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20 Things you probably didn’t know about the Bata Shoe Museum

Two decades ago, when a fashionable upstart opened its doors at the corner of St. George and Bloor streets, shoe aficionados of the world gained a new holy temple. Here, for the institution’s 20th anniversary on May 6, are 20 things you probably didn’t know about the Bata Shoe Museum.

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The Dish

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Toronto Life is changing how we score restaurants

Don’t worry—it’s nothing drastic: we still evaluate restaurants on a scale of one to five stars, and we continue to only review places that we believe are worth a visit. But we’ve changed our scale to be a little more generous, and a little more intuitive. Before, one star meant a place was good; now it means fair. Two stars meant very good; now it means good. Three stars meant excellent; now it means very good. Four stars meant extraordinary; now it means excellent. And five stars meant absolutely perfect: an extraordinary, totally flawless, unparalleled dining experience. No restaurant ever achieved that score. Now our highest rating means exceptional, and there are a handful of restaurants that have earned it: Auberge du Pommier, Kaiseki Yu-Zen Hashimoto, Momofuku Shoto, Buca Yorkville and Sushi Kaji. You can read more about what the new stars mean here, or find out how we’ve scored your favourite restaurant by searching for them in our listings.

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An injunction against Toronto Life’s May issue has failed

Yesterday in Ontario Superior Court, Michael Elder lost his motion for an emergency injunction to prevent Toronto Life’s May issue from being published. Elder is the subject of a feature article that recounts how the ambitious businessman raised $12 million for the Quillmate—a tablet computer that he obtained the U.S. patent rights to long before the iPad existed—and the angry investors and business partners that it has left in its wake. The story is written by veteran journalist Michael Posner. You can read more detail in our press release here. In the meantime, our May issue will be on newsstands on April 23, in subscribers’ mailboxes soon—and “The Charming Mr. Elder” will be published online, in full, later this week.

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Five reasons to live in The Jack, a new Rosedale condo with major music-celeb cred

In Upper Rosedale, an elevated living experience is set to transform this storied midtown location. Steps from the tranquility of ravines and parkland, The Jack features elegant interiors, and a lifestyle for those who appreciate being only seconds from all the action and world-class amenities of the big city.

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Review: Furlough, BarChef’s sister spot, brings more cocktail nerdery to Queen West

(Image: Renée Suen)

(Image: Renée Suen)

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Furlough 3 star ½
924 Queen St. W., 647-348-2525
Furlough 3 star ½
924 Queen St. W., 647-348-2525

The new bar-bistro on Queen West, in the space formerly occupied by Ursa, is a marvel of cocktail nerdery. The co-owner, Frankie Solarik, introduced Toronto to $20, chemistry-experiment tipples in the mid-oughties at clubby BarChef and wrote the book on mixology (called, unsurprisingly, The Bar Chef). The new venture is far more laid back, like a moody beaux arts–era drinking salon that serves excellent rustic food. (The dim, dim, dim—seriously, download the flashlight app on your phone before you go—candlelight nails the pre-electricity mood.)

The intriguing drinks (there are 30 on offer) also seem to have emerged less from a futuristic lab and more from a 19th-century apothecary stocked with obscure tinctures. The Juniper Harvest, for example, stirs London dry gin with star anise syrup, apricot bitters and sweet vermouth in an orange blossom–rinsed wine glass that channels the scents upward. You could easily drop $100 sampling them, alongside snacks like snap peas tossed with sticky, sweet pomegranate sauce and crunchy almonds, or hollandaise-drenched lobster tail on buttery pain au lait. But hearty mains, like lush duck confit on sweet braised red cabbage, or deep black, salty squid ink risotto with golden seared scallops, are entirely worth it, too. Classic crème brûlée makes a killer pairing for a savoury-sweet Apricot Fields, which shakes apricot-infused brandy, lemon, rosemary syrup, amaretto and madeira over ice.

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Review: NAO brings swank back to Yorkville and steak so good it doesn’t need sauce

(Image: Caroline Aksich)

(Image: Caroline Aksich)

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NAO 3 star ½
90 Avenue Rd., 416-367-4141
NAO 3 star ½
90 Avenue Rd., 416-367-4141

The glitzy reno of this Victorian, for most of the last 20 years home to the quaint fusion spot Boba, marks the rapid transformation of Yorkville from rich and dowdy to rich and aggressively chic. Marble walls, plush black leather banquettes and a monumental wedding cake of a chandelier reinforce the impression of a deco-era nightclub—the only thing missing is Nat King Cole crooning from a stage instead of from the overhead speakers.

Nominally a Japanese-style steak house, it’s the latest in a series of ambitious Charles Khabouth and Hanif Harji projects, with executive chef Stuart Cameron (who also oversees Byblos, Weslodge and Patria) responsible for a big-spender menu of oyster platters, panko and Dungeness crab croquettes dusted with a sesame-seaweed seasoning, and an ingeniously multi-textured ahi tuna tartare (more of a salad) tossed with chilies, avocado, puffed wild rice and a nostril-searing grating of fresh B.C. wasabi. But it’s all about the beef: the aging locker holds a king’s ransom of prime Canadian and American cattle; Wagyu raised in your pick of Idaho, Iowa or Australia; and the most outrageous of them all, Japanese Kobe, which starts at $105 for a mere five ounces and climbs precipitously to $460 for a 24-ounce rib-eye. The more modest Australian Wagyu rump steak is charred handsomely on the grill, perfectly rare within, and so heavily marbled it’s more fat than meat—it slices like butter under the blade of the restaurant’s custom-made high-carbon steak knives. The steaks are so flavourful, there’s no need for the house steak sauce, prepared with momentous ceremony tableside on a vintage industrial cart. A serious wine list includes a dozen sakes and a handful of extremely rare French vintages offered by the glass.

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Toronto Life celebrates Where to Eat 2015 with a special one-night event of exceptional food and drink

 

On April 9, Toronto Life brought the pages of our annual Where to Eat issue to life with the inaugural Best Restaurants event, welcoming 450 guests to Artscape Wychwood Barns. Chefs from 16 of the top best new restaurants as chosen by Toronto Life restaurant critic Mark Pupo were on hand to serve their signature dishes. Attendees sampled butter-poached whelks from Michael Steh of Colette, truffle gnudi from Adrian Niman of Rasa, grilled sardine petisco from Roberto Fracchioni of Flor de Sal, jerk “spam” sandwiches from Craig Wong of Patois, and more. Each dish was paired with a craft beer from Amsterdam Brewery, the winemakers from Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Southbrook Vineyards poured organic wines, and Flow natural Ontario spring water kept guests well hydrated. Snacks and desserts were provided by Longo’s, and the evening wrapped with fresh-roasted coffee from Muldoon’s.

The April 2015 issue is available on newsstands now. See all the event photos here and take a peek at who made it on to this year’s list of the 20 best new restaurants.

 

sponsors-march26 BestRestEvent-btm Longos Muldoon's Artscape Amsterdam All Clad Flow Southbrook Chairman Mills Snow's Victory Previous Event Home

 

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Swish Château: an interior designer to the jet set creates a plush sanctuary in the city


Great Spaces: Swish Château

For 25 years, Lori Morris has designed fantasy-inducing estates all over the world—a sprawling mountain lodge in Montana, an ancient house in ­Jerusalem, an oceanfront beach property on the Gulf of Mexico. The hectic, travel-heavy lifestyle made her crave a waterfront retreat of her own. ­Walking around her Etobicoke neighbourhood in 2003, she came across a terraced neo-Georgian row house on the lakefront and had to have it. Problem was, it wasn’t for sale. She waited five years for it to come on the market and scooped it up the moment it did. In ­February 2008 she took possession and got to work turning the 2,500-square-foot property into her own private escape. She was inspired by French châteaus she’d ­visited on buying trips and indulged herself with the same luxuries as her clients: custom furnishings; antiques collected from France, Italy and ­England; ornate chandeliers; and enough rococo gilding to make Marie Antoinette blanch. She also updated the look to satisfy her 21st-­century tastes. She stripped the house down to the studs, added grand archways to open up the space and crowned the rooms with custom millwork she designed herself. The result is an over-the-top hideaway that serves as her own Petit ­Trianon in Mimico. Her favourite room is her ­bedroom—she calls the rest of the house “the long hallway to my bedroom.”

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The Find: five Om-worthy accessories for the meditation-mad

Restoration Hardware: An essential shopping list for serious serenity seekers

Ten years ago, it was yoga. Now, the voguish wellness crazy is meditation—tranquil, incense-fumed, cross-legged sessions that melt frantic millenial minds into a calmer state of being. The latest prescription for strung-out suits is a five-minute breathing session in a Bay Street boardroom turned ashram, or a 10-day silent retreat in a remote rural sanctuary. Here, an essential shopping list for serious serenity seekers.

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Review: At King West’s Wilbur Mexicana, grilled veggies are the way to go

(Image: Gizelle Lau)

(Image: Gizelle Lau)

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Wilbur Mexicana 1 star
552 King St. W., 416-792-1878
Wilbur Mexicana 1 star
552 King St. W., 416-792-1878

Somewhere on the spectrum between Mexican fast food chains and hipster taco joints is Wilbur on King West. Diners order at the counter, grab bottles of Mexican cerveza (or craft sodas from a state-of-the-art fountain) and take a seat in a sleek room with floor-to-ceiling windows, subway tile and dark wood accents. There’s a self-serve hot sauce and salsa bar, with house-made condiments like a tart pineapple-habanero salsa—the perfect pairing for a grilled avocado taco layered with feta-like cotija cheese and a smoky-creamy chipotle crema. The pulled pork burrito is dry and under-salted, but grilled Mexican street corn smothered in more crema and cotija is a savoury-sweet winner. No desserts.

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Review: Parlor Foods and Co. serves Canadiana (and oddly delicious cheddar ice cream) on King West

Introducing: Parlor Foods

(Image: Gizelle Lau)

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Parlor Foods and Co. 1 star
333 King St. W., 416-596-0004
Parlor Foods and Co. 1 star
333 King St. W., 416-596-0004

Barnboard and burlap give Parlor a cottagey feel. On the menu are the hallmarks of modern Canadian cuisine: maple syrup, smoked salmon and pickerel, and local wines, small-batch spirits and craft beers. Onion tots, served piping hot from the fryer, are crunchy but filled with overly sweet caramelized onions. The accompanying aioli with sumac, coriander and scapes is good, but it can’t save the tots. Lobster carbonara brings perfectly poached claw meat, guanciale and rich egg yolk atop slightly claggy fettuccine. The butter tart brings a small mason jar of undercooked custard and two freshly baked shortbread cookies in place of a crust—it doesn’t work all that well. Instead, opt for buttery apple strudels topped with odd-yet-delicious cheddar ice cream.

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Review: Nana serves fiery Thai food stall dishes to Queen West heat-seekers

Introducing: Nana

(Image: Jackie Pal)

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Nana 2 star
785 Queen St. W., 647-352-5773
Nana 2 star
785 Queen St. W., 647-352-5773

Of the many new wave Thai places to open in the last year, this diminutive spot, run by Khao San Road’s gregarious chef-owner Monte Wan, hits the most food stall-by-the-side-of-a-road notes, between the cobblestone floor, red plastic stools, and cases of Chang beer by the door. A line forms early, such is the appetite for Wan’s studiously authentic regional food, which ping-pongs between addictively greasy kitsch (thin noodles with tofu and hot dog chunks fried until they open like pink pork florets) and dizzyingly complex combinations of texture and taste (the khao soi, a rich coconut curry with egg noodles, bean sprouts and slices of chicken). Servers deliver a fulsome selection of fresh chili, chili flakes and hot sauce to your table, in case the already building heat isn’t adequate. To cool down, the bar makes trendily frothy cocktails, like a rum and coconut milk concoction perfumed with lemongrass.

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Review: Città makes for a fun CityPlace hangout, but don’t expect top-notch Italian

(Image: Jackie Pal)

(Image: Jackie Pal)

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Città 1 star
92 Fort York Blvd., 416-623-9662
Città 1 star
92 Fort York Blvd., 416-623-9662

The new casual Italian restaurant in CityPlace’s condo village is the latest project from Toronto’s resto-lounge titan Hanif Harji, who hired chef Ben Heaton fresh off the closing of his critically celebrated—though frequently empty Dundas West Brit pub—The Grove. The place has a posh party vibe, with approximately 20 beaded boudoir chandeliers, black leather banquettes and an affluent condo crowd who seems eager to let loose with ice buckets full of Prosecco and tables crowded with high-priced pizza.

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