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Chowhound's best of 2014 - results

A little more complex than in the past, please bear with me...

We had a few less voters than past years but no less diversity, 146 restaurants attracted at least one vote each

First off, here is the top 10 list using the voting system we used in the past years

1) Bar Isabel 26 votes
2) Spendido 14 votes
3) Edulis 13 votes
4) Chantecler 12 votes
5) Bahn Mi Boys 11 votes
6) Momofuku Shoto 10 votes
7) Patria 10 votes
8) Richmond Station 10 votes
9) Santouka 10 votes
10) Bero 9 votes

Honorable mentions with 8 votes each: Sabai Sabei and Zen

I've been looking at several different ways to use the weighted votes that you all cast this year, I started with the idea that I would just assign points to each vote, 10 for a 1st place, 9 for second etc and total up the points and ... the result was so close to the old system that it really didn't seem to be a useful exercise (Santouka was replaced by Zen but the other 9 were the same).

So instead I took the top 25% of the list in terms of votes, then averaged the votes each restaurant got and sorted things by the average:

1) Momofuku Shoto 8.60 points
2) Edulis 8.38 points
3) Bar Isabel 8.00 points
4) Scaramouche 7.83 points
5) Actinolite 7.67 points
6) Jacobs and Co 7.60 points
7) Chantacler 7.42 points
8, 9) Buca, Harbord Room 7.00 points
10) Patria 6.60 points

Finally in honour of the Winter Olympics I also did a sort based on the ordinal placement figure skating style (who got the most 1st place votes, then move along the columns to break any ties)

1) Bar Isabel
2) Edulis
3) Momofuku Shoto
4) Splendido
5) Chantacler
6) Patria
7) Scaramouche
8) Actinolite
9) Buca
10) Jacobs

OK, so just to make this more complex, here is the entire list of places that at least one person named their #1 restaurant:

Bar Isabel
Momofuku Shoto
Ici Bistro
Auberge du Pommier
Yours Truly
Kaiseki Yu-Zen Hashimoto
Al Tanoor

Discuss amongs yourselves

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  1. Wow! Thanks for the hard work. The month of January I chose two restaurants based on what seemed to be getting many votes and which appealed to me. I was very happy with both, they were Santouka and Patria. The point being this exercise is of benefit. Edulis may be my next outing.

    1. Great job bytepusher!! Many thanks!!

      1. bytepusher, thanks for this. Impressive.

        1. Great stuff. For anyone new to the city, this is a very valuable resource. Nice to see Tobey and Michael near the top...great young chefs whose globetrotting really paid off.

          1 Reply
          1. re: TorontoTuna

            Yes, we're fortunate to have as many active posters as we do. It's not the same for Vancouver (for example), where this list would be an amazing resource for me and others new-ish/frequently visiting the city.

          2. Wow, multiple rating systems!

            I really appreciate the "Olympic figure skating" rating (ie. most rated as 1st, 2nd, 3rd place etc), because frankly for me,
            I have a fairly good idea of who I'd rate as top 3, and want to include in my top 10, but the in-betweens are more or less, affected by recency and frequency of visits.

            Thank you for the compilation! I had looked forward to it.

            1. Thanks for all your work.
              Seems like the method is almost irrelevant, which is actually a great comfort - it implies that we have a reliable list to show others.
              And I would be happy to go to any of the top 10!

              1. Thanks for all the work!

                1. Good list. Some thoughts:

                  1. It's amazing how new most of these restaurants are. Obviously these lists will skew towards the new as people run out to try the new openings, but it's indicative of the growth in the Toronto restaurant scene over the past five years or so. Even Splendido is basically "new" since Victor Barry took over. But...

                  2. We still are weak at the very high end. The equivalent list in other cities would have far more fine dining. It's old hat that we don't have a San Pelligrino/Michelin 2-3 star kind of restaurant, at least in the Western style, but there has to be room there for something new, indigenous and very important. And, with that...

                  3. I'm as much a culprit as anyone, but the lists skew overwhelming Western in terms of cuisine. Obviously Hashimoto is cost preclusive, and I'm as much a culprit as anyone, but these lists are a reminder that I have to eat more of the great Chinese food outside the city.

                  All in all, a very good snapshot.

                  9 Replies
                  1. re: BigBabyYeezuS

                    Re: #3
                    4 of the top 10 are arguably as Asian as they are Western (Banh Mi Boys, Santouka, Momofuku Shoto, Chantecler). Another 4 are Spanish/Toronto-style continental with a strong Spanish influence (Bero, Patria, Edulis, Bar Isabel), leaving only Richmond Station and Splendido as Contemporary/Continental/Western without Spanish or Asian elements.
                    It seems to me that Italian, French, Thai, Indian and Mexican restaurants are less popular on this year's list.

                    1. re: prima

                      Momofuku is not Asian. It's more in the modern, global high end style than purely Asian. Similarly, Chantecler isn't Asian even if there are Asian influences. My (non-tasting) dinner there this weekend certainly had Asian notes, flavours and ingredients but, as has always been, was incorporating them into a more Western/global style. Stylistically, these are restaurants with broad influences, but they're not "Asian" - they're just the modern incorporation of an understanding of Asian cuisines into global dining (like Wolfgang Puck or Jean Georges did in the 1990s, David Chang does now).

                      Similarly, Spanish is Western and is definitely having a moment.

                      Traditional high end Asian places - like Kaji, Zen, Yang's, etc. - didn't perform as well as those places that operate in the Western/global style. And if you look at the other lists (first place mentions or average votes), Asian restaurants perform worse.

                      I don't find this surprising - these places are farther outside of the downtown and tend to be a bit older so they don't have the buzz. Still, it's interesting.

                      1. re: BigBabyYeezuS

                        How is Global not a combination of Eastern and Western?
                        Maybe Shoto is better described as East meets West, Toronto-style?

                        Maybe it's my Westernized mangiacake palette talking, but I find the savoury food at Momofuku and Chantecler to taste more like upscale, modernized, North Americanized Pan-Asian food than anything else.

                        If you look at the voting thread, you'll see a number of relatively traditional Asian restaurants (Zen, O'Mei, Yang's, Northern Dumpling Kitchen, etc) were mentioned at least a couple times by the 43 voters, but very few Ethiopian/Caribbean/Polish/Greek/Indian/Colombian/Peruvian/Lebanese/Israeli/etc restaurants were mentioned at all.

                        Considering only 43 people voted, several traditional Asian restaurants did well in the popularity contest this year, even if they didn't break into the top 10.

                        1. re: prima

                          It's a bit of a silly discussion but that has never stopped anyone here before.

                          Shoto is unquestionably "fusion" but if you pick apart the influences you'll find more Japanese than anything else and Shoto shows more Japanese influence than any of the other restos in the chain (except possibly seiobo, can't comment on that)

                          1. re: bytepusher

                            Hard to say that Shoto shows more Japanese influence than Ko (especially as compared to the opening Ko menu which was a pretty direct reference to Kaiseki).

                            "Fusion" as ugly a term as it is isn't entirely inappropriate. The Momofuku restaurants operate in the sort of pan-global style popular with fine dining/san pellegrino restaurants these days. It's a sort of hybrid local-modernist cuisine that pulls in grace notes from around the world, and generally serves it all up as a long tasting menu. It tends to photograph very well. It was also a style of cooking that rose to prominence in the West.

                            Regardless, this cuisine isn't Asian in the way the more traditional Chinese and Japanese places are. It was surprising to me that there wasn't a better performance from the old guard Chinese and Japanese restaurants in Toronto.

                            1. re: BigBabyYeezuS

                              As Prima so succinctly stated:

                              "4 of the top 10 are arguably as Asian as they are Western"

                              "Another 4 are Spanish/Toronto-style continental with a strong Spanish influence"

                              Completely accurate and agreeable.

                              "this cuisine isn't Asian in the way the more traditional Chinese and Japanese places are"

                              She didn't say that it was.

                              1. re: justxpete

                                Not sure I'm not replaying an old record.
                                Who cares what it's called as long as it tastes good?
                                Maybe it's Asian Piri Piri BBQ Tapas !

                                1. re: estufarian

                                  I totally agree. This happens every year. I guess we can forgive BBJ because he's new.

                      1. Any opinion why Sushi Kaji failed to make it on a list?

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: justsayn

                          My guess is because part of the voting process asks that you have been there in that year. I am guessing that people don't travel out that way enough to make it something that they are there every year where they could vote for it? I haven't been but would love to go for one of the omakase menus.

                          1. re: ylsf

                            If it were a more casual place that logic would make sense, but I feel like if you're ready to drop a couple of hundred bucks on a meal, the twenty minute drive outside of the city isn't going to be a huge deal-breaker.

                            1. re: Michael N

                              And, I meant to say that it seems like more of a special occasion type of place because of cost so not guessing people would go every year.

                          2. re: justsayn

                            It only had 2 people vote for it, why? Who can say, I don't think it's scored higher than honorable mention in the past votes.

                            For myself I was in Japan this year so I satisfied all my cravings for Japanese during that time (ramen exempted) and my last visit to Kaji falls outside the eligibility window.

                            I think the variety and quality of alternative Japanese options has probably bled off some of the demand for sushi centric restaurants.

                            1. AWESOME! Thanks for compiling this list! Bar Isabel topped the list as expected and well deserved. An incredible restaurant with an all star team! Can't say I agree with all the results (ie Edulis, Santouka) but each to their own! Overall it's a great list. Really want to go to Bero and Richmond Station, very popular places it seems. 146 restaurants voted for...I've got lots of eating to do! And kudos to the guys at Chantecler, my number 1 vote. It proves that you don't need big money or a big name/media hype or fancy equipment to put out great food!

                              1. how many votes were cast?

                                - khao san road

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: KhaoSanRoad

                                  43 people voted, 402 votes were cast (not everyone used all 10)

                                2. Thank you for your effort in compiling this list.

                                  1. Thanks for putting this together. The downfall of this exercise is our favourite restaurants just got a little harder to book. Lots of eating out to do this year.

                                    1. Just to keep things up to date

                                      Bero will be getting a new chef and presumably some change in format.

                                      1. Not to be pendantic - but shouldn't this list technically be the best of 2013, and not 2014? Just something I thought about the other day.

                                        Or, are we collectively saying "here are the best restaurants for the coming year?" I think the former is more accurate than the latter.