All stories by Renée Suen

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Nightlife

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Blowfish on King unveils BarFish, a next-door cocktail bar and lounge

barfish-intro

(Image: Renée Suen)

BarFish is a new cocktail lounge that’s joined at the hip with Blowfish, the schmoozy Japanese restaurant on King West. Housed in a modern new addition to the historic Bank of Montreal building at King and Bathurst, the narrow room has an onyx-topped bar, velvet banquettes and a DJ booth for nightly spinning sessions. Bartender Nishan Nepulongoda serves up complex drinks, like a cognac-based concoction flavoured with yuzu and figs, and a tiki-inspired cocktail served in a mug shaped like an Easter Island moai. (It’s spiked with jallab, a Middle Eastern fruit syrup made with dates and rose water.) Japanese snacks, like deep-fried rock shrimp and miso-marinated black cod, can be ordered from the Blowfish kitchen. But there’s more in store for the new extension: come spring, two new floors above the bar will house a pair of private dining rooms and a rooftop terrace.

668 King St. W., 416-860-0606, blowfishrestaurant.com, @BlowfishResto

 

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Introducing: Dandylion, a modern bistro on Queen West from former Centro chef Jay Carter

(Image: Renée Suen)

(Image: Renée Suen)

Name: Dandylion
Contact Info: 1198 Queen St. W., 647-464-9100, restaurantdandylion.com
Neighbourhood: West Queen West
Chef/Owner: Jay Carter, who worked for 10 years under Susur Lee (first at Susur, then Lee) before becoming executive chef at Centro

The Menu: “I want people to feel nourished and revived,” says chef Carter of his debut menu. His dishes are sophisticated but not too fussy. Take, for example, an elegant confit chicken dish paired with celery root and toasted brioche crumbs, or a silky poached egg sprinkled with crunchy puffed grains (referred to on the menu as “savoury granola”). There’s no one unifying cuisine at play—Asian and European flavours show up together in a persimmon salad with sprouted black lentils and Marcona almonds, while the stark white dishes and veggie-focused plates suggest Nordic influences.

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Introducing: Wahlburgers, the new Toronto outpost of Mark, Donnie and Paul Wahlberg’s Boston burger shop

(Image: Renée Suen)

(Image: Renée Suen)

Name: Wahlburgers
Contact Info: 46 Blue Jays Way, 416-489-8922, wahlburgers.ca, @WahlburgersCA
Neighbourhood: Entertainment District
Owners: The Wahlberg brothers (Mark, Donnie and Paul), Starwood Group president Bruce Greenbeerg, Metropolitan Hotels president Henry Wu and Difference Capital executive chairman Michael Wekerle.
Chefs: Executive chef Paul Wahlberg and head chef Vincent Leung, who’s also the chef de cuisine at Luckee next door

The Food: Beef and turkey patties are grilled-to-order and piled high with veggies, bacon strips and condiments (including chef Paul’s secret-recipe “Wahl sauce,” which is pretty similar to Thousand Island.) Non-burger options include hot dogs, salads, grilled cheeses and a seared-chicken sandwich named after Donnie’s wife Jenny McCarthy.

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Introducing: Pizzeria Libretto’s much-anticipated (and PATH-accessible) downtown location

Introducing: Pizzeria Libretto

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Name: Pizzeria Libretto
Contact Info: 155 University Ave., 416-551-0433, pizzerialibretto.com, @PizzaLibretto
Owner: Libretto Restaurant Group
Executive Chef and Partner: Rocco Agostino
Chefs di “Cucina”: Tiffany Wong and sous chef Carmen Mach

The Food: The new Libretto serves the same simple, seasonal food as the chain’s Ossington and Danforth locations. The menu is divided between rustic Italian starters (including chef Agostino’s namesake arugula salad with squash and beets) and generously topped Neapolitan pizzas, which are flash-baked for 90 seconds each. At $15 for three courses, the weekday prix-fixe lunch menu is one of the better deals downtown.

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Introducing: Fresh Off The Boat, a new seafood sandwich shop on Queen West

(Image: Renée Suen)

(Image: Renée Suen)

Name: Fresh Off The Boat
Contact Info: 404 Queen St. W., 416-603-3333, @FOTB416
Previously: IWing Pizza & Wings
Neighbourhood: Queen West
Owner/Chef: Quinten Tran, one of the founders of the Buster’s Sea Cove food truck

The Food: The chalkboard menu lists about a dozen seafood sandwiches, salads and other dishes, most of which have a slight Can-Asian flair. The signature “FOB” sandwich (described as an “Asian po’boy banh mi”) is a battered-catfish sub topped with kimchi and smoky aioli. Other options include a lobster roll, a grilled halibut salad and an entire soft-shell crab served on a brioche bun. Chunky fries and broccoli slaw are available on the side.

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Introducing: Gaslight, a new neighbourhood local on Bloor West

Introducing: Gaslight

(Image: Renée Suen)

Name: Gaslight
Contact Info: 1426 Bloor St. W., 647-402-9728
Previously: Zocalo
Neighbourhood: Junction Triangle
Owners: Megan Jones (Reposado) and Tim Pritchard (Communist’s Daughter), who have a combined 26 years of experience in the hospitality industry
Chefs: Head chef Michael Greer and consulting chef Garth Legree, the former chef de cuisine at The County General and current executive chef at Little Anthony’s

The Food: Gaslight is more bar than restaurant, so the menu focuses on stuff that’s easy to nibble with a drink in hand—mainly sandwiches and snacks. Still, the short list includes some interesting options. “Poi boi” pierogies are stuffed with shrimp and chorizo, and broccoli poutine is served under a blanket of gruyere cheese sauce and pickled jalapeños.

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Introducing: Little Fin, the mix-and-match seafood restaurant from the owners of The Chase

Introducing: Little Fin

Name: Little Fin
Contact Info: 4 Temperance St., 647-348-7000, littlefin.ca, @Little_Fin
Previously: Italian restaurant Fiore
Neighbourhood: Financial District
Owner: The Chase Hospitality Group (headed by president Steven Salm), which is also behind The Chase, The Chase Fish & Oyster, and Colette Grand Cafe
Executive Chef: The Chase Fish & Oyster chef Nigel Finley

The Food: The Chase’s latest spin-off restaurant is a casual mix-and-match seafood counter. Diners choose a main item (e.g. crispy fried haddock, smoked maple-brandy wild BC salmon), a preparation method (sandwich, seaweed salad, slaw) and any add-ons or “sea sides,” like chunky potato wedges or chili-spiced broccoli. There’s also a double-decker cheeseburger (served on pitch-black buns, dyed with bamboo charcoal), lobster-topped hot dogs, and whole-lobster meals served with sea-urchin “fancy sauce.”

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Introducing: Buca Yorkville, Rob Gentile’s long-awaited spin-off near the Four Seasons

Introducing: Buca Yorkville

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Name: Buca Osteria & Bar
Contact Info: 53 Scollard St. (entrance is through the Four Seasons courtyard on Yorkville Ave.), 416-962-2822, buca.ca, @bucayorkville
Neighbourhood: Yorkville
Owners: Peter Tsebelis, Gus Giazitizidis and Rob Gentile of King Street Food Company
Chefs: Executive chef Rob Gentile and chef de cuisine Ryan Campbell

The Food: Billed as the coastal cousin to Buca on King Street, the seafood-heavy menu includes pizzas, pastas and pescatarian charcuterie, plus daily whole-fish options, like an entire raw branzino that’s expertly sliced and plated tableside. (According to partner Peter Tsebelis, Buca’s seafood is both “sensible” and “traceable,” meaning that care is taken to ensure that the fish served have been harvested in ways that aren’t environmentally destructive.) Similar to Bar Buca, the restaurant serves pastries and specialty coffees during the day, and brunch on weekends. Starting next week, a multi-course tasting menu will also be available.

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Introducing: The Tempered Room, a mouthwatering new patisserie in Parkdale

Introducing: The Tempered Room

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Name: The Tempered Room
Contact Info: 1374 Queen St. W., 416-546-4374, thetemperedroom.com, @thetemperedroom
Neighbourhood: Parkdale
Previously: Brown Sugar Bakery
Owner/Chef: Bertrand Alépée, owner of The Tempered Chef catering company and former co-owner and chef at the now-shuttered Amuse-Bouche bistro
Pastry Chef: Tyler Lang, also from Amuse-Bouche

The Food: Gorgeous mousse cakes, bombes, tarts, croissants, custard-filled pastries and flaky éclairs piped with fruity creams and custards, all temptingly displayed in glass cases. (Alépée worked in Paris with Michelin starred chefs Guy Savoy and Alain Ducasse before settling in Toronto, so his French pastries are the real thing.) There are lots of savoury items, too, like cheesy croque monsieur sandwiches and puff pastry tarts topped with caramelized onions and tomato compote. Crusty loaves by Thuet, Blackbird and The Drake Hotel are available for purchase.

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Introducing: Yunaghi, the Japanese tasting restaurant that replaced Ici Bistro on Harbord

yunaghi-intro

(Image: Renée Suen)

Name: Yunaghi, Gastronomie Japonaise
Contact Info: 538 Manning Ave., 416-588-7862, faceboook.com, @yunaghi_toronto
Previously: Ici Bistro
Neighbourhood: Little Italy
Owners: Yurika (who used to work at Ryoji), and Yasuko Miyata
Chefs: Executive chef Tetsuya Shimizu (formerly the sous chef at Yours Truly and chef-consultant for Ryoji’s recently overhauled menu) and sous chef Koichi Fujioka (Hapa Izakaya in Vancouver)

The Food: Shimizu studied traditional kaiseki—the highest form of Japanese cuisine—for 12 years in Japan before moving to North America. At Yunaghi, he uses French techniques to create modern Japanese food that you won’t find at a ramen shop, izakaya or all-you-can-eat sushi joint. Expect a refined tasting menu ($68 for seven courses; $80 for nine) comprised of dainty, complex dishes like black sesame tofu with wasabi and brown butter powder, or white asparagus dressed with almond glass chips and a paste made of tofu and Grana Padano cheese. For those who’d rather not commit to multiple courses, à la carte options are available on request.

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Restaurants

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Completo brings South American fast food to Leslieville

(Images: Renée Suen)

(Images: Renée Suen)

Completo, the sandwich shop that moved into the old Le Matin bakery space at Queen Street and Coady Avenue, is named after a type of elaborately topped Chilean hot dog (“completo” is Spanish for “the works”). The Leslieville version is more sandwich than dog—it consists of griddled steak, pork or chorizo sausage heaped on a toasted bun with mashed avocado, mayo, tomatoes and homemade hot sauce (there’s also a veggie version with sliced cucumber and sprouts). Completo co-owners Matias Balmaceda and Brett Williams tested out their South American snack-bar concept last summer in a makeshift stall in Kensington Market. Their new, permanent space has counter seating for seven, a sunny front patio and a slightly larger menu. In addition to the namesake sandwich, it includes fully loaded grilled cheeses, Argentinean empanadas, salads, dressed tortilla chips and something called The Box—a take-out container filled to the brim with fresh-cut French fries, fried eggs and various condiments. The entire Completo menu is also served at Hitch, the bar just down the street.

Completo, 5 Coady Ave., 416-901-9233, facebook.com, @CompletoClub

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Introducing: DaiLo (formerly GwaiLo), Nick Liu’s long-awaited “Asian brasserie”

Introducing: DaiLo

Click to view gallery (Image: Renée Suen)

Name: DaiLo
Contact Info: 503 College St., dailoto.com, @DaiLoTO
Previously: Grace bistro, which ended its six-year run last February
Neighbourhood: Little Italy
Owners: Nick Liu, Anton Potvin, and husband-and-wife team David Dattels and Jen Grant
Chef: Former Niagara Street Café chef Nick Liu, who’s been planning this restaurant for years

The Food: This is the latest Toronto restaurant to combine two culinary concepts in a single space. The ground floor is DaiLo, a sit-down restaurant with a full dinner menu. The second storey houses LoPan, a more casual snack bar. On the debut menu, Liu takes the kind of food he grew up with—mainly Chinese cuisine from the Hakka region—and reinterprets it using French techniques (and, in some cases, a hefty dose of irreverence). Some recipes stick fairly close to tradition, like the intricately folded pork-and-shrimp dumplings, which are served with house XO sauce. Others, like Liu’s much-anticipated “Big Mac bao,” are brazenly inauthentic.

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Introducing: Montecito, the Ivan Reitman-owned restaurant near TIFF Bell Lightbox

Montecito-Intro

Click to view gallery (Image: Renée Suen)

Name: Montecito
Contact Info: 299 Adelaide St. W., 416-599-0299, montecitorestaurant.ca, @Montecito_TO
Neighbourhood: Entertainment District
Owners: Ivan Reitman, Jonathan Waxman (of Babuto fame), and Tom and Jordan Bitove (from Innov8 Hospitality, the group behind Wayne Gretzky’s)
Executive Chef: Matt Robertson, the former executive chef at Reds Midtown

The Food: The daily-changing menu blends Waxman’s signature California cuisine with Canadian veggies, cheeses, meats and seafood (a list of local suppliers is printed right on the menu). Vegetables are highlighted on almost every plate, including Waxman’s world-famous roast chicken—a dish “so impressive that it’s arguably cause for scientific study,” according to the New York Times—which is served here with fresh herbs and salsa verde. As promised, there is a Ghostbusters-themed dessert (although, contrary to early reports, it doesn’t actually explode). 

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Introducing: Colette Grand Café, the palatial new French restaurant in the Thompson Hotel

Introducing: Colette

Click to view gallery (Image: Renée Suen)

Name: Colette Grand Café and Bakery
Contact Info: 550 Wellington St. W., 647-348-7000, colettetoronto.com, @colettetoronto
Neighbourhood: King West
Previously: Scarpetta, celebrity chef Scott Conant’s short-lived Italian restaurant
Owner: The Chase Hospitality Group (headed by president Steven Salm), which is also behind The Chase, The Chase Fish and Oyster, and soon-to-open Little Fin
Chefs: Executive Chef Michael Steh, chef de cuisine Matthew Swift and executive pastry chef Leslie Steh

The Food: The restaurant’s modern French dishes are sophisticated, polished and pretty. Starters include lobster vichyssoise and frog-leg lollipops with pea purée. Other items are meant for sharing, like a whole roasted bass wrapped in sliced potatoes and an elaborate green-curry crab dish with baguette and grilled-pork terrine. During the day, the casual bakery-café serves sandwiches, snacks and buttery viennoiseries (and, of course, a selection of macarons).

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Introducing: Little Sister, a new Indonesian snack bar from the owners of Quince bistro

Introducing: Little Sister

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Name: Little Sister
Contact Info: 2031 Yonge St., 416-488-2031, littlesistertoronto.com, @littlesisterto
Neighbourhood: Davisville Village
Previously: Lucca Fine Linens, a fancy home shop
Owners: Michael van de Winkel and Jennifer Gittins, who also own Quince Bistro
Chef: Michael van de Winkel

The Food: Chef van de Winkel grew up in Amsterdam and spent time working as a chef in the Dutch Navy. There, he learned to cook a colonial-era Indonesian meal called rijsttafel (Dutch for “rice table”). Years later, he continued the tradition in Toronto, where the colourful feasts were a huge draw at his midtown bistro, Quince. Now van de Winkel and co-owner Jennifer Gittens have moved the Dutch-Indo cuisine to a venue of its own. At Little Sister, the menu sticks mainly to the kind of snacks you can eat with your hands: croquettes, skewers and Indonesian-style rendang tacos.

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