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This weekend in TO

Matt H Nov 24, 2009 05:00 PM

Hey everyone,

I will be in Toronto this weekend (Thursday-Sunday) and am looking to try out a few restaurants I haven't had a chance to try out on my frequent visits back (I used to live in Toronto, currently in Boston) .

So far I have reservations at Sidecar on Friday night (I have only been for cocktails in the past) and plan on hitting the Black Hoof sometime on the weekend, probably Sunday night. Otherwise I would like to fill a couple of the remaining slots:

Friday: Would like to try out a restaurant for lunch. Price or type of cuisine is not a concern. I usually try to eat at Canoe for a "nicer" lunch, but would like to try something different. I noticed that Splendido is running a promotion for a lunch tasting menu on Friday's. I have to admit that I have been to Splendido once (last year) for dinner and was not really that impressed with the tasting menu overall (some hits, some misses), but with all the praise it receives it may deserve a second shot. Otherwise any other suggestions?

Sunday Afternoon: Since the Dolphins are playing the Bills this weekend (Huge Phins fan) I would like to check out the game downtown, preferably somewhere near the ACC since I have Raptors tickets for a 3:30 tip off. A great beer selection and above average Pub fare with TV's are the only requests.

Thanks in advance.

M

-----
Splendido
88 Harbord Street, Toronto, ON M5S 1G5, CA

Black Hoof
928 Dundas St W, Toronto M6J, CA

  1. syoung Nov 25, 2009 09:13 AM

    I would add Nota Bene to your list for either lunch or dinner.

    1. Rabbit Nov 25, 2009 09:59 AM

      For your Sunday afternoon request C'est What might be an OK compromise. The food is (admittedly) merely average, but the beer selection is great and the geography is favourable.

      1. y
        Yum2MyTum Nov 25, 2009 11:37 AM

        Maybe the Queen and Beaver on Sunday -- apparently they have a wicked hand chopped burger, loads of TVs. It's not super close to the ACC but you can get there easily enough.

        Getting a last minute reservation at Nota Bene is worth it for sure. Other lunch places include Gallery Grill at the University of Toronto. Osgoode Hall is interesting to dine at but the food has been slipping IMHO.

        -----
        Gallery Grill
        7 Hart House Cir, Toronto, ON M5S, CA

        Osgoode Hall
        130 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M5H 2N6, CA

        Nota Bene
        180 Queen Street West, Toronto, ON M5V 2A1, CA

        1. Matt H Nov 25, 2009 11:56 AM

          Thanks everyone, I secured a reservation for Nota Bene for Friday Lunch and am leaning towards C'est What for Sunday, but will call ahead to make sure the game is on.

          Yum2: I know the Gallery Grill very well from my UofT days, always have enjoyed my meals there, it is unfortunate to hear that the standard may be declining.

          5 Replies
          1. re: Matt H
            Chester Eleganté Nov 25, 2009 12:16 PM

            The fare at C'est What is unexciting, but the lamb burger's not bad. I think the Splendido lunch special reads a lot better than what Nota Bene has, but hey.

            btw, really enjoy watching the Wildcat when it's run properly. Ronnie B's a beast, and will be missed.

            1. re: Chester Eleganté
              Matt H Nov 26, 2009 06:03 AM

              Thank you for the guidance on the Lamb Burger, my priorities as far as Sunday afternoon goes is 1. Football/TV's 2. Beer List 3. Food, so I am not expecting perfection. What is your opinion on Queen and Beaver?

              As far as leaning towards Nota Bene over Splendido, it is more due to me wanting to try something new, and Splendido is a place I have tried, albeit once.

              Ronnie B was a huge loss, the Wildcat was made for his talents, fortunately they have arguably the best back up RB in the league to fill in, Ricky proved last week that he's still got it.

              1. re: Matt H
                Chester Eleganté Nov 27, 2009 12:49 PM

                Ya for sure. And we still got love for Ricky for the time he spent here. Great matchup for him on Sunday.

                Haven't been to Q/B, but their burger does sound promising.

            2. re: Matt H
              y
              Yum2MyTum Nov 25, 2009 12:57 PM

              Oh no - I wasn't saying that Gallery Grill's quality was declining. I was referring to the quality at Osgoode Hall, which is at Queen and University, at the Court of Appeal. As far as I know, Gallery Grill is still tops.

              Enjoy your stay, Matt H!

              1. re: Yum2MyTum
                Matt H Nov 26, 2009 06:06 AM

                Oh I see, thank you for the clarification, I haven't had one bad meal at Gallery Grill, so that is good to hear.

            3. Thatcher Nov 25, 2009 01:20 PM

              Matt,

              Though the service experience may be different from what you're used to, now that you're in the US, I'd second the recco's to try some of the more creative choices that have popped up in the city. Places like the Black Hoof, Queen &, etc., will be roughing it compared to what you're used to, but good experiences in terms of Toronto dining pushing out the walls of it's pretty tight box.

              Why not make it a "street food" weekend - drop the high end altogether and try places like Caplansky's. Stockyards, and others that get frequent cover on this board?

              Just a thought...

              1 Reply
              1. re: Thatcher
                Matt H Nov 26, 2009 06:15 AM

                Thank you for your thoughts Thatcher, I am very much looking forward to trying Black Hoof, it sounds like the type of place I would really enjoy.

                I will definitely be stopping by some of my favorite casual places as well, which includes Caplansky's (I have not been since they moved-but my fav Smoked meat in TO) and Randy's patties which is my favorite Patty and Coco bread outside JA. So good recommendation's on your part and hey I think I still know how to rough it a little here and there : )

                I do understand that Toronto's fine dining scene gets critiqued often on this board and sometimes it is well deserved IMO, but I am sure that one higher end lunch at Nota Bene would not hurt.

              2. Matt H Dec 1, 2009 10:58 AM

                Thank you for all the guidance, had a good trip seeing the family and my hometown as usual, even though the Phins lost, but I don't want to talk about that! Here is a quick re-cap:

                Buster Rhino's: I spent a bit of my time in Ajax, so we went to Buster Rhino's because it is one of my favorite places in the East End. The Ribs were outstanding as usual, and honestly the sides keep improving more and more every visit. The Baked Beans and Hush puppies were decent in the past, but I really think BR has come close to perfecting both. Hush Puppies were alot lighter and not as heavy as in the past, and the baked beans have the perfect balance of sweet and savory.

                Randy's Patties: Still the undisputed champion of Patties in the GTA, no one really comes close, I make a trip back here every visit because it is one of my favorite things to eat in Toronto. Outside of Jamaica, they make my favorite patty.

                Nota Bene: I started off with an old-fashioned cocktail from the Bar, good solid bartending, no complaints here. For my starter I ordered the Proscuiotto and Arugala Salad, which was very good. Then I went for the Burger which was excellent! Cooked perfectly Medium Rare, Juicy, Flavorful, everything you could really want in a Burger. I would make a return trip just to have the Burger again.

                Black Hoof: I was extremely excited to try out BH with all the praise it has been getting in the Press, CHOW and amongst my friends in TO. We timed it right and did not have to wait that long to be seated.
                Started with the Large board charcuterie and the lineup was solid. Spicy chorizo, Terrine, Foie Gras, Duck Liver, Venison, etc, etc...Very good board with no real misses at all, this is what they specialize in, so they delivered as expected.
                The one main complaint were the sweetbreads though. I absolutely love sweetbreads and order them on a pretty regular basis and this preparation was one of the most disappointing I have tried. Very heavy and a very unpleasant texture. Otherwise I was pleased with our evening, not sure if its the "best restaurant ever" like what everyone says, but a nice addition to the Toronto dining scene.

                Sidecar: We started off with cocktails before dinner. The name of the cocktail I started with has completely slipped my mind, but it was Whiskey and Vermouth based. Excellent cocktail craft as usual, perfectly mixed. For my meal I ordered the Steak Frites and it was excellent. The Steak was cooked perfectly medium rare and the fries were a bit too salty but very good overall. With my entree I ordered the suggested Badass Mojito. Once again well mixed, not too sweet, but sweet enough to balance the saltiness of the fries, so a good pairing choice. After my meal I asked the bartender to mix me a Coffee Flip which is not on the menu, but I order quite often here in Boston and also the other time I was at Sidecar. The bartender did not know what the drink was, which I do not mind, but from the facial expressions he seemed a bit annoyed at me ordering a drink not from the cocktail menu. Well our server came over and asked me to explain the drink and they would make an attempt at it, which to their credit they did. It was okay, but since it is his first time mixing the drink I didn't hold it against him.

                My main complaint was that it seemed as if they do not expect anyone to order any other cocktail than what is specified on the menu. My last visit I had a bartender that was not working that night (He has glasses and a moustache, forget his name) and I spent about 2 hrs at the bar chatting with him and giving him free reign off of what to mix me based on flavors and spirt, he was impressive, unfortunately I cannot say the same about Friday nights tender. Otherwise very good food, nice room and relaxed atmosphere. I would go back again.

                Il Fornello: I have to be honest and say I have never heard of this chain until yesterday. We were on our way to our Flight out of the Toronto Island Airport and met a family member for lunch, since everyone was in a rush we chose Il Fornello since it was across the street from their office. I have to say this is one of the worst dining experiences I have had in a while. I ordered the Prosciutto and Fig Pizza. Overbaked crust, burnt prosciutto and flavorless Figs, just a very bad pizza overall. I have never been forced to salt prosciutto before but did this time because of the lack of flavor. Our served was not that attentive either, but nice overall, I don't want to sound too negative, but this place is pretty bad.

                As far as the game is concerned the Raptors game which I had tickets for was moved up to a 1pm tip off, so I ended up watching a bit of the game from the Ice Bar at the ACC., then the remainder from a bar in Union Station.

                6 Replies
                1. re: Matt H
                  pinstripeprincess Dec 1, 2009 11:06 AM

                  because you mention the sweetbreads at black hoof.... did you feel that they reminded you of... fried chicken? every time i get something fried from that place it just taste like fried chicken to me. from the batter to the oil... and it was quite greasy.

                  and as for sidecar... ha... vdara served me some kind of monstrosity after asking for a gimlet and claimed it was my mistake because i did not pronounce it clearly. the best part was that they made up some absurd name (like giblin) for limeade, vodka and a pickled onion. disgusting.

                  thanks for the report!

                  1. re: pinstripeprincess
                    Wahooty Dec 1, 2009 01:51 PM

                    Not completely absurd...somewhere in between a gimlet and a gibson...<shudder>...giblin. Sounds absolutely vile, though, no matter what you call it.

                    1. re: Wahooty
                      pinstripeprincess Dec 1, 2009 03:13 PM

                      ah! i'm not knowledgable enough about drink names but i guess that is what you would get if you married a gimlet to a gibson!

                    2. re: pinstripeprincess
                      Matt H Dec 2, 2009 05:30 AM

                      Now that you say it, yes Fried Chicken.....but very badly fried, Fried Chicken!

                      I still had a good enough time at Sidecar, but if you are an establishment that sells yourself as a go-to place for craft cocktails, you should be willing to step outside your menu, which is not that extensive to start with.

                    3. re: Matt H
                      y
                      Yum2MyTum Dec 2, 2009 10:17 AM

                      Matt H I am glad you loved the burger at Nota Bene! I'm curious: did you get the Wagyu burger ($39) or the Stilton ($19)? I have tried both and I love both... although unbelievably I think the Wagyu burger is actually twice as good as the stilton burger...

                      1. re: Yum2MyTum
                        Matt H Dec 2, 2009 12:24 PM

                        It was the Stilton definitely and yes it was VERY good.

                        I remember just seeing one option on the menu when I went for lunch and I just checked the menu again and it seems like the Wagyu is just offered during dinner. All I know is that next time I am in TO I am setting aside a night to try it out, because it sounds incredible.

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