. And we both agree that Scaramouche is preferred (very slightly!) over both Lee and Nota Bene.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: angiebc290

                                                                                                                                      Hey angie, try opentable.com, you can see what reservations are available for Scaramouch

                                                                                                                                      1. re: angiebc290

                                                                                                                                        Hmm -- that is a toughie.

                                                                                                                                        The food at Nota Bene is always reliably delicious. The space is nice as well.

                                                                                                                                        There are a lot of 'Lee' detractors on this site. Admittedly sometimes the food is a little off (definitely this happens more at Lee than at Nota Bene) but that being said, I'd STILL have to go with Lee, because it's about as 'Toronto' as you can get -- Susur Lee contributed so much to this city's culinary scene, and this restaurant of his is a great way to try his fare out at a reasonable price.

                                                                                                                                        Hope this helps!

                                                                                                                                        1. re: Yum2MyTum

                                                                                                                                          Thanks for the advice, but I just got a table at Scaramouche, so I think that's settled. Unless anyone thinks I'm making a big mistake (which I doubt!).

                                                                                                                                          I would have to say that the two meals I'm looking forward to the most are Scaramouche and Black Hoof. From what I've read, at Black Hoof you just order the charcuterie and cheese plates, so I guess I won't be doing much picking and choosing. That's fine by me, but I'm completely overwhelmed by the Scaramouche menu. In a good way. I want to eat everything on their menu. Of course, neither my stomach nor my wallet could handle that...any suggestions? I saw that they have a special lobster menu which looks interesting and is definitely a great value, but I think I'll probably stick to the a la carte menu.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: angiebc290

                                                                                                                                            I had their special lobster menu last week. It was pretty good. I had the spring roll with avocado, followed by the grilled lobster and then coconut cream pie. Pretty good deal for 58 bucks !!

                                                                                                                                            1. re: angiebc290

                                                                                                                                              I think they excel with seafood. I haven't been disappointed by any particular dish so it's hard to say! Just go nuts...!

                                                                                                                                              As for desserts, the coconut creme pie is a specialty and while I've enjoyed it immensely, I'll note that in general, I'm a coconut creme pie fan (you might not like it if you don't like the combination of these ingredients).

                                                                                                                                      2. re: angiebc290

                                                                                                                                        If you're going to the falls, you may wish to stop by Port Dalhousie and eat at Treadwell's. It's a small detour, but a great little area in nice weather.

                                                                                                                                        Stone Road Grille is also good. If you're lucky, they still make the maple cotton candy! Less of a detour than Treadwell.

                                                                                                                                        In Toronto, I still love Manpuku for cheap+good eats. Plus, the best Takoyaki in the city. Not a bad choice for dinner #2, but it's in no way, fancy. I think that Scaramouche is merely okay, and I'd opt to go to Splendido instead.

                                                                                                                                        I have shots of the menus for Treadwell and I think Stone Road Grille in the flickr stream.

                                                                                                                                        ---
                                                                                                                                        http://www.foodpr0n.com/
                                                                                                                                        http://www.flickr.com/photos/jlunar/

                                                                                                                                        -----
                                                                                                                                        Stone Road Grille
                                                                                                                                        238 Mary St, Niagara-ON-the-Lake, ON L0S, CA

                                                                                                                                        Treadwell - duplicate
                                                                                                                                        61 Lakeport Rd, St Catharines, ON L2N, CA

                                                                                                                                        1. re: jlunar

                                                                                                                                          Was at Stone Road Grille two weeks ago and yes, they still have maple cotton candy for dessert. Great restaurant.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: TorontoJo

                                                                                                                                            Thanks for the Stone Road Grille tip. I actually hadn't had high hopes in terms of food for the Niagara trip. I figured we'd just grab whatever we came across. After all, we're not going for the food!

                                                                                                                                            I was actually planning to stop by the Inniskillin winery on the way to the falls, and it seems to be pretty close to Stone Road Grille. Maybe we'll stop there for lunch before heading to the falls!

                                                                                                                                            1. re: angiebc290

                                                                                                                                              if you search the board, you'll many suggestion about great wineries/places to eat in Niagara, Jordan, Vineland, etc, on the way to the Falls. don't compromise :)

                                                                                                                                              my short list for wineries is Stratus, Marynissen, Flat Rock Cellars and Organized Crime, and for eats I like lunch at Zooma Zooma Cafe in Jordan village.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: LemonLauren

                                                                                                                                                If you're going to stop for wine tasting and lunch in NOTL, then definitely make Stratus one of your winery stops. The Stratus white that they are tasting now (I think it's the 2006? maybe 2007) is really stunning. It's easily the most interesting and complex white wine I've ever had.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: TorontoJo

                                                                                                                                                  I'm actually not a big winery person, but I wanted to check out Inniskillin particularly because I like ice wine. I'm no connoisseur. Don't even know much about wine at all! I figured it would be a quick detour on the way to the falls.

                                                                                                                                                  I don't mind at all not having a special meal while we're at the falls. I'd be fine just grabbing something at a touristy place nearby. After all, I am a tourist! But I checked out the Stratus website since both you and LemonLauren recommended it. It seems to be place where you just stop for a tasting, not a tour like at Inniskillin. If that's the case, it could probably be a pretty quick stop and I might throw that in our itinerary. And I'll definitely look around on the board for places to eat, but I don't think I'm going to go too far out of my way for a meal while I'm at the falls. Something quick and cheap is preferable since I do actually want to spend most of the day at the falls.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: angiebc290

                                                                                                                                                    Just a caution - many of the 'Niagara' wineries are close to Niagara-On-The Lake (not the Falls) - if you detour to take in a winery and lunch you're probably looking at 2-3 hours (in the Falls you'll probably have fast food). If you're not into wine it may not be worth the effort.
                                                                                                                                                    I'm assuming you're driving (otherwise you'll have to skip the places recommended). I endorse pretty much all the recommendations you've been given. But one option is to spend your time at the Falls and eat 'as you are returning'. In which case my favourite is Treadwell(30 minute total detour from fastest route back) - especially if the weather is good. Or completely off-the-wall is one of the more exciting places in Southern Ontario (in Burlington - again just off your fastest route back to Toronto) - Blacktree - and this is a break roughly half way back, so splits the driving up nicely. Not cheap - but my bet is this will be the meal you'd most likely recall.
                                                                                                                                                    http://www.blacktreerestaurant.com/

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: estufarian

                                                                                                                                                      huh. interesting, this Blacktree! Worth the drive out from Toronto, estufarian? Short menu, but I always look at that as a plus... and since I just posted about it, lemme give a brief rant about flash intros and mystery navigation. SIGH.

                                                                                                                                                      --
                                                                                                                                                      http://www.foodpr0n.com/

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                                                                                                                                                      Blacktree
                                                                                                                                                      3029 New St, Burlington, ON L7N, CA

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: jlunar

                                                                                                                                                        I HATE their website - try to avoid it. But the food is also quirky. My problem is the commute - fighting the traffic to get there. Just puts me in a bad mood - so my strategy now is to go on the return from Niagara.
                                                                                                                                                        WELL worth a visit. Certainly in my top 5 Canadian places.
                                                                                                                                                        The porcini ice-cream I had earlier this year was astounding.

                                                                                                                                                      2. re: estufarian

                                                                                                                                                        I decided to rent a Zipcar for the day so that I have flexibility in my plans.

                                                                                                                                                        I don't mind putting aside a couple of hours to visit maybe 1 or 2 wineries - even though I'm not really an avid wine drinker, I still think it'd be a fun activity.

                                                                                                                                                        In all honesty, though, food is taking a back seat for this day. I think I might end up just taking some food with me to eat during the drive or getting whatever is available there.

                                                                                                                                                        Thanks for all the tips, and I'll definitely look into it a bit more, but food is not my priority for this portion of the trip!

                                                                                                                                                        Just out of curiosity, and to help my planning, any idea how long is a decent amount of time to see the falls? I'll probably do just the falls activities (the Butterfly Conservatory keeps coming up in my research, but I'm not terribly interested in that) - Maid of the Mist, Behind the Falls...I'm just not sure how long each activity takes.

                                                                                                                                                    2. re: TorontoJo

                                                                                                                                                      Was just introduced to the Malivoire Chardonnay Musque. It's excellent as well.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Chester Eleganté

                                                                                                                                                        yes! malivoire is another great one,.

                                                                                                                                                        for ice wine, cave springs (across the street from Zooma Zooma) has a stunnign late harvest vidal.

                                                                                                                                          2. The Dumpling House in China Town, on Spadina is lovely!

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                                                                                                                                            Dumpling House Restaurant
                                                                                                                                            328 Spadina Ave, Toronto, ON M5T2E7, CA

                                                                                                                                            1. culinary excitement!
                                                                                                                                              I am beginning to lose count of the number of times I have dined at Black Hoof. I have tried nearly everything on the menu, including their seared calf brain, calf brain ravioli, horse sammy (3 times-love it-addictive material), and foie gras PB&J (decadent guilty pleasure). Though I must say their bone marrow is laughable, especially compared to the bone marrow at Le Select. The few pieces of accompanying toasts were overwhelmingly too much for the microscopic amount of marrow. Majority of the dishes are comforting culinary feats, while the others are perfect companions to some of BH's unique concoctions. TOTALLY recommended.

                                                                                                                                              Le Select (French Bistro)
                                                                                                                                              This is hands down my favourite restaurant. Service is always relaxing, no rushing, opposite of the corporate chain restaurant service,you know...the strained artificial niceness. They are actually interested in food, and not the tips. I go at least twice a month...I have tried nearly everything on the menu, and other dishes are worth repeating. Their seafood is always fresh and cooked to perfection (pink center at the point just prior to turning opaque), spiced moroccan lamb burger bursts with flavour and is so juicy (slightly too juicy, the bun soaks it up and becomes less structured), their goat cheese quiche at brunch is smooth and rich just the way the crust is too, steak tartare is strong in flavour (of beef and garlic-the way it should be), ...I can go on and on and ON! Le Select is a piece of Paris.