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Where to Eat Toronto

15 Great Reasons to Visit Toronto in 2015

BY CRAIG MOY

Perhaps you’ve heard: Toronto is one the most dynamic cities in the world. An endlessly fascinating place to live; an equally amazing destination to visit. Whether you’re an international jetsetter or on a cross-Canada excursion, travelling within Ontario or just looking to be a tourist in your own hometown, there are literally thousands of compelling reasons to visit Toronto. And for 2015, here are 15 more.

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Learn to Sign While You Dine at Signs Restaurant

Signs-Restaurant-Toronto

Barbecued chicken with crispy noodles at Signs

We love a feel-good story, and there’s not much better than a good dining experience where you also get a bit of an education and break down barriers. At Signs restaurant and bar, the servers and several other staff are deaf, and diners are encouraged to learn and use American Sign Language to communicate. The menu illustrates how to order each item, and a sign on the table shows people how to relay common phrases, like a request to split the bill. Not to be outdone by the concept, chef Mark Breton (formerly executive chef at the Gladstone Hotel) serves up a variety of Canadian and international dishes, including venison shepherd’s pie and green curry mussels, plus daily specials like barbecue chicken with crispy noodles.  —Cara Smusiak

• Signs, 558 Yonge St., 647-349-7446; signsrestaurant.ca
Map and reviews

Ovest Draws King Street Diners Farther West

A meal at Ovest could include (from left): fresh ricotta with peppers and salsa verde; spaghetti with sun-dried tomatoes; and a chocolate nest with chocolate mousse (photos: Craig Moy)

A meal at Ovest could include (from left): fresh ricotta with peppers and salsa verde; spaghetti with sun-dried tomatoes; and a chocolate nest with chocolate mousse (photos: Craig Moy)

King Street West, particularly the stretch running between Spadina Avenue and Bathurst Street, is well-trod by the trendier, more well-to-do segment of Toronto’s foodie community. Past Bathurst, however, the eating options begin to thin. Ovest Cucina e Vineria aims to fix that problem; the recently opened Italian restaurant offers a robust menu of regional Italian fare from Sicilian-born chef Luca Stracquadanio (formerly of La Bettola di Terroni). Like the majority of its clientele, the 120-seat dining room is smartly—though no doubt expensively—adorned: a sizeable marble bar features heavily near the front-of-house, as does a glass-walled wine cellar boasting many fine bottles from Italy.

To go with that wine? The chef’s daily salumi board, plus Ovest’s varied carte, offering a handful each of inventive antipasti, pizzas, pastas and larger mains—all very stylishly plated but deceptively simple, with most dishes built on only three or four ingredients. Among them are his signature smoked swordfish carpaccio with fennel and orange, plus the decadent likes of house-made squid ink gnocchi with lobster, porcini- and speck-stuffed rabbit, and more.  —Craig Moy

• Ovest, 788 King St. W., 416-214-6161; ovest-to.com
Map and reviews

Sea Witch is a Fresh Catch on St. Clair

Sea-Witch-Fish-&-Chips-Toronto

Fast becoming a haunt of locals, Sea Witch Fish & Chips is an enchanting addition to St. Clair West’s growing crop of eateries. The menu is simple: Pacific halibut, Atlantic haddock, Pacific cod, Arctic char or pickerel coated in a light, crispy batter and served with fresh-cut chips, or on a bun if you fancy a sandwich. Additional offerings include halibut cakes, halibut poutine and the delightfully named Witch’s Brew house chowder. This family-friendly joint also has kid-sized fish and chips on the menu, plus high chairs and colouring books at the ready. Patrons can dine at a wooden bar along the front window, in a charming church-pew booth or at a long, wooden communal-dining table. Paired with a classic white, black and red palette and an open kitchen, the restaurant has a warm industrial-meets-coastal vibe you’ll feel at home in.  —Cara Smusiak

• Sea Witch, 636 St. Clair Ave. W., 647-349-4824; seawitchfc.com
Map and reviews

The 5 Best Pizzerias in Toronto

BY LINDA LUONG

    The Honey pizza from Pizzeria Defina with fior di latte, gorgonzola, pickled pear and roasted pecans (photo: Pizzeria Defina)

The Honey pizza from Pizzeria Defina with fior di latte, gorgonzola, pickled pear and roasted pecans (photo: Pizzeria Defina)

A bit of dough, some tomato sauce, cheese and an assortment of meats and vegetables may be all it takes to make a classic pizza, but that doesn’t mean just anyone can make a delicious one. There’s an art to making this dish that originated in Naples, Italy; these establishments—our choices for the five best pizzerias in Toronto—consistently serve up culinary masterpieces on thin crust.

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Race Over to Thoroughbred for Chef-Driven Snacks and Drinks

Thoroughbred-Food-and-Drink-Toronto

Leaping from the starting gate just after Labour Day, it’s easy to see that Thoroughbred Food & Drink evokes the nostalgia of days gone by and the heritage of the racing world. Warm wood finishes, exposed brick and industrial lighting serve as a sophisticated nod to stables in both the main-level bar and upper-floor dining spaces. Co-owner and chef Ariel Coplan’s pedigree is notable, with stints at George, Splendido and New York City’s Café Gray, and here he’s crafted a sophisticated menu with such offerings as bagel and lox made with tea-smoked trout, kung pao cauliflower with cashews, chili and cilantro, and “Cheezies” made with puffed beef tendon and aged cheddar. The drink menus are equally well-curated and include premium conventional, organic, sustainable and biodynamic wines, a crop of craft beers and house cocktails named for famed horses and races, plus a few race-day classics like the mint julep.  —Cara Smusiak

• Thoroughbred, 304 Richmond St. W., 416-551-9221; tbto.ca
Map and reviews

You Are Here: Eat, Shop and Explore in Yorkville

Once an enclave for the Bohemian and hippie crowds, historic Yorkville is now known for its tony mix of boutiques, galleries and restaurants.
BY CARA SMUSIAK

The Spa at the Hazelton Hotel boasts a salt water lap pool, among many other luxuries

The Spa at the Hazelton Hotel boasts a salt water lap pool, among many other luxuries

1 For three decades, Il Posto has served up classic fine Italian fare in a traditional dining room. Buffalo mozzarella with vine ripened tomatoes, spinach and ricotta ravioli in a butter and sage sauce and roasted Chilean sea bass with an herbed crust are among the delectable offerings you’ll want to sample. 148 Yorkville Ave., 416-968-0469; ilposto.ca

2 Find original paintings, photography, sculptures and limited edition prints by Canadian and international artists at Liss Gallery. Established and up-and-coming artists are represented here, including Harry Benson, Greta Gibney, Mick Fleetwood, Ronnie Wood and Rachel Isadora. 140 Yorkville Ave., 416-787-9872; lissgallery.com

3 A luxurious oasis, The Spa at The Hazelton boasts a full menu of soothing and de-stressing options. Facial and body treatments feature Swiss line Valmont, and the Just for Him menu includes massages, facials, back treatment, sports manicures and pedicures. 118 Yorkville Ave., 416-963-6307; thehazeltonhotel.com/spa

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2014 Where to Dine Awards: Toronto’s Best Restaurants, Chosen by You

Toronto’s restaurant scene is vast and plentiful, with thousands of eateries spread across the city. Not sure where to start your culinary adventure?
Take a cue from other visitors with our annual Where to Dine Awards, which highlight Toronto’s best restaurants as selected by our readers. Or get a taste for what’s new and hot right now with our editors’ picks.  BY LINDA LUONG & CARA SMUSIAK

Colette Grand Café (photos: Liam Mogan)

Colette Grand Café (photos: Liam Mogan)

EDITORS’ PICK
COLETTE GRAND CAFÉ
Picture the charm and elegance of a beautiful Parisian bistro married with the refreshing fare of the Côte d’Azur and impeccable service, and you’ve got Colette Grand Café. The Thompson Hotel’s bistro encompasses a dining room, bar and cafe that seamlessly flow together thanks to a palette of warm blues and whites complimented by ashy woods and white marble. Executive chef Michael Steh and pastry chef Leslie Steh (a husband and wife team) have crafted beautiful menus that delight the senses. Though a splurge, the weekend buffet brunch is well worth it, with a lush spread of cheeses, meats, seafood, crepes, carving and omelette stations, salads, fruit and parfaits and more, plus an array of delicious, delicate pastries.
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Slow-Grilled Japanese Barbecue Shines at Shibui Robata Bar

Shibui. Photo by Craig Moy.

Photo by Craig Moy.

Little by little, Toronto’s Japanese restaurant scene has been expanding outwards from sushi. First came izakayas, then an explosion of ramen houses; yakitori bars are also recently in vogue. Shibui Robata Bar offers a slightly different brand of Japanese cooking: chef Masaki Nakayama specializes in slow-grilling meat and vegetables over hot charcoal. The nicely caramelized results include the likes of scallops with yuzu garlic aioli and succulent miso-marinated black cod. That said, the lounge-y Entertainment District haunt hardly neglects diners with a yen for uncooked fare: the menu offers a variety of sushi and sashimi options, plus a colourful kinoko salad that heaps fresh and pickled veg over cold soba noodles. —Craig Moy

• Shibui Robata Bar, 230 Adelaide St. W., 647-748-3211; shibuirobatabar.com
Map and reviews

Little Sister Serves up Traditional Indonesian Fare

Little Sister. Photo by Craig Moy.

Photo by Craig Moy.

At midtown bistro Quince, chef and restaurateur Michael van den Winkel is known for doling out vibrant, easygoing Mediterranean fare—plus the occasional rijsttafel, an elaborate colonial-era Dutch-Indonesian “rice table” featuring 20 or more dishes. At Little Sister, van den Winkel commits fully to the Southeast Asian portion of his culinary inheritance, presenting a well-considered menu of street-style small plates and traditional Indonesian indulgences—from flavourful chicken, pork and swordfish skewers to Javanese dark spiced braised beef. Snacking and sharing are encouraged at this casual, colourful restaurant, with tropically inspired cocktails plus wines selected by Master Sommelier John Szabo serving ably as social lubricant. —Craig Moy

• Little Sister, 2031 Yonge St., 416-488-2031; littlesistertoronto.com
Map and reviews

DaiLo Serves Up Eclectic Chinese Dishes

DaiLo's "Big Mac" bao. Photo by Jim Norton Photography.

DaiLo’s “Big Mac” bao. Photo by Jim Norton Photography.

The prize for this year’s most anticipated Toronto restaurant surely goes to DaiLo. Chef Nick Liu has been teasing his Asian brasserie concept for two years, but circumstances conspired to ensure that he lacked permanent digs until just a couple of months ago. It’s been worth the wait: the Chinoiserie-chic dining room is a stylish yet high-energy space in which to enjoy Liu’s eclectic dishes, which alternate between upmarket renditions of traditional Chinese fare (for example, sweet-and-sour pork hock with jellyfish slaw) and unabashed mash-ups like his “Big Mac” bao. Keeping with prevailing trends, DaiLo also accommodates smaller appetites: upstairs bar LoPan offers casual snacks and cocktails (try the five spice–spiked dark and stormy).
—Craig Moy

• DaiLo, 503 College St., 647-341-8882; dailoto.com
• Map and reviews

Feed Your Hunger for Pan-Asian Fare

Patois, Toronto. Photo by Barb Simkova for Tara McMullen Photography.

Sharing plates at Patois. Photo by Barb Simkova for Tara McMullen Photography.

If this month’s Hot Dining eateries aren’t enough to sate your appetite for Far East fare, the city’s recent Asian infusion is even more substantial. Pai represents yet another buzz-worthy boîte from Nuit and Jeff Regular, Toronto’s reigning Thai food champions, where chef Nuit serves up her signature offerings (khao soi, Massaman curry) plus other Northern Thai–style dishes. The culinary journey continues at Lucky Red (318 Spadina Ave., 416-792-8628), a bao bar from the owners of Banh Mi Boys that boasts steamed- or baked-bun sandwiches filled with pork belly, panko-crusted tofu, fried chicken and other trendy ingredients. Or indulge in some unexpected island hopping at Patois, which sees pedigreed chef Craig Wong present plates that draw on both Chinese and Jamaican flavours.
—Craig Moy