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If I eat nothing else when in Toronto - I need to try/eat

drbelfer Oct 20, 2009 07:42 AM

Will be in Toronto soon and like to try food from the places I visit. So I ask, if I eat nothing else when in Toronto, I need to try or eat what? I will have a car so can travel a bit to get somewhere. Can you recommend what to eat and where best to get it.

Thanks in advance

  1. Thatcher Oct 25, 2009 11:53 AM

    Echo Frank D.

    It's a half-hour drive from downtown, but the Chinese food you will find in Markham is some of the best in North America. San Francisco and Vancouver can't compare. Hong Kong friends who now live in NYC, say nothing comes close. You even get chains from HK and mainland China opening up there.

    I'd give you names, but I just know these places by location and sight, as my HK mother-in-law drags us to a new "hot spot" every Sunday...

    1 Reply
    1. re: Thatcher
      Dimbulb Oct 25, 2009 05:38 PM

      What chains are these?

    2. f
      FrankD Oct 25, 2009 11:15 AM

      Well, you never quite know what you're going to get, as a couple of threads here attest, but I'll go out on a limb, and suggest you visit Caplansky's (College Street, just west of Spadina). The service is uneven, and he may be out of some things on the menu, but when he's on his game, his "Toronto smoked meat" is quite amazing, and as a New Yorker, I think you'll appreciate the contrast with NYC's pastrami and corned beef. I skip the fries and get the borscht instead, but there are some who think his smoked meat poutine is very good as well.

      And definitely, get up to Richmond Hill/Markham for Chinese food that puts NYC to shame, IMHO. I have Chinese friends who live in Long Island, and they only want to eat Chinese when they visit here; they complain bitterly about the quality of Chinese food in New York.

      1. c
        Cup cake Oct 21, 2009 07:54 PM

        The Black Hoof on Dundas Street West has the most interesting and exciting food that I've had in Toronto. The menu is small and you have to be adventurous and willing to try new stuff. Last Friday I had scallops with a bone marrow sauce that was out of this world. The Hoof is small and no reservations, but a very special place.

        11 Replies
        1. re: Cup cake
          suddenly susan Oct 21, 2009 09:24 PM

          Agreed. Their Raw Horse Sammy is the best thing I've eaten in Toronto in the 5 months I've been here.

          I also love that they serve 4-star food in a relaxed setting -- you'll look more out of place in a suit, than in a t-shirt and jeans.

          -----
          Black Hoof
          928 Dundas St W, Toronto M6J, CA

          1. re: suddenly susan
            estufarian Oct 22, 2009 12:10 PM

            I also love the Hoof.
            But I wouldn't send a visitor there when the weather is cold/wet/blowy as they'd potentially have to queue up outside.
            And what exactly is 4-star food? I've never had anything better than 1-star there!

            1. re: estufarian
              Splendid Wine Snob Oct 22, 2009 12:49 PM

              I was wondering the same thing. I guess charcuterie is the "new" 4 star cuisine in Toronto.

              1. re: Splendid Wine Snob
                suddenly susan Oct 25, 2009 08:11 AM

                My point is that people often look for fancy trappings when they want "4-star" food; a maitre d', sommelier, coat check, the guy who comes around to crumb your table, etc.

                I do think the food at The Black Hoof is worthy of 4 stars. It's innovative, made from high-quality ingredients, and most importantly, delivers big on flavors and taste. But in most people's books, it would rate low because of the decor and service. That's why I refer to it as "4-star food" and do not say that TBH is a "4-star restaurant."

                For the majority of my restaurant ventures, I would prefer just amazing food and competent service. I don't need the other bells and whistles. David Chang in NYC has long been a champion of this style of dining with his Momofuku restaurants, of which I'm a big fan.

                You may disagree with me but that is your opinion. And isn't that what this site--and essentially all food reviews--are based on? Our opinions?

                1. re: suddenly susan
                  d
                  deabot Oct 25, 2009 08:22 AM

                  I whole heartedly agree. It's 4 star for me as well. I can go there in my sweatpants and t shirt and still get served creative, flavourful dishes without the staff blinking an eye. And that's priceless!

                  1. re: deabot
                    j
                    JPJ Oct 25, 2009 02:31 PM

                    Some dishes are more successful than others at TBH. For Toronto the charcuterie is overall very good, I would even say among the best. For someone coming from New York, it would be good, but it is all available in New York, better and cheaper.

                    It is definitely not even close to 4 star food imo, that is not to say it is not enjoyable, but having eaten a few actual rated 3 star dishes I can say that nothing at TBH is threatening beyond 1 star. That is still impressive.

                    I agree with the person who said they would not send an out-of-towner there with the no reservation policy. I live in Toronto and I have only gone there in off hour times and with a plan to go elsewhere if there was no table available without a wait of at least 20 minutes. I don't understand no reservation policies personally, usually they are intended to create a false sense of "buzz" by having people line up instead of coming an hour earlier or later when they would get a table without freezing outside or standing awkwardly inside while dancing around wait staff and other patrons.

                    1. re: JPJ
                      suddenly susan Oct 25, 2009 02:56 PM

                      JPJ said, "Some dishes are more successful than others at TBH. For Toronto the charcuterie is overall very good, I would even say among the best. For someone coming from New York, it would be good, but it is all available in New York, better and cheaper."

                      That is why I did not recommend the charcuterie. I recommended the Raw Horse Sammy.

                      I am just curious what you mean by "4-star food" and that you have eaten a few "actual rated 3 star dishes?"

                      If you are referring to stars from a newspaper review, those stars usually take into account the level of service and factors other than what is served on the plate.

                      FWIW, I am a New Yorker (recently transplanted in Toronto) and I was very impressed with the Raw Horse Sammy at The Black Hoof, and would definitely take my friends from NYC there to try it--whether or not the restaurant itself was given 1, 2, 3, or 4 stars from any publication. Any Joe Shmoe can read a restaurant review online but the original poster, I believe, is seeking personal recommendations for specific dishes.

                      1. re: suddenly susan
                        j
                        JPJ Oct 25, 2009 05:24 PM

                        I was referring to michelin stars, thus I was referring to 3 star dishes (the rating being only the food). I don't read newspaper reviews of food, they all have their own systems, 3, 4, 5, 100 stars, who knows.

                        The Raw Horse Sammy is good, it is not new. I had practically the same dish at Artelier Thuet before TBH opened. I preferred the Artelier Thuet one as it cut back on the spice and did not come with redundant acutriments. It was about allowing the subtle sweetness of the horse meat to come through. I find the treatment at TBH to be a bit heavy handed personally, but that is my opinion. I thought the tongue sandwich to be a better executed dish there. Still, given the plethora of better options in NY for this style of food I would not recommend it to my NY foodie friends. Different strokes for different folks.

                      2. re: JPJ
                        k
                        Kasia Oct 25, 2009 04:03 PM

                        why wouldn't you send out of towners there just because there is no reservation? when i travel, and especially in new york, i often go to places without reservations because they sound interesting and are in an interesting area. as a visitor, i enjoy walking around and checking out the hood while i wait, or grab a cocktail at a nearby bar. not sure why a visitor wouldn't want to do that here.

                        1. re: Kasia
                          j
                          JPJ Oct 25, 2009 05:48 PM

                          First, it could be 1-2 hours before you get a table, kind of hard to plan your eating around that. Second, the area that TBH is in can be kind of sketchy, not sure I would tell my out of town friends to go for a stroll around there. A number of the bars in the area are literal dives, although there are some fine places on Ossington south of Dundas.

                          Last time I went to the LCBO in that area there was a meeting of the community meth-heads going on in the parking lot. When security from the LCBO came out to ask them to move along, one individual in the group threw an empty beer bottle at one of the officers striking him in the head/shoulder as they ran. He was bleeding but seemed okay all things considered.

                          Finally, there is no legitimate reason not to take reservations other than the aforementioned buzz. I find it to lack respect for my time. A typical meal takes 1.5-2 hours to consume and pay for at restaurants. Tack on another 1-2 hour wait and it could take 4 hours to eat dinner. Not worth it. and I would not support it.

                          I will check places out if I am in the area without a reservation, but if there is anything resembling a real wait, I will move on. There are too many restaurants serving food that is at or above the level of a place like TBH to waste time waiting around for them call you at their convenience.

                          1. re: JPJ
                            k
                            Kasia Oct 25, 2009 06:06 PM

                            well, i've never waited 1-2 hours there, but i guess it may be the case at peek hours. at which point you're within walking distance to a number of good restaurants so it wouldn't be a complete disaster (i do that often enough when i travel - pick resto A, and B in the area as backup in case i can't get into A).

                            there is nothing 'sketchy' about this area. in dare say this is one of the safest areas in the city. i run at all hours of the day and night around the neighbourhood, not just on main streets like dundas and ossington but also through the park and various side streets. far from sketchy, it is a real neighbourhood with, despite ossington, a good mix of low to medium priced cafes, restaurants and drinking holes. i walk by (and even venture into) some of the dives, and somehow everyday come out unscathed. your example is poor - the same situation can and does happen in myriad of places and is hardly an example of a 'day in the life' of dundas/ossington.

          2. cynalan Oct 21, 2009 09:24 AM

            I see a significant omission in the list of Toronto possibilities. I am surprised that no-one identified Greek as an option. With the huge concentration of Greek ex-pats in the Danforth area, surely there must be a restaurant of distinction worth a visit. I loved the souvlaki at Astoria but, unfortunately, I cannot recommend a particular establishment now as I left Toronto 10 years ago and never get to that part of town when visiting.

            2 Replies
            1. re: cynalan
              estufarian Oct 21, 2009 01:30 PM

              The Greek in Toronto is 'just OK'. Nothing that beats what's available in New York.

              1. re: estufarian
                j
                JPJ Oct 21, 2009 06:13 PM

                Milos in Montreal is the only greek food in Canada that I would ever categorize as "must try".

                Not surprisingly Milos has a sister restaurant in New York, or maybe its the other way around, whichever is one hell of a good meal.

            2. c
              currycue Oct 21, 2009 09:19 AM

              www.sukhothiafood.com

              1. j
                JPJ Oct 21, 2009 05:39 AM

                I don't know that Toronto has one single dish that defines it. You should really try some of the locally grown product (produce and meat/fish/seafood) as some of it is quite excellent.

                Go to Canoe. Canadian sourced product, excellent food, service and ambience. Arguably one of Toronto's best. Also has an incredible view of the city.

                Also, if you can get in Eigensinn Farm in Singhampton displays Canadian Cuisine at it's finest. The chef produces most of what he cooks right on the farm. It's where I tell my foodie friends to book in advance when I know they are coming here (there or Canoe).

                Aside from that, I concur with the suggestion that Toronto has world class chinese food, though it can be hard to find. I agree the best is in the northern suberbs (Richmond Hill/Markham).

                4 Replies
                1. re: JPJ
                  d
                  dubchild Oct 21, 2009 09:29 AM

                  It may be hard to get into Eigensinn Farm, but Haisai, operated by the same chef, may have an opening. Some friends of mine went up a couple of weeks ago and said it was great like Eigensinn Farm, but you got twice as more at half the price. On weekends they do 12 course menus for $120 per person. You can bring your own wine, corkage is $30 per bottle. This may be one of the best meals of your life.

                  1. re: dubchild
                    TorontoJo Oct 21, 2009 10:02 AM

                    If you haven't been there yet, isn't saying "this may be one of the best meals of your life" stretching it a bit?

                    1. re: TorontoJo
                      sloweater Oct 21, 2009 10:11 AM

                      "Stadtlander, his Japanese wife Nobuyo, and seven live-in apprentices will oversee both Haisai and Eigensinn Farm, which only seats 12 guests in the dining room of the 19th-century brick house and has been named by Restaurant Magazine as one of the world's top 10 places to eat." Reuters

                      Stadtlander is considered by some to be one of the top chefs in the world. I suspect his talent has not diminished since opening Haisai.

                      1. re: TorontoJo
                        d
                        dubchild Oct 21, 2009 10:32 AM

                        I've been to the farm twice. I'm assuming based on my experiences and what my friends told me about the new restaurant.

                  2. m
                    malpeque Oct 21, 2009 04:13 AM

                    How sad that the peameal bacon on a bun from SLM is usually the only thing we can come up with as a Toronto must have. The last time I had one, I had to pitch it because I couldn't stand the overwhelming margarine flavour I was tasting. My vote for delicious and unique is Ghandi Roti.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: malpeque
                      Davwud Oct 21, 2009 04:26 AM

                      Is that actually unique to TO??

                      DT

                      1. re: malpeque
                        eller Oct 21, 2009 05:35 AM

                        I'd say that street meat is more unique to Toronto than a peameal bacon on a bun or an inconsistent roti from Gandhi...

                        1. re: malpeque
                          k
                          Kasia Oct 21, 2009 01:37 PM

                          i;m not sure that the poster asked for 'uniquely' toronto - i thought the request was for 'must try' places. when i travel i don't only look for food i can't get here, but also for interesting, good quality places that locals enjoy.

                        2. estufarian Oct 20, 2009 07:59 AM

                          I note that New York is your 'normal haunt', so suggest you concentrate on two types of cuisine here: Chinese (a whole category I know) and Portuguese.
                          For Portuguese the choice is simple - Chiado - I've yet to find a better Portuguese in North America - not cheap - think the Portuguese equivalent of European fine dining.

                          For Chinese, you'll probably need the North/Northeast suburbs except for Lai Wah Heen which is downtown. The lunchtime dim sum is a revelation.

                          And Peameal Bacon on a bun (add the honey mustard as a condiment) from St Lawrence market - it's the best tourist thing to do.

                          1. Davwud Oct 20, 2009 07:55 AM

                            Personally, I think the one thing that's hard to get outside of TO is a peameal bacon on a kaiser. The best place for that is the St. Lawrence Market. There are a few vendors in there that sell them and it's always a hot topic as to which is better. My belief is Carouselle Bakery but others will off a differing opinion.
                            One key to this is that you also get to go to the SLM. It's a great place to visit. Lots of nice food finds. http://www.stlawrencemarket.com/
                            And a little tip for you. If you're into mustard, visit Kozlik's on the upper level of the south building.

                            Toronto doesn't really have much in the way of distinctive food fare. Our strong suit is multiculturalism. You can eat from every corner of the globe here practically.

                            DT

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