LOOK BEYOND THE BIG BRANDS ON BLOOR STREET AND YOU’LL DISCOVER YORKVILLE’S ECLECTIC MIX OF LOCALLY OWNED UPPER-TIER BOUTIQUES, GALLERIES AND RESTAURANTS
Axe and Hatchet Grooming Club
1 Throw a stone in Yorkville and you’ll hit a highly credentialed salon; the pickings are slimmer for men in need of a new ‘do. Fortunately there is Axe & Hatchet, an unpretentious “grooming club” for perfectly executed old-school haircuts and shaves. 101 Yorkville Ave., 416-901-3634; axeandhatchet.com
2 Part of an elite group of spas highlighting treatments and products by Swiss brand Valmont, Spa at the Hazelton is one of Toronto’s most intimate retreats for facials, massages and more. 118 Yorkville Ave., 416-963-6307; thehazeltonhotel.com/spa
3 Esteemed fashion plates George and Lisa Corbo curate trendy ready-to-wear attire for both sexes at George C, one of the couple’s three unique Yorkville boutiques. 21 Hazelton Ave., 416-962-1991; georgec.ca
FRANK’S NEW EXECUTIVE CHEF, RENÉE BELLEFEUILLE TALKS ABOUT HEADING UP THE KITCHEN AT THE ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO’S RESTAURANT
FRANK executive chef Renée Bellefeuille
The Art Gallery of Ontario has been on quite a roll of late. Over the past few years it’s hosted celebrated exhibitions on everyone from Jean-Michel Basquiat to David Bowie, from Frida Kahlo to Ai Weiwei to J.M.W. Turner. The art-star shows have been so notable that it’s become easy to overlook some of the institutions (many) other elements—its multifaceted permanent collection, of course, but also things like its well-regarded educational programming, designer gallery shop, and its locally focused yet globally inspired restaurant, FRANK. The latter has been undergoing a bit of a revamp. Special-event dinners have become more frequent, a snacks-and-cocktails menu was recently launched, and a new executive chef, Renée Bellefeuille, has taken the reigns in the kitchen. Below, chef Bellefeuille reveals her culinary philosophy and hopes for FRANK going forward.
A LOOK BACK AT A FEW OF THE DINING TRENDS THAT IMPACTED TORONTO RESTAURANTS AND FOODIES OVER THE PAST YEAR
Delicious on-trend offerings from Roselle Desserts, Canoe and Fresh Off the Boat got our attention in 2015 (photos: Craig Moy; Cindy La; Fresh Off the Boat)
In recent years it’s been fairly easy to pinpoint the developments that most influenced Toronto’s diverse but fickle eating-out industry. Not too long ago, “Middleterranean” fare was all the rage. Before that it was vegetables that took centre stage (or, if you will, centre plate). And most locals no doubt recall the days when charcuterie dominated all dining discussion.
Trend spotting in 2015 has been more challenging—in part because the city saw a relative slowdown in restaurant openings, cooling the pace of change. But if you look closely, it’s still possible to discern some characteristics that have lately defined Toronto’s food scene.
VANCOUVER EXPORTS KAISEKI- AND ABURI SUSHI–ORIENTED MIKU TO TORONTO
A favourite of West Coast residents and visitors has crossed the country and landed on Toronto’s waterfront. Winner of Where Vancouver’s 2015 readers’ choice award for best Japanese restaurant, Miku is known for its aburi (flame-seared) sushi, made with the freshest possible, Ocean Wise–approved ingredients. Though it’s not the first Toronto establishment where the sushi chefs wield kitchen torches, Miku aims to stand out by offering a variety of specialty sauces, including a signature Japanese-inspired aioli, plus miso- and plum-based options, designed to further enhance the umami of its fish and seafood dishes. Adventurous diners can also indulge one of three artful kaiseki cartes—tasting menus intended to marry the finest in Asian culinary and aesthetic traditions. —Craig Moy
• Miku, 10 Bay St., 647-347-7347; mikutoronto.com
• Map and reviews
WHERE TORONTO READERS HAVE VORACIOUS APPETITES (IT TAKES A LOT OF FUEL TO SEE AND DO EVERYTHING THE CITY HAS TO OFFER). EACH YEAR, YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR FAVOURITE DINING ROOMS AS PART OF OUR WHERE TO DINE AWARDS. THESE ARE THE RESTAURANTS THAT EARNED YOUR ACCLAIM IN 2015.
The Sultan’s Tent offers a unique night out for visitors to Toronto (photo: Liam Mogan)
The Sultan’s Tent & Café Moroc
This richly decorated restaurant remakes Old Town Toronto as an ageless Barbary Coast encampment, where visitors dine in colourful splendour while partaking in traditional French-Moroccan hospitality (including nightly belly dancing shows). The three-course prix fixe, featuring the likes of a couscous salad, braised lamb shank and assorted tagines, is particularly popular for groups. Guests seeking a more subdued experience can savour a languid lunch or afternoon mint tea at the Casablanca-inspired, front-of-house Café Moroc.
THE BEST NEW RESTAURANTS IN TORONTO FOR 2015 ARE A POTENT MIX OF FINE-DINING RESTAURANTS AND EASYGOING ESTABLISHMENTS
Kasa Moto’s ambitious Japanese spread helped to make it one of best new restaurants to open in Toronto in 2015 (photo: Liam Mogan)
Toronto’s dining scene is renowned for its diversity; its best restaurants are lauded for combining fresh, local flavours with culinary inspirations from around the globe. But it’s a tight market (the city’s foodies are a fickle bunch) and newcomers need to offer both high-quality cooking and a dash of conceptual creativity to really stand out. Fortunately, a select group of establishments rose to the challenge, and in doing so became our favourite pizza parlours, gourmet cafés, seafood spots and fine-dining spaces to debut in 2015.
THESE SOUTHERN ONTARIO RESTAURANTS PROVE THAT TORONTONIANS AREN’T THE ONLY ONES WHO APPRECIATE A GOOD MEAL
The Drake Devonshire Inn’s dining room boasts picturesque four-seasons vistas (photos: Kayla Rocca)
Torontonians tend to spend a lot of time and energy thinking about food and drink. And why wouldn’t we? This city’s collection of restaurants, cafés, snack spots and cocktail bars is arguably both the most varied and highest quality in the country. That said, the culinary borders of Canada do extend beyond Toronto’s city limits: Montreal and Vancouver are also renowned foodie towns, and closer to home, Southern Ontario hot spots like the Niagara and Muskoka regions, Stratford, and Prince Edward County also cater to discerning tastes. But you needn’t take our word for it. Hop in your car and discover these road trip–worthy Ontario restaurants for yourself.
AFTER SITTING IDLE FOR SIX YEARS, LOCAL INSTITUTION CARMEN’S STEAK HOUSE HAS NEW OWNERS AND IS ONCE AGAIN OPEN FOR BUSINESS
Toronto has always had a number of steakhouses, both of the classic and contemporary varieties. The former category got a boost earlier this year, thanks to the return of Carmen’s Steak House. The original Carmen’s was a 50-year-old institution—with a dining experience to match—when it closed in 2009. A half-decade later, the restaurant has reopened with new management and a modernized menu: elegantly plated options like seared scallops with quinoa and sweet peas and braised pork belly with truffle parsnip purée stand alongside the expected premium cuts of beef. One thing that hasn’t changed (much): the restaurant’s unique Victorian-era cottage ambience, complete with exposed wood beams, stained glass windows and a working fireplace. —Craig Moy
• Carmen’s Steak House, 26 Alexander St., 416-924-8697; carmenssteakhouse.com
• Map and reviews
DANFORTH AVENUE’S BUSIEST STRETCH HAS LONG BEEN KNOWN AS TORONTO’S GREEKTOWN. MANY HELLENIC RESTAURANTS AND BAKERIES STILL LINE THE STREET, BUT NOWADAYS THE OVERALL MILIEU IS MUCH MORE COSMOPOLITAN
1 One of the longer-lived finer-dining spots on the Danforth, Globe Bistro plates contemporary Canadian fare à la carte or as part of affordable tasting menus. 124 Danforth Ave., 416-466-2000; globebistro.com
2 The simple concept of H2O Float Spa is to provide patrons with a serene space in which to, well, float—in private tubs or sensory deprivation–style pods. 138 Danforth Ave., 647-349-0426; h20floatspa.com
3 A Toronto institution for nearly 30 years, scruffy Irish-inspired saloon Allen’s serves consistently excellent burgers and pours from literally hundreds of whisky bottles. 143 Danforth Ave., 416-463-3086; allens.to
FINE DINING INSTITUTION CANOE OFFERS A SPECIAL 20TH-ANNIVERSARY EDITION OF ITS RENOWNED TASTING MENU
Canoe chefs John Horne and Coulson Armstrong (photo: Allison Woo)
SEPTEMBER 21 TO NOVEMBER 20 Few of this city’s restaurants have managed to maintain both their popularity and their high quality for as long as Canoe. The Financial District institution is this season celebrating its 20th year as one of the country’s founding and still foremost innovators of Canadian regional cuisine. Diners can commemorate the occasion by indulging in a special “Canoe Twenty” tasting experience, crafted by John Horne, Coulson Armstrong and Anthony Walsh, the restaurant’s culinary leadership team and three of Toronto’s most respected chefs. Even after two decades, the fine dining room is still earning rapturous reviews from critics and customers alike. No doubt its anniversary offering, celebrating the best and most uniquely Canadian ingredients from coast to coast, will reach for similar gastronomic heights. —Craig Moy
• Canoe, 66 Wellington St. W., 416-364-0054; canoerestaurant.com
• Map and reviews
TORONTO’S PROMINENT HERITAGE ‘HOOD IS STOCKED WITH UNIQUE BOUTIQUES, CONTEMPORARY GALLERIES, WELCOMING CAFÉS AND SHOWCASE RESTAURANTS.
See the Distillery District on a Segway Ontario tour
1 Sure, you can stroll the District on your own, or you could make your exploration more memorable by riding a gyroscopic scooter on a Segway Ontario tour. 30 Gristmill Ln., 416-642-0008; segwayofontario.com
2 Discover a local take on a Japanese tradition with a brew or two from the Ontario Spring Water Sake Company. 51 Gristmill Ln., 416-365-7253; ontariosake.com
3 A 19th-century pump house matches the old-world vibe of Balzac’s Coffee Roasters. An original Distillery tenant, it’s still enormously popular. 1 Trinity St., 416-207-1709; balzacs.com
4 It’s natural that a historic area would house at least one antique shop. Here, Blackbird Vintage Finds fulfills that role with one-of-a-kinds and other timeless home items. 11 Trinity St., 416-681-0558; blackbirdvintage.com
POPULAR CAFÉ MAMAN BRINGS SOUTH-OF-FRANCE FLAIR TO THE FINANCIAL DISTRICT
Seeking respite from the harried pace of life and business on Bay Street? Take your breakfast, lunch or coffee break to Maman, a Riviera-chic café and eatery tucked away on the mezzanine level of the First Canadian Place bank tower. Chef Armand Arnal’s Southern-France-by-way-of-SoHo spot (it originated in New York City) opened earlier this summer and gained a loyal following for its fresh, homestyle recipes, ranging from remarkably light quiches to hearty sandwiches to flavour- and nutrient-packed salads. Maman’s more sinful options, of course, are similarly sought-after: decadent nutty chocolate chunk and Oreo-inspired cookies—among other things—make for the perfect accompaniment to a mid-morning espresso or afternoon cup of tea. And for those who just can’t stay away, the café is also open for weekday post-5 p.m. cocktails. —Craig Moy
• Maman, First Canadian Place, 100 King St. W., 416-216-6767; mamantoronto.com
• Map and reviews