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A foodie brother's coming of age: restaurant suggestion needed

Toronto CHers,

This is a birthday restaurant search. But not an ordinary one. This is one sibling's quest to bring some sense of the refinement that good, foodie love can accomplish-the sharing of something dear to me, namely my devotion to, and sensual appreciation of food-to my younger, rougher-around-the-edges brother on the occasion of his milestone birthday.

Sometimes, going to the gastronomic temples can achieve this, but not always. He's been floored by a meal at Eleven Madison Park, Daniel Humm's precious NYC outfit, and the refined, generous, though thoroughly democratic vibe of the dining experience. Toronto is a bit different, I find. Sometimes, there is that haughtiness towards younger diners that has put him (and I) off of some restaurants, in the past, which I hope to avoid.

This time, I'm looking for something that will open up the chance for us to be wowed with inventive cuisine, but not serve a dose of attitude alongside.

Sushi, Chinese, and seafood places are out.

So while I'm open to fine dining, I am also wondering if there are any outstanding smaller neighbourhood places where this experience might be possible. And, a place where our party of 4 can make reservations beforehand. Also, I'd like to find a place worthy of my brother's appetite; he generally scorns any piece of meat smaller than 10 oz...

Ideas so far: (while some of these differ, I'm ok with that-am looking for something that will shine as an experience, though the content of this experience may vary)

Colborne Lane, tasting menu
Splendido
The Beast-menu looks interesting, though reviews are inconsistent
Frank's Kitchen on College
Local Kitchen
Weezie's (never been, but Googs' plugs have intrigued me)
Buca
Nota Bene-thinking of the reserve dry-aged meat selection, but the 'suits vibe is not exactly what I'm after.
Table 17

Any recs. are welcome... Thanks!

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Weezie's
354 King St E, Toronto, ON M5A1K9, CA

Table 17
782 Queen St. East, Toronto, ON M4M 1H4, CA

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

Colborne Lane
45 Colborne Street, Toronto, ON M5E 1P8, CA

Buca
604 King St. West, Toronto, ON M5V 1M6, CA

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  1. I'd say Black Hoof but they don't take reservations but then neither does Local Kitchen.

    Buca skewers the youngest (and loudest) on your list.

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    Buca
    604 King St. West, Toronto, ON M5V 1M6, CA

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

    2 Replies
    1. re: Herb

      I've had two very frustrating experiences waiting to be seated at the Black Hoof. Sure, I'll put up with it for the food, but I think the sib needs more good experiences before he'll sacrifice 3 hours of his time to wait for food...no reservations, no deal. but thanks.

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

      1. re: unturtlesoup

        What day and at what time? I've had no problem getting a table but then I don't go on Saturday night at 7:45 pm.

    2. Some great neighborhood type places that I've really liked lately:

      Cowbell (Queen West West)
      Bohmer (Ossington)
      Paramour (Ossington)

      Great food and great atmosphere (Cowbell is a bit quieter than the other two if you are looking for that)

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      Boehmer
      93 Ossington Ave, Toronto, ON M6J, CA

      1. Colborne Lane for sure....

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        Colborne Lane
        45 Colborne Street, Toronto, ON M5E 1P8, CA

        1. I think you’ll have to compromise somewhere – if your ideal place exists in Toronto I haven’t found it yet!

          As already mentioned, the place that fits most closely is Black Hoof – but no reservations. If you can make it before 6:00 on a night they’re open, you should get in. Even if not, a 60-90 minute wait across the street at Hoof Café will probably add to the experience. But if you come later, it’s hard to predict how long you’ll wait – or even if there’s room at the Café.

          The closest to Eleven Madison is probably Splendido (and they have a truffle menu right now) – but it’s more upscale and skews a bit older (although younger than Nota Bene).

          Colborne Lane serves ‘small portions’ – that could be an issue, although the novelty factor is very high (worst issue there is (or was) the wine list – if that’s important).

          For a ‘buzz’ – Buca is probably a good choice. The food is competent, rather than exciting, but there are several good choices on the menu.

          Weezie’s is a good neighbourhood restaurant - a good bistro if you live nearby. They keep it simple (and cramped).

          Not sure if you are confined to Toronto (I note you’re in Hamilton) – but if somewhere between the two is worthwhile investigating, then I HIGHLY recommend BlackTree in Burlington. They always have a game meat special of some kind, which is always ‘filling’ and often unusual. It also has some other ‘quirks’ that I’ll let you discover as it will heighten the experience. Definitely a place I’d take a foodie to.

          Edited to add a reference to Blacktree - the permalink feature isn't saving the reference:

          http://www.blacktreerestaurant.com/

          -----
          Weezie's
          354 King St E, Toronto, ON M5A1K9, CA

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

          Colborne Lane
          45 Colborne Street, Toronto, ON M5E 1P8, CA

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

          Buca
          604 King St. West, Toronto, ON M5V 1M6, CA

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

          3 Replies
          1. re: estufarian

            Ok, the birthday boy is getting spoiled:
            Pre-birthday lunch is at Splendido, to enjoy their $75 5-course prix fixe "european lunch" (on Fridays now till mid-December)
            Pre-birthday dinner, we'll try for the Black Hoof, or some other place that requires me to wait in a line...
            Birthday dinner is at Ame (his choice, I'm not terribly exicted, too sceney with bad food for me...)

            I agree that something like Colborne Lane would be ideal...alas, there are more birthdays to be had...

            And thanks, estufarian, for the Blacktree rec. I've been meaning to try this place for a while, but I never quite make it...

            Thanks everyone!

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

            Colborne Lane
            45 Colborne Street, Toronto, ON M5E 1P8, CA

            Blacktree
            3029 New St, Burlington, ON L7N, CA

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

            1. re: unturtlesoup

              I had the robata prawns, pork belly and mushroom salad last night at Ame and all were great. It was a Tuesday night so not at all sceney. Instead I got great service, food and drinks. I hope you get a little of the same.

              1. re: unturtlesoup

                That Splendido lunch is amazing. One of the best deals in Toronto.
                And DO give BlackTree a try sometime -- it's worth it.
                I think you've made great choices all around.

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

            2. Dinner at Ame was memorable only for how ridiculous the entire experience transpired.
              I shall begin with the good points: the lovingly-crafted, artisanal cocktails were innovative, and the bartender affable, flexible, with an almost clairvoyant ability to accomodate my likes, dislikes, and allergies. I made a bad Monty Python joke about elderberries, and he laughed. That made my day.

              Overall, miniscule portions and frigid service. Despite having emailed the owner to clarify dinner reservations could be had at 5:30 (he said yes), I was not phoned the day of to confirm; when I called to confirm, I was told by a disinterested hostess, "we don't open 'till six." I asked if there was a bar or lounge, and she reiterated, "we don't open our doors "till six." When I arrived at 5:45, I attempted to open the massively heavy doors-a hostess peered up from behind the glassed-in windows and generally ignored my attempts to open the doors. We found that the doors were actually unlocked, but just Mofo heavy, and walked in. No greeting. Nothing. I walked into the lounge area to find one of our dinner guests already seated, reading a magazine. She had not been offered a thing, not a menu, water, or a drinks menu, for the entire time that she had been waiting. We sat together, actually thinking that we had been seated for dinner service in the lounge, all for the empty restaurant. About ten minutes later, we were asked, "are you ready to be seated at your table?" (What table? Had anyone asked my name, or the number of my party?) This was strange, but we agreed to be seated in the empty restaurant. We were not given a drink menu for 20 minutes following, which was disappointing considering the fact that I was quite excited to try their cocktail program. I did the schmoozy thing and approached the bar myself, which turned out to be a good idea.
              Fast-forward to the ordering part. We asked the waitress what she suggested for a group of 5, and explained plaintively that the chefs had requested that all orders be put in together. We took her suggestions, and ordered well over the quantity mentioned (two more "mains" and an extra rice). The market price striploin was miniscule, such that it was embarrassing to share. The fluke sushi was fresh, and contained an interesting pickled vegetable mixture, and was decorated with a nice mix of grated wasabi. Other dishes were not memorable. The actual table service was pleasant enough, but it was hard to get her attention. By the time 7:45 rolled around, all of the order had not yet come out, and so we left without tasting the duck or the quail or the second bowl of $9 rice. Our party left hungry, and generally underwhelmed for a $300 meal.
              Would I return to Ame again? Maybe if I wanted a kick-ass cocktail (I'd have to gear up to put up with the clubby, fake sceney atmosphere), but nothing more. And some more Monty Python banter; that's priceless.

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              Ame Cuisine
              19 Mercer St, Toronto, ON M5V 3C6, CA

              1. Seems like Woodlot would fit nicely. Supposed to be amazing with really friendly service. Approachable but interesting food.

                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7463...

                I have yet to go but I tried tonight, they're full until 9:30 so a good sign.