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Apr 8, 2009 05:37 PM

Distillery District Recommendations

Hello fellow Ch'ers. My wife and I will be attending a play at the Young Centre for Performing Arts at the Distillery District. We really know very little about restaurants east of Yonge Street. We're hoping to find a new mid-price restaurant for dinner before the show. Though we love Perigee, we won't have sufficient time to savour a fine meal there. We've also been to Weezie's (thanks Bok Choi for the recommendation) and Batifole recently. So... here's the challenge... anywhere reasonably close that you would recommend? Most of the restaurants at the DD are not highly regarded, as research on this Board reveals. Thanks all!

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  1. If you like Italian there is a little hidden resto called Mangia & Bevi Resto-Bar‎ @ 260 King St. E. (entrance on Ontario St). It is run by a brother sister team. Authentic tasty Northern Italian food. I have always had great meals there. Down to earth food, pastas, pizza and salads made from scratch.

    1 Reply
    1. re: mussetto

      I completely agree with Mangia & Bevi. I actually prefer the pizza at M&B over Libretto. The pastas are also very good and the salads are HUGE but (as mussetto mentioned) they do not have "secondi" if that is what you are looking for. Also, they are not open on Saturday nights or Sundays.

    2. Pure Spirits. While service slips in the summer, or when it's crowded, the food is fairly competent. The oysters are fresh, they handle seafood well, and the wines are fairly reasonable. And it's a beautiful room. Make sure you get a booth.

      1. Pure Spirits and Boiler House are both "ok". They are honestly not horrible, but you certainly won't be blown away. The space at Boiler House is quite beautiful and if you don't have high expectations, you won't be disappointed. I think Pure Spirits is a slightly higher price point, though I don't think the food is worth the difference. For the convenience factor, it's probably worth trying one of them. And the good news is that you can skip dessert altogether and get a bunch of truffles at Soma to take into the theatre with you. :)

        11 Replies
        1. re: TorontoJo

          Thanks to all for the recommendations. My meeting in T.O. ran late so we were in a bit of a rush and did not want the hassle of moving the car so we opted for dinner at the Boiler House. No doubt about it, we love the ambience of the Distillery District and the Boiler House was no exception. Interesting interior design - a mix of reclaimed brick, steel girders, natural wood... all in all quite comfortable. We were fortunate to get a banquette as the restaurant was reasonably busy.

          Toronto Jo - you told us not to have high expectations so I am pleased to say... they were exceeded. My wife and I actually had a very nice dinner. It was a good omen when I found they had one of my favourite local wines on the menu... a 2004 Peller Signature Chardonnay.

          Started off with a share plate of frites. Very nicely spiced, crispy on the outside, tender inside, served with aioli. One of the nicer frite dishes we've tried. My main was pan-roasted duck breast, duck sausage, pont neuf potatoes (french fries) and green beans, served with a black currant sauce, Duck breast was perfectly prepared.. crispy on the outside, medium rare and juicy inside. The sauce was OK, slightly bland but not disturbingly so. My wife had the pan roasted pickerel served with herb and mascarpone dumpling. She enjoyed the pickerel but raved about the dumplings.

          Desserts were pumpkin pie and apple/butternut squash tartin. Pumpkin pie was more like pumpkin squares - quite spicy and tasty. My wife enjoyed the tarte tatin. I dunno, butternut squash in a dessert not my thing.

          The highlight of the night for us was the service... not exagerrating when I say our server - Michael - was the best server we've had in a very long time. Congenial, informed, properly attentive - all made for a great evening. Even the bill was presented in timely manner as he knew we were going to theatre. Dinner was $200 including tip. Not too bad for a decent bottle of wine, 1 app, 2 mains, 2 desserts. I would go again.

          Thains for the recommendation Jo..

          1. re: cynalan

            Thanks for the detailed post. I've always thought that the Distillery restos were given short shrift that wasn't always justified. The Boiler House is a very nice room when all cylinders are firing.

            1. re: Snarf

              I agree that a lot of people have a hate on for the DD restos. I can sort of understand it, though, as for the price (or less), you can have a better dinner elsewhere in the city (at a place like Rosebud, for example). But, as I said, for the convenience factor before a play, I think they are perfectly acceptable. And I love the beauty of the spaces. Glad you and your wife had a good dinner, cynalan! And on a totally un-food related side note, I'm guessing you caught Glengarry Glen Ross -- love David Mamet, I hope it was a good production.

            2. re: cynalan

              Thanks for the review cynalan. I have not tried Boiler House yet. I usually only find myself in the area during the afternoon when the sun is out (great for photos). During that time, I usually hit Soma, or even the little bakery there for some gelato/cocoa. I went to Pure Spirits during the first year they participated in the licious event and was not blown away. It was good, but what can one expect for licious, am I right? Great review. The frites sound tasty.

              And I'm glad you enjoyed Weezie's.

              1. re: BokChoi

                BokChoi, I hear you on the licious events. We tried a few a couple of years ago but found the experience underwhelming. Of all the restos we visited, only one had a memorable meal... Reds on Adelaide.

                I'd like to thank you for the two recommendations you've given me. Nota Bene has become a personal favourite. I've spread the word to friends and hosted a few corporate events in their private room. Weezie's was also fun, complete antithesis to Nota Bene. So... heres the challenge. You've given me two excellent choices, how about one more to complete the trefecta? Which restaurant(s) are your personal favourites that you would recommend to a fellow foodie and aspiring gourmande :)

                1. re: cynalan

                  I'm sure BokChoi will have more than one worthy suggestion for you, but if I may offer my two cents, my most memorable meal in the recent past was at Hashimoto. Two of us had a gift certificate for $500 which was to cover everything that evening, including taxes and tip, so we were free to enjoy an extraordinary evening of perfectly prepared food and exemplary service. We were lucky enough to book our reservation for a Sunday evening when no other reservations had been requested. Thus, the restaurant prepared the menu for two solely based on the answers I gave regarding likes/dislikes/allergies when placing the reservation. We got to sample 3 different and delightful sakes, while savouring an 8-course meal that my play-by-play description wouldn't do justice to. I'm sure our experience was made extra decadent by the fact that we were the only two diners in the place. Our evening was both intimate and yet a treasure trove of information about the food, sake, Japanese culture and really any topic we raised with our server, who seemed to take great pleasure in our interest in his family's culture and passion for their cuisine. The food speaks for itself. Even with the more cursory explanations which we could probably expect were we to return on a busier evening, I have no doubt that the chef's original seasonally-inspired creations would be just as wonderful.

                  Granted, it's not an everyday restaurant choice nor a mid-range or neighbourhood place, it's a special occasion experience that should not be missed.

                  1. re: 1sweetpea

                    Thanks for the suggestion of Hashimoto. There have been many omakase meals I have been meaning to try in Toronto. Every time the SO comes to town, they veto it because Chinese food is so hard to come by where they live. I must get around to experiencing one.

                  2. re: cynalan

                    I second the challenge BokChoi, as I too have been led to NB and Weezies and would appreciate a perfect trio...

                    1. re: cynalan

                      Thanks very much for the compliment cynalan and shekamoo. I would have to know more about your food preferences before I can make an accurate recommendation. However, here is a list of some of my favourite 'go to places' for a satisfying meal:

                      Higher-end night on the town: Nota bene
                      Budget-friendly romantic night out: Weezie's
                      Thai: Linda Restaurant
                      Dim Sum: Grand Chinese Cuisine
                      Basic Chinese Meal (close to home): Ruby Chinese Restaurant (only for dinner, or their lunch noodle soup. NOT dim sum


                      Cheap Chinese lunch: Fantasy Eatery for their $5 combos, Ruby for their $5 noodle soups, or Omega 3 for their vermicelli noodle soups
                      Money is no object (service before food): Splendido
                      Italian: Zucca
                      Japanese/Sushi: Zen
                      Smoked meat: Caplansky's

                      I hope this list helps. Please let me know if you were looking for something else. Thank you once again for your kind words. I hope that I will have more time soon to get a few more reviews up. Please note, my reviews are 'budget conscious' and therefore I put a lot of emphasis on 'good value'. They may not be the 'best of the best', but sometimes, I just want something satisfying and great that is good on the wallet.

                      Cheers and happy eating!

                      1. re: BokChoi

                        Thanks Bok Choi. We are definitely on same page when it comes to dining. Although I enjoy the occasional splurge for exceptional cuisine, generally I prefer a restaurant that offers good food, well prepared and presented that demonstrate exceptional value. I am pleased to say that you have not steered me wrong. :)

                        By sheer coincidence, I will be trying Linda Thai on Saturday. Another theatre outing linked to dinner in downtown TO. Looking for someplace close to the Canon Theatre, my wife suggested Thai and I dread Bangkok Garden. Perusing the CH site I saw several good comments about Linda Thai from you and others. Did not actually realize there was a restaurant above Salad King until a few months ago. Hoping it works out as well as your other recommendations.

                        Now.... let me return the favour. If you are ever in the West GTA area - Burlington - you must try Blacktree. Matteo Paonessa is wizard in the kitchen. This restaurant is amongst the best I've tried and could compete with any downtown eatery. Not particulary fancy in ambience, the food is sensational. Give it a shot, you will not regret it. Here is a review from the Hamilton Spectator.


                        One small error in the article. The restaurant is open Wed - Sat 6:00 - 10:00.

                        1. re: cynalan

                          Thanks very much for the suggestion, cynalan. I look forward to trying it out sometime soon (if my schedule will work with me). If you head to Linda, do have their fish hot pot. It is very tasty and is their standout dish IMO. Their Mieng Kum (if they have it) is also such a treat. Do ask for it because it is not on the menu. Linda may offer it if it is available as well. She is such a sweet lady. Have a good time. Make sure you make a reservation.

              2. Folks, BokChoi has excellent chowhounding skills. But the point of this site is the unbeatable network effect. One person only knows so much; the cumulative wisdom of the users of this site is an awesome thing no individual can match.

                So while BokChoi may choose to chime in, we hope you'll all consider that the strength of this forum is its really discerning community, rather than any one member of it. We hope that everyone feels free to reply to these inquiries.

                1. Mengrai Thai is easy walking distance from the DD... lovely setting, chicken with lycee is really special.