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Best Bites for 4 days in Toronto (including New Years)

Hi all,

My husband and I are visiting Toronto for the first time this December (including New Years) We adore great food, but are not fans of fussy, molecular gastronomy-style cooking. I guess we like upscale bistro food using local, in-season ingredients, served in a warm and friendly atmosphere with great wine. I also love chocolate and great coffee. Any suggestions for where to go, including NY Eve, which doesn't have to be a fancy-schmancy affair?

I did some preliminary research and was intrigued by:
Melena
Earth
Spendid
Local Kitchen Wine & Bar
Paramour
Guu Izakay
Soma for hot chocolate

Thanks so much!

-----
Guu
398 Church Street, Toronto, ON M5B 2A2, CA

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  1. I would definately throw in a dim sum lunch somewhere along your trip. You can do a search on the board and pick depending on your price range. I see you mentioned bistro food, but this could be an alternative.

    1 Reply
    1. re: chillihigh

      Thank you, Chillihigh. Great idea about dim sum!

    2. Keep in mind that many high-end restaurants close around Christmas and New Year's. Many will be open NY Eve but not New Year's Day. But Chinatown's always open!

      5 Replies
      1. re: Herb

        Chinatown is definitely your best bet on New Years' Day or Christmas Day. I especially love Lee Garden and South China Seafood on Spadina. The latter is usually packed on Christmas Day. Also, Christmas Day may be a good day to try out one of the good hotel restaurants, like The Studio Cafe at Four Seasons (I've always had a great meal there) and The Counter and The Thompson Hotel. You can also get a great brunch at the Free Times Cafe and since it is Jewish style food, it may be open on Christmas Day.

        For the record, I would call in advance and get the Chef's Table at Local Kitchen. Ignore any negativity that you may have read. I was there last week and it was beyond awesome. And despite what people say about the portion size, I left there very full. And at $50 pp, I think I definitely got my money's worth for the 5 courses we had.
        http://runningandrecipes.blogspot.com/

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        Free Times Cafe
        320 College St, Toronto, ON M5T1S3, CA

        Lee Garden Restaurant
        331 Spadina Ave, Toronto, ON M5T2E9, CA

        Chef's Table
        397 McNaughton Ave W, Chatham, ON N7L4K4, CA

        1. re: Toronto Fastfoodie

          The last time I was at Local, the "chef's table" was two rickety stools at the bar. Have they got a better set-up now?

          1. re: Herb

            Same set up but stools were not rickety. I think that that setup matches the relaxed feel of the restaurant. My son and I liked being a little higher up (we are not that tall) and being able to check out all the action in the kitchen

          2. re: Toronto Fastfoodie

            If by Chinatown you mean Dundas/Spadina or Broadview/Gerrard, the best Dim Sum and other Chinese foods are elsewhere and have been so for decades, IMHO.

            1. re: syoung

              Since they appear to be staying downtown the trek elsewhere isn't worth the travel time to quality trade-off IMHO. There is plenty of fine Chinese food available near where I assume they are staying, based on their other selections. Particularly since there is likely either a car rental or public transit variable that needs to be factored into the equation.

        2. Late December is not the best time to visit Toronto if you're after "local, in-season ingredients."

          1. For dim sum - assuming you don't have a car to hit the suburbs - you should go to Lai Wah Heen for high-end awesome quality, or Crown Princess before 11 am for reasonable price (early bird special) and good quality.

            Considering you love in-season and a warm atmosphere, I would really recommend Jamie Kennedy's Gilead Bistro, he's about as locavore as it gets amongst the star chefs in this city and the bistro at night - it's a very good sandwich-serving cafe during the day - is very romantic.

            Also I think you were typing "Splendido" and that's a very good choice for a splurge meal with great wine. It's more downscale and bistro-y than in years past, which seems to suit your preferences. Still a great restaurant.

            Soma for hot chocolate, yes, absolutely, plus some chocolate souvenirs to bring home.

            5 Replies
            1. re: childofthestorm

              Thank you all for your thoughts. I got worried and went ahead and booked a few spots, would love your input on the rest...

              Dec 29th--Canoe (splurge meal with the view for first night in Toronto)--booked
              Dec 30--Globe Bistro (locavore, more casual)--booked
              Dec 31--Here is where I'm stuck--Splendido or Gilead Bistro? I'm leaning toward Splendido..
              Jan 1--Wondering about Dim Sum Brunch at Lah Wai Heen and casual bites (oysters!) at Starfish Oyster House at night????
              Jan 2--leave around lunchtime, thinking of brunch at One in Hazelton Hotel????

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

              1. re: Sweetbread

                Gilead and Splendido are pretty different. Gilead is more casual Splendido is more fancy-pants. Depends on what you're in the mood for. Both have good food, though I think Splendido has richer foods, in terms of preparations.

                Dim Sum Brunch at LWH is also fancier and relatively expensive. Sort of fusion Chinese food too. I'm throwing out Crown Princess for the slightly more traditional dim sum.

                Starfish is a lot of fun, though very casual. I love the Caesars!

                ---
                http://www.foodpr0n.com -- more photos. less adjectives.

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

                Crown Princess
                1033 Bay Street, Toronto, ON M5S 3A5, CA

                1. re: jlunar

                  Splendido over gilead, no question! Gilead isn't very good. Not consistant at all. People rave about it because of its "celebrity chef" owner

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

                  1. re: jewish isnt italian

                    While I agree that Splendido is a good choice, I would hardly agree with your assessment that Gilead isn't very good. I have had many delicious dinners there and have found the food consistently good. Jamie Kennedy achieved his celebrity status precisely because his food is consistent and good.

                    Exactly how many times have you dined at Gilead to be able to judge its consistency, or is this based on one visit?

                    -----
                    Jamie Kennedy
                    9 Church St, Toronto, ON M5E1M2, CA

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

                2. re: Sweetbread

                  You should give Starfish a call, I have a feeling they will not be opened on Jan 1 as very few places will be.

              2. Yeah, given that you already have the local angle covered by both Globe and Canoe, I would choose Splendido over Gilead, it's a different league of restaurant for sure.

                6 Replies
                1. re: childofthestorm

                  Thank you, thank you! Splendido it is for New Year's Eve, unless there's somewhere else we should consider?

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

                  1. re: Sweetbread

                    Your plan looks fantastic, and Splendido is a great choice for New Year's Eve. And your New Year's Day plan is spot on, too. It would be a shame to miss out on dim sum while here, and Lai Wah Heen is about as good as it gets.

                    Brunch at One is ok, if you don't mind paying truly exorbitant prices. There are lots of other wonderful brunch options in the city if you'd prefer to avoid $12 glasses of orange juice. If you have a style of brunch and an area you'd like to stay in for convenience, let us know. If you want to stay in Yorkville specifically, there is Jacque Bistro du Parc for perfect omelettes, or Studio Cafe in the Four Seasons for a different and slightly less insane hotel experience.

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

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

                    1. re: TorontoJo

                      re: One

                      Agree $17 for Eggs Benny is a bit much. But not much other than Chinatown/Little India and hotels will be open New Year's Day at lunch.

                      1. re: Herb

                        Once again, thank you to everyone who offered suggestions. I just booked New Year's Eve at Splendido and made Jan. 1 reservations for a dim sum brunch at Lai Wah Heen. I think I'll keep the rest of our time open, given all this eating!
                        I really appreciate all your help with all this and can't wait for our visit!

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

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

                        1. re: Sweetbread

                          Wow, you are going to have a magnificent chow time. Not that I'm envious or anything.

                          Let us know how it goes!

                          1. re: JamieK

                            I'd definitely recommend Hoof Cafe for brunch. Enjoy your stay!