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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, and reports at the time said the restaurant would likely open at the Soho Metropolitan Hotel 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.

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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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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.

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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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Closings

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Dundas West loses its all-hummus restaurant

(Image: Caroline Youdan)

(Image: Caroline Youdan)

Anyone who zoomed through Trinity Bellwoods on the 505 streetcar this morning may have noticed the papered-up windows at S. Lefkowitz, the all-hummus restaurant at 913 Dundas West. Just last March, owner Ezra Braves transformed the second location of Ezra’s Pound, his popular coffee shop, into Toronto’s very first “hummeseria,” which he modeled after similar businesses in Israel. Now the hummus shop is closing, according to an emailed statement from Braves, who claims it was only ever “intended to be a pop-up.” (Braves didn’t respond to our inquiries about whether he’s held on to the space, or whether a new business owner will be moving in.) While this is sad news for local hummus lovers, there is a silver lining for Annex residents: Braves tells us that the S. Lefkowitz concept will find a new home in the Ezra’s Pound location at 238 Dupont Street, which will apparently begin operating as a restaurant in the evenings.

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Restaurants

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The Oddseoul brothers are opening a Japanese snack bar on Dundas West

(Image: Caroline Youdan)

(Image: Caroline Youdan)

The building pictured above looks pretty nondescript, but there are exciting things going on behind the ho-hum facade, which used to house a men’s vintage shop called Black Flower. The space, located directly behind Churchill at 2 Lakeview Avenue (at the corner of Dundas West, across from the Beer Store), will soon be making its debut as Hanmoto, a “Nipponese snack shack” from Leemo and Leeto Han, the brothers behind Ossington snack bar Oddseoul and now-closed restaurant Swish by Han. Details about the new business are scarce, but its logo appears to show a Japanese dragon locked in a vicious embrace with a snarling tiger, so take from that what you will. We can confirm that Hanmoto will be opening as soon as its liquor license comes through, likely sometime in November.

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Restaurants

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A new brewpub will soon liven up a lonely strip of Lansdowne Avenue

(Image: Lansdowne Brewery)

(Image: Lansdowne Brewery)

Lansdowne Brewery is a soon-to-open microbrewery and restaurant housed in a slate-gray building at 303 Lansdowne Avenue, just east of the bustling junction where College Street meets Dundas West. First-time owners Jeremy Coghill and Darrin Earley aim to open their 10-barrel brewpub (for reference, Bellwoods Brewery has seven barrels) by the end of this year, or early 2015. Also on board is chef Peter Campagna, an Oliver & Bonacini alum with a passion for beer. His menu is a work in progress, but we’re told that each dish will be designed to complement the brewery’s unique roster of beers, which will include easy-drinking ales, seasonal one-offs and new versions of several “historical ales” that petered out of mainstream production in the mid 20th century. Lansdowne even has something planned for teetotalers—a fizzy (and booze-free) ginger ale.

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Food Events

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Pop-Up Pick: a grown-up Halloween feast on College Street

(Images, Depanneur storefront, The Depanneur/Facebook; other photos, chef_rouge/Instagram)

(Images, Depanneur storefront, The Depanneur/Facebook; other photos, chef_rouge/Instagram)

We’ve previously mentioned Dave Mottershall, the east-coast chef who left his prestigious job at The Chase to start a food business called Loka Snacks, which has made regular appearances at Leslieville bar Hi-Lo and, more recently, John & Sons Oyster House in the Financial District. Later this month, Mottershall will continue his city kitchen tour with a temporary stopover in Little Italy. On Halloween (or rather, the day after Halloween, so it won’t interfere with any night-of party plans), he’ll be the guest chef of honour at a weekly supper club held by The Depanneur, the brunch spot and food pop-up incubator near College and Dufferin. Mottershall’s one-night-only menu is vaguely Halloween-ish in theme—for instance, the meal starts with a mysterious “spooky” amuse bouche—but it doesn’t seem to contain any pumpkin, candy corn or gratuitous gross-out imagery (ahem). Rather, attendees will dine on veal carpaccio with red-eye mayo, maple-glazed pork belly and sticky-toffee pudding. The whole meal costs $40, and it’s B.Y.O.B.—with no corkage fees—which is an exceptional deal for an interesting, artfully prepared dinner. Costumes don’t seem to be mandatory, but we’re sure they wouldn’t be amiss.

Sat. Nov. 1. $40. The Depanneur, 1033 College St., 416-828-1990, thedepanneur.ca

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Openings

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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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Food News

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Mario Batali is maybe, sort of confident that Eataly will open in Toronto

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Eataly New York. (Image: Charles16e/Flickr)

While in town last week for the Delicious Food Show, Mario Batali managed to add some fuel to the long-smoldering rumours that Eataly, the fancy Italian-food mall with locations in Turin, Tokyo, Rome, Milan, New York and Chicago, is headed to Toronto. (Batali, at least, is a pretty good source of intel—he co-owns both of Eataly’s existing North American locations.) Last Friday, this very hedge-y quote, attributed to Batali, appeared on the Delicious show’s Twitter feed:

This isn’t the first time Batali has baited us with vaguely optimistic Eataly predictions. [Via Post City]

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New Reviews

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Review: Leslieville’s Eastside Social may be the perfect neighbourhood local

(Image: Caroline Aksich)

(Image: Caroline Aksich)

SEE ALL NEW REVIEWS
Eastside Social 2 star ½
1008 Queen St. E., 416-461-5663
Eastside Social 1 star ½
1008 Queen St. E., 416-461-5663

The ideal neighbourhood local—not too crowded, not too noisy, just-right prices—can be found in Leslieville. Eastside Social’s nautical theme (brass porthole outside, lobster trap–shaped lights within) is campy without being kitsch, and the food, cooked by former Ceili Cottage chef Chris Mentier, is refined comfort at its best.

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Food Events

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Don’t miss last call at Cask Days, the king of beer fests

(Image: Connie Tsang)

(Image: Connie Tsang)

Back in the mid-2000s, the folks at Bar Volo began a small-batch beer event on their patio and called it Cask Days. The mini-festival—which takes its name from the few days that unfiltered, unpasteurized, naturally carbonated, cask-conditioned ales are best for drinking (geeky explanation here)—eventually expanded to Hart House before moving to its current home, the Evergreen Brick Works, where it’s celebrating its 10th anniversary this weekend. There will be music, food and art, but, of course, the main attraction is the beer—and lots of it. This year’s event will feature 300 different beers and ciders, many of them original one-offs, from a ridiculously long list of breweries across Canada, the United Kingdom and California. Here’s the catch: the fest’s three regular sessions are already sold out, so anyone without a ticket will have to hold out for Sunday’s “last call,” an open-admission afternoon that will run until the beer stops flowing. The brews may not be quite as fresh, but, hey, it’s still beer.

Oct. 26. $5 admission. Evergreen Brick Works, 550 Bayview Ave., 416-596-1495, caskdays.com.

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Nightlife

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Something called a “tiki rock bar” is in the works for Leslieville

(Image: Bill Hicks Bar/Twitter)

(Image: Bill Hicks Bar/Twitter)

Bill Hicks is the name of the business that’s moving into the little second-storey space once occupied by Swirl, Leslieville’s prettiest, frilliest and most unabashedly twee hangout. Unfortunately, perhaps, for Swirl’s pinot-sipping regulars, the new spot at 946 ½ Queen Street East will be a very different breed of drinking destination. Bill Hicks calls itself a “tiki rock bar,” which apparently means a dive-y den plastered with “a shitload of vinyl” and anchored by a fully fledged indoor tiki bar, complete with $3 Jager shots and a bushy straw roof. According to a contact at the bar, the nightly luaus could begin by the end of the month.

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People

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Q&A: Victor Barry, the fine-dining holdout behind Toronto’s most famously fancy restaurant

(Image: Claire Foster)

(Image: Claire Foster)

Over the past few years, Toronto has witnessed the rise of the snack bar and the decline of traditional fine-dining. In the midst of the turmoil is chef Victor Barry, who last year pulled out of the casual restaurant biz (he parted ways with The County General and his longtime business partner, Carlo Catallo) to focus on Splendido, the 23-year bastion of fine-dining on Harbord Street. Is he desperately hanging on to a tradition that’s bound to die, or does he know something that we don’t? We caught up with Barry to talk about the state of Toronto’s restaurant scene and how it’s possible to have a great dining experience and fun at the same time.

Last year you split with The County General to focus on Splendido. Why did you decide to take that path?
The biggest reason was that Carlo Catallo was really interested in opening up more restaurants. I never really saw myself as a restaurateur—I want to have my own restaurant so that I can do my own thing, but I’m not really into opening many of them. It takes away from what I really want to do, and that’s fine dining and striving to be the best restaurant in the country.

You see these celebrity chefs who start off as artists, and then they go into nonstop expansion mode and start opening bad restaurants. I’ve never really understood that.
It’s because you make no money in fine dining. The County General sold a half to a third of what we sell here, and it made 100 per cent more profit.

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People

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Famous chef Alain Ducasse on Toronto: “C’est wow!”

Alain Ducasse was in town this week promoting a pastry-focused partnership between his French culinary school and George Brown. Of course, local news outlets pumped the world-famous chef for comments on Toronto’s food scene. Ducasse, in turn, let drop some pleasing, if somewhat vague, nuggets of praise (e.g. his overall impression of the city, as quoted in the Star: “C’est wow!”). When asked if he’d consider opening a restaurant here, the cooking legend and lifetime recipient of 21 Michelin stars (Michelin has never published a Toronto restaurant guide, just FYI) responded that he wouldn’t dare. “No,” he told the Star. “There’s too much competition here. I’m too late!” Having sampled dishes from Buca, Carmen, Scaramouche, Colette, Richmond Station and The Drake, Ducasse also observed that Toronto chefs “cook with their hearts,” and predicted that the city would be flush with Michelin stars eventually, maybe in five to 10 years.

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