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Per Se/Alinea 'like' restaurant in Toronto?

Chris Nutall-Smith asked a question on Twitter yesterday.

The question was:

"The most ambitious cooks I know always say that a Per Se -type resto could never survive in Toronto. True?"

Curious to know what other "Chowhounders" think?

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  1. If the food and service is good and the price is right, people will come!!! However, before that, the chef who decide to pursue this venture must have 'star appeal'!!

    Eigensinn Farm, which I found over-rated for the price they charge and the food they serve, not to mention the long drive, managed to survive after all these years and still attracting patrons! And Stadtlander, though a great chef by Ontario standard, is no Keller, Achatz, Robouchon or Ducasse

    1. Shoto is still doing fine right? I mean its not exactly the same as Per Se but its definitely a high end conceptual approach that would be in contention for Michelin stars if the publication came here.

      9 Replies
      1. re: themiguel

        I think he means ├╝ber-high end. Shoto is fine dining,but is still reasonably priced and isn't that over the top in terms of atmosphere.

        1. re: justxpete

          We are venturing into un-chartered territory??!!

          Apart from the 'old' David Lee Splendido, I cannot recall a single restaurant in town that has provided the 'whole package' ( food, wine, service, ambiance ). And even the old Splendido is far from Per Se or any of the US Michelin 3*!

          In my book, the old Splendido is more like the 1* Cafe Boulud on NYC's upper East side.

          1. re: Charles Yu

            I've had meals at the new Splendido that I'd consider 2*... But they don't wear white gloves anymore and are a lot less expensive. And those are just one-off meals. But yes, Per Se et al are on a different level than anything we have in TO.

            And Charles, don't forget who was cooking your food at the old Splendido.

            I think even if a place like Grace opened in TO it would be the best restaurant we'd have.

            1. re: justxpete

              Sure miss David Lee's tasting menu!! Masterful!!

            2. re: Charles Yu

              I think Perigee tried pretty hard to deliver the 'whole package'. Location and ambience were problematic, however.

            3. re: justxpete

              Reasonably priced? Two people aren't getting out of there for less than $600 with drinks. Agreed that its not traditional fine dining atmosphere. You would have to think it would get a star though.

              1. re: themiguel

                Per Se/Alinea start at around $550 w/o drinks. Supplimental menu items can bring a single meal up to $600+ (at Per Se, anywho). By the time you factor in a bottle or two of wine or wine pairings, the bill gets pretty steep.

                1. re: justxpete

                  Yup!! It sure can get pretty expensive with supplements of $75 Osetra Caviar and $40 Perigold Duck Foie Gras added onto the $295 Chef's Tasting Menu!! At least service is included!! Ha!

              2. re: justxpete

                I don't know that I would consider $150 pp -- current price at Shoto -- "reasonably priced."

                Current menu price at Alinea is $210 pp, and $195 at Eleven Madison Park.

                These are all pretty high end places, I'd say.

            4. There seems to be plenty of wealth and a kind of insane level of conspicuous consumption in TO, so on the surface it seems possible.

              Perhaps the reservation is that while there are a number of places in TO that have prix fixe menus in the $100+ range, and lots of places that feel comfortable charging $40-50 for an entree, I gather most of these places focus on (in comparison) relatively traditional cooking -- North 44, Scaramouche, Canoe, George, etc..

              I haven't been to all of these places personally, so perhaps my impression here is off. If not, though, perhaps the thought is that TO high end diners are a bit too conservative to support a place like this?

              I did try Colborne Lane once (albeit during Restaurant Week), and thought it was kind of lame.

              1. A place that no one seems to talk about, and I have never been, is Hashimoto. They charge $300 a head without drinks. If Per Se type restaurant means this price point and doing small numbers each night, then the answer to the question is yes this type of restaurant could survive because here is an example of one.

                2 Replies
                1. re: dubchild

                  I now see in the "most expensive" post that people do talk about Hashimoto.

                  1. re: dubchild

                    Hashimoto is truly extraordinary, exquisite, and every meal includes improvisation with the freshest ingredients. I have never been served the same dish twice. It is perfectly comparable to the same type of highly refined, complex cuisine in Japan. However, it is rather...inaccessible? esoteric? if you do not have a strong background in Japanese culture, and it is a ghastly value unless money has no meaning for you and unless Japan (not food) is one of your great joys in life. The more you know about Japan, the better the value.

                    A dish there may reference not only season and locale, but also art, religion, literature.

                    The closest I have come to the Hashimoto experience in a western restaurant was not in the US but at La Madia in Sicily. Each plate laden with metaphor as well as with fabulous food.

                    The US does not have the same cultural depth or historical perspective available for its kitchens. And I say that as an American native. Great regional diversity, but no poetry.

                    Canada? Toronto? And I choose to say no more as a Canadian by choice.

                    But +1 for Stadtlander , and he does try harder.

                  2. Many of the world's top restaurants are by home grown chefs. Toronto has Susur Lee and David Lee as 2 of the best but they're just not in the class of a Thomas Keller.

                    If not home grown, I don't think Toronto can attract foreign top chefs. They go where the money is and it's not here. I've had better "European" fine dining in wealth-rich Asian places like Hong Kong and Singapore than in Toronto. Daniel Boulud opened up here but only the cheaper Bistro.

                    Hashimoto-san's Kaiseki restaurant has 2 tables, if I recall correctly in my last visit. And I'm not sure that Stadtlander would survive if he had to pay downtown Toronto lease rates. Both are uniquely niche and neither of them are representative to be an indication that Per Se could survive in Toronto.