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special occasion dinner, visiting from montreal

t
tdiddy23 Feb 9, 2012 06:33 PM

My girlfriend and I are attending a conference in Toronto next month, her birthday falls during this time. I'm looking for suggestions on restaurants. I was thinking either higher end fine dining or Japanese (two things that Montreal does terribly) We've been to Scaramouche and Lai Wah Heen. The latter was great, Scaramouche was fine but not really exceptional (except for that coconut cream pie). Are any of the fine dining places that are routinely named on the board particularly 'Toronto'?

Or with Japanesse I was thinking of Sushi Kaji. I'm a little hesitant with the hassle of getting there as we will be staying downtown. For someone who dines at the better Japanesse places in NYC will this place be amazing? Would we be better off just going to one of the more modest sushi places downtown for a quick bite one of our busier nights and save the birthday meal for the fine dining option?

thanks for the help!
Cheers, Tim

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  1. m
    miranda Feb 10, 2012 06:34 AM

    I like Yuzu on Adelaide just East of Duncan Great Japanese Esp fresh sushi I would make a Rez next thing to fine dining good ambiance and service Miranda

    1. c
      childofthestorm Feb 10, 2012 07:52 AM

      I'm originally from Montreal, and I think you're right that Toronto does high-end fine dining and Japanese better. I would also add Cantonese food to that list, but you've already tried Lai Wah Heen which is about as good as it gets downtown. Unless you're willing to trek to Richmond Hill/Markham for some of the best high-end Cantonese, best to stick to your original plan.

      Kaji is pretty damn unique and you know what, it's really not that far to Etobicoke. If you want to drink, then a cab each way is around $30. So a $60 supplement to your meal. Alternately, the 501 streetcar will get you out to Etobicoke in a reasonable amount of time for a lot cheaper.

      Zen is probably the best sushi in Toronto, and comparable to some of the upper-tier places in Manhattan when we're talking about the omakase. Again, Scarborough is not THAT far. Depends on how bad you want it, I suppose.

      The suggestion of Yuzu is not a bad one if you decide on the "more modest" option - it's good but not really destination dining as far as Japanese goes.

      Fine dining...I'm a big fan of Canoe. Yes, it's often full of Bay St. suits, but the food is frequently astonishing, the service is impeccable, and the view can't be beat. Alternately, I've had several epic meals at Splendido, and again the service is what one would expect at that level. Either one of those restaurants would be a great choice.

      1. ingloriouseater Feb 10, 2012 08:27 AM

        Guu is fun for japanese. Nota Bene and Chiado for finer dining. Make sure you tell the conference organizer about the birthday-I am sure the hotel banquet department will do something special for her.

        1. j
          JennaBean Feb 10, 2012 10:52 AM

          For fine dining my fav places are George and Splendido. You won't go wrong with either. For sushi downtown Yuzu would be your best bet.

          1 Reply
          1. re: JennaBean
            a
            akhorasanee Feb 10, 2012 11:00 AM

            I second the splendido (fine dining) option
            and Yuzu is also really good for everyday Japanese....Also for a regular night if you want to try Japanese Izakaya as opposed to a regular sushi place I would highly reccomend Guu which is fanatstic and I dont recall Montreal having a similar restaurant (but I have not been back to Montreal in 2 years)

          2. a
            Arcadiaseeker Feb 10, 2012 12:55 PM

            Yuzu doesn't really scream occasion dining at me even though it's great food. I think your best bets are Canoe or George. Canoe is just so gorgeous - the food is good and the view is unbeatable. It's a solid Toronto experience. I've said this before but Splendido is just such a horrific room to me - it's a barrier to my enjoyment of the food. It's like dining in a decked-out gymnasium. If you want to go off the beaten path then you could try Black Hoof or Enotecca Sociale. These aren't "occasion" type places but they are where a lot of the really great cooking in Toronto is these days - and they're very fun.

            1. b
              bytepusher Feb 10, 2012 01:10 PM

              Nobody has mentioned it but if you were prepared to break the bank for the birthday dinner you might want to consider Hashimoto, Japanese but not sushi.

              7 Replies
              1. re: bytepusher
                1sweetpea Feb 10, 2012 03:34 PM

                I had a pretty fantastic experience at Hashimoto, albeit a few years ago. There wasn't a sushi course, but there was most definitely a sashimi course. The fish was impeccably fresh. It was a single course of wild porgy, but there were several paper thin slices, fresh grated wasabi root, daikon slivers and house-pickled ginger. The other courses were phenomenal too. The flavours were typically Japanese in their subtlety, but the technique was so spot-on that I really got to see and taste how refined and spectacular well-made Japanese food can be. I'm not sure what the per-person price is today, but even then, we spent $500 for 2 people (with 3 types of sake and very high end green tea). I didn't feel ripped off in any way. We had 8 courses of food, were stuffed, quite warm and fuzzy from our sake pairings, and left feeling so pampered and educated by our gracious hosts, who took great care to explain everything we ate and drank AND answer all of our questions. At our request, the chef released his artistic renderings of the meal's composition, as a souvenir of the evening.

                If you choose to take the very expensive plunge, it will be an evening you won't forget. However, be sure to call at least a week in advance to book a reservation, so that the chef can plan the menu for your dinner and have the ingredients flown in from Japan.

                1. re: 1sweetpea
                  t
                  tdiddy23 Feb 11, 2012 11:02 AM

                  thanks everyone!

                  i'm leading towards George, and maybe try and squeeze in yuzu and or guu to get our Japanese fix. I guess Kaji will have to wait until next time.

                  1. re: tdiddy23
                    c
                    CocoTO Feb 14, 2012 03:59 PM

                    First, George is one of my "special occasion" restaurants and we have always enjoyed our meals there, so you can't go wrong on that decision IMO. Having said that, having just been to Yuzu, and having been to Kaji numerous times, I will say that Yuzu, while very competent, is no where in the same league as Kaji, on so many levels ... I haven't been to Guu, but it gets great reviews, so if not Kaji, I would probably lean towards Guu (but I would say the short trip out of downtown to Kaji would still be worth it ... maybe even more than George) ...

                  2. re: 1sweetpea
                    t
                    tdiddy23 Feb 11, 2012 11:31 AM

                    A little off topic but I looked into hasimoto a bit, it's now $300pp. You can eat at a 3* kaiseki place in Kyoto for 15,000 yen or so (190 cdn), I've also had really nice kaiseki for $100 at rosanjin in NYC. Is this place really that good?

                    1. re: tdiddy23
                      1sweetpea Feb 14, 2012 04:06 PM

                      I haven't been to Japan, so I can't possibly make any comparison. What I CAN say is that the price reflects the fact that all ingredients are flown in fresh from Japan, while a chef at a kaiseki place in Kyoto has those ingredients at his fingertips and no doubt at a better price than a chef in Toronto would. I can only judge the food, service and ambiance by Toronto standards. For a restaurant in Toronto, I do think is that good. For a restaurant in Japan, it's probably better than average, but not the very highest quality. In light of the fact that we're in a landlocked Canadian city, it's pretty special.

                      I don't recall the exact price of a meal when I was there a few years ago, but I had a $500 gift certificate for 2 people, which included sake pairings, tea, taxes AND gratuities. We felt $500 was about right. It seems that the same experience might cost a few hundred more. Ouch!

                      1. re: 1sweetpea
                        t
                        tdiddy23 Feb 14, 2012 05:31 PM

                        Without having ate there myself, I think your right, $500 is reasonable, probably a bit expensive for what it is but thats ok considering its in Canada... 300pp + sake + tea + tip + tax on the otherhand and I think I'll just put that money towards a trip to Japan haha

                        maybe times are tough in the Kaisaki restaurant world?

                        1. re: tdiddy23
                          t
                          tdiddy23 Mar 26, 2012 04:50 PM

                          follow up:
                          Thanks for everyone’s help. We ended up going to George. It was a very nice evening. I went with modest expectations and was pleasantly surprised. I ate the trout, the black cod and the venison and my s.o. had the crab, gnocchi and sea bass. She really enjoyed all of her dishes, very nice flavours, well presented. I really enjoyed the venison and the trout, the cod was so-so. We shared the banana cream pie for dessert (no petit fours?). I don't think the food really reaches the upper level of sophistication and complexity that you see in some top-notch kitchens, but everything tasted good, and all the fish/meat was cooked perfectly. I'd rather have this than a kitchen that tries to cook beyond their means. The service, decor and overall experience was very professional and appropriate. We had a few great cocktails and a half bottle of a very nice Meursault along with a glass of pinot noir. Overall it was one of the better dining experiences we've had in Canada.

                          We also managed to check out Yuzu as our flight arrived earlier than expected on Thursday. The sashimi platter had some highs and lows, as did a few roles. Probably better than most sushi in Montreal but didn't really feel it was anything to write home about.... again pretty much what you guys said

                          Tried to get into Guu with a few friends of ours, no luck, so ended up in the lounge at Nota Bene. I won't elaborate too much but I wasn't very impressed. The decor and room are pretty nice. Prices are reasonable as well. But the food just didn't seem all that good/special. Again, had a fine time but not sure how it qualifies as a top notch Toronto resto.

                          And finally we squeezed in a return visit to Lai Wah Heen for dim sum on Sunday before catching our flight back home, just as tasty as last time!

                          Thanks again for directing me to George!

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