1. Dining out is always something of a social experiment. A keen observer can draw myriad conclusions from how we interact with dinner companions, what we choose from the menu, even the amount we tip the server. Conviction, a new incarnation of chef Marc Thuet’s former Bite Me space, adds an intriguing twist to traditional restaurant dynamics—it’s staffed by ex-criminals hoping to turn their lives around. Beyond that novelty, the redesigned resto also represents for Thuet a departure from his comfort zone of French-Alsatian cookery. Instead, you’ll find a Mediterranean-inspired spread of pizzas, pastas and such mains as suckling pig with mascarpone polenta ($26) and an organic salmon and halibut pairing with black olive sauce and oven-dried tomatoes ($26).
2. Though some may decry the expense of sourcing organic, local ingredients, chef David Chrystian reaffirms his commitment at freshly minted Victor. Formerly a posh haven for French fare (its name accompanied by the Gallic prefix, Chez), the Hôtel Le Germain’s revamped dining room is now dominated by a 15-foot-long “harvest table” and gracefully executed dishes of a more Canadian persuasion, such as Ontario sturgeon with braised fennel ($24) and braised beef shortribs with potato puree and carrot salad ($24). Or opt for the chef’s Social 52 menu ($45)—a daily prix fixe featuring comfort-food faves, it’s served family style in that most indispensable of kitchen accessories, the casserole dish.
3. South Beach is now southern Italy as steps-from-the-strip eatery Wish (which added a sunny-chic Miami vibe to this city) has been reinvented as a homey trattoria with rustic fare just like nonna used to make. Now called Black Skirt (3 Charles St. E., 416-935-0240), the restaurant’s congenial staff serves up such traditional favourites as house-made lasagna ($18), osso buco ($28) and specialty pastas like the domenica—spaghetti beefed up with veal, Italian sausage and meatballs ($20). Smaller stomachs are thankful for the many reasonably priced sandwich options, perfect for a light meal on the cozy patio just off Yonge Street.