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Mid-range dinner in Yorkville; No steak, no sushi

k
kataboon Jun 9, 2013 04:24 PM

Hubby and I are having an overnight date in Toronto this weekend. We are staying in Yorkville. We are big walkers so we a) would prefer not to drive or cab it anywhere, and b) we don't mind walking a few kilometres.

We are pretty adventurous eaters with regard to exotic spices and such, but we are definitely not into eating brains or hooves or whatever. Hubby doesn't like sushi and I don't like big slabs of meat (although I'm not a vegetarian). Dessert isn't really important to us.

Dinner:
-Price range: $15-25 per entree
-Ambience: romantic, but we define that term pretty generously (i.e. no need for candlelight necessarily)

Late night:
-Live music
-Good quality beer
-to-die-for bar snacks

Breakfast:
REAL 100% maple syrup, smoked salmon, eggs benny...

Options I'm wondering about:

-93 Harbord
-Ciao Wine Bar
-Dynasty (but this would be our first dim sum experience so please provide suggestions!)
-Over Easy (breakfast, obviously)
-Panorama (late night)

Many thanks in advance!

  1. k
    kataboon Jun 16, 2013 04:22 PM

    Reporting back...

    Went to Carens Wine & Cheese Bar pre-dinner and had a blue cheese fondue with what the waiter described as a "huge" old-vine Zinfandel. Both were divine! We ate in the back patio area, which had a great atmosphere. I thought the fleece blankets draped over the backs of chairs for customers' use was a really nice and creative touch. We found our server very friendly and knowledgeable but his manner was a tad too informal for our taste.

    For dinner we went to L'Unita and it was FANTASTIC! Very intimate, romantic setting with great lighting. Classic rock music playing in the background contrasted with the upscale setting in a very pleasing way. Our wine choice was the Syrah Exordium (very good). For dinner we ordered two pasta dishes, which the waiter kindly offered to split for sharing without us having to ask. First up was the Squid Ink Troccoli 'Al Nero'. It was so good I ate with my eyes closed. It had a slightly tangy flavour with lots of umami and the texture was spot-on. Next up was the pasta special which was hand-made farfalle with walnuts and morels and hard-ripened cheese. It was also absolutely delicious. For dessert I had the chocolate truffle cake made by the in-house pastry chef. It was rich and only slightly sweet with a silky yet substantial texture. So good. We found the service at L'Unita excellent. Our waiter was warm and personable while still being professional. He was very attentive and did a great job describing the dishes. Loved this place.

    Last and most definitely least...Lola's Kitchen. We ate breakfast at Lola's this morning and were very disappointed with the whole experience. The chairs didn't work with the tables - the legs bang into each other and make it very awkward to "tuck in." Our waiter was a nice guy but had no skill whatsoever. It took at least 20 minutes for our coffee to arrive, for one thing. When he did finally bring the coffee he managed to spill sugar all over me and the table but he was so frazzled he didn't even notice. The coffee wasn't hot, and when he refilled our mugs he didn't bring more milk. My husband had the eggs benny and I had the mushroom benny. We both ordered "Lola's homefries," which turned out to be cubed sweet potatoes. Don't get me wrong, I like sweet potatoes, but when I order homefries I expect fried potatoes. My English muffin was absolutely waterlogged from all the liquid seeping down from the mushrooms and spinach. My husband's English muffin was just plain stale. It wasn't until we were finished eating and wanting the bill that we were visited by another staff person (the manager?). He asked how everything was, and we were polite but honest. He just said, "really?" in total disbelief, which gave the impression that the problem lay with us rather than the restaurant. No apology or anything. We wish we had gone for the $3.99 special at Sunset!

    Overall we were very happy with our dining experiences this weekend. Thanks to everyone for your suggestions. Here's the report card:

    A+ L'Unita
    A Japango
    A Carens Wine & Cheese
    F Lola's Kitchen

    BTW for late-night we just went out to a random bar and drank Corona, so nothing to report.

    1 Reply
    1. re: kataboon
      a
      auberginegal Jun 16, 2013 05:01 PM

      always great to read the outcome of the recommendations, especially for places i haven't been to (but long on the list - L'Unita, back patio at Caren's etc). i haven't been to Lola's Kitchen in well over a year, and sad to read about your experience, will think longer on going back there in the near future. thanks for the report!

    2. mnajji Jun 15, 2013 12:07 PM

      Hmm neither really do live music but Museum Tavern for dinner, Bar Volo for beer and bar snacks.

      1. k
        kataboon Jun 15, 2013 06:22 AM

        Thank you so much for all the responses. I will let you know how it goes!

        1 Reply
        1. re: kataboon
          k
          kataboon Jun 15, 2013 01:46 PM

          Arrived in Toronto a little earlier than expected. We were both feeling peckish and I managed to convince hubby to go for some sushi. I checked the chowhound boards and decided on Japango. It was great! We had the crunchy spicy tuna roll and the spicy salmon roll. Both were perfectly fresh and so tender - great mouth feel. Restaurant is tiny. Feels authentic and not pretentious at all. I thought the row of regulars' chopsticks boxes mounted on the wall was pretty cool. Enjoyed the flavour of the complimentary soup but wished it was served hot instead of warm. Prices were very reasonable. Bathroom was clean but in need of a reno' or at least some finishing. I would definitely eat a Japango again. Next stop...Caren's.

        2. e
          eppicurious Jun 10, 2013 02:48 PM

          I think Le Paradis fits the bill for dinner. Very reasonably priced mains and a very unique wine list.
          http://leparadis.com/

          1. m
            mrsyumyum Jun 10, 2013 08:38 AM

            I recently went to Babaluu in Yorkville. It's a Salsa club that serves Spanish food. We went on a Friday night and the place was pretty full. We ordered: the seafood soup, warm mushroom salad, seafood platter, dipping platter (with hummus, guacamole, and black beans), and Babaluu paella. Everything was very good. Highlights was definitely the warm mushroom salad, guacamole, and all the seafood was very good. Portions were very generous, especially the paella. I found the paella so so because it did not remind me of any of the ones I had in Barcelona. At 9:30pm a salsa instructor teaches you the basic salsa moves and at 10:30pm the place becomes a club. A great place to try out!

            1 Reply
            1. re: mrsyumyum
              f
              fickle Jun 10, 2013 07:56 PM

              wow Babaluu sounds like it hasn't changed. Last time I went was about 18 years ago and I remember it as being fairly decent. Good to hear they've stayed consistent!

            2. MissBingBing Jun 10, 2013 05:00 AM

              Focaccia on Heydon for dinner/lunch.

              1. prima Jun 9, 2013 08:07 PM

                I'd skip Ciao, Panorama and Over Easy.

                Lola's Kitchen is around a 10 minute walk from Yorkville, and much better option for breakfast than Over Easy. Lola's Kitchen would be the place to find real maple syrup, and various bennys. Cafe Boulud also might be worth considering for brunch in Yorkville.

                Cantine on Avenue Rd south of Davenport is within a 10 minute walk of Yorkville, and serves brunch. I haven't been recently, but it used to be a decent brunch option. Maybe someone who had been to Cantine more recently can comment.

                Globe Earth in Rosedale is another brunch option, within a 20 minute walk of Yorkville, if you're up for a walk.

                I wasn't impressed by past Eggs Benny at Caren's or MoRoCo, which are located in Yorkville, and I would probably venture beyond Yorkville if I wanted a good Eggs Benny.

                I like Dynasty. I'd stick to around 6 dishes for 2 people. I give credit to jlunar for the quick calculation of 2 dishes/person + 2 for the table, which she mentioned to me back in 2007! Most beginners like har gow (crystal shrimp dumplings), siu mai (steamed pork and shrimp dumplings), char siu bao (steamed bbq pork buns), black bean spare ribs, egg tarts (egg custard filled tarts), various fried dumplings. If you're feeling more adventurous, try the cheung fun (rice flour roll with various fillings- slightly slippery texture which might be unusual to a dim sum newbie), nor mai gai (sticky rice in lotus leaf), ham su gok, jin deui (sweetfried sesame balls). The servers can help you choose some other dishes.

                Second CocoaChanel's recs of Caren's and L'Unita. 93 Harbord would be at least a 20 minute walk from Yorkville. If you're considering Harbord Street for 93 Harbord, also consider the Harbord Room, which has good food and interesting cocktails. Another place on Harbord, that's kind of romantic in good weather, is the patio at the Boulevard Cafe. It is a several blocks further west than 93 Harbord, so it might be closer to a 25-30 minute walk from Yorkville.

                Second TorontoJo's rec of Mideastro.

                For late night, the rooftop bar at the Park Hyatt has good late night snacks,and it's a romantic spot for drinks. It is expensive for Toronto, but it's much better than Panorama.

                1 Reply
                1. re: prima
                  pinstripeprincess Jun 10, 2013 10:12 AM

                  if you do consider harbord room, the same people opened up a new place thr&co just a few doors down. the room is a beautiful blend of modern club house with refined industrial finishes. a wonderful environment stuffed with modern tufted banquettes and booths. the food is quite a bit lighter than hardbord room with some interesting twists like smoked grapes on a branzino. good use of local ingredients. the drinks list is highly focused but great variety. can't remember prices but had a meal with 5 and ordered as much as we wanted and ended up with a $30pp food bill.

                2. v
                  Vinnie Vidimangi Jun 9, 2013 06:43 PM

                  Anyone want to recommend Jacques on Cumberland, which is real close?

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Vinnie Vidimangi
                    meatnveg Jun 17, 2013 01:41 PM

                    Allow me...OP, go to Jac

                    1. re: Vinnie Vidimangi
                      meatnveg Jun 17, 2013 01:41 PM

                      Allow me...OP, go to Jacques on Cumberland. It's really close and has a variety of options (all french)

                    2. TorontoJo Jun 9, 2013 06:13 PM

                      93 Harbord is great, though not terribly romantic. Another option with Middle Eastern flavours and a bit more ambiance is Mideastro in Yorkville. It's rather underrated on this board, but it's not a bad option at all in Yorkville.

                      But for the most romantic spot in Yorkville, I'd have to say go to the back patio at Caren's wine bar.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: TorontoJo
                        b
                        bluefirefly Jun 10, 2013 05:16 AM

                        Mideastro would be a great option but just note that the entrees don't fit the OP's price range for dinner - entrees are $28-36, with only the vegetarian dish priced below $25.

                        1. re: bluefirefly
                          TorontoJo Jun 10, 2013 05:23 AM

                          Oy, sorry, I guess I've misremembered the price point at Mideastro. Thanks for the correction!

                          1. re: bluefirefly
                            k
                            kataboon Jun 15, 2013 06:23 AM

                            Thanks for catching that bluefirefly.

                          2. re: TorontoJo
                            b
                            bluefirefly Jun 10, 2013 03:35 PM

                            Mideastro would be a great option but just note that the entrees don''t fit the OP's price range for dinner - entrees are $28-36, with only the vegetarian dish priced below $25.

                            1. re: bluefirefly
                              TorontoJo Jun 10, 2013 03:58 PM

                              Yep, got you the first time. ;o)

                          3. CocoaChanel Jun 9, 2013 06:08 PM

                            Caren's Wine Bar - especially the back patio.
                            Sopra for live music
                            L'unita for dinner
                            The Rebel House for beer
                            +1 for 93 Harbord.
                            I wouldn't bother with Panorama

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