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Looking for Uniquely Toronto Restaurants

u
una mas Jul 19, 2010 09:04 AM

Hi,

I will be in Toronto for a few days next month and would like to take the opportunity to try a few restaurants that are uniquely "Toronto." I was wondering if anyone could provide a little feedback on a few places that have already caught my eye just from browsing Zagat:

Canoe: described as "Canadian cuisine" on Zagat, which piqued my interest

Black Hoof: I'm always interested in restaurants described as "eclectic."

A couple that look appealing despite not necessarily being so unique to Toronto:

Chiado/Senhor Antonio: my hometown only has a couple good Portugese places, and they are really hard to get into!

Star Fish: I'm an Oyster fanatic!

I would be very interested in any other recommendations people may have, but I should disclose a couple biases. I am generally not interested in Japanese/Vietnamese/Chinese restaurants simply because I travel to those parts of the world often enough (also I live in Manhattan and we do pretty well with those cuisines ourselves!). I'm also not too interested in French places for similar reasons. Other than that, I am pretty open to anything, with a strong preference for experiences that would be difficult/impossible to replicate elsewhere.

Many thanks!

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The Black Hoof
928 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON M6J, CA

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  1. TorontoJo RE: una mas Jul 19, 2010 09:19 AM

    You've picked a really nice variety of spots -- well done!

    Canoe is a lovely fine-dining restaurant with a spectacular view of the city and the lake. The focus is on local ingredients, which I suppose makes it "Canadian", though you may find that some of the preparations lean towards some French influences (though I wouldn't call it a French restaurant at all). But it's a worthy stop on your itinerary. Note that it is closed on weekends, though.

    Chiado is fantastic and hard to find the equivalent elsewhere in North America. Definitely focus on the fish and seafood dishes, and explore the extensive and excellent Portuguese wine list. If you are looking for a lighter meal, then order off of the Senhor Antonio "bar menu" for more of a tapas approach to dining.

    Black Hoof is the place to go if you are into nose-to-tail cuisine. For another fun option, try brunch at Black Hoof Cafe across the street.

    Starfish is great for oysters. Rodney's and Oyster Boy are other options. But I prefer Starfish as the overall package.

    If you're looking for something fun with a very Toronto vibe, have dinner at the bar/lounge at Origin. I'm not sure that it's totally unique to Toronto, but the menu of share plates with global influences is very Toronto.

    -----
    Oyster Boy
    872 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M6J1G3, CA

    Chiado
    864 College Street West, Toronto, ON M6H 1A3, CA

    The Black Hoof
    928 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON M6J, CA

    4 Replies
    1. re: TorontoJo
      u
      una mas RE: TorontoJo Jul 19, 2010 10:56 AM

      Thanks, Jo! Origin looks like a cool place; we may try to squeeze that in.

      I have a follow-up question on Black Hoof. It seems like the wait can be very long (living in Manhattan, this is not unfamiliar to me). How long do you think we should expect to wait if we show up at around 9:30 on a Friday night? Thanks!

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

      1. re: una mas
        TorontoJo RE: una mas Jul 19, 2010 11:08 AM

        Sorry, I can't help you on the wait times at Black Hoof. Maybe somebody else can chime in? But I'm pretty sure that they will take your cell number and you can go across the street to have a drink while waiting.

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

        1. re: una mas
          j
          JennaBean RE: una mas Jul 19, 2010 11:27 AM

          An hour at this time wouldn't be unheard of.

          1. re: JennaBean
            u
            una mas RE: JennaBean Jul 19, 2010 02:22 PM

            Thanks! That isn't so bad, especially if we can manage to find a snack somewhere while we wait.

      2. Rabbit RE: una mas Jul 19, 2010 09:22 AM

        You have a good list going. For a few more suggestions:

        - Globe (and Globe Earth) also do Canadian cuisine. They are neighbourhood-y spots while Canoe is a bit more corporate (with an outstanding view).

        - If you're into deli Caplansky's might be worth a stop. You will find very polarized views on this board and the house admittedly has some consistency issues with their meat but we have had good luck

        - If you have good luck with your personal restaurant radar you might find it interesting to walk down Ossington/Queen West/ Dundas West on a non-weekend night and try one of the little places that have opened on that strip. I haven't tried them all but there is good buzz around Enoteca Sociale, Atlantic, Boehmer and I always like Foxley

        - You might try the St. Lawrence and or Kensington markets for breakfast/lunch/wandering. Peameal bacon sandwiches are a Canadian thing (I think they're overhyped but my American boyfriend looooves them)

        - If you're a Top Chef fan note that Susur Lee has an outpost here. Lee is doing a lunch now that is supposed to be really great. And Susur is working on a new space but I don't know when it will open

        - a few other miscellaneous things/stuff to try... butter tarts (a Canadian thing easily found at either market) and ice wine (Niagara is a big producer)

        -----
        Foxley
        207 Ossington Ave, Toronto, ON M6J2Z8, CA

        Susur
        601 King St W, Toronto, ON M5V1M5, CA

        Caplansky's
        356 College Street, Toronto, ON M6J, CA

        Enoteca Sociale
        1288 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON M6J, CA

        3 Replies
        1. re: Rabbit
          u
          una mas RE: Rabbit Jul 19, 2010 10:58 AM

          Thanks, Rabbit! All of your suggestions are appreciated; I'm most intrigued by Foxley and Globe Earth. I think I will try booking one of those for the remaining dinner that I have open. Also, great tip on the markets! I will check those out for sure.

          -----
          Foxley
          207 Ossington Ave, Toronto, ON M6J2Z8, CA

          1. re: una mas
            Herb RE: una mas Jul 19, 2010 11:26 AM

            Foxley doesn't take reservations.

            -----
            Foxley
            207 Ossington Ave, Toronto, ON M6J2Z8, CA

            1. re: Herb
              Rabbit RE: Herb Jul 19, 2010 11:50 AM

              Sorry, I should have mentioned that... but same story as Black Hoof insofar as they will take a cell number so you can go and have a drink elsewhere. There is a tequila bar slightly south of Foxley's called Reposado which is kinda fun (and I think they have a back patio).

              -----
              Foxley
              207 Ossington Ave, Toronto, ON M6J2Z8, CA

              Reposado
              136 Ossington Ave, Toronto, ON M6J, CA

              The Black Hoof
              928 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON M6J, CA

        2. estufarian RE: una mas Jul 19, 2010 12:18 PM

          I go along with most of what's already been said.
          My 'standard' recommendations for NY visitors have been
          Chiado (think French rather than Portuguese, as this place is really upscale; also recommend the bar menu), (reservations needed)
          Susur (currently only Lee, his more casual place, is open - and my last two visits have been really disappointing. Food has slipped and service has plummeted) (reservations, and some walk-ins)
          Lai Wah Heen (for lunch). I know you said to avoid Chinese, but their Dim Sum is sensational (albeit expensive) and creative.(reservations needed)

          For Canadian, I echo a 'peameal bacon on a bun - with honey mustard' and Canoe (closed Sat/Sun) is probably the best - but you pay for that. Many places do feature 'local' cuisine and Earth does a very good job at a fraction of the price (reservations needed).

          Black Hoof is the best of its style. Difficult to judge how long the wait will be. Recently on a Saturday the wait was 90 minutes just after opening, but if you go later, it's possible that some people may have given up and moved on.

          And, although I hesitate to call it 'fusion' we have MANY influences here, and you may luck in to something that's just right for you (most of the Ossington places fall into this category). The 'straight-ahead' ethnic places end to compete on price, rather than quality, so are really neighbourhood destinations. I've had great stuff at Origin recently - service has been superb and they seem to get food to the table immediately it's prepared (again reservations essential - even at bar). I've had less luck at Foxley - dishes have a stronger oriental bent there and I've been served stuff (specifically dumplings) that has (presumably) dried out in the fridge.

          I tend to avoid seafood in Toronto - I'm not aware of anything that matches up to New York, but TorontoJo's recs are probably the best we have.

          -----
          Lai Wah Heen
          108 Chestnut St, Toronto, ON M5G 1R3, CA

          Foxley
          207 Ossington Ave, Toronto, ON M6J2Z8, CA

          Chiado
          864 College Street West, Toronto, ON M6H 1A3, CA

          Susur
          601 King St W, Toronto, ON M5V1M5, CA

          The Black Hoof
          928 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON M6J, CA

          3 Replies
          1. re: estufarian
            u
            una mas RE: estufarian Jul 19, 2010 02:29 PM

            Thanks, this is very helpful. I've got my reservations for Chiado and Canoe, and Origin looks very interesting. For a short trip, do you think it would be redundant to go to Canoe and Earth (say, on back-to-back nights?).

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            Chiado
            864 College Street West, Toronto, ON M6H 1A3, CA

            1. re: una mas
              estufarian RE: una mas Jul 19, 2010 02:56 PM

              Think slightly more different than Daniel and Bar Boulud - totally different buzz (and target market), although some ingredients might be similar (NOTE: Canoe & Earth don't share ownership). If you're going to Black Hoof (as well as Canoe), then you might drop Earth as it's sort of part way between these two extremes.

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

              1. re: una mas
                TorontoJo RE: una mas Jul 20, 2010 01:15 PM

                I just had dinner at Origin last night. They just opened a huge patio, which was perfect for last night's weather. We showed up without a reservation a little after 7pm and had no problem getting a table on the patio. The dining room was booked solid, but the bar/lounge area was wide open, as was the patio. Both filled up later in the evening.

                Dinner was great, as usual, but service was below standard (but apologetic) because they are still trying to figure out the appropriate staffing model to support the patio (which effectively doubled the seating). Hopefully they'll get the kinks worked out.

                DH had the burger, which looked spectacular. $15 for just the burger, but it was freshly ground beef, and offered medium rare. Served with smoked mayo and avocado. DH said it was the best burger he's had in the city (mind you, he's not quite as freakish about his food as most of us on this board are). I had the new preparation of the rock hen, which still had the wonderful char of the previous prep, but I miss the simplicity of the harissa. The new prep has an orzo and mushroom ragout type side, which I thought overwhelmed the hen. Tostones and guac were as good as ever and I tried the spicy Spanish fries for the first time -- YUM. Fries topped with a chorizo/olive/tomato mixture, grated manchego cheese and a smoky, spicy aioli. Well worth ordering those again. And for dessert, I had to stick with the dulce de leche custard dessert, which is my favourite (though the banana cream pie is a close second).

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