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Moving to Toronto

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leyb Jul 25, 2011 07:59 AM

HI! I'm a Montrealer moving to Toronto for work. I'm a regular on the Quebec/Montreal board and have become really familiar with the food scene here, so it's a bit daunting to have no idea what's going on once I head West on the 401... I'm pretty adventurous with food, and will try anything at least once. I'm interested in nice restaurants and more casual places that you can just stop in at on a whim (even if you have to wait a bit). Any suggestions for places, or links to threads I should read?

In terms of area, my new apartment is on the border of Koreatown and Little Italy and I'm going to be working close to Chinatown. That said, I'm always willing to travel for food.

Any help would be really appreciated!!

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  1. f
    FrenchSoda RE: leyb Jul 25, 2011 08:50 AM

    Welcome to the city. Are there any particular types of food you are interested in?

    10 Replies
    1. re: FrenchSoda
      l
      leyb RE: FrenchSoda Jul 25, 2011 09:13 AM

      I like all kinds! Seriously... but if it helps to narrow it down, I'm especially a sucker for market food places, Japanese (Sushi, or especially a good Isakaya), cute little bistros, and Portuguese if I'm in the mood for chicken. I keep hearing that Toronto is much better than Montreal for Asian food, so maybe I'll add that to the list... I do really like dumplings. Thank you!!

      1. re: leyb
        j
        jamesm RE: leyb Jul 25, 2011 09:16 AM

        Mother Dumplings in Chinatown is quite good. Welcome to Toronto and enjoy. You're at a pretty good little intersection for food neighbourhoods. There's a very good Portuguese restaurant in Little Italy called Chiado. It can be pricey but you can also get the tapas menu if you're not looking to splurge.

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

        1. re: jamesm
          Crispier Crouton RE: jamesm Jul 25, 2011 09:54 AM

          Would have to respectfully disagree with the Mother Dumplings rec. I find them generally uninspired, and their side dishes are a total afterthought, sometimes inedible. Unfortch, I can't offer a better suggestion for dumplings in Chinatown as I haven't tried much in the area for years.

        2. re: leyb
          TorontoJo RE: leyb Jul 25, 2011 09:21 AM

          You're not too far from Guu Izakaya (the Annex location). Great food, great fun. Go early or go late, or be prepared to wait.

          Toronto is a great walking city, especially where you are. Chinatown and Kensington Market are great to wander and explore the different food offerings. There are many threads on both, I'll see if I can dig a couple of them up.

          Welcome to Toronto!

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

          1. re: TorontoJo
            TorontoJo RE: TorontoJo Jul 25, 2011 09:34 AM

            Here's a good thread on Kensington Market:

            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/787598

            And a slightly older, but still good (and long!) thread on Chinatown:

            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/350886

          2. re: leyb
            t
            TexSquared RE: leyb Jul 25, 2011 09:51 PM

            Easiest way to "filter" out the crap sushi. If the place is run by Chinese or Koreans and there are more than 10 California roll variants on the menu, keep on walking. Stay away from Bloor St. West. Simple.

            I'd say try Zen in Scarborough as soon as you feel like Japanese food. Don't bother with any of the AYCE/McSushi places.

            1. re: TexSquared
              l
              looosia RE: TexSquared Jul 26, 2011 02:31 PM

              I think your assertion that if sushi is run by Chinese or Koreans it's crap, is misguided. A good example is Omi Sushi at Carlton and Parliament, which is often cited as a very good sushi place by many sources, and the owner is not Japanese. And in case you didn't know, Korean cuisine has always included sashimi and maki rolls. It's different than what they way the Japanese do it but then we'll get into the debate of who makes better noodles, the Chinese or the Italians, and that will just get us nowhere.

              -----
              Omi
              243 Carlton St, Toronto, ON M5A, CA

              1. re: looosia
                t
                TexSquared RE: looosia Jul 26, 2011 06:23 PM

                My assertion has 2 parts. 1-Chinese or Korean-run 2-more than 10 stupid-rolls-from-hell on the menu. And you must admit, any place that satisfies both those requirements, sucks when compared with Japanese-owned places. The second part was by design - that way places like Omi (which obviously is not a Chinese McSushi) wouldn't get eliminated.

                1. re: looosia
                  skylineR33 RE: looosia Jul 27, 2011 10:49 AM

                  Just a note that the worst fish market I have been is the fish store at J Town, it is Japanese owned. They provide sushi too. It is basically disgusting there. If anyone interested in more details of it, just do a search on this board.

                  So a place which is run by Japanese without 10 different kinds of dragon roll can also be a bad place.

                  1. re: TexSquared
                    l
                    looosia RE: TexSquared Jul 28, 2011 06:17 AM

                    I don't agree with you, I find it inappropriate to discriminate a place based on the race of the people running the restaurant. In fact, one of the worst sushi places I've been to was a Japanese-owned sushi place that did not have a roster of those California rolls when I lived in Kingston. Even my Japanese and half-Japanese friends agreed that place was pitiful. Being Japanese does not mean you will end up with better sushi. Maybe you'd care about what you're serving adheres to the traditional tastes, but just as David Lee (Chinese, Mauritian, and French) helmed Splendido (Italian) before Nota Bene, and David Chang (Korean) adds Japanese, Chinese and Vietnamese influences to his Momofuku restaurants, you don't have to be Japanese to serve good Japanese food. Even Anthony Bourdain (French) quipped in his books that he was not a good chef and perhaps you'd be better off eating French food from Chuck Hughes (French/Quebecois chef without the requisite French last name).

          3. d
            dubchild RE: leyb Jul 25, 2011 09:04 AM

            Welcome to Toronto
            I'm sure you will be on this board but to get you started here are some ideas.
            Most agree that the Black Hoof is a must and close to your area. Also around your area is Grace and Woodlot for mid priced bistro, Utopia for burgers and Harbord Room for the best but more expensive burgers. Chinatown and Kensington offer a ton of cheap eats. Try Agave y Aguacate and Jumbo empanadas both in Kensington. I enjoyed Elle m'a Dit on Baldwin for an Alsatian bistro. Other ideas around town; Buca and Carisma for Italian, Hiro Sushi and Kaji for sushi, Cava for tapas, Globe or Earth for local and seasonal, Le Select for French, Lee and Origin for fusion/deconstructed/contemporary, Marben and Frank AGO for brunch, Khao San Road for Thai and Frida's for Mexican. The merits of all of these get hotly debated and ultimately you will have to research and try for ourself.

            -----
            Le Select
            432 Wellington St W, Toronto, ON M5V1E3, CA

            Cava
            1560 Yonge St., Toronto, ON M4T 2S9, CA

            Marben
            488 Wellington Street West, Toronto, ON M5V 1E5, CA

            Harbord Room
            89 Harbord St, Toronto, ON M5S1G4, CA

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

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

            Carisma Restaurant
            73 King St E, Toronto, ON M5C 2V8, CA

            Khao San Road
            326 Adelaide St W, Toronto, ON M5V 1P7, CA

            4 Replies
            1. re: dubchild
              j
              jamesm RE: dubchild Jul 25, 2011 09:07 AM

              Excellent list from dubchild but I'd add Porchetta for amazing sandwiches which is also near you.

              1. re: jamesm
                l
                leyb RE: jamesm Jul 25, 2011 09:20 AM

                These are great! Just the type of list I was hoping to get. I did get to try Black Hoof during a trip to Toronto and loved it. The tongue sandwich on the brioche was one of the best things I've ever eaten. Thanks!

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

                1. re: leyb
                  j
                  jamesm RE: leyb Jul 25, 2011 09:25 AM

                  I should probably just make a list rather than doing piecemeal replies but before I forget there is also The Harbord Room on Harbord Street which runs east-west and is located between Bloor and College. It's a nice little spot with a seasonal menu, a killer burger and an excellent cocktail list.

                  -----
                  Harbord Room
                  89 Harbord St, Toronto, ON M5S1G4, CA

                  Harbord
                  147 Harbord St, Toronto, ON M5S1H1, CA

                  1. re: jamesm
                    TorontoJo RE: jamesm Jul 25, 2011 09:31 AM

                    And I'll add that that strip of Harbord abounds with good restaurants:

                    Harbord Room
                    Boulevard Cafe (Peruvian and one of the nicest patios in the area)
                    Messis
                    93 Harbord
                    Loire
                    DT Bistro (mostly for desserts and ice cream, but it's actually a decent neighbourhood bistro, too -- just not a destination)

                    And of course, for the splurge dinner -- Splendido.

                    -----
                    93 Harbord
                    93 Harbord St, Toronto, ON M5S1G4, CA

                    Messis
                    97 Harbord St, Toronto, ON M5S1G4, CA

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

                    Harbord Room
                    89 Harbord St, Toronto, ON M5S1G4, CA

            2. TorontoJo RE: leyb Jul 25, 2011 10:23 AM

              One more list for you, it repeats some of the recs already made on this thread, but I'm just copying and pasting from a list I put together for a friend:

              Black Hoof — still probably one of the hippest foodie destinations in town. Major "nose-to-tail" cuisine. No reservations, cash only. They will take your cell number so you can go have a cocktail across the street.
              http://theblackhoof.com/

              Beast – another nose-to-tail type restaurant, though not as extreme. Husband/wife team — former chef and pastry chef from Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar. They've also got the best happy hour in town Wednesdays through Saturdays from 5 – 7 — a great menu of small plates for $4 or less and wine and beer for $4 or $5. Happy hour is called "Beast 120"
              http://thebeastrestaurant.com/

              The Gabardine – well executed comfort food in a lovely bistro space in the financial district
              http://www.thegabardine.com/

              Buca – large rustic Italian menu (think fried pig's ears or lamb brains with polenta, but lots of other great stuff, too!) in an uber hip space (love the space!).
              http://www.buca.ca/

              Enoteca Sociale – trendy, but casual Italian wine bar. Fantastic list of wines by the glass because they use the Enomatic system.
              http://www.sociale.ca/

              Campagnolo – another trendy, casual spot with a fairly rustic menu.
              http://campagnolotoronto.com/menu-2/

              Woodlot – hip comfort food, much of it made in the huge wood burning oven that dominates the open kitchen. Super busy all the time, but they do take reservations (hallelujah), though it can sometimes be hard to actually get through to someone. Fantastic, separate vegetarian menu, too.
              http://www.woodlotrestaurant.com/

              Marben – another trendy, casual restaurant. I could eat a LOT of their pulled pork croquettes.
              http://www.marbenrestaurant.com/

              Colborne Lane — "casual high-end" dining in a cool, funky space, chef Claudio Aprile dabbles in molecular gastronomy techniques. Crazy 15-course tasting menu is available if you want to go all out.
              http://colbornelane.com/welcome

              Origin – Aprile's newer, more casual restaurant. Lower price point than CL, really eclectic menu, great space, HUGE patio. Book seats at the chef's bar if you want to watch and interact with the kitchen team, which is in the middle of the restaurant.
              http://origintoronto.com/#/home/

              Seafood options (especially if you like oysters):

              - Rodney's by Bay
              - Starfish

              Fine dining options:

              - George
              - Splendido

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

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

              Marben
              488 Wellington Street West, Toronto, ON M5V 1E5, CA

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

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

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

              Campagnolo
              832 Dundas St. W, Toronto, ON , CA

              3 Replies
              1. re: TorontoJo
                b
                bytepusher RE: TorontoJo Jul 25, 2011 11:04 AM

                <i>They will take your cell number so you can go have a cocktail across the street.</i>

                There is no "across the street" anymore...

                1. re: bytepusher
                  j
                  jamesm RE: bytepusher Jul 25, 2011 11:06 AM

                  No, but you can easily pop down Ossington to one of the bars there for a drink or juts up Dundas to Communist's Daughter and wait for a call.

                  1. re: bytepusher
                    TorontoJo RE: bytepusher Jul 25, 2011 11:11 AM

                    Yep, I meant "have a cocktail somewhere in the vicinity".

                2. elvisahmed RE: leyb Jul 25, 2011 11:11 AM

                  Well first advice is don't move ;)
                  Adding to the list here I would recommend Taro Fish accessible by subway (near the north york Ikea) I think you can get the best sashimi for the price you pay. If you are up for it try the food court at Galleria Super Market(north end of Steele and Yonge) not amazing but you get to the Korean take on other cuisine which I find interesting.
                  Beer Bistro if love Beer (food is acceptable)
                  Money no Object Dim Sum go for Lai Wah Heen Otherwise I like Crown Princess on Bay Street. Other dimsum options are mainly in the suburbs so search for posts by our resident Dim Sum experts Charles Yu and Skyline33.
                  You will keep hearing about Guu and it does live up to all the hype.
                  For something off beat try Corks in Longos at Maple Leaf Square (I recommend Thursdays as you get 3 Oysters with a pint or glass of wine not to mention a 16" pizza for 6.99)
                  AYCE I recommend ten Ichi.
                  La Pallette Bistro good wine and beer selection (not in the same league as good Bistros in Montreal but good nonetheless)
                  Ethnic Foods I recommend Lahore Tikka and Pizza Pide.
                  High End I recommend Auberge De Pommier

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

                  Beer Bistro
                  18 King St. E, Toronto, ON M5C 1C4, CA

                  Pizza Pide
                  949 Gerrard St E, Toronto, ON M4M, CA

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

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

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: elvisahmed
                    l
                    leyb RE: elvisahmed Jul 25, 2011 04:26 PM

                    Wow... This is so awesome! Thanks to everyone for suggestions. Very much appreciated.

                  2. ladooShoppe RE: leyb Jul 25, 2011 04:28 PM

                    Welcome to Toronto!
                    I work at King/Spadina and our usual Friday spot is King's Noodle on Spadina. Can't ever go wrong there. Try the congee! The BBQ duck is bananas.

                    1. syoung RE: leyb Jul 25, 2011 07:39 PM

                      To the above, I'd also add:

                      Chinese: Crown Princess on Bay St., for dinner and Dynasty in Yorkville for Dim Sum
                      Japanese: Zen in Scarborough, Kaiseki Sakura at Church/Wellesley
                      Bistro: Ici Bistro on Harbord, Simple Bistro on Mt. Pleasant

                      1. l
                        looosia RE: leyb Jul 25, 2011 08:44 PM

                        Funny. I moved to Montréal from Toronto not too long ago and I used to live on Grace St. between Korea Town and Little Italy, and I come back to Toronto very frequently.

                        I'll list some things I miss in Toronto since I've moved to la belle province, which includes good and cheap Korean and Indian cuisine, lots of good Chinese restaurants, and the ability to eat vegetarian at 99% of the restaurants (unlike Montréal):

                        1. Korean food: I personally like Korean Village in Korea Town at Bloor and Euclid for all-around Korean food and Buk Chang Tofu at Bloor and Clinton for tofu hot bowls and stone bowl bibimbaps (be prepared for line ups here). So much better and cheaper than what is in Montréal. Also try going up to Korea Town North (Yonge and Steeles) where it's even bigger and newer, and easily accessible by subway. You'll find lots of threads on Chowhound to places in this area but since I grew up on the downtown Korea Town location I won't be able to give you a recommendation in that area.

                        2. Tacos el Asador in Korea Town (Bloor and Clinton) also has cheap, yummy tacos in a small, cramped setting.

                        3. Maroli for Indian, also in Korea Town, right beside Korean Village at Bloor and Euclid. It used to be so much better when it was at its original, tiny take away location at Yonge and Davisville, but I still go back if not just for the house-made rotis.

                        4. In Little Italy, I like Woodlot at College and Palmerston. If it's still crazy busy as it was back in the spring, you will have to make sure you get reservations. They change their menus seasonally and bake their own bread.

                        5. Further south on Dundas (at Bellwoods Avenue near Trinity-Bellwoods Park) you'll find Saving Grace. Cheap comfort foods served by hipsters, great for brunch, in Little Portugal.

                        6. Linuxx Cafe at Grace and Harbord has great coffee, free Wi-Fi (you'll be shocked that Toronto does NOT have free wi-fi in their cafes like Montréal does!) and hippie-ish baked goods.

                        7. Another place for free wi-fi is at Saving Gigi (the sister cafe of Saving Grace) at Bloor, just east of Ossington. You can find a list of free wi-fi spots in Toronto at www.blogto.com (a good resource for a newcomer to Toronto regarding all things Toronto, including many "top" lists).

                        8. You will also be close to Blue Sky Blue Sandwiches on Bloor in Korea Town. I've heard mixed reviews on this place but it's a place I've been meaning to check out.

                        9. Golden Turtle at Ossington, just north of Queen, is a great place for cheap pho and yummy Vietnamese pancake appetizers.

                        10. Pizzeria Libretto at Ossington, just south of Dundas (not far north of Golden Turtle) "offers the only Vera Pizza Napoletana certified experience in Canada." Despite this gimmicky sounding description, the pizzas are very good.

                        11. I lived off cheap sushi in the Annex (just east of Korea Town on Bloor Street) and my mainstay was always New Generation Sushi although Sushi on Bloor was another one. The Annex, by the way, is populated by cheap sushi places, not that they are high-quality but I find them to be a good price-quality ratio as they come super cheap and are decent for what they are. Sushi Couture is the newest of the bunch and actually getting really good reviews.

                        12. Gandhi on Queen Street, just east of Bathurst, makes awesome Indian-style rotis (Caribbean-style rotis stuffed with Indian curries) for super cheap and super large portions. It's super small takeout place with about 7 seats but I always hit this place when I'm back in Toronto.

                        13. For groceries, I always relied on Bloor Fruit Market at Bloor and Manning (cash only) for super cheap and fresh produce, also in Korea Town. Diagonally across you'll find P.A.T. Central Market, a fairly spacious Korean grocery store where you can get good prices on some items as well as lots of Asian groceries. I also like St. Lawrence Market (near King subway stop). Go there on Saturdays and Sundays when the North Market also opens. I would actually say I like this place better than Marché Jean-Talon (so kill me!). Kensington Market is another good place too, don't forget to get empanadas, Caribbean patties, Middle Eastern groceries, and some hard-to-find ethnic items.

                        14. In case you are missing Montréal food, I suggest you hit the Metro supermarkets for St. Viateur bagels (they only sell sesame seed from the last I checked), though you can only find this at select Metro locations downtown. They also have "Montréal-style" bagels in some bakeries on Kensington Market and St. Lawrence Market though I would say that, um, they are not quite like the bagels from St. Viateur or Fairmont. Le Select Bistro is a decent French bistro in case you want to feel like you're back in Montréal.

                        15. For mid- to high-end dining, I like Origin (St. Lawrence Market area), Parts & Labour (Parkdale), Enoteca Sociale (Little Portugal) and people have also been liking Ruby Watchco in The Beach area.

                        16. If you have a car, I suggest travelling to Markham, a suburb north of Toronto, for Chinese food. Just look at Charles Yu's posts as he does a good job of reviewing Chinese restaurants in the area.

                        Hm, am I forgetting something? Uh, say good bye to free wi-fi in cafes (as noted above), good bread and pastries, pâté at your supermarché, depanneurs, restaurants that are clearly marked "BYOW" (you'll be hard up to find this in Toronto and many who are BYOW do not advertise), foie gras in plentiful quantities, public displayals of l'amour and large parks. Say hello to province-controlled liquor in the forms of LCBO and The Beer Store, which close at 9 pm/5 pm on the week days and weekends (so no more booze purchases past those hours) and bar laitiers littering the city that close 8 months of the year because the province is so freakin' cold! (What on earth do these business owners do when it's not summer???

                        )

                        Good luck!

                        -----
                        Saving Grace
                        907 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON M6J1V9, CA

                        St. Lawrence Market
                        92 Front St E, Toronto, ON M5E, CA

                        Korean Village
                        628 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M6G1K7, CA

                        Le Select
                        432 Wellington St W, Toronto, ON M5V1E3, CA

                        Maroli
                        630 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M6G1K7, CA

                        Pizzeria Libretto
                        221 Ossington Ave, Toronto, ON M6J, CA

                        Harbord
                        147 Harbord St, Toronto, ON M5S1H1, CA

                        New Generation Sushi
                        150 Laurier Ave W, Ottawa, ON K1P5J4, CA

                        Ruby Watchco
                        730 Queen St E, Toronto, ON , CA

                        Parts & Labour
                        1566 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M6R, CA

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

                        Sushi Couture
                        456 Bloor St. W., Toronto, ON M5S 1X8, CA

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: looosia
                          Splendid Wine Snob RE: looosia Jul 26, 2011 05:33 AM

                          I am certainly not an avid LCBO supporter but most locations are open until 9pm on weekdays and Saturdays (definitely longer than 5pm) but Sundays they tend to close at 5-6pm.

                          Yeah, I just generally avoid eating bagels here but there are good boulangeries that are French or Belgian owned-Jules, Rahier, Thobors, Thuet to name a few. I've had just as good fresh challah
                          in Toronto as I've had in Montréal.

                        2. Dr. John RE: leyb Jul 28, 2011 01:47 PM

                          West of Koreatown are a bunch of Ethiopian restaurants. Lalibela is probably the best of the bunch in terms of the quality of the injera (the pancake with which you eat everything) and the range of the wots (stews). Rikishi is a quiet little Japanese place on Bloor at Shaw that has some vegetarian items that you won't find in many other places. Not as fine as the top Japanese places, but a less expensive place to drop into.

                          In Kensignton, I would second any votes for Jumbo Empanadas. In Chinatown, Chinese Traditional Buns is a bit dilapidated, but serves lots of northern Chinese yumminess.

                          Have fun.

                          -John

                          -----
                          Chinese Traditional Buns
                          536 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON M5T, CA

                          Jumbo Empanadas
                          245 Augusta Ave, Toronto, ON M5T2L8, CA

                          Lalibela
                          869 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M6G, CA

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