FOOD AND DRINK
Where to Eat Now in Toronto
With new and exciting restaurants openly almost weekly, Toronto’s culinary renaissance is showing no signs of slowing down. Here are five new spots you need to check out now.
Grant van Gameren’s latest joint is the first restaurant in Toronto to capture the true spirit of a Spanish tapas bar. Great Gaudi-esque swooshes of mahogany dazzle, while barrels and ledges are the closest things to tables. The wrap-around patio, where many oysters are shucked and much cider is poured, doubles the capacity in summer. It’s hard to go wrong on the extensive menu, but do order a round of buttery soft leeks on romesco-smeared bread, and squid griddled in pork fat. With expertly mixed cocktails, an unparalleled selection of vermouth, and cheap cava by the coupe, equal attention is paid to drink. It’s the kind of place where you start plotting a return visit 10 minutes after you walk in the door.
505 College St., no phone
While most Southeast Asian cooking in Toronto has been watered down for Caucasian palates, this Dutch-Indonesian joint puts the pedal to the metal, leaving your palate blissfully whiplashed on the cab ride home. Start with pangsit, gossamer fried beef wontons with a fiery lime dip. And pay special attention to the side dishes, most notably the grilled mustard greens dressed with salty-sweet kecap manis and crispy shallots. There are some excellent craft beers on tap, which you’ll need to tame the chili-stoked fires. The cherry on top is the bill, which is shockingly low for such accomplished cooking.
2031 Yonge St., 416-488-2031
At one of the more original restaurants to open in years, Evelyn Wu and Wayne Morris celebrate Canada’s culinary heritage while avoiding beaver tail clichés. They’ve mined centuries-old cookbooks and updated the recipes for modern palates. Within weeks of opening, they had a signature dish, the l’éclade, a bowl of mussels steamed in white wine, butter and pine ash, which arrives in dramatic fashion under a fragrant dome of pine needle smoke. It’s essential eating. The pigeon pie is also a must – a buttery, flakey individual tourtière shares the plate with rosy slices of squab breast. Desserts don’t sparkle with the same intensity, so you’re better off ordering another savoury dish. Look for Canadian gems – psst, Norman Hardie Pinot – on the Francophile wine list.
59 Ossington Ave., 647-351-5100
Standing at the pass of the open kitchen, chef Jason Carter is a serious presence, like the captain of a ship with a firm hand on the wheel. Starting with bread – house-baked whole-wheat sourdough served with shallot covered fromage blanc – it’s clear he does things a little bit differently. The constantly changing menu is brief: just three apps, three mains, two desserts and cheese. Beef tartare is extraordinary – deftly seasoned, it’s served like a salad with mustard greens, mustard cream and toasted kasha, which add a beguilingly earthy crunch. Vegetables get equal attention as proteins, like show-stealing roasted heirloom potato to go with pan-seared cod and creamy romesco. Interesting wines, craft beers and hard-to-find amaro are the cherry on top of a remarkable dining experience.
1198 Queen St. W., 647-464-9100
Rob Gentile is one of Toronto’s most talented, innovative chefs, and his latest hot spot proves he’s got the Midas touch. Located in the condo tower next to the Four Seasons Hotel, the sleek room is jam-packed with the city’s rich and famous. The cooking is modern Italian seafood, and he goes to great pains to source the very best, like live scallops from Gaspé, served raw and practically quivering with yogurt, sea beans and caviar. If fish isn’t your jam, dig into a thin Roman-style pizza topped with Taleggio cheese, duck yolk and a funky flurry of black truffles. It’s so good you’ll want to light up a cigarette after.
53 Scollard St., 416-962-2822