South Floridian reviews on Toronto restaurants
I recently spent a month in Toronto and this is a post about the diverse and delicious restaurant scene as my wife and I saw it. One caveat, we did not venture to the uber chic and expense account spots. My primary research was done on Chowhound and Frommer's 2009 Toronto guide.
We loved the ethnic mix and the neighborhoods of the city. Chinatown, Little Italy and Greektown were visited often. The St. Lawrence Market was a joy even though the city workers strike closed some of the restaurants. The St. Lawrence reminded us of the Ferry Building in San Francisco and Borough Hall in London. We were introduced to the bounty of Ontario's farmers and also had a Peller wine tasting. We have never drank Ontario wines before.
Our best dinners were at Grace, 503 College St. W. and Tati at 124 Harbord St. At Grace we had the Malevoire rose and the Vineland chardonnay by the glass. Apps were the watermelon and beet salads. I am not a beet lover but this was outstanding in appearance and taste. Mains were the whole sea bream with grilled zucchini and the halibut in burnt butter sauce. Grilled zucchini on the side were wonderful as were the fish dishes. It was a magical evening as we were seated in their rear patio on a gorgeous night and had friendly and prompt service.
We walked into Tati without booking and were seated in the main dining room. We found out subsequently that there is a rooftop garden but never revisited. Service was again friendly, Drank excellent Malevoire pinot gris to begin. I was ecstatic when I saw fish soup on the menu at a French bistro and ordered it. Wife had the boring green salad. We both got pickerel meuniere. The fish soup was good and had the croutons and aoli. The pickerel was sublime as were the baby carrots and roasted potatoes. We went completely off our diets and shared the apple almond tart. Perfect bistro meal.
I must also mention 93 Harbord which is never crowded and has a Middle Eastern menu. Nice decor and one very busy waiter/busboy. We enjoyed the lamb and shiraz fig tagine there and wish there were more diners. Fieramosca on Prince Arthur St. in the Annex has a beautiful rear patio and good Italian fare. We had stopped by Opus which is across the street first and there was no one in the restaurant at 7:30pm on a Saturday night and we decided to try Fieramosca. Messis at 97 Harbord has a lovely dining room. The BC halibut and grilled calamari were very nice. Our waiter suggested the Wildass White from Stratus Vineyards. It is a delicious blend of 5 varietals and only $33 CAD per bottle at the restaurant. I would return just for that wine.
Chinatown was 10 minutes by streetcar and we were frequent diners. Our favorite was Rol San on Spadina for dim sum. Fantastic grilled squid tentacles. Rice rolls with Chinese donuts. Unique and most delicious hot and sour soup, the best I have had. Very fair prices and we preferred the rear dining room sitting under a Christmas wreath (that is what it looked like to me). Excellent meals also at King's Noodle and Taste of China, both on Spadina. Disappointed with Forestview for cold dim sum and Pho Hung for mediocre pho and very poor service. Loved Pho Pasteur on Dundas Street W. Hot and scrumptious pho as good as San Francisco or New York. Also delish Vietnamese sausage and flour rolls stuffed with pork.
Greektown was easy to find on the Bloor subway and we loved Mezes for their superb dips with pita. Also the lamb chops and grilled calamari. Salads were great. Pantheon was also a favorite. Both restaurants were always crowded and had quick and friendly service.
We enjoyed walking in Little Italy and stopped in at the Dip (Cafe Diplomatico) for lunch. We ordered the cold antipasto and it was huge and we were too sated for anything else. Excellent coffee there.
Another night we stumbled into Sorisso at 588 College St. W. Not crowded but one party was speaking Italian and there was soccer on the TV. Good enough. We opted for the $21 CAD prix fixe. Good salad, very good veal in a lemon sauce and very good tiramisu. Large portions. What a nice find. Another night we were in Olivia 53 at 7:30pm and there was not one other party in the place so we left. No fun eating out by yourself. Maybe we should have stayed, I do not know. So we went to Cocco Lazzone on College which was nothing special.
I also want to mention Sushi on Bloor. There are so many sushi joints on Bloor St. W. but we tried this one. Excellent sushi pizza with tuna, seafood salad, and Japanese mackerel sushi roll. Always packed, very reasonably priced and the food arrives quickly. We enjoyed the Green Beanery across from Honest Eds and Ezra's Pound on Dupont St. Ezra's Pound has this fantastic hidden rear garden that is perfect for a cappuccino and newspaper away from traffic and crowds.
There were some disappointments. Gilead Cafe by Jamie Kennedy. Very bland food, mediocre and tasteless bread and uneven service. Even for a casual spot we expected better. Also Globe Bistro on the Danforth for lunch. $66 CAD for a very small portion of apple and corn soup. Fish and chips had a lot of fries and very little fish. Tasteless Georgian Bay whitefish. We do not mind paying but we know when we are getting ripped off. We would not return as Toronto has so many treasures to try.
Thanks to everyone who posts. We love TO and plan to return often.
How interesting?! Fellow chowhounder skylineR33 and myself had dinner at Grace a few weeks back. Though plate presentation was fairly artistic and inventive, the food was mediocre, utterly bland and in some cases, like the fish, overcooked and dry!! With so many better calibre bistros in town. Doubt we will return!
re: Full tummy
Great reviews..so pleased you enjoyed Toronto!
We'll be in AVENTURA (with a car) for the month of January, if it's possible for you to post some of your favourites on the CH FLORIDA board we'd love it..it's our second year in Florida and we didn't get around as much as we would have liked due to illness but am looking forward to 'doing it right' this year...thanks in advance
It will be my pleasure to post on the Florida board. Give me some idea of your likes and dislikes, how far you would drive for something special. I generally try to avoid touristy spots but some people like them. Any price range as some of our high end places can be expensive? Do not expect Asian highlights as we do not have that culinary area in abundance as TO does. Central and South American cooking is dominant in South Florida.