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Dec 2, 2011 05:05 PM

NYC Hound staying at Ritz - Downtown Dinner Recs needed

Looking for ideas for Monday and Tuesday night solo dining. Price not an issue for the most part. US$200 for just me is fine but I'm also open to great low end meals as well. Would especially love a Canada-focused wine list.

Thinking I'll try Toca in the Ritz one night as I am a huge cheese lover.

Prefer to stay downtown-ish as I'll have long days working. Tati? Tutti Matti?

What do you do well that I should try? Keeping in mind of course I come from NYC where we have many great cuisines and chefs that I fully take advantage of.

Many thanks for your kind help.

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  1. First thing that comes to mind is to have a 'great Cantonese meal'. Unfortunately, most good establishments are way up north and out of the way! Sigh!! ( almost like heading out to Flushing from Manhattan ).
    So my next choice would be 'Good Portuguese' at 'Chiado'. My current understanding of the NYC dining scene is that there are quite a few ' Spanish/Tapas' eateries. However, Good Portuguese is far and few!
    I understand NYC's Masa has just been awarded a Michelin 3*. Food is supposed to be great. But at $500+ a head for their Omakase, it better be?!! Here in Toronto, we have Sushi Kaji!! Quite a few foodies rate it as the best Japanese in Canada, Even better than Tojo of Vancouver?!! May be for 1/4 the price of Masa, you can give Kaji's Omakase a try and do some comparing?!?!!

    12 Replies
    1. re: Charles Yu

      Thank you for your kind response. Chiado looks pretty hokey to me, to be honest and not conducive to a solo diner. Right now I am thinking woodlot (Tuesday) or Origin just for a fun, high energy night. Any thoughts on Le Select? Or too close to Balthazar in NYC?

      BTW, I'm a 35 yo stylish, a little edgy, woman. If that means anything.

      1. re: thegforceny

        Le Select is high backed booths, dark wood with a noise level bordering on low to normal for a bistro. When I went, the crowd was suits, plastic and fashionable scruff. [That was when I went so don't jump on me for it. It didn't detract from the meal which I enjoyed. ] I'd suggest having company to enjoy it with. For solo dining, check out Le Rossignol. Smaller, more intimate and friendlier, and the food's good. Plus it's cold out and they have cassoulet.

        1. re: thegforceny

          I wouldn't go to Le Select as a thirtysomething dining solo. I think of it as a place for couples, or groups. The main thing it has in common with Baltazar is the fact it also serves bistro food. La Societe resembles Baltazar, with impressive fake Belle Epoque interior design, but the reviews suggest the food is not impressive.

          You might also want to consider dining at the Bar at Enoteca Sociale (keep in mind TO's Italian is good for Toronto, and good for Ontario, but might not impress people who are lucky enough to have the best Italian food in New York whenever they want it). I'm mostly suggesting Enoteca for its vibe, its friendliness towards solo diners, and the fact it has several Canadian wines on the menu.

          Chiado's food is more traditional than Aldea (in NYC), but I wouldn't describe Chiado or its food as hokey, although I can see how you might get that impression from the website with its irritating music. I wouldn't recommend Chiado to a 30something dining solo who is looking for fun, high energy night, because it's a fairly formal restaurant. That being said, Chiado does have a bar, which could be conducive to solo dining. I dined at Chiado last night with 4 other "stylish" 30somethings last night, and we saw one 40something solo diner dining at the bar.

          I'm not aware of too many fun, high energy restaurants that are high energy on Monday or Tuesday nights in TO, other than the hyped-up Guu and the hyped-up new location of Pizzeria LIbretto on the Danforth. Hopefully some other Chowhounds can name a few restaurants that would be energetic on a Monday or Tuesday.


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

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

          1. re: thegforceny

            Black Hoof - sit at the bar.
            Woodlot - sit at the communal table - you will meet lots of people & have great food.
            Terroni - on Queen West - sit at the bar - good energy.
            Agree too wtih Enoteca Sociale.
            Origin - fun vibe, v good food.

            1. re: thebutcher

              Thanks - these seem like the best suggestions so far.

              1. re: thegforceny

                I endorse these too.
                In particular try to get to the Black Hoof (closed Tue) - no reservations, but on a Monday should be fine (they have a cocktail bar opposite where you can wait if they are full - they'll call you). This is possibly the most influential place in Toronto (for the past couple of years). Can sit at the counter.

                Origin also has counter seating - IMO it's slipped a bit since the previous chef left - but has eactly the vibe you're seeking (open both nights).

                TOCA is much more formal - but they have a less formal 'bar' where small plates are served. BUT - not sure if they serve the cheeses there. Since they opened, they've 'simplified' the cheese menu. Originally was a 'pick from a menu book' option but it was disastrous (too intimidating?). Last time I went they only had 4 selections available 'for the week' - and two of those turned out not to be available that night!
                Check out the bar and ask first whether cheese is served.
                I avoid Terroni - their 'no substitutions' policy for every dish is a challenge for me.

                Woodlot 'may' work (closed Mondays) - although I consider it a very good neighbourhood place, rather than a destination. Formerly a tough reservation - but don't know the status recently.

                1. re: estufarian

                  Whoa. Thanks for the intell about TOCA and the cheese. I thought is was a place that CELEBRATED cheese. All that money into a cave and they offer 4 for the WEEK? Lame.

                  The Black Hoof concept sounds like plenty of places we've had IN NYC or a while, but I like the idea of beef heart tartare.

                  Very good posting, Estuf...

                    1. re: haggisdragon

                      Be prepared to wait if you go to Grand Electric! Loud too, but not an issue if you're solo. But interesting and "alive". Closed Tuesday too.

                    2. re: thegforceny

                      The Hoof's Blood custard is also fantastic - could be either first course or dessert (think foie gras - in terms of where it fits). I also like their "liver and onions". In fact I'd pass on their famous charcuterie platter in favour of other items.
                      As for TOCA - the 'cheese' concept didn't really work as they hoped. Indeed they have great cheeses (all supplied by Cheese Boutique here) but clients just didn't take to browsing a 'cheese menu'. So they made it 'simple' and less exciting. I vaguely recall tours of the cheese cave (and possibly dining table there too?) - all since dropped for lack of iinterest. Ask at the Bar about cheese offerings.

                  1. re: thegforceny

                    I agree their are good suggestions here. I wanted to add Keriwa cafe for aboriginal food/local seasonal, Canoe is worth sitting at the bar for the view, and Khao San road is near your hotel for Thai, make a reso. If you are around for Sunday brunch, frank at the AGO has a bar and the gallery is world class, especially for it's Canadian collection.

                    1. re: thegforceny

                      I will chime in with another "+1" of "thebutcher's" list with a couple of additional notes...

                      Woodlot has a cozy West Village kind of vibe with great food. One of my favourites. I think they may also have a cheese plate on their menu.

                      Black Hoof - great energy, fun food. Haven't been there since the original chef left (he's now at Enoteca Sociale). It's not necessarily that different from some place you'd find in New York but it's great, casual and local all the same.

                      Guu - I've never been for izakaya in New York so I don't know how it would compare but Guu is fun, noisy and great. Lots of bar seating. Good food. May not be conducive to impromptu conversation, though, if that's what you're after (many of the staff have limited English and the noise level is high). But fun and unique.

                      Khao San Road - I know you now have Lotus of Siam and that other Thai spot that opened more recently (whose name escapes me) but KSR has really delicious Thai food and again, one of the most relaxed and fun rooms in the city. Delicious curries. Lovely owners. Bar seating.

                      Are you set up for the rest of your time here - breakfasts? lunch? coffee?

                      Enjoy - and please report back!

                      Beast - great food. No bar area but very friendly and welcoming place.

              2. I'd recommend Canoe (high end contemporary/continental with Canadian emphasis and a view of the lake) or Splendido (contemporary/ continental made with local ingredients). Canoe has offers a number of Canadian wines on their wine list: . Splendido has a large selection of Canadian wines available on their list :

                If you're looking for a bistro, I'd probably choose Ici Bistro (which happens to be located on the same street as Splendido) or Pastis.

                Agree with Charles that Cantonese might be worthwhile for you in Toronto. For downtown, upscale Cantonese, consider Lai Wah Heen.

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

                54th Floor TD Bank Tower, 66 Wellington, Toronto, ON M5K 1H6, CA

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

                1158 Yonge St, Toronto, ON M4W2L9, CA

                3 Replies
                1. re: prima

                  Agree with you Prima. However, I think all our discussion hinges on the two words 'NYC Hound'. Food at Canoe, Splendido, Ici, Pastis....etc might all be good 'by Toronto standard'. But compare to NYC??!! when they have the Per Se, Daniel and Jean George of the world??!! If our OP is not into wine or care about Canadian wine then we might be back to square one?!!
                  Canoe, with its Canadian theme menu may still be the way to go?!

                  1. re: Charles Yu

                    Agree with what you're saying, Charles.

                    I mentioned the wine lists at Canoe and Splendido because the OP said he "would especially love a Canada-focused wine list" in the last sentence of his first paragraph. ;-)

                    The main reason I mentioned Ici & Pastis is that both restaurants have received more positive reviews than Tati, a bistro the OP mentioned in his second paragraph. Just in case the OP was looking for a Toronto-class bistro! Another thing going for Ici & Pastis, is that both bistros are "French bistros run by French ex-pats living in Toronto", not "French bistros by run by New Yorkers"! Ha ha! ;-)

                    1. re: prima

                      Love the Fish soup, Calves liver and Profiteroles of Pastis!

                2. Black Hoof (closed Tuesday)
                  Woodlot (closed Monday)

                  1. The Cantonese here blows NYC's out of the water. Problem is, most of it isn't downtown. If you do a search of the Toronto board, you should come up with a lot of suggestions,-keeping in mind of course that I come from Northern Ontario where we have a lot of game we hunt ourselves.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: Splendid Wine Snob

                      So your suggestion is to go to Northern Ontario to your house for game?

                      1. re: thegforceny

                        sws is on the money, Cantonese is the only thing here that really outdoes nyc. Lai Wah Heen for dim sum, Swatow for wonton & beef brisket mein. Uptown if you are so inclined you'll find Yang's, Emperor, Win's Seafood, O'Mei, Casa Imperial/Victoria, Brilliant, and loads more.

                        I like Khao San, but it's not better than Sripraphai.

                        If you're looking for equal value on your $200 versus nyc, you won't find it in the white restaurants.

                        I like Enoteca Sociale, but Italian like that are a dime a dozen in nyc (Roberta's, Al Di La, etc). I rather eat something I can't get back home when away.

                        I like Splendido a lot, and it's my preferred fine dining destination in Toronto. It wouldn't merit a Michelin star in nyc, but it does fit your Canadian criteria.

                        Woodlot? Minetta Tavern, Marlow & Sons, Spotted Pig/Breslin, etc. are far better.

                        I would take nyc'ers to Hoof and Grand Electric, besides the Cantonese stuff.

                        Local wine, whites like riesling and gerwurztraminer are the strong point. Tawse, Cave Springs, Lailey, Stratus, are ones I like.

                        1. re: aser

                          I hear what you're saying on the comparatives with New York but I think that's where we often divide ourselves on these threads, especially with New Yorkers coming to town. If the only criteria is what can they get here that they can't get at all or better at home - well, that's one set of recs (and admittedly, that was part of the poster's question). But the poster was also looking for a fun, high energy place where a mid-30's woman could comfortably enjoy a solo meal? And in that case, I think that Khao San and Woodlot and Enoteca are totally valid recs. When I travel on my own, my priority is a comfortable, welcoming, place where I can enjoy a great meal and maybe strike up a conversation with some friendly locals. It needn't necessarily be the best that town has to offer, so long as it's good, nor does it have to have food I can't get at home. New York is a food mecca, without question, but there are still lots of places one can enjoy a meal here in Toronto without always circling back to the New York equivalents.

                          1. re: aser

                            I'd take a New Yorker out for rye & coke, rather than Ontario wine.

                            re: Enoteca Sociale. I realize there are lots of good, casual, sceney Italian options in NYC, but Enoteca Sociale feels like a place run by a guy that went to the Stratford Chef School. There's a distinctly Ontarian feel about the place, and I can tell a Torontonian conceived their take on Carbonara. I like it, and would take a New Yorker there for a casual dinner & for its energetic atmosphere, unless the New Yorker didn't want to eat Italian food because there's plenty back home. It's good, sceney Torontonian Italian, and distinct from Sceney New Yorker Italian. I like it a lot.

                            I also like KSR. I don't go out for Thai food in New York because I'm happy with the Thai food I order at Khao San Road. I'm completely aware that I'm using the same kind of reasoning as "don't bother with fine dining/continental/bistro/Italian in Toronto if you're coming from NYC". I don't bother with much fine dining/continental/bistro when I visit NYC, because I can find Toronto's cheaper, possibly derivative version of the same here.

                            I agree with what you & SWS are saying, as well as recommending. I also don't like ordering what I can order at home, when I'm away from home. The OP is coming from NYC, asking about cheese and bistros, getting excited about offal nouveau, and not paying attention to the non-blanc recs. Which is fine, more LWH for bohunks like me.

                            I also agree with what peppermint pate is saying. I'd feel more comfortable dining solo at KSR or Enoteca Sociale than dining solo at Splendido.

                            I hope the OP finds what she's looking for during her visit! ;-)

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

                      2. How about Buca? Excellent food, and a very lively vibe.