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Where to Eat Toronto

The Harvest Heats Up at the Evergreen Brick Works

(photos: Mel Yu & Min Yang)

(photos: Mel Yu & Min Yang)

As the spring thaw takes hold (we hope!), so too do thoughts of nature’s bounty: the blooming of wildflowers and the budding of trees, sure, but also the imminent growth of fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs for our dinner table. Toronto locavores have options for sourcing farm-fresh foods year-round, but with the snow gone, it’s even easier to start looking to greener pastures. The Evergreen Brick Works, for example, hosts one of the city’s top weekly farmers’ markets. Its Saturday morning affair features not only produce purveyors, but artisan meat- and fishmongers, bakers and more. Be sure to make a return trip in the summer, when the growing season really gets going.  —Craig Moy

• Evergreen Brick Works, 550 Bayview Ave., 416-596-1495; ebw.evergreen.ca
Map and reviews

Soos Adds Malaysian Flavour to the West End

Toronto-Soos-Restaurant

Craving dim sum? How about sushi? Or maybe a big serving of pad Thai? All sorts of Asian flavours are readily available in Toronto; the cuisine of Malaysia, however, is a little harder to come by. Enter Soos, a family-owned and -operated restaurant specializing in modern interpretations of Malay street food. Here, beneath oversized, spiny rambutan-like light fixtures, Queen West diners indulge in a variety of small plates—from house-made prawn crackers and peanut sauce to pork belly on taro root pancakes to traditional laksa. Befitting its hip Ossington Avenue location, Soos also boasts a number of cocktails with Asian-fusion twists.  —Craig Moy

• Soos, 94 Ossington Ave, 416-901-7667; soostoronto.com
Map and reviews

Get Booze and BBQ at The Carbon Bar

Toronto-Carbon-Bar-David-Lee

It’s a real challenge to become the “It” eatery of Toronto’s highly competitive dining scene. The Carbon Bar, however, checks all the right boxes for attaining “eat here now” status: a big-time chef and co-owner in Nota Bene’s David Lee; a no-expense-spared designer space—once a TV studio and nightclub—that still manages to convey casual conviviality; a well-curated list of cocktails, wines and craft beers; and, of course, flavourful fare that’s at once familiar and gourmet in its execution. That food? Contemporary American, heavy on the Southern influences, with sharing-ready bar snacks and appetizers, plus more filling options including a number of meats slow-roasted in a wood fire pit.  —Craig Moy

• The Carbon Bar, 99 Queen St. E., 416-947-7000; thecarbonbar.ca
Map and reviews

Amaya Adds Indian Street Food and More to its Menu

BY CRAIG MOY

Scallops with shallot confit and coconut snow

Scallops with shallot confit and coconut snow at Amaya the Indian Room

The question of authenticity is often raised when discussing the various ethnic foods available in Toronto. It’s a frequent topic of conversation when it comes to Indian fare, as diners seek out the dosa to rival what they had in Kerala, or complain about how the spice profile of vindaloo has been toned down too much for Canadian palates. At Amaya the Indian Room, chef and owner Hemant Bhagwani has consistently risen above the debate; the menu at the fine-dining flagship of what is now a 15-restaurant empire is respectful of India’s diverse regional dishes, but chef Bhagwani has never been shy about adding modern preparations and local ingredients to the mix.

Starting in a few weeks, the offerings get even more inventive, as the restaurant rolls out new spring menu items to complement its tried-and-true favourites. Among the updated offerings? Chicken tikka with milk fritters, saffron dip and mint foam, prawns in mango curry with beetroot gel, and scallops with pickled lemons, shallot confit and coconut snow. And through to the end of April, Amaya diners can also choose to indulge a craving for street-style bites (always popular in this city), as the restaurant has extended its Khao Ghalli (“eat street”) festival. The authentic-with-a-twist offerings—like kale pakoras with tomato chutney and pani puri served with tamarind, orange and mint waters—are available à la carte or incorporated in the chef’s tasting menu.

All photos by Craig Moy

The P&L Burger and Toma Bring More Burgers to Toronto

Chef Matty Matheson's P&L Burger has been deemed among the best in the city

Chef Matty Matheson’s P&L Burger has been deemed among the best in the city

All of a sudden, Queen West is gorging itself on burgers. This past summer the ‘hood was blessed with a new outpost of the popular Burger’s Priest; more recently, two other patty parlours have arrived to seek diners’ devotion. Parts and Labour executive chef Matty Matheson brings his meaty, cheesy recipes to spin-off joint The P&L Burger, whose award-winning namesake offering is slathered in bacon-onion jam. Not too far down the street, Toma Burger Addiction serves 14 distinctive creations, including the decadent Las Vegas burger with wagyu beef, brie and truffle aioli. The ketchups, mayos and compotes are all made in house, as are the brioche buns, to ensure optimum freshness and flavour.  —Stephanie Young

• The P&L Burger, 507 Queen St. W., 416-603-9919; partsandlabour.ca
Maps and Reviews

• Toma Burger Addiction, 712 Queen St. W., 416-901-1027; toma-burgeraddiction.com
Maps and Reviews

Shop the PATH: 8 Top Stores, Eateries and Services in Toronto’s Underground Oasis

BY STEPHANIE YOUNG

The PATH level of First Canadian Place boasts a large food court, a Harry Rosen store and more

The PATH level of First Canadian Place has a food court, an event space, a Harry Rosen store and more

Another marvel of engineering and architecture lies beneath the Financial District’s sky-scraping bank towers: an extensive warren of subterranean shops and services—and pedestrian corridors, naturally—known as the PATH. Stretching from Dundas Street south to Lake Shore Boulevard, and from west of University Avenue to just east of Yonge Street, the PATH has grown steadily over the course of more than 50 years. It’s now the world’s largest underground shopping concourse, with 28 kilometres of tunnels and four million square feet of retail space. The system is easy to enter, connecting as it does with six major downtown subway stations and numerous office buildings; it’s the leaving that you may find difficult. Major stores, attractions and even hotels are PATH-accessible, but the real finds are its high-end independent boutiques and eateries.

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Boots ‘n’ Bourbon & Rock ‘n’ Horse: Toronto Saloons for the Stetson Set

Rock 'n' Horse Saloon

Rock ‘n’ Horse Saloon

Strap on your spurs! Two new western-style saloons have sprung up in the city. Boots ‘n’ Bourbon, co-owned by the creative and culinary minds behind Rock Lobster, tips its ten-gallon hat to old-fashioned country charm with free line dancing lessons, a horseshoe-shaped bar pouring 20-plus bourbons, and novelty drinks like the 32-ounce Stampeder served in a giant glass boot. Also trotting into town is Rock ‘n’ Horse Saloon, well stocked with authentic touches like saddle-topped stools and a wagon-wheel chandelier. Feeling tough? Toss back a Bulldog—a giant margarita topped with an upturned bottle of Corona—before taking a spin on the mechanical bull. For tamer entertainment, kick back with a bourbon or beer at the pool table.  —Sara Burnside Menuck

• Boots ‘n’ Bourbon, 725 Queen St. E., 647-348-0880; bootsbourbon.com
Map and reviews

• Rock ‘n’ Horse Saloon, 250 Adelaide St. W., 647-344-1234; rocknhorsesaloon.com
Map and reviews

Rhum Corner Brings Island Spirits to Dundas West

Rhum-Corner Toronto Signage

It’s hard to deny that this year Toronto was walloped by winter. On top of many frigid and windy days overall, there was also January’s debilitating ice storm, as well as the blizzard the dumped inches of snow upon us just days before spring. Fortunately the city is home to vibrant restaurants like Rhum Corner, where diners can ward off winter’s chill with spice-laden comfort fare and belly-warming booze. The Haitian-inspired spot has considerable cachet—it’s owned by the Black Hoof’s Jen Agg and her partner Roland Jean—but eschews pretension with a welcoming vibe and an affordable menu of street-style plates like goat and legumes with polenta, or marinated pork shoulder griot with rice and beans. True to its name, the joint also pours more than 40 varieties of rum.  —Craig Moy

• Rhum Corner, 926 Dundas S. W., 647-346-9356; rhumcorner.com
Maps and Reviews

With Gilead Wine Bar, Jamie Kennedy Makes a Return to Dinner Service

Jamie Kennedy Gilead Wine Bar Toronto

It was an unhappy day for foodies and oenophiles when, in 2009, top chef Jamie Kennedy sold his eponymous Church Street wine bar. Though a number of very fine wine-and-dine boîtes have since poured into the Toronto market, Kennedy’s recent return to the format—through pinot- and chardonnay-centric dinner service at his existing daytime café, Gilead—remains cause for much celebration. Shelves lined with colourful jars of preserves exemplify the chef-owner’s long-held locavore principles, as, of course, do his super-seasonal small plates, all of which are designed to pair perfectly with wines from the Niagara region and Prince Edward County.  —Craig Moy

• Gilead, 4 Gilead Place, 647-288-0680; jamiekennedy.ca
Maps and Reviews

Plan a Lovely Toronto Valentine’s Day—and Any Other Romantic Day of the Year

BY LINDA LUONG & SARA BURNSIDE MENUCK

Couples suites at Hammam Spa are private hideaways for rest, relaxation and romance

Couples suites at Hammam Spa are private hideaways for rest, relaxation and romance

Toronto may not be the most obvious choice for a romantic getaway, but strip away the hustle and bustle and you’ll see that there’s a lot of heart in Hogtown. Whether you’re celebrating an anniversary or Valentine’s Day, in the throes of a budding amour, or rekindling a flame, there are plenty of pleasures to be shared between both traditional and modern lovebirds.

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Bero Brings Creative Cooking to Leslieville

(photo: courtesy of Bero)

(photo: courtesy of Bero)

Leslieville isn’t typically lauded as a fine-dining hub—indeed, the east-end neighbourhood is flush with cafés and brunch spots—which made last summer’s appearance of Bero all the more welcome. Chef Matt Kantor, previously known for his work at various pop-up dining events, helms the kitchen at this cozy corner spot. An acolyte of Ferran Adrià, Kantor naturally gears his menu toward Spanish and contemporary European fare made, in part, with modernist techniques. And while an adherence to seasonality means that specific ingredients and preparations are bound to change, you can expect that each offering will be strikingly plated and abundantly flavourful.  —Craig Moy

• Bero, 889 Queen St. E., 416-477-3393; bero-restaurant.com
Map and reviews

Five Sweet Things to Do at the Niagara Icewine Festival

BY KAREN CLEVELAND

Niagara Icewine Festival 2014

If you thought that maple syrup was Canada’s most valued liquid gold, think again. Icewine, the dessert wine crafted from grapes that have been allowed to freeze on the vine, inspires fervent devotion that’s distilled each winter at the Niagara Icewine Festival. The 19th annual celebration of the sweet, amber-hued alcohol started earlier this month, but there’s still time to take in all the oenophilic fun on its final weekend, January 24 to 26. Bundle up and get ready to enjoy some of the region’s award-winning vintages while partaking in its warming hospitality.

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