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Openings

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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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The Dish

Culture

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Mind Your Manners: 10 things you do at restaurants that chefs and owners can’t stand

(Illustration: Brett Lamb)

When a restaurant fails on any level, everyone hears about it on social media, or Yelp, or from the latest disgruntled food critic. But when a customer acts like a jerk, restaurants are just supposed to suck it up—which seems a bit unfair. In the interests of leveling the playing field, we talked to chefs and restaurateurs across the city to find out how patrons (either knowingly or not) make things difficult for everyone. Maybe, don’t do these things.

1. Seating yourself. DIY is cool when you’re putting together a zine, but host duties are best left to the pros. If you’ve just walked into a busy restaurant and there happens to be an empty seat, it’s probably spoken for. “Some people expect that they can just sit anywhere,” says Fan Zhang, chef and co-owner at Mr. Flamingo on Dundas West. “It’s like stealing someone’s seat at the movies.”

2. Asking “What’s the best thing on the menu?” People ask this inane question all the time. (And it is inane, because since when are you soul mates with your server?) It’s also awkward, because it puts pressure on servers to comp recommended dishes that don’t go over well. “It’s a trap,” says Black Hoof and Rhum Corner owner Jen Agg. “When someone asks what’s the best thing, I’ll always joke and say, ‘oh, the whole menu is terrible.’” If guidance is absolutely necessary, “what’s popular” might be a better question.

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Stat

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Burger King’s takeover of Tim Hortons may be bad news for Canadians

$355,000,000

—A conservative estimate of the amount of tax revenue that could be lost by the Canadian government over the next five years as a result of Burger King parent company 3G Capital’s plan to purchase Tim Hortons, according to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. (The less conservative estimate is $667 million.) In a study based on an analysis of the Brazilian firm’s past takeovers, the think tank concludes that the deal—which was approved by Canada’s Competition Bureau earlier this week—may have “overwhelmingly negative consequences for Canadians.”

The Dish

Openings

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Introducing: Queen Margherita, the new Neapolitan pizza parlour on Dundas West

Introducing: Queen Margherita Pizza

(Image: Caroline Aksich)

Name: Queen Margherita Pizza
Contact Info: 772 Dundas St. W., qmpizza.com
Neighbourhood: Trinity Bellwoods
Previously: A paint store occupied the upper floor, while Hard Luck Bar called the basement home
Owners: John Chetti, Rocco Mazzaferro, Tom Mediati and Roberto Scala
Chef: Head chef John Galante creates and executes the menu with guidance from exec chef Jonathan Gushue (previously of Langdon Hall)

The Food: The menu is divided between snacks, starters and pizzas. For $38 you can sample the entire snack section, which includes prosciutto di Parma, cacciatore, olives and hunks of Parm. Familiar QMP starters (like the much-loved potenta with sausage) are joined by octopus carpaccio, ricotta-stuffed eggplant and other new additions. The wood-fired pizzas range from conventional (the namesake Margherita) to straight-up quirky (the “Roberto Scallopini AKA Birdman,” which is topped with kale, garlic aioli and toasted sunflower seeds).

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The Dish

Restaurants

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Filipino Feasting: an annotated guide to Lamesa’s hands-only banana-leaf dinner

(Image: Jackie Pal)

(Image: Jackie Pal)

On Sunday nights, Queen West restaurant Lamesa serves “Kamayan” dinner, a family-style feast that’s laid out on banana leaves and consumed without utensils. (Loosely translated, “kamayan” means “eating with your hands.”) Chef Rudy Boquila and sous-chef Joash Dy serve the meal themselves, presenting each component with a theatrical flourish. And there are a lot of components—18 by our count. We asked Dy to walk us through the meal from beginning to end. Here’s what he told us.

Numbers Red
The chefs start by painting a sticky brown stripe of bagoong caramel across a mat of oiled banana leaves. Bagoong is a fermented shrimp paste that’s common in Filipino cuisine. Boquila and Dy add sugar to the mix, making for a sweeter, stickier sauce.
Numbers Red
Next comes a swoosh of soy-garlic confit purée. Soy and garlic are big Filipino flavours, but the chefs add a French twist by blending the soy with sweetened, softened cloves that have been slow-simmered in oil.

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The Dish

Openings

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Introducing: Nana, the Khao San Road spin-off restaurant that (finally!) opened on Queen West

Introducing: Nana

(Image: Jackie Pal)

Name: Nana
Contact Info: 785 Queen St. W., 647-352-5773
Neighbourhood: Trinity Bellwoods
Previously: Friendly Thai
Chef/Owner: Monte Wan, who also owns Khao San Road on Adelaide Street

The Food: Owner Monte Wan amused himself during the prolonged construction of his new Queen West restaurant by staging an elaborate media hoax that saw the storefront cycle through a bunch of silly restaurant concepts. (You may recall signage for places called “Cakehole” and “Wheels Keep on Truckin.”) The Thai eatery that finally opened at 785 Queen West isn’t based on any of those jokey ideas, though it is a bit edgier than sister spot Khao San Road. Inspired by all four regions of Thailand, the menu focuses on dishes you don’t always see in North America. The list includes laab (ground meat seasoned with herbs and toasted rice), pork satay seasoned with palm sugar, and a traditional noodle soup that’s commonly served off riverboats in Northern Thailand. (It’s made with three cuts of beef and a flavour-boosting shot of blood). Keep an eye out for bar snacks by former Momofuku Daishō chef Matt Blondin and gelatos from Kensington sweet shop Millie Creperie.

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The Dish

People

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Drake celebrates his birthday on Dundas West

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(Images: champagnepapi/Instagram)

Last weekend, Drake rang in his 28th birthday at Susur Lee’s Dundas West restaurant Bent. He later Instagrammed a play-by-play of the night, which saw him hanging with his dudes, striking cool-looking poses, chatting with the chef and basking in the glow of a sparkler-strewn birthday cake. (The latter, while appropriately massive, didn’t quite match the DIY intensity of last year’s lumpy ode to Toronto). Like a real down-to-earth guy, Drake seems to have invited mainly family and friends, including manager Oliver El-Khatib and other members of his OVO posse. He even submitted to tender birthday-boy hugs from his mom, Sandi. What a guy, right?

The Dish

Food Events

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Pop-Up Pick: watch football and eat real Texas barbecue on Dundas West

(Images: Smoke Signals Barbecue/Instagram)

“If you’re going to master the craft, you’ve got to cook over wood.” That’s the rule for Nick Chen-Yin, the co-pitmaster behind Smoke Signals, a year-old Toronto pop-up specializing in Texas-style barbecue. He and partner Paul Keodprom began selling their slow-cooked beef briskets and ribs at the Junction Flea last year. They sold out every time, once even unloading 120 pounds of brisket in under three hours. The culinary enterprise has since become an obsession for Chen-yin, who learned his smoking techniques from friends in Austin and Houston. He massages briskets and ribs with a simple salt-and-pepper rub and nurses them for up to 14 hours in one of several wood smokers he built from scratch in his backyard. The results have earned the business lots of fans (and the hard-won approval of Chowhounders), plus a regular Sunday gig at The Derby, a new pub on Dundas West. The pair will be popping up there all winter, offering tailgate-appropriate food (brisket platters, potato salad, baked beans) to hungry football fans. The next instalment happens this Sunday, November 2.

Sun. Nov. 2, 1-8. The Derby, 1516 Dundas St. W., 416-901-5730, instagram.com

The Dish

Openings

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Introducing: Schmaltz Appetizing, the Jewish fish shop behind Fat Pasha

(Image: Caroline Aksich)

(Image: Caroline Aksich)

Name: Schmaltz Appetizing
Contact Info: 414 Dupont St. (the carriage house behind Fat Pasha), 647-350-4261, schmaltzappetizing.com
Neighbourhood: The Annex
Previously: A kids’ store called Draw Me a Sheep (before that, it was Indian Rice Factory Chai Bar)
Owner: Anthony Rose, who also owns Fat Pasha, Rose and Sons, and Big Crow
Chef: Rose designed the menu, which is being executed by Drake alum Chris Kirn

The Food: An “appetizing” store is a Jewish food shop that sells fish, cream cheese and other foods commonly eaten with bagels. Schmaltz carries all the standard fishy toppings (smoked salmon, gravlax, gefilte fish), as well as some more exotic options, like salmon caviar, carp and smoked Acadian sturgeon. Most items can be ordered on a Kiva’s bagel, including $45 worth of American sturgeon caviar with sliced eggs and sour cream. (Less extravagant sandwiches run from $8 to $14). Fat Pasha’s Mediterranean salads round out the menu, along with a handful of traditional Jewish pastries.

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The Dish

Drinks

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Small-Batch Wonders: gorgeous red wines that won’t break the bank

This party season, skip the show-offy bottles for reds with a little more nuance (and a lot less sticker shock)

Small-Batch Wonders

As the holidays loom, Vintages stocks pricier wines to give and (hopefully) receive. It’s easy to impress with a $100-plus cult label from Bordeaux, Burgundy, ­Tuscany or the Napa Valley, and the wine will likely be excellent. But I can guarantee it will also be overpriced. Instead, opt for small-production wines from lesser-known regions. These five reds top out at $60 and will still demonstrate your discerning largesse.

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The Dish

Closings

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The Grove will serve its final meals on November 15

(Image: Caroline Youdan)

(Image: Caroline Youdan)

It takes more than great reviews, interesting food and prestigious awards to keep a restaurant running these days, it would seem. On Friday, Dundas West restaurant The Grove—topper of multiple best-of lists—published a sad message on its Twitter feed:

The Grove opened at 1214 Dundas West in spring 2012, and immediately garnered lots of praise for its elegantly abstract English cooking. News of its impending closure follows the demise of other high-concept restaurants in the area, like Ossington tasting room Yours Truly and Queen West eatery Ursa.

Meanwhile, cheap snack shops continue to abound, including three (three!) late-night food businesses that are scheduled to open within spitting distance of The Grove: Hanmoto, tucked behind Churchill bar, The Contender, a new sports bar from the team behind The Lakeview, and something called Junked Food Co. at Dundas and Dovercourt. A word of advice to prospective restaurateurs: finger food and Jager shots may be the way to go.

The Dish

Restaurants

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Wahlburgers finally has a launch date at the Soho Met

(Image: Marc Andrew Deley/FilmMagic)

(Image: Marc Andrew Deley/FilmMagic)

Mark Wahlberg, along with brothers Donnie and Paul, will finally be unveiling the Toronto location of the trio’s semi-eponymous burger chain, Wahlburgers, according to the Star. It was over a year ago that the siblings first made their big Toronto-expansion announcement, with reports at the time saying the restaurant would likely open at the Soho Met in “early 2014.” That must have been an overly optimistic timeline, because half the year passed by without anything happening. Now, there’s an official launch date for everyone to circle in their 2014 NKOTB calendars. (They exist!) That date is November 15, and apparently there’s a chance that the brothers might actually show up for the big debut. Swoooon.

The Dish

Openings

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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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The Dish

World Class Watch

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Toronto is home to Canada’s sixth- and seventh-best new restaurants says EnRoute magazine

were-number-blank-tallEvery year since 2002, EnRoute, Air Canada’s in-flight magazine, has published its ranking of the 10 best new restaurants in Canada. In recent years, Toronto establishments have largely dominated the list. (In 2012, our eateries took up 60 per cent of the thing, with the top slot going to Edulis. Last year, the big winner was Bar Isabel, with Momofuku Shōtō coming in at number two.) This time around, things played out a little differently. While Toronto restaurants were well represented in the nomination pool, only two figured in the final tally: Bar Buca, the Italian snack bar on King West, which landed in the number-six spot, and downtown penthouse The Chase, which followed closely at number seven. The Toronto nominees that failed to crack the top ten were Byblos, Fat Pasha, Luckee, Agave y Aguacate and Rhum Corner.

Who’d we beat? Restaurants in Saskatoon, Quebec City and Halifax took the eighth through tenth spots. And, of course, tons of Canadian cities weren’t represented at all, so we can remain confident that there’s nowhere better to eat in, say, Regina or Moosonee.

Who beat us? Tofino, British Colombia, whose island restaurant Wolf on the Fog was named Canada’s best. The other top-fivers were The Farmer’s Apprentice in Vancouver (2), Le Vin Papillon in Montreal (3), RGE RD in Edmonton (4) and Mallard Cottage in St. John’s. You can see the whole list here.

The Dish

Restaurants

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Cure All: five wild alternatives to everyday charcuterie

Flavour of the Month: Cure All
It wasn’t so long ago that artisanal, specialty butcher shops were a rariety and outlier restaurants like the Black Hoof were only beginning to prove how delicious weirdo proteins can be. Bolstered by our craving for dishes we can brag about on Twitter, daring chefs are running wild. Here, five exciting alternatives to garden-variety capicolla.

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