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May 5, 2009 04:48 PM

First Chatto, now Joanne Kates Top 10! [from Ontario]

Following James Chatto's list in the Toronto Life, Joanne Kates just published her own 2009 GTA 10 Best New Restaurants in the Post City Magazine. They are:

1 - Madeline's
2 - Nota Bene
3 - Omi
4 - Harbord Room
5 - Black Hoof
6 - Loire
7 - Grace
8- Mengrai Thai
9 - Nyood
10 - Caplansky's

IMO, this is another fine 'biased' example of how a restaurant made it to the top of a rating list based solely on the reputation of its 'celebrity chef' owner as well as the acquaintance between the reviewer and the chef AND NOT THE FOOD. When Susur Lee was overseeing the kitchen of Madeline's, may be?!! But, with him spending most of his time in New York and cooking classes in the Orient, I really question the quality of Madeline's food over a hands-on David Lee run Nota Bene!!! Actually, one finds the food of Harbord Room, Loire and Grace more delicious than Madeline's!

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  1. Lame, you hit it on the nail Charles!

      1. and, can't speak for the other places, but one frequently finds the owners and chefs of Harbord Room and Nota Bene walking the room and keeping their clientele happy! I can't afford much, but I make room in my life for Harbord Room - that makes it a top 10, for sure.

        1. I wouldn't put Madeline's at the top of this list either. However, as is true with the Hounds, she's entitled to have an opinion all her own. We do ourselves a disservice when we disrespect the opinion of others.

          4 Replies
          1. re: Googs

            Joanne Kates is an old pro in the restaurant reviewing game, and she's damn good at it. You don't have to agree with her assessments to admire her professionalism week in and week out - hell, she once nominated one of my favorite bistros as having served her one of the ten worst meals of the year (it went out of business shortly after). But you always know where she's coming from, and can tell just from her review whether or not you may like a resto she's assessing, whether she gives it a good review or not. Agreed, she appeals to a more mature diner-out, but if you want a younger take on resto reviews, you've got the free weeklies - Now and Eye - to read. She also writes extremely well. As to her latest Top 10 list, well, editors demand Top 10 lists, so she's obliged to provide it - and I think even she would admit that there's precious little difference in the quality of execution between any of the Top 10. That they all do what they do very well. The resto reviewer for the National Post, Gina Mallet, is also a seasoned pro with credentials, though with a more idiosyncratic - and somewhat more crazily entertaining - style than Kates. Toronto is lucky to have two good resto reviewers plying their craft. (I don't read the Star's reviewer, so can't readily assess him.)

            As for all those Yiddishisms Kates uses, well, most have been part of Yiddish to English slang for decades. In short, if you get around at all, you don't have to be Jewish to understand and enjoy them. They'll all highly onomatopoeic (they sound like what they are).

            1. re: juno

              The Star reviewer (Corey Mintz) caters more to a younger crowd with his Ghostface references and such. He was a former line cook, which is quickly becoming a requisite for the new generation of food journalists.

              I like his style, although I don't know what the situation will be when Amy Pataki returns from maternity leave?

              1. re: juno

                I've got to disagree with your stance on Kates. Sure she is a good writer, and she has an obvious talent for self preservation. However, I can't assess from her reviews (never could) whether I will like a place or loathe it.

                She contradicts herself often - "consistently inconsistent" describes her writing well. One day she finds spicy something-or-other orgasmic; the next day she can't tolerate spice. Etc, etc.

              2. Ok - anyone?
                What is missing if you disagree? (although I'm almost certain a few of those are over a year old). I've tried 7 of them and returned to 3. And those 3 were all at least 3 times visited.

                10 Replies
                1. re: estufarian

                  I'm sure most of a real top 10 is missing. I like some of the places, but I mean come on, Omi over Kaji (or even Zen)? That's just absurd! I've had some good food at Madeline's, but not the best food I've had in the GTA, and Nota Bene has served me quite a few unsuccessful meals coupled with poor service.

                  Some of the others might be somewhere on a top list for me, but I don't really understand where she was coming from.

                  1. re: tjr

                    Hi tjr! The list is Kate's 2009 top 10 'NEW' restaurants. Still, if the list is based on food alone, then, to see Madeline's at the top of the list is puzzling. Wonder how it would rate if Susur's name is not tied to the restaurant.

                    1. re: Charles Yu

                      That woman worships Chinese cooking. From what I gather from her writings she loves it all: the Canadian-Chinese schlockfest to the high-end Susurs and La Wah Heens and probably appreciates the nuances and playfulness that Chinese cuisine has gotten to in this city. I assume her bias is showing in rating Madeleine's number 1.

                      1. re: Sui_Mai

                        Last night I was at Madeline's - for the third time in the past month.
                        I think that speaks for itself!

                        1. re: estufarian

                          Hello chowfriend! Coming from you - most interesting!!!! May be I should give it a re-visit!. Looooong drive for me though! Food better be good!

                          1. re: Charles Yu

                            Have to admit the $1 corkage was a factor.
                            But I recall that you normally 'object' to prettied up Asian dishes at exorbitant prices (my words - and it's a comment I've heard from several different people).
                            They're just about to change to their spring/summer menu, However, the standout dishes have been a skirt steak in white pepper sauce (all 3 visits); duck breast with honey/chili/orange confit; lobster & shrimp bisque; pan roasted wild halibut.

                            1. re: estufarian

                              Well the Madeline's menu doesn't look at all "asian", but it is a pretty big menu

                              1. re: Blueicus

                                Of course, you're right. But in my experience, most people 'think' that madeline's is Asian food.
                                And indeed throughout April thay were featuring dishes developed for Shang (in New York) which is certainly Asian.
                                I'd call Madeline's more Mediterranean - but it does still use some Asian spicing.

                                1. re: estufarian

                                  I have been to Madeline more than once and I cannot relate it to any Asian food except the time with the Shang menu, which has a little bit Asian influence in it, well the hamachi dish is quite Japanese, but still, the tofu and the XO shrimp is barely Asian to me, eventhough it suppose to be chinese-fusion. I do agree it is one of the top new restaurant this year.

                      2. re: Charles Yu

                        Thanks, I wasn't reading very carefully!