Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Ontario (inc. Toronto) >
Dec 17, 2012 12:20 AM

What are the most developed ethnic cousines in Toronto?

This has probably been discussed in some form, but I have no idea what search terms to use to find it. I know that Chinese is considered to be a very well-developed cousine in Toronto, but who are the #2, #3? Thai, Vietnamese, Indian, Italian, Portuguese, or something else? Just for the sake of discussion excluding western cousines like French.

For clarification, I would consider an ethnic cousine well-developed if I can get an experience in Toronto that approximates what I would get if I went to that country both in terms of authenticity and quality.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. The original comment has been removed
    1. While whatever we have in TO might not compare to the best of the Old Country, I like the following:
      Dr Laffa for Israeli fast food
      Chiado for Portuguese seafood
      Cafe Polonez for Polish home cooking
      Tabule for Middle Eastern

      Toronto has lots of economical pho shops, but we don't have much selection when it comes to higher quality Vietnamese restaurants serving the more complex or homestyle Vietnamese dishes. I see that as a sign of what our market is interested in buying, rather than whether the cuisine is well developed in Toronto. Sometimes there's not much of a market for foods a cultural group is eating at home.

      I'd consider any restaurant that has more than a dozen restaurants selling its cuisine to be well-represented in Toronto. Italian is well-represented, as is Ethiopian. Greek is well-represented in terms of the number of restaurants that exist, but the repertoire is limited to the faster, more conservative foods that appeal to a mostly non-Greek clientele. The more interesting cooking is being done at home. I think the same goes for Persian and Portuguese cooking, and many other cultural cuisines in the city.

      Most people in TO only pay top dollar for some French, some Japanese, some Italian, some Chinese, Joso's (the only top quality Croatian seafood restaurant) and Chiado (the only top quality Portuguese seafood restaurant). It doesn't make sense to try to sell top quality Greek, Indian or Thai, when most people don't want to pay more than $30/p for those particular cuisines.

      In terms of cuisines, I think Italian, Japanese, French and Chinese are most developed in TO since the best upscale restaurants serving these cuisines are more likely to have chefs who have had a more structured formal training, rather than simply preparing homestyle recipes well. When I say I consider Italian, Japanese, French and Chinese cuisines the most developed, I'm talking about the handful of top restaurants working at a higher level. Perhaps it makes more sense to name the restaurants working at a higher level, than making generalizations about entire cuisines in Toronto.

      These are the restaurants I'm talking about, when I'm thinking of formally trained Chefs:
      Lai Wah Heen
      Zucca (classically trained Chef creating new Italian with regional Italian elements)
      Mistura (classically trained Chef creating new Italian-Canadian)
      Il Posto Nuovo (classic Italian)

      When it comes to Italian in Toronto, I think there are different markets for different types of arguably high quality Italian. Maybe that's a sign that Italian is the most developed cuisine in Toronto, since there's a market for so many types and so many levels of Italian food. I don't know what I'd consider the most authentic Italian right now, since many of the more popular higher quality Italian restaurants like Campagnolo and Enoteca Sociale are (intentionally) creating what Toronto-Italian, rather than classic Italian.

      Which other high quality restaurants with a distinct cultural tradition would you consider to have formally and/or classically trained Chefs?

      4 Replies
      1. re: prima

        Speaking in very general terms, I think Chinese, Italian, Indian, Vietnamese and Korean cuisines are reasonably well-represented in the GTA. Ethiopian food also has a presence. That said, by no means are these cuisines' full repertoires and regional specialties represented. There is tons of sushi available in the GTA, but I would NOT say that Japanese cuisine is well-represented in the GTA. Much of the sushi bears scant little resemblance to sushi as it is served in Japan. The same could probably be argued of some of the cuisines I mentioned above. Some adaptations must be made for ingredient availability, cost-effectiveness of recreating regional cuisines, and for the palates of customers that have no prior exposure to those cuisines.

        1. re: 1sweetpea

          I've edited what I wrote in my initial reply, to clarify the thoughts I was attempting to convey on a smartphone.

          I absolutely agree. A cuisine's repertoire is not going to be fully represented in a Toronto restaurant or in Toronto's restaurant scene. I would go a step further, and suggest a cuisine's repertoire is not going to be fully represented even in the home country's restaurant scene.

          It's difficult to answer the OP's question without generalizing. Any answers or replies would be subjective, regardless. We can just do our best to give our own thoughts on the subject, and apparently critique other peoples' thoughts.

          1. re: prima

            Wow, Prima. You eloquently and thoroughly wrote everything I was thinking and more. How could I have overlooked Greek food? D'uh. I have little to no experience with Portuguese food outside of Portugal, so I don't feel qualified to comment on the scene in the GTA.

          2. re: 1sweetpea

            I would agree if you are looking for the truest version of the cuisine. I love sushi and sashimi and know of many restaurants in Mississauga and Toronto with great food however my hubby and I were in Tokyo (didn't enjoyed the earthquake) and went to a little cubby at the Tsukiji Fish Market and had fresh sashimi for breakfast - I don't think that I could ever relive that experience unless I go back to visit. That isn't a bad thing as we have great sushi and japanese food here in the city - it just will always be different and not 100% traditional. I do have to say that I enjoy the cantonese food here better than what I had in Beijing and Hong Kong. Go figure.

        2. Thai is nowhere near the top. Many Thai restaurants are in fact not opened by Thai, and even those that are usually cater to the Western palette and dishes are less than authentic. (One issue may be that ingredients are still pricey/difficult to obtain.)

          On the Japanese front, things are changing for the better with authentic ramen bars and izakaya opening left, right and centre.