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Rec.s needed for Toronto dining - what's best in each category?

  • m

i will be in toronto for 4 nights (for the first time) pretty soon and would love to hear your recommendations for what you consider to be the best restaurants in all genres, all cusines.

we eat anything and everything (particularly love ethnic food) - and we want to go to some fine dining but also whatever is the best chinese best indian, best italian, best street food, best casual, ...best anything else that's particularly good in toronto - or that really captures toronto... (we live in nyc)

pretty much all the restaurants you'd want to hit if you only had 4 days...

thanks in advance for all your help!!!

(i will of course go through this forum myself to look for relevant past posts, but if anyone can think of any really good ones, please let me know)

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  1. it would be particularly great to get some recco.s for traditional, authentic indian, chinese, vietnamese etc. restaurants, and some for more upscale and "evolved/neo" versions of these cusines.
    thanks again!

    1. All of the 'bests' are so subjective, that I'm not sure that I want to wade into that one. However, I think everyone in Toronto will agree on this: Street food here sucks! Limited to hot dogs, and the brand new street cart experiment where the food needs to be cooked elsewhere, put through a de-flavouriser, and then just as a precaution they put it through a blandifier. Guaranteeing a terrible street food experience.


      4 Replies
      1. re: legourmettv

        so, i know what to avoid ;-)

        legourmettv - most things in life are subjective - i'm asking about where YOU would go if you only had 4 days in Toronto.

        thanks again for all contributions!

        1. re: monab

          I would recommend Torito on Augusta Ave. in Kensington Market for great tapas, and Quince on Yonge St., south of Eglinton for excellent grilled meat, fish and wood-burning oven cooked chicken and fish.

        2. re: legourmettv

          That depends on how you define 'street food'. On Augusta, in Kensington market, many of the South American shops have sell what would generally be considered street food, and in some cases is sold street-side. El Gordo Empanadas (40 varieties), Segovia meats (chorizo, grilled chicken, chili), Perola's (tacos), Emporio Latinho (tacos, pupusas, tamales, churros).

          1. re: legourmettv

            Although we may not exactly have a great variety of street food, the hot dogs themselves are pretty good, and better than any other street dogs I've had elsewhere.

          2. For fine dining: I would go to Canoe (most if not all of the ingredients are sourced in Canada, it has one of the best views of Toronto imo, and service is impeccable).

            For italian: Mistura or Via Allegro.

            For chinese: Lai Wah Heen

            For Indian: Amaya or Indian Rice Factory (I add that New York has much better Indian food...in fact the only restaurant in Canada that I would recommend to someone from New York is Vij's in Vancouver). These two are good solid choices however.

            For casual dining: Depends how casual you want it. I like the Terroni restaurants for a casual bite, Gandhi's Rotis on Queen West for takeout. If you want to eat good food in a casual atmosphere I like my neighbourhood spots: The Rosebud and Niagra Street Cafe. Opinions will vary greatly here as most people tend to dine casually near their home/condo.

            For street food: Load up in New York and bring it here, you won't find anything worth writing home about from a street vendor here...sadly. The closest thing to decent street food might be eating your way around Kensington Market or the St. Lawrence Market (not literally street food, but food you can eat mostly with one hand while walking in any event). While you are packing food anyway please bring me a pie from Grimaldi's...sigh.

            For something Toronto: Go to St. Lawrence Market and have a peameal bacon sandwich (complete with "cheese") on a bun. Free health care breeds these things. Also while you are here try out our caribbean fare, we have a large population from the carribean and so there tends to be decent caribbean food around. I like Raps and Mr. Jerk.

            Enjoy your time here.

            2 Replies
            1. re: JPJ

              Just wanted to clarify as well as add the following:

              Lai Wah Heen serves high end Dim Sum lunch and 'Cantonese' cuisine. Currently NYC has nothing similar. However, do stay away from Toronto's Northern style Chinese cuisine! NYC and New Jersey offer much better quality establishments.

              Though not as extravagant as Masa or offer more variety and choices in seafood than Sushi Yasuda or Sushi of Gari. The Omakase at our Japanese Best: Sushi Kaji is worth the try. Some of the cooked dishes are very inventive and tasty since the 'kitchen' chef is both French and Japanese trained! Apparently has 2000+ recipes under his belt!

              Lastly, I would give Chiado a try. Excellent Portuguese cuisine with a great Portuguese wine list. Something NYC does have, but not as good!

              Have fun!!

            2. Toronto's a big city. Where are you staying? Do you have transportation?

              2 Replies
              1. re: ChalkBoy

                We're staying at the Park Hyatt, but we're will to travel anywhere for good food!

                1. re: monab

                  I concur with other posters that Mistura is great Italian, and it's a hop, skip and a jump from the Hyatt.

              2. I don't know about best, I don't think I've gone to anywhere near the places most chowhounders here go to. But for me, and the places I've gone to...

                Best continental - Scaramouche
                Best Chinese - Lai Wah Heen
                Best Indian - Amaya Bread Bar (Different than Amaya - though same owners)
                Best Italian - Mistura
                Best street food - Umm...that hot dog stand right outside Union Station?

                1. Great Italian (I think likely more authentic than some others): Zucca (Yonge near Eglinton)
                  Indian: I like three different places: Mela (Avenue Rd north of Lawrence);
                  Agra (Yonge near Sheppard); Banjara (Bloor and Shaw). I personally don't think Indian Rice Factory is worth the price you pay for the tiny portions though I used to love the place.

                  You might also check out Tabule for very good middle eastern food (it's a pretty restaurant inside as well).

                  I'm not a fan of Lai Wah Heen (I find it too fancy for its own good--I prefer the more tradtional dim sum) but I'm in the minority. I personally prefer Asian Legend or even Spadina Gardens but it's not as pretty or as fancy as LWH.

                  For street food, I tend to agree that Toronto is too early in the game to have a good base; better to go to Kensginton market as suggested in other posts here (it's not exactly "street food" but it's close in terms of informality and inexpensive).

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: Ediblethoughts

                    LWH, Asian Legend and Spadina Garden are 3 different types of chinese restaurants serving different kinds of chinese food. LWH has both traditional and nouveau Cantonese style dim sum, fancy and high quality. Asian Legend is a northern chinese cuisine restaurant featuring a different type of dim sum and dishes from LWH. Spadina Garden is a place for western palate chinese food that is on the "avoid list" of most chinese.

                    1. re: skylineR33

                      Spadina Gardens has some good (to me anyway) Hakka-esque dishes. I love their curried shrimp (even if it is pretty oily); I also think their hot and sour soup is better than almost any other I've tried. There are certainly some less than appetizing dishes on the menu but then I find most menus are like that, esp. the huge Chinese menus. You're very right, though, on how I've thrown a bunch of different types together. I am hazily aware of the different types but since so many Chinese places seem to serve a mish mash of different regions/traditional/non-traditional, etc., I tend to simplify it down to "I like this place"!

                      1. re: Ediblethoughts

                        FYI, and for those who care and/or those who are interested to know, those Hakka-esque dish you found at Spadina Gardens are Indian Hakka cuisine, something similar to the American Chinese food that can only be found in the western countries. You will not be able to find them in any "Hakka" restaurants in Hong Kong or China.

                        1. re: skylineR33

                          I've been to a large number of Chinese restaurants in Toronto and the curried shrimp at SG is unique in my experience. But I definitely don't claim to be an expert on what is available in China or Hong Kong.

                          1. re: Ediblethoughts

                            That's normal, there is no such dish in chinese cuisine, I am not able to find it too either in China or Toronto's chinese restaurants.

                        2. re: Ediblethoughts

                          I agree with both your take on SG and your common sense approach.

                    2. I would think Thai is better in T.O. than NYC.I would recommend Bangkok Garden.Not the buffet though, but the a la carte.

                      1. For ethnic variety try:

                        CHIADO 864 College St. www.chiadorestaurant.ca Beautiful Portuguese seafood dishes.

                        HANOI 3 SEASONS (1135 Queen East, at Larchmount, 416-469-3010) Northern Vietnamese

                        AMAYA THE INDIAN ROOM 1701 Bayview Avenue www.amayarestaurant.com 416.322.3270

                        these will take you to somewhat outside the core of the city but not are not restrictive in terms of travel

                        10 Replies
                        1. re: tearingmonkey

                          thanks to everyone for your great input!!!
                          i am really looking forward to trying as many as possible as will make sure i report back.

                          1. re: monab

                            Cantonese: Lee Garden on Spadina / North of Dundas; Kings Noodle on Spadina good variety. O-Mei -- Hwy 7 & Beaver Creek. Congee Queen
                            Japanese: Mochizuki Elm/ Bay -- Had sushi boat tonight yum yum....like the tai yaki maki...but too full ... didn't get that tonight.
                            Portugese: Adega, sister of Chiado's on Elm/ Bay
                            Burritos: burritos banditos 120 peter st. / near richmond for street eats.. not really street food but...halibut!
                            Street eats: Sausage and fries and gravy in the blue truck 'tasty ???something' city hall
                            Italian: Coco Lezzone in Little Italy -- also I bought this giant ball with some sort of cheese and spamoni near Coco Lezzone, it so good...I'm gonna go get one tomorrow. If I find out what the pastry shop is called I'll write back tomorrow!

                            Most restaurants on Elm are good, you can't go wrong. But they aren't opened on Sunday some of the them...call and ask.

                            That's it for now! Burp!

                            1. re: Chocaholic

                              One more question:
                              Is Lai Wah Heen the best place to go for dim sum?
                              (I should mention that lived in hong kong for 3 years, so am looking for real, traditional cantonese dim sum).
                              There only a couple of places in nyc that i think are anywhere near hk levels - so am hoping to find someplace great! (although i did have amazing dim sum in vancouver-richmond recently).
                              thanks again!

                              1. re: monab

                                I would say yes! LWH's Dim Sum chef used to be the DS chef for the Spring Moon Chinese restaurant inside the world renown 'Peninsula Hotel' in Hong Kong

                                1. re: monab

                                  Friends of mine who have been to Hong Kong seem to find LWH the best choice.

                                  1. re: Ediblethoughts

                                    Thanks for all the recommendations!

                                    Any suggestion for a late night meal (tonight)?
                                    Ones that have already been suggested to me are The Black Hoof and The Harbord Room.
                                    Thanks again!

                                    1. re: monab

                                      It's not as au courant as Black Hoof or Harbord Room, but I really like Caren's Wine and Cheese... and if you're feeling lazy after traveling it has the benefit of being a five minute walk from your hotel. The kitchen is open until 11:00. Great interior patio, nice selections of wine and cheese, excellent stilton burger, and bit of an oasis in Yorkville, which is surprisingly lacking in good chow.

                                      1. re: Rabbit

                                        Second this rec. I just had the loveliest lunch on the back patio today. Decadent mac and cheese and a glass of cremant de bougogne. Pasta needed some black pepper to make it just right, but it was otherwise a perfect way to catch up with some friends. One of my friends had the stilton burger and was very happy to receive it medium rare, though the stilton ran out after he bit into it. No matter, he just dunked the burger into the cooling stilton on his plate.

                                      2. re: monab

                                        I rarely go out to eat late these days--but it might help others to respond if you indicate exactly how late you want to go out! I've never been to either Black Hood or the Harbord Room. The only restaurant that I can say I've tried and that I like in Yorkville is Cafe Nervosa and that was awhile ago. If you go to Caren's please let me know what you think because I have been thinking of trying them for their (supposedly quite good) cheese fondue.

                                        1. re: Ediblethoughts

                                          here are few restaurant i do recommend.
                                          North 44
                                          Rosewater Supper Club