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Moving to Toronto

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

    10 Replies
    1. re: FrenchSoda

      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

        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.

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

        1. re: jamesm

          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

          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!

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

          1. re: TorontoJo

            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

            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

              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.

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              Omi
              243 Carlton St, Toronto, ON M5A, CA

              1. re: looosia

                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

                  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

                    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. 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.

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            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

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

              1. re: jamesm

                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!

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

                1. re: leyb

                  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.

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

                  Harbord
                  147 Harbord St, Toronto, ON M5S1H1, CA

                  1. re: jamesm

                    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.

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                    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. 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

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              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

                <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

                  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

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

                2. 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

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                  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

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

                  2. 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.