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Where to Eat for Visiting Pescetarian NYers

Hi everyone, looking for some Chowhound advice. New to this board as my husband I currently live in NYC. I am a born and raised NYer, he is a Canadian raised in Whitby, went to college in Waterloo, and has lived in NYC for the past 10 years. We have recently been considering moving to Toronto, and as part of our decision making process we planned an upcoming weekend trip to the city -- although we travel to Canada a lot to visit family, we are almost never in the city proper since all of his family is out in the burbs. But we would be relocating to the city of Toronto, so want to get a better sense of it and try to visit some neighborhoods, restaurants, etc that might be the types of places we'd frequent if we were residents.

I wouldn't quite call us "foodies," but we are certainly food lovers (especially me) and I know it will be hard for me to lose some of my favorite NYC mainstays (bagels/Jewish appetizing and pizza in particular), although I also know that Toronto is a big city with its own awesome food scene. I've done a lot of googling and found blog posts with "best of" lists but I thought Chowhounders might be able to give better suggestions of places that we should check out. We are going to be there for 3 full days, more or less eating out each meal. While we're willing to go out of our way for a good restaurant, we want to try to go to places in neighborhoods that we might consider living in so that we can take maximum advantage of the short time we are there (definitely anywhere around the downtown core--Little Italy; Annex; Little Portugal; Trinity-Bellwoods--and also possibly Leslieville...at least from what my husband knows from when he lived there a decade ago, coupled with where our friends live and what we've read online, these seem like the areas we would consider). We eat fish, but no meat. Love all kinds of ethnic food, love vegetarian and vegan restaurants. Open to trying anything!

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  1. Welcome to Toronto.
    I will give a few suggestions categorized by price point, including info on its location/neighbourhood and type of cuisine/special dish

    Higher end:
    Chiado (Little Portugal, Portuguese. I have never had a bad dish there, but they do grilled fish and seafood stew impeccably)
    Hopgood's Foodliner (Roncy, New Canadian. Specials are always good).
    Ja Bistro (Financial District, aburi (toched fish))
    Japango (Financial District, Omakase)
    Bar Isabel (Little Italy-ish, any grilled fish, and ceviche)
    Lee (King W, I know...but he still makes my favourite black cod in the city)

    Mid Range
    Solo Sushi Ya (U of Toronto -ish, anything from their daily special)
    Oyster Boy (Trinity Bellwoods, oysters)
    Rodney's (King W, Chowders & Oysters)

    Inexpensive:
    Fish Store (Little Italy, Fish sandwich take-out)
    Buster's (St Lawrence Market, swordfish sandwich, fish&chips)
    7 Lives (Kensington Market, fish tacos & ceviche)
    Swatow (Chinatown, Shrimp wonton noodle soup)

    5 Replies
    1. re: happycamper

      Yeah I've definitely had bad dishes from Chiado. They are kind of crazy expensive for what they are, which seems to be a "fine dining" restaurant circa 1996.

      1. re: autopi

        Then you ordered the wrong dishes.

        They do have some 'old-style' dishes on their menu (which I avoid, so can't comment on their quality), but the 'modern' dishes are consistently excellent.

        I also haven't had a bad dish there - only some 'dated' dishes.

        Still the finest Portuguese restaurant I've found in North America - although it looks and feels like French Fine Dining, and is priced accordingly.

        To the OP, please consider that Toronto is nowhere near the ocean, and Lake Ontario fish harvesting is a small-scale operation. Accordingly, it is difficult to find a selection of 'really' fresh fish outside the more expensive restaurants.
        But most places do offer pescatarian selections - you won't go hungry!

        1. re: estufarian

          yes i suppose that must be true -- if one only orders the excellent dishes, then one will only receive the excellent dishes. absolutely true and absolutely meaningless at the same time.

          i've eaten there twice, once was pretty good and the second time was pretty bad, probably one of the worst meals i've had at an upscale restaurant in awhile. the dessert in particular looked like it'd been pulled out of a loblaws dessert case.

          the place has always seemed dated to me. but then the idea of high priced French Fine Dining itself seems dated to me.

          obviously people can have different opinions about a restaurant. i guess i don't see why that is so hard for some people to accept.

          1. re: autopi

            Good point.

            However, what I was trying to communicate (unsuccessfully it appears), was that the menu contains several 'traditional' dishes, cooked in the traditional manner. Similar to 'traditional' French (as opposed to 'modern' French) cuisine, these dishes tend to be more substantial and generally heavier (e.g. higher proportion of oil and/or starch). This is NOT to say these are badly prepared - only that they are rarely seen on menus (or rarely chosen) by many 'modern' diners.

            A personal example - last year I visited Lyons in France, still a centre of 'traditional' French food - where I indulged in the traditional dishes (escargots, heavy sauces etc). That night, horrible indigestion, followed by a sluggish day - my system is not used to that style. Nothing wrong with the food or preparation - my gastric system is now acclimatized to a lighter style of food. These dishes were not "bad" - just not particularly amenable to my current physical state. And they were tasty - but clearly not to my taste - I will avoid in future.

            The traditional dishes at Chiado (e.g. Assorda) are, in my experience, well-prepared. But I order the freshly grilled fish to suit my current palate (and gastric system). I find their ingredients to be top quality, and don't ever recall a 'bad' dish (either ingredients, which are stellar, or a dish badly prepared) - of course there have to be off-nights/dishes as with every restaurant - I just haven't had them at Chiado in maybe 20 visits (although I am a bit bored with the fresh cheese!).

      2. re: happycamper

        Thanks! These are all awesome recs. To clarify, we aren't only seeking out fish places, just wanted to mention that we eat fish but not meat so we can avoid meat-centric places (we just watched the Anthony Bourdain episode and literally EVERY place he went to was meat-centric).

      3. Keeping things tidy: Western Pescetarian dinner choices that are good:

        Roncessvalles/High Park/kinda West Parkdale - Hopgood's Foodliner

        Little Portugal/Italy - Bar Isabel

        Dundas West/Trinity Bellwoods - Campagnolo, Enoteca Sociale, Grove

        ETA: Bar Buca if you're interested in King West.

        Yorkville/Annex - Joso's, Harbord Room, THR and Co

        I would do: Bar Isabel, Hopgood's and Campagnolo. Harbord Room or THR and Co if you really want to check out the Annex.

          1. re: Vinnie Vidimangi

            The problem is that there are no coupon deals at Josos!

          2. There's a spot in Kensington market called Le Ti Colibri. It's a French Caribbean spot that's super pescaterian friendly. It's also one of those places you'd call sort of unique to Toronto. They do bokit there which is like a festival (the fried dough, not an actual festival) sandwich. Their plates are also really great. Chill back patio which is good too.

            5 Replies
            1. re: Notorious P.I.G.

              Also, incredible plantain there. I usually get the salt fish and calaloo plate.

                1. re: Vinnie Vidimangi

                  Hard to say, as it's finely chopped and mixed with the calaloo. There are no off flavours and it's not over salted so that's a good indicator. I would have to see a whole fish to give you a better assessment.

              1. re: Notorious P.I.G.

                NOTE: They close at 7:00pm - so more of a lunch spot!

                1. re: estufarian

                  They actually started closing super late on weekends. Like 1-2am or so I think. The chefs told me that they're going to start making the weekends more of an event with late hours for chefs/club goers and a Dj. This is all good news to me. Bokit after a heavy night of drinking. Thumbs up.

              2. Hi, the food is nice at Joso's. Happy dining.

                http://www.josos.com/

                1. If you are looking at Leslieville you might like GLAS Wine Bar. The menu is small but very veg-friendly, and there's also a four-course vegetarian tasting menu.

                  1. In Leslieville, try Lady Marmalade or Bonjour Brioche for brunch/lunch. Tabule is a Mediterranean food restaurant that is good (and has a great back patio), and Rock Lobster has just opened their newest branch in Leslieville. Queen Margherita Pizza has it's original location in Leslieville, and Ascari Enoteca (also in Leslieville) always has vege options.
                    Enjoy!

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: Phoenix

                      I'm in that hood Phoenix and I think that neither Lady Marmalade nor Rock Lobster are good examples of what our city has to offer food wise. I would skip both as neither really impress.

                      1. re: JennaBean

                        I hide my head in shame as a Torontonian when I think about Rock Lobster.

                        1. re: BigBabyYeezuS

                          I had been wanting to go since they opened the first location, I didn't realise it was bad... Should I take it off my list of places to try?

                          1. re: foodyDudey

                            I've been once to rock lobster. I didn't think it was THAT bad. I had their Wednesday night special, which was two clusters of snow crab legs for $13. meat was sweet and delicious. also had 1/2 dozen oysters (forget which variety) and they were on par with most other oyster places in toronto. lobster poutine was a mess, though (figured I'd take a punt).

                            I guess you need to stick to the simple stuff.

                            not a destination place I'd highlight for out of towners, but if you live close by, which I think you do, it's worth a try.

                            1. re: foodyDudey

                              IMO it is not worth spending your money there. I would say that the crab special is likely the only time worth visiting.

                      2. Mezes on Danforth Ave has many vegetarian and seafood options. Here is the menu: http://mezes.com/menus/

                        Some of the items I ordered last night were:

                        Melitzana Sta Karvouna
                        Whole grilled eggplant, peeled and dotted with feta cheese, green onion, and basted with extra virgin olive oil.

                        Marides
                        Pan fried sea smelts, floured and prepared with extra virgin olive oil and lemon

                        Horiatiki
                        The quintessential Greek salad. Tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, green peppers, olives and Barel aged Greek Feta Dodonis, tossed simply with oregano and extra virgin olive oil.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: foodyDudey

                          Plus you can't beat a stroll along the Danny on a summer's night!