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if michelin came to Toronto

So the SO and I were talking about this, who would chowhounders recommend? We had a short list going and these are mostly based on reviews from you guys, but I'd love to hear what more experienced hounds think!

Splendido (despite our not great experience)
Bar Isabel (with some tweaking)
Sushi Kaji (I think that's the one I'm thinking about)
Kaiseki hi-Zen hashimoto

Not in Toronto
Langdon Hall
Statlander's (spelling?)

I'll edit my mistakes in a few minutes. :) Lets try to keep this positive! We bash our city enough without bringing it into a hypothetical, maybe list! :)

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  1. Several of the above fall short on their wine list - which is a consideration for 'fine dining'.
    But in the spirit of 'worth a visit and maybe a detour' I'll add:
    Auberge de Pommier,

    33 Replies
    1. re: estufarian

      I agree with the wine, but it's a fairly easy fix, with the right resources, which is why I included them. We have a decent amount of sommeliers in this city, I'm not sure why fine dining places can't up their wine lists.

        1. re: estufarian

          I think that the owner's wine knowledge more than makes up for the lack of Sommelier.

      1. re: estufarian

        Given that Michelin gave 3 stars to a restaurant in NYC that was BYO only at the time I think we can assume that wine list isn't the criteria it once may have been.

        1. re: bytepusher

          Based on that restaurant's wine list now, it should lose a couple of stars! They discontinued BYOB at the time I visited.

          1. re: bytepusher

            I think long and well cured wine lists and fancy environments are no longer mandated requirements for a Michelin star. It used to be but I've seen and been to a few 1* places that are lacking in environment and wine. My favourite example of that is the Hong Kong hole in the wall dim sum restaurant Tim Ho Wan.

            Anyhow, I do wish Canadian chefs and restaurants get recognized eventually by Michelin but I believe another CH'er (Charles?) mentioned that consistency is needed and that is the Achilles heel of a few Toronto restaurants. Michelin reviewers go back many times to see if they are giving the same 'wow' factor over and over again.

            I wonder if Omei's lobster would enough to garner some attention... perhaps not a star but at least a few 'bows' in their charming category.

            1. re: Nevy

              I agree (though I question whether some of those places deserve their stars). Toronto has issues with both consistency across menus and across visits.

              My honest opinion is that we're very strong in the sub-Michelin star range, but our upper-end food scene isn't good enough (with a couple exceptions) yet...

          2. re: estufarian

            Shoto, yeah, but probably only a single. I actually think my best Daisho meals were probably one star, but it's not an star-worthy restaurant.

            I really don't see George - my meals there have been poor at best. Dated (ie. not classic, but 1990s dates), inconsistently executed, mediocre ingredients.

            Isabel is a favourite as it does what it does better than anywhere else (my opinion of course), but I don't think it's a starred restaurant, but if Minetta and Spotted Pig have stars, I guess there's a case.

            Edulis I think would get a single. Scaramouche. Maybe Canoe. I guess there's a case for The Grove.

            Mostly, I think if Michelin came to town, we'd have no threes (maybe Hashimoto, but I haven't been), maybe a couple twos (though most of our potential twos strike me as good ones), and a small handful of ones.

            1. re: BigBabyYeezuS

              If Michelin award Hashimoto 3*, then ALL the 3* in Japan will give back theirs' in protest!! Ha!
              Whilst by Toronto standard, Hashimoto is consider good and unique but it's Kaiseki is no where close to the splendor and standard offer by 3*s in Kyoto, Osaka or even Tokyo!!
              Here lies the HUGE problem!! How does one 'normalize' the stars worldwide?!

              1. re: Charles Yu

                For sure. You could say that about a lot of over here-over there comparisons (French 3 stars in NYC vs. French 3 stars in Paris).

                Like I said, I haven't been to Hashimoto, but, on paper, it looks like our most reasonable candidate for three.

                It's hard to find the multi-star candidates here.

                1. re: Charles Yu

                  Michelin is not fair. It should have a separate category for cities in which the restaurants specialize in steak, salmon and chicken breast.

                  1. re: Vinnie Vidimangi

                    Ok Vinnie... that quip was deserving of at least 1 star :)

                    1. re: Nevy

                      Toronto needs Michelin three star restaurants like Czarist Russia needed the Bolshoi Ballet.

                    2. re: Vinnie Vidimangi

                      But even though TO restos specialize in offering steak, salmon and chicken breast on 4/5 menus, sadly, our salmon can't compete with the salmon being served in Vancouver, where it also turns up on 4/5 restaurant menus with steak and chicken breast. And our steak doesn't compare with Calgary's, yet another Cdn city specializing in the trifecta. I do think our salmon is better than the salmon found in Regina, and our TO chicken breast is usually better than the chicken breast served in Ottawa.

                      1. re: prima

                        Disagree on steak. The Alberta stuff is overrated - cumbraes best is competitive with creekstone and other top us producers. It dominates the canadian comp.

                        1. re: BigBabyYeezuS

                          I'm not talking about the AB beef vs Cumbrae's beef vs US beef. I'm talking about the quality of the preparation of steaks in Calgary vs Toronto. I think your average Calgarian restaurant kitchen cooks a better steak than your average Toronto restaurant kitchen. YMMV. I do think Toronto restaurant kitchens are better at vegetables than Calgary restaurant kitchens.

                          1. re: prima

                            I actually think Toronto does steak better than most cities in Canada. More restaurants in TO cook better than most restaurants in other cities. Of course, it depends how you like your steaks cooked. And, I also think Cumbraes is better than any other producer in Canada as well.

                            FYI, I spent 9 months living in Calgary.

                            1. re: justxpete

                              Yessir. We're talking about a pretty rarifies group here as well. Maybe the day to day beef is better in Calgary, idk.

                              1. re: BigBabyYeezuS

                                Maybe. I don't know either. I tend not to eat common product

                                Calgary does a few things better than us though - schawarma, and Bahn mi being two of them. Oh, and Stampede is a riot.

                              2. re: justxpete

                                I agree TO does steak better than most cities in Canada, as does Montreal, Calgary and Winnipeg. I guess the difference for me, is that steak is often the best thing to eat in Calgary or Winnipeg (or Saskatoon or Regina), whereas Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal do all sorts of other dishes well, so I rarely would choose steak over other foods when dining in Toronto, Vancouver or Montreal.

                                FWIW (not much),I spent longer than 9 months living in Calgary. LOL. Should I also mention my cousins are ranchers who do not supply Cumbrae's? Or that a kid I used to babysit worked in a slaughterhouse? LOL.

                                You eat more steak than I do, so I'll defer to you.

                                1. re: prima

                                  Mention whatever makes you feel good - but yes, I eat more steak than most. :)

                    3. re: BigBabyYeezuS

                      Hashimoto may qualify as a 1. Splendido (at its best) and Shoto might be 2's, but definitely 1s. Grace in Chicago just got a two, and Splendido has been better in the past.

                    4. re: estufarian

                      I have nothing more to add, just that your list and Lexi's list would be good candidates. Perhaps the only one missed would be Edulis, but I know how you feel about it! ;)

                      1. re: justxpete

                        I don't recall any Michelin stars serving family style meals!

                          1. re: Apprentice

                            Yes, and I've been to a 1* Michelin Indian resto in London, in fact!

                            1. re: justxpete

                              Yeah I know they exist, there are 3 in NYC - but i wanted to know what Estufarian classified as "family style"

                              1. re: Apprentice

                                I mean that if two (or more) people, at the same table, order the same dish, then a single platter containing both portions is served.
                                The extreme example in Toronto is Ruby Watchco, where there is no choice anyway. But at Edulis this also happens - even if the diners are diagonally opposite (two visits where this doubling up occurred).
                                I guess 'orders for two' e.g chateaubriand, also technically qualify, but that's clear when ordering.

                                At Indian restaurants, one typically orders dishes to be shared - as opposed to double orders being served on the same platter.

                                1. re: estufarian

                                  Ok thanks I understand your distinction now.

                                  1. re: estufarian

                                    Although this may be technically correct, I think principally, we're splitting hairs.

                                  2. re: Apprentice

                                    You seem well versed in matters of Michelin!

                              2. re: estufarian

                                I'll be pedantic and take a lighthearted comment seriously, but, outside of Asian starred restaurants Craft is the big example of a family style Michelin restaurant. Places like Carbone and Peter Luger would also qualify.

                          2. Hopefully not construed as 'bashing' - I am not sure Bero, Bar Isabel or Splendido (post David Lee, that is) would get a star based on experiences I have had in North American and European 1*+ restaurants.

                            I would however, add Scaramouche and Canoe to the list.

                            6 Replies
                            1. re: Sadistick

                              Not bashing at all! By bashing I more meant general nastiness or "trolling" if you will. :) also those three were more based on popularity on this board. I even said I didn't have a great experience at splendido, but I knew others would want it on the list. Bero and bar Isabel need some tweaking, as they are still fairly new, but I think they have potential.

                              1. re: Sadistick

                                Scaramouche would be a candidate for 1*, but I can't agree with Canoe. There service is utterly mediocre. The food can be good, however, when not boring.

                                1. re: justxpete

                                  Directly from the guide. Criteria for awarding stars and all. According to the guide, 'service' is NOT a selection criteria. ( Taken with a grain of salt!! )

                                  1. re: Charles Yu

                                    Maybe not exceptional service, but if the service is mediocre, it may have a negative impact. I could be wrong, though.

                                    1. re: Charles Yu

                                      I knew I had read that too. Thanks for finding it and setting the record straight!

                                      1. re: Charles Yu

                                        Now I understand better how that HK dim sum place got their star. It certainly didn't look like it had much going for it from the comfort, service or decoration angle. I also suspect it didn't have much of a wine list.

                                  2. in my experience, 2 and 3 star restos are in a clear category.
                                    one star restos on the other hand, have a massive range, with variations on service, dining experience, wine/alcohol programs, and food served.
                                    i think there definitely are restos in toronto that would merit one star consideration.

                                    and if not that, i think a bib gourmand list would generate a lot of interesting dining for toronto.

                                    5 Replies
                                    1. re: afong56

                                      Does anyone know what are the requirements for Michelin? Like many of you based on restaurant visits there does seem to be a range in criteria. Without knowing what they are looking for, based on my visits to restaurants abroad I could argue just about any Toronto restaurant should be included.

                                      1. re: dubchild

                                        No one knows for sure, the chefs have a "guesstimate" of what is required. Watch the documentary 3 stars, I found it interesting.

                                        1. re: Apprentice

                                          I gotta say 3 stars was really boring. Very scatter brained footage, poorly edited.

                                          Whereas this is far better done.


                                        2. re: dubchild



                                          (but not necessarily in that order)

                                      2. This is really great guys! Keep it up!

                                        1. I wonder if we could change this slightly to be "if Michelin came to Canada"

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: justxpete

                                            Go for it, but then it will probably get moved. I thought about it but wanted to see what my neighbourhood hounds thought. :)

                                          2. My take on the stars - and this was published many years back is:
                                            Michelin Stars Defined:
                                            •One star: A very good restaurant in its category.
                                            •Two stars: Excellent cooking and worth a detour. First class cuisine of its type.
                                            •Three stars: Exceptional cuisine and worth a special journey. Often extremely expensive, and with an extensive wine list.

                                            And The Bib category was defined for New York:
                                            Michelin also awards a "bib gourmand" for quality food at a value price -- in New York, that's two courses plus wine or dessert for $40 or less, excluding tax or gratuity.

                                            So most of the discussions so far seem to have centred around 1 * (or rosette to be pedantic).
                                            For 3* it needs to be 'worth a special journey' - which implies (to me) that it's the 'prime' reason for visiting Ontario - or, at least, one is prepared to adjust one's visiting dates in order to eat at the specific restaurant. While some places are potentially worthwhile in that category, I doubt whether any are (currently) sufficiently attractive to serve a significant number of 'special journey' visitors.
                                            For 2* the criterion is 'worth a detour' - and we have several places that I would detour for. Eigensinn Farm used to be one, and Blacktree in Burlington currently qualifies (for me) - I try and get there whenever I travel to/from Buffalo/Niagara.
                                            'Very good in its category' seems to embrace many of those discussed so far.

                                            Bib - at $40 pp including wine is a bit of a stretch - but if we think hard then there are several not yet mentioned that have a prix fixe under $30 which might be worthy.

                                            14 Replies
                                            1. re: estufarian

                                              The Michelin rating system does not work in Toronto. In the land of the blind, the one eyed is king.

                                              1. re: estufarian

                                                FWIW, I agree with this as a framework, but I think it's probably a bit of a relic from the guide's history as being for motorists traveling from Paris to the South of France (interesting if you look at a map of French 3 stars, a lot are clustered along this path). It sort of breaks down when you think about a restaurant like Cabane au Sucre which is worth a special journey, but doesn't seem to comport to typical 3 star standards.

                                                I tend to base my judgments based on experience with what constitutes each class in other cities. The threes really tend to be unimpeachable across all categories (even if Michelin claims it's only what's on the plate that counts), while the twos are missing some almost ineffable property. The ones are more of a mixed bag.

                                                To me, Shoto (even if I had a bad experience), Scaramouche and Splendido seem to be among the most likely two stars based on my experience, but don't seem to be two stars based on the formal criteria. Would I recommend a detour to any of them? Probably not. Are they arguably like two stars elsewhere? I think that's a reasonable argument.

                                                1. re: estufarian

                                                  3* - "Exceptional cuisine and worth a special journey"

                                                  In the past, before the days of Food Network and 'TV celebrity chefs', this 'worth a special journey' phrase might be true?!
                                                  I for one, for example, was willing to make special trips to say Lyon to eat at Paul Bocuse Restaurant or Monte Carlo where Ducasse was cooking in his Louis IX kitchen or Vonnas where George Blanc was personally cooking his famous Bresse chicken. I also did fly out to Napa just to eat at TFL because at that time, I know the master Keller will be in the kitchen overlooking things.
                                                  However, nowadays, even in a lot of 3*s where the food still shines. This scenario is no more! Somehow, to me, for a lot of restaurants, its just not the same anymore, the 'love' and incentive has gone?!
                                                  So, I guess, unlike the past, one really has to do a lot of research to ensure the so called 'special 3* journey' is indeed special. eg for my last meal at L'Arpege, I actually called ahead to make sure Passard will be in the kitchen!
                                                  May be Michelin should sub-divide their 3 stars into 'real' 3* and 'artificial' 3*?! Ha! I guess most San Sebastian 3* should fall into the real category?!

                                                  1. re: Charles Yu

                                                    For sure, San Sebastian is worth a special journey - that way one can hit several starred restaurants. I will be in UK for a family reunion - and leave the day after for Bilbao & San Sebastian - that's definitely a worthwhile journey - although technically it qualifies as a detour (so obviously I have to hit the two stars as well)!

                                                    1. re: estufarian

                                                      I was recently in San Sebastián for like 12 hours, and the meal I had just at some pintxo place was a huge highlight, I'd love to get back there and do some real eating. What a beautiful place

                                                      1. re: estufarian

                                                        We are also planning a trip to the Basque region. I imagine, you will also be looking at other reviewers and guides such as Repsol. We've noticed that restaurants like Elkano, which is widely recommended as the best seafood in the world and receives 2 Repsol suns, gets no Michelin stars. There are many other examples of inconsistencies in relation to itself and other guides, which goes to remind me that Michelin is just another voice in the chorus.

                                                        1. re: dubchild

                                                          I trust Michelin for its Bib recommendations - never steered me wrong so far.
                                                          Also (IMO) it's the most accurate for opening times and their descriptions of style of meal are also reliable. Plus they recommend best dishes - also helpful(e.g. at Mugaritz I ordered the 'lamb trotters in honey sauce' - one of my all-time greatest dishes - nobody else even mentioned it).
                                                          Plus searchable on-line, so if I'm visiting a region it's extremely helpful. But it's not omnipotent.
                                                          But, of course, the mere fact I'm on Chowhound (for many years) shows I value the help I get here.
                                                          This will be my 3rd trip to Spanish Basque (+ 2 to French Basque), so I'll be concentrating on newer places (plus established favourites AFTER checking with Michelin that the places are open (some aren't).

                                                            1. re: dubchild

                                                              PS - You're death to favourite restaurants (see your profile) - please don't favourite any of mine!

                                                              1. re: estufarian

                                                                @ Estufarian

                                                                Great observation!! Cool!!!

                                                                1. re: estufarian

                                                                  I'm not sure I get that comment or the tone of it.

                                                                  1. re: dubchild

                                                                    He's saying that most of the restaurants in your profile have went out of business (accurate), and is jokingly suggesting that you shouldn't become favourites of any of his (in a playful manner).

                                                                    1. re: dubchild

                                                                      I specifically referred to your profile - have you checked it recently?
                                                                      It was meant to be humorous, not cringe-inducing.
                                                                      No offence intended at all; sorry if any was taken.

                                                                      1. re: estufarian

                                                                        With text tone can be difficult to gauge. My mistake, thanks for clearing that up.

                                                      2. if michelin came to toronto this winter we'd probably get better snow tires next year.