All stories by Renée Suen

The Dish

Openings

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

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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The Dish

Openings

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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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The Dish

Openings

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

yunaghi-intro

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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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The Dish

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

The Dish

Openings

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

Introducing: DaiLo

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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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The Dish

Openings

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

Montecito-Intro

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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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The Dish

Openings

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

Introducing: Colette

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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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The Dish

Openings

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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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The Dish

Openings

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Introducing: Pai, the new Thai clubhouse from Nuit and Jeff Regular

Name: Pai
Neighbourhood: King West
Contact Info: 18 Duncan St., 416-901-4724, paitoronto.com, @PaiToronto
Previously: A Golden Griddle
Owners: Sukhothai and Sabai Sabai owners Jeff and Nuit Regular, with Janet Zuccarini (who also owns Gusto 101)
Executive Chef: Nuit Regular

The Food: Thai food experts Nuit and Jeff Regular are slowly introducing Torontonians to Thailand’s full panoply of regional cuisines. They serve central-Thai food at Sukhothai, northeastern Isan cuisine at Sabai Sabai and now, at Pai, traditional dishes from the country’s far-northern tip, which is known for its particularly fragrant and spicy food. Options include a gingery gaeng hunglay curry with oxtail, a pork-and-offal salad, and a DIY papaya salad with salted crab. (The plates are served family-style, and eating with your hands is strongly encouraged.) A simpler menu of bite-sized snacks (e.g. pork rinds, mussels) is available at Bebop, the casual, all-day snack bar.

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The Dish

Openings

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Introducing: Cellar Door, a serious southern Italian restaurant at Lakeshore and Islington

Introducing: Cellar Door

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Name: Cellar Door
Contact Info: 3003 Lakeshore Blvd. W., 416-253-0303, cellardoorrestaurant.ca, @cellardoorTO
Neighbourhood: New Toronto
Chef/Owner: Robert Rubino, a CIA (Culinary Institute of America) graduate who trained abroad at Michelin-starred restaurants like Ristorante San Domenico in Bologna, Italy, and L’Atelier Joel Robuchon in Paris, France
Pizzaiolo: Rodrigo Palacio

The Food: Wood-fired pizzas, handmade pastas and other dishes from Rome and Calabria, a region in Southern Italy. A rustic, Calabrese-style pasta combines thick-cut buckwheat noodles with clams, scallops prawns, mussels and preserved chilis. Unlike most Italian chefs, Rubino cooks his food without butter or oil, and then adds a splash of good olive oil prior to serving.

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Food Shops

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This new food shop on Queen West is a haven for allergy sufferers

Feast

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Sensitive-stomach owners, take note: there’s a new store on Queen West that specializes in stuff that’s unlikely to send you to the ER (or ruin your new diet). The foods for sale at FEAST—which stands, a bit awkwardly, for Fabulous Eats for the Allergic and Sensitive Types—are free from most common food allergens, including gluten, wheat, dairy, soy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish. The store isn’t just catering to a fad; it’s the brainchild of chef Neil Lomas and his wife, Wendy Zeh, both of whom have spent years struggling to accommodate their respective food allergies and intolerances. The shop’s inventory is the result of their decade-long search for allergy-friendly pantry items, including sauces, pastas and seasonings, each of which has been thoroughly tested for flavour, texture and aroma. Among the prepared foods, shoppers will find jerk-chicken pocket pies, gluten-free cake doughnuts, raw vegan truffles and frozen avocado pops by in-house chocolatier Stacey Burgess, creator of vegan chocolate brand Live On Chocolate.

FEAST, 881 Queen St. W., 647-350-1881, thisisafeast.com, @thisisafeast

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Food Shops

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Toronto chocolatier Laura Slack opens shop in the Distillery District

Maisonette

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Toronto chocolatier Laura Slack is known for her beautiful but unconventional creations (her most famous treat is a burnished chocolate skull filled with black garlic–infused caramel). After hawking her goods at fancy shops like McEwan’s and Holt Renfrew, Slack has opened Maisonette, a very charming retail store in the Distillery District. She manages to squeeze a lot of delicious stuff into the 220-square-foot space, including handmade jams from Parkdale confiturer Kitten and the Bear and loose-leaf teas from Canadian company Sloane. The highlight, though, comes in chocolate form: gleaming truffles, artfully wrapped chocolate bars and cellophane baggies stuffed with chocolate-dipped “bacon toffee.” For summertime, there are chocolate ice-cream bars and fruity ice pops, neither of which should be missed.

Maisonette, 12 Tank House Ln., maisonettedistillery.ca, @maisonettegifts

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The Dish

Openings

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Introducing: Cluny, a massive (seriously, massive) new bistro in the Distillery from the owners of El Catrin

Name: Cluny Bistro
Contact Info: 35 Tank House Ln., 416-203-2632, clunybistro.com, @ClunyDistillery
Owners: Distillery Restaurant Corp, the group behind El Catrin, Pure Spirits, Archeo and The Boiler House
Chef(s): Executive chef Paul Benallick, whose 20 years’ experience includes stints at Jump, Stock, Auberge du Pommier and George Brown College’s The Chefs’ House. He works alongside pastry chef Chris Kwok and “boulanger” Lucas Craig

The Food: Updated bistro dishes, like chili-ginger frog legs and Buffalo sweetbreads, plus an on-trend assortment of crudos, ceviches and seafood tartares (including an unconventional “Nicoise” tartare with egg, French beans and olives). More traditional options include French onion soup, brie-slathered brioche and six different steak-frites platters. Those wishing to indulge (or impress) can take advantage of the “foie gras this or truffle that” supplement, which buys a few ounces of foie for the table—or a whole truffle at near-wholesale cost.

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Food Events

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Taste of Toronto 2014: a sneak peek at 22 dishes coming to the Fort York food festival in July

(Image: Renée Suen)

(Image: Renée Suen)

In just over a month, Fort York will be transformed into a maze of dining tents, drink stations and temporary culinary headquarters for 17 of the city’s top restaurants. It’s all happening for Taste of Toronto, a four-day celebration of the city’s thriving dining scene. Over the course of the festival, which counts Toronto Life among its media partners, each restaurant will be serving a trio of incredible plates, all priced between $6 and $10 (or rather, 6-10 “Crowns,” the official Taste of Toronto currency). We visited some of the participants’ kitchens to see how they’re coming along with their menus.

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July 24-27. $30 (incl. 6 Crowns). Fort York, 100 Garrison Rd., tasteoftoronto.com

The Dish

Openings

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Introducing: Rock Lobster Leslieville, which has a kids’ menu and three (three!) patios

Introducing: Rock Lobster Leslieville

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Name: Rock Lobster Food Co. (Leslieville)
Contact Info: 1192 Queen St. E., 416-533-1800, @rocklobsterfood, rocklobsterfood.com
Owners: Matt Dean Pettit and Mike Homewood, who also own nearby Boots ‘n’ Bourbon, along with partners Darryl Fine and Alan Thomson
Chefs: Executive chef Matt Dean Pettit and corporate chef de cuisine Deron Engbers

The Food: Fans of the Ossington and Queen West locations will recognize the lobster boils, lobster rolls and elaborately garnished lobster-tail Caesars. Everything else is new, including lobster bruschetta, a fried-clam roll with Sriracha mayo and a few vegetarian dishes. There are also kids’ options, like mac ‘n’ cheese topped with crumbled Goldfish.

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