All stories by Caroline Aksich

The Dish

Openings

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Introducing: Braised, a new Leslieville bistro from the owner of Lolita’s Lust

(Image: Caroline Aksich)

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Name: Braised
Neighbourhood: Leslieville
Contact Info: 896 Queen St. E., 416-519-6280, braised.ca
Previously: Bistro 896, which lasted less than a year in the space
Owner: Sam Scanga, who also owns the Danforth stalwart Lolita’s Lust
Chef: Candace Chase (Trinity Taverna)

The Food: As the name implies, most of the food served at Braised undergoes some form of braising (i.e. searing, followed by simmering in liquid) before being plated. The menu veers toward traditional Euro fare (bruschetta, calamari, braised lamb shoulder), but chef Chase flexes her creative muscles with some less conventional dishes, like braised pork-cheek croquettes with cranberry coulis and tartar sauce.

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The Dish

Openings

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Introducing: Eastside Social, a new Maritime-themed restaurant near Queen and Carlaw

Introducing: Eastside Social

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Name: Eastside Social
Neighbourhood: Leslieville
Contact Info: 1008 Queen St. E., 416-461-5663, eastsidesocial.ca
Previously: Italian bakery and brunch spot The Upper Crust
Owners: Former Ruby Watchco co-owners Cherie Stinson, of Restaurant Makeover fame, and her husband Joey Skeir
Chefs: Chris Mentier (Céilí Cottage) is helming the kitchen with the help of Stefan Skeene (Ruby Watchco)

The Food: Born-and-bred Haligonians Stinson and Skeir wanted to bring Maritime cuisine to Toronto’s east side. Rather than sticking to straight-up Scotian food, the menu lists coastal fare from spots around the globe, including Peru (sea bream ceviche with pink grapefruit), Portugal (cod croquettes), Mexico (surf-and-turf tacos) and New England (clam chowder). There are also a few contemporary British dishes, like a Yorkshire-pudding poutine swimming in rich demi-glace.

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The Dish

Openings

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Introducing: Patois, a new destination on Dundas West for Asian-Caribbean street food

Neighbourhood: Trinity Bellwoods
Contact Info: 794 Dundas St. W., 647-350-8999, patoistoronto.com
Owner/chef: Craig Wong, who trained in Heston Blumenthal’s Michelin-starred restaurant Fat Duck and spent a decade cooking for Toronto’s elite at Luma and Senses before deciding he was bored with fussy food

The Food: Wong draws upon his Jamaican-Chinese heritage for inspiration, but his menu doesn’t stick exclusively to Caribbean and Cantonese flavours. There’s also roasted Portuguese chicken with jerk spices, pierogi potstickers doused with kimchi sour cream and “dirty fried rice,” which adds a Cajun kick to the Chinese takeout staple. On the lighter side, a classic Waldorf salad gets a Pacific makeover with wakame (i.e. seaweed) and sesame.

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The Dish

Openings

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Introducing: Lucky Red, the new bao shop from the Banh Mi Boys brothers

Name: Lucky Red
Neighbourhood: Chinatown
Contact Info: 318 Spadina Ave., 416-792-8628, luckyredshop.com
Previous Tenant: Vietnamese sandwich shop Cali Banh Mi & Che
Owners/Chefs: David, Phil and Peter Chau, the fraternal trio behind Banh Mi Boys

The Food: Thirteen different bao-style sandwiches, each served on a steamed-milk or egg-baked bun. Fillings range from relatively typical (XO-doused fried oysters, five-spice barbecue pork) to decidedly nontraditional (beef brisket slathered in ballpark mustard, marshmallow s’more). For the bao averse, there are also lo-mein bowls topped with pork belly or barbecue chicken.

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The Informer

Real Estate

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Cabin Fever: five Toronto buyers let loose in cottage country

Toronto’s real estate mania is spreading to cottage country, making prime spots on the water increasingly tough to get. Here, five city buyers who managed to snag an idyllic getaway

Cabin Fever: five Toronto buyers let loose in cottage country
She’d wanted the cottage next to her parents’ place in the Rideau Lakes since childhood. Decades later, she finally got it

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The Dish

Restaurants

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McPretenders: seven Toronto takes on the mighty Big Mac

Toronto’s obsession with fancy fast food isn’t new, but it’s growing. As the city’s snack bars multiply, so too do the options for sloppy, greasy, delightfully trashy food—including multiple homages to the McDonald’s Big Mac. (Maybe they all got inspired back in 2011?) Once we started looking, they were everywhere: fancy faux Macs in burger, bao and even pizza form. Here, seven Toronto takes on the king of fast-food burgers.

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The Dish

Restaurants

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Nine things you can get at Toronto’s new all-bacon restaurant (from least to most ridiculous)

Two years ago, Bacon Nation combined two of Toronto’s great guilty pleasures—bacon and deep-fried fairground food—to much fanfare (and really long CNE lines). Now, brothers Andrew and Dan Motta have graduated from snack booth to downtown storefront. Bacon Nation will officially open on Canada Day, but we were curious to see what kind of bacon-on-bacon action was going down at their new shop, so we dropped by for a preview. Here are nine items on the menu, ranked in order of bacon-y ridiculousness.

Bacon Nation, 170 Spadina Ave., baconnation.com

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The Dish

Openings

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Introducing: The Bristol, a new pub and curry house in The Great Hall on Queen West

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Name: The Bristol
Neighbourhood: Queen West
Contact Info: The Great Hall, 1087 Queen Street W., 647-716-6583, @BristolYardie, facebook.com
Owners: Former Bristol Yard owner Davy Love and Nav Sangha, owner of The Great Hall and Wrongbar
Chef: Love is still the exec chef, but he’s hired his old culinary-school pal, Joice Phillip, to act as head chef

The Food: Fans of the Christie location will recognize a similar lineup of British brunch dishes and other pub standards (bangers and mash, shepherd’s pie). New to the menu are five British-style curries, each made with a classic BIR (i.e. British Indian Restaurant) gravy that takes 17 hours to prepare. The curries range from mild to “hallucination-inducing”—the Phall of the Empire curry, for instance, is spiced with ghost peppers.

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The Dish

Restaurants

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The latest addition to Baby Point: a cute organic café and bistro

(Image: Caroline Aksich)

(Image: Caroline Aksich)

Baby Point, once a sleepy no-man’s-land just west of the Junction, has accumulated all the trappings of a trendy neighbourhood: an authentic Neapolitan pizzeria, a taco shop and, as of last month, a new destination for all things organic, vegan, non-GMO-adulterated and gluten-free. Serendipity, a new café and bistro at Jane and Annette, serves brunch, lunch and dinner, plus take-out meals for diners on the go. Superfoods are definitely the focus (buckwheat crepes, mango-cashew-spinach smoothies), but the little restaurant also has options for non-dietary-restricted diners, including pizzas, paninis and Montreal-bagel boards loaded with house-made cream cheese and smoked salmon.

Serendipity, 393 Jane St., 647-949-4700, serendipitybistro.ca

The Informer

Real Estate

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The Sell: two sisters sell their $64,900 Dufferin Grove home for a whole lot more

The Sell: two sisters sell their $64,900 Dufferin Grove home for a whole lot more

The Sell: two sisters sell their $64,900 Dufferin Grove home for a whole lot moreThe sellers: Maria Neves Da Rocha, a 67-year-old retired cleaning lady, and her twin sister, Maria Emilia Vieira, who still works as a cleaner.

The property: A 2,550-square-foot red-brick near Bloor and Ossington with five bedrooms and two full kitchens.

The story: The two Marias had raised their families in the big Dufferin Grove house, purchased 38 years ago for $64,900. Now they were both widowed and their children were moving out. Da Rocha felt it was time to downsize, but Vieira still had a sentimental attachment to the place. It was only when Da Rocha’s daughter found a bungalow in Pelham Park, close to her own house—as well as to a Catholic church and a Portuguese ­bakery—that Vieira ­finally agreed to move.

The prep: The sisters’ realtor, Alfredo DiGenova, suggested they eliminate some of the clutter, so they and their kids spent five 12-hour days carting away paintings, plastic flowers, ­crystal glassware and other knick-knacks. “We ­must have thrown out at least 80 shopping carts’ worth of stuff,” says Vieira’s daughter, Sandra Ferreira.

The offers: The twins listed the property for $949,900 in late ­January. On the set offer date a week later, they had eight bids to choose from. The winners were a couple with two kids, who had tacked on an extra $111—the house’s address—to their offer for luck. Although talking about her former home still makes Vieira tear up, she’s happy it went to a young family.

(Photograph of sisters by Erin Leydon)

The Dish

Openings

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Introducing: Kanga, the Aussie-inspired pop-up’s standalone meat-pie shop

Introducing: Kanga

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Name: Kanga Aussie Meat Pies
Neighbourhood: Entertainment District
Contact Info: 65 Duncan St., 416-324-9174, eatkanga.com
Owners: Megan Chan and Erynn Mayes, who left their corporate jobs last fall to follow their meat-pie-shop dreams

The Food: It was while living in Australia that Kanga owners Chan and Mayes got the idea to bring the country’s national snack—miniature, meat-stuffed pies—back home with them to Canada. After spending a year selling their pies at pop-ups, they raised $16,575 on Kickstarter to fund their first standalone shop. Their palm-sized pies have buttery pastry crusts and gravy-soaked interiors, and they come in flavours both traditional (beef-and-Vegemite) and unconventional (butter chicken). Diners with unusually healthy appetites can opt to “poutine their pie”—i.e. smother it in gravy and cheese curds.

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The Dish

Openings

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Introducing: Peoples Eatery, a new Chinatown restaurant from the 416 Snack Bar team

Introducing: People’s Eatery

Name: Peoples Eatery
Neighbourhood: Chinatown
Contact Info: 307 Spadina Ave., 416-792-1784
Owners: The team behind 416 Snack Bar: Adrian Ravinsky, David Stewart, Matthew See and Dustin Gallagher
Chefs: Dustin Gallagher and his chef de cuisine Jonah Snitman

The Food: The one-page snack menu is meant to reflect Spadina’s past, present and future. Gallagher pays homage to the area’s Jewish roots with deli standards like potato knishes and smoked whitefish salad, while Chinese-inspired menu items—pork bao and cold chicken with daikon—reflect the strip’s present. Gallagher sees international influences, including Israeli and Indian cuisine, shaping Spadina’s future. Like 416 Snack Bar, the mostly shareable bites and platters are meant to be consumed without cutlery. The restaurant’s soon-to-open second floor will serve a more refined chef’s menu designed to be eaten with (gasp!) utensils.

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The Dish

Openings

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Introducing: Sparrow, a new upscale pub in Bloor West Village

Introducing: Sparrow

Name: Sparrow
Neighbourhood: Bloor West Village
Contact Info: 2197 Bloor St. W., 647-349-2211, @SparrowBloor
Owner: Michael Derbyshire, who also owns the Kennedy Public House next door
Chef: Matthew Ness, formerly of Patria. He’s being overseen by executive chef Tristan D’Souza, who helms the kitchen at Kennedy Public House.

The Food: Sparrow’s artfully composed plates set it apart from the area’s homey pubs and burger joints. Chef Ness borrows from French, Italian, Spanish and even Korean cuisine to create dishes that look almost too pretty to eat, like his saffron-infused branzino escabeche, pictured above, which is topped with olives, eggplant and fried chickpeas. On the all-day brunch menu, pulled pork hash comes crowned with a sunny-side-up egg and kimchi. Around 3:00 p.m. the smoothie bar gets swapped out for oysters.

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The Dish

Restaurants

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Hummus Smackdown: our search for the city’s best chickpea spread

Hummus Smackdown: our search for the city’s best chickpea spread

The Middle Eastern trend has Toronto restaurants re-imagining one of the oldest Arabic staples: hummus. Here are our five favourite variations on the mashed chickpea theme.

1. ME VA ME

For the past decade, uptowners have been enjoying Me Va Me’s fresh, fast Israeli grub. With the recent opening of their Queen West location, Toronto’s shawarma standards have been raised. Our favourite version of the velvety, tahini-packed hummus is served with sautéed button mushrooms, although a pile of freshly sheered shawarma is an equally enticing option. The clay oven-baked luffa bread is phenomenal: flaky, chewy and still warm. $7.45. 240 Queen St W., 416-546-3770

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The Dish

Openings

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Introducing: Farmer’s Daughter Eatery, a pescatarian destination in the Junction Triangle

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Name: Farmer’s Daughter Eatery
Neighbourhood: Junction Triangle
Contact Info:1588 Dupont,  416-546-0626, @DupontDaughter
Owner: Darcy MacDonell, who also owns the nearby Farmhouse Tavern

Chef: Swiss-born Léonie Lilla’s impressive resume includes Daishō, The Libertine, Oliver and Bonacini Café Grill and Rodney’s by Bay.

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