Toronto Life - The Dish

The latest buzz on restaurants, chefs, bars, food shops and food events. Sign up for the Dish newsletter for weekly updates. Send tips to thedish@torontolife.com

The Dish

Restaurants

1 Comment

French Immersion: Cluny is a belle époque fantasia of marble, mirrors and giant portions

Cluny, an ambitious new bistro in the Distillery District, elevates the neighbourhood’s ho-hum restaurant scene

The Critic: French Immersion

Top: Cluny’s dramatic coffered ceiling, intricate tiled floor and crusty house-baked loaves laid out on a central bread station add up to a supersized Parisian bistro; Bottom (left): A rich veal meatball, pierced tomahawk-style with a rib-eye bone, is offset by a bright tomato sauce; Bottom (right): The menu offers six options for steak frites

Cluny Bistro 1 star½
35 Tank House Ln., 416-203-2632


Fifteen years ago, arts degree in hand and no prospects in sight, I took a job as a background extra in the first X-Men movie. It sounded exciting, especially the $250 a day, which was a suspiciously high compensation for someone with no acting experience. I arrived at a set in the defunct Gooderham and Worts distillery on ­Parliament, and followed my fellow extras into a warehouse where we were given scratchy woolen prison outfits and had our heads shaved. It turned out we were playing inmates in a concentration camp for a flashback scene with the villain ­Magneto. This left me uneasy, and I considered grabbing my stuff and fleeing—until I remembered the money. I spent the next three days in ankle-deep mud, drenched by rain machines, wondering what the whiskey barons would have made of all of it. The movie’s final cut includes a split-second shot of what I believe to be my forearm.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Dish

New Reviews

Comments

Review: strong cocktails and excellent fusion food at Rasa in Harbord Village

Introducing: Rasa

(Image: Megan Leahy)

SEE ALL NEW REVIEWS
Rasa 2 star
196 Robert St., 647-350-8221
Rasa 2 star
196 Robert St., 647-350-8221

The owners of Toronto’s Food Dudes catering, known for trendy comfort-fusion food, have overhauled the Harbord Street space formerly occupied by U of T haunt Momo’s. The subterranean room now resembles a civil war–era cabin, with its exposed pipes, stonework and bulbs, plus ruddy wood cladding. The 50-seat wraparound patio is reason enough to visit, looking out onto the restaurant strip’s sidewalk filled with posh couples stepping out of cabs, cyclists locking up and professorial types walking their doodle mixes. The menu is all over the culinary map: the 20 sharing plates range from delicate and fresh, like Asian-inspired yuzu albacore cubes on squid-ink brioche, to stick-to-your-ribs hearty, like a Korean-Ukranian kalbi steak cabbage roll. That diversity, along with touches of exuberance, make ordering fun, even if it’s difficult to put together a harmonious meal.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Dish

Restaurants

2 Comments

Remys rooftop reopens as “Montage,” just in time for fall

(Rendering: Thunder Alley Group)

(Rendering: Thunder Alley Group)

Anyone who’s been grieving the loss of Yorkville’s longstanding rooftop bar can breathe a sigh of relief: the patio formerly known as Remys Yorkville is finally reopening, albeit in modified form. Now called Montage, the building at 115 Yorkville Avenue has been turned into a fancy restaurant and lounge with designated members-only areas, access to which can apparently be purchased for a hefty annual fee. The restaurant won’t be open until later this year, but the revamped rooftop area—complete with private cabanas and bottle service—officially “premiered” last weekend, just in time for the end of TIFF and the beginning of autumn. As for the overall vibe, the Montage website offers this: “Fly to the moon and play among the stars up on this vast rooftop space limited only by our Yorkville neighbours and your imagination. Sit, stir or be stirred; the choice is yours.” So, there you have it. Judging by some other aspects of the website, guests can also expect lots of quasi-Roman symbology and sexy ladies smoking cigars.
 
Montage, 115 Yorkville Ave., 416-968-9429, montageyorkville.com

The Dish

The Ridiculist

3 Comments

Seven totally bonkers burgers from a new patty shop in Woodbine Heights

Seven totally bonkers burgers from East York's newest patty shop

(Image: Caroline Aksich)

Hole-E Burger Bar, a new restaurant on Coxwell Avenue just north of East York, gets its name from the trio of holes stamped into every patty cooked on the kitchen’s flattop. Owners Justin Lebofsky and Sam Gan claim that the perforations help ensure an even cook. Also, the tri-pronged contraption used to make the holes doubles as a flavour injector, allowing sauces to be piped directly into the meat. The ingenuity doesn’t stop there—these teetering stacks come topped with things like crushed nachos, mounds of mashed potatoes and, in a few cases, something called a “cheese skirt.” Here, seven of Hole-E’s most creative burgers, ranked from “slightly out-there” to totally bonkers.

Hole-E Burger Bar, 1050 Coxwell Ave., 647-349-9200, holeeburger.com

The Dish

New Reviews

2 Comments

Review: Portland Variety is a low-key surprise on clubby King West

(Image: Jackie Pal)

(Image: Jackie Pal)

SEE ALL NEW REVIEWS
Portland Variety 2 star½
587 King St. W., 416-368-5151

This serene new tapas bar is a delightfully low-key surprise in the middle of the King West fracas. (Imagine the also-good Patria just up the street but without the ostentation and slavish devotion to Iberian purity.) Though you wouldn’t know it on first glance. The pristine white-on-gray room is decked out in neighbourhood-appropriate tufted leather banquettes and marble, and the servers sport hokey gingham shirts bound in old-timey suspenders, but beneath the trendy veneer is a refreshingly simple and down-to-earth Spanish(ish) menu.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Dish

Restaurants

Comments

Bloor Street restaurant shakes up the miniature meat pie game, with science

(Image: saetastic/Instagram)

(Image: saetastic/Instagram)

Pie Squared is a new fast-food restaurant located just west of Cabbagetown, on a somewhat lonely stretch of Bloor Street East. It’s the latest Toronto business to specialize exclusively in savoury pies, and it’s bringing two new things to the meat-and-pastry game: a whole new shape (square!) and a dorky gimmick. The shop’s tagline is “The science of the perfect pie,” and it’s the unwavering commitment to that theme that impresses: the servers wear white lab coats, the menu is laid out like the periodic table, and each crusty pocket has a fictional elemental symbol branded onto its surface (“Tc” for tandoori chicken and vegetable, “Sc” for steak and cheese). Combo “reactions” are priced between $7 to $8.50, which is pretty cheap for a filling lunch, but possibly not worth the embarrassment of ordering an “Eπ²” out loud.

Pie Squared, 366 Bloor St. E., facebook.com

The Dish

Food Events

Comments

Toronto Underground Market calls it quits (for now)

(Image: Renée Suen)

(Image: Renée Suen)

Like the unfortunate female crab spider, the food festival appears to have been snuffed out by its own prodigious offspring. Last Friday, TUM’s organizers announced over social media that the fest’s three-year anniversary party on Saturday, September 27 will be “the last #TUM event as we know it.”
 
When it started back in 2011, the Toronto Underground helped revitalize the city’s culinary-events scene by luring food lovers to the Evergreen Brick Works to sample dishes prepped by aspiring chefs—several of whom went on to make big names for themselves. Naturally, the formula’s success gave rise to copycats, and, three years later, here we are—in a post pop-up city where it’s impossible to walk a block without tripping over an Asian street-food festival, and where TUM’s quarterly pig-outs no longer attract the hungry throngs they used to.
 
TUM’s final event at 99 Sudbury will reunite a bunch of the festival’s power-alumni, including La Carnita, Rock Lobster and Fidel Gastro. It’s not clear what will happen after that, but TUM fans may draw hope from this slightly cryptic note on the festival’s Facebook page: “Don’t worry, TUM is not going away after this celebration, just changing.”

The Dish

Openings

1 Comment

Introducing: Nodo, a stylish new Italian restaurant in the Junction

Introducing: Nodo, a stylish new Italian restaurant in the Junction

Name: Nodo
Contact Info: 2885 Dundas St W., 416-901-1559, nodorestaurant.ca
Neighbourhood: The Junction
Owners: High school friends Vito Tomasicchio, Gianmarco DeZorzi and Charlie Giordano
Chef: Roberto Marotta, the former executive chef at Parkdale’s Maialino Enoteca

The Food: Sicilian-born chef Roberto Marotta cooks Italian comfort food with some contemporary flourishes—the Terra e Bosco (“earth to forest”) platter, for instance, is artfully strewn with jewel-toned veggies and pools of creamy ricotta dressing. Gnocchi comes two ways: “new school” (with wild mushrooms and corn in a truffle-garlic cream sauce) or “old school” (tossed with Brussels sprout leaves in a wild boar ragu). The pistachio-topped cannoli is made from a secret recipe passed down by Marotta’s grandmother.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Dish

Closings

Comments

So Long, Red Tea Box
(Image: Merriam H./Yelp)

(Image: Merriam H./Yelp)

 

Queen West residents will soon have one less window to gawk at. Red Tea Box opened 14 years ago near the corner of Queen and Manning, back when the West Queen West strip was still a dodgy place to loiter after sunset. The bakery-café was known for its dainty bento box lunches, exotic loose-leaf teas and fanciful window displays of multi-tiered cakes. Now, it seems the shop is closing due to the departure of a key staff member. Management left a detailed note about the closure in the shop’s window, offering up a few words of advice: “Remember to live more, and blog less. Take the time to notice the small, the shiny and the flavourful. Farewell and keep well. Perhaps we will see you in another incarnation.” [Via BlogTO]

The Dish

Openings

Comments

Introducing: Branca, an Argentine grill house in a former residential home on Dundas West

Introducing: Branca

Name: Branca
Contact Info: 1727 Dundas St. W., 416-519-8165, branca.ca, @BRANCA_TO
Neighbourhood: Dundas West
Owner: James Bateman
Chef: Kanida Chey, the former chef de cuisine at Weslodge

The Food: Barbecued meats, cooked via traditional Argentinian methods—a charcoal parrilla grill for smaller cuts, and a blazing wood fire for large cuts and whole animals. Short ribs and skirt steak are sliced, fanned across a wooden board and served with house-made chimichurri, harissa and salsa criolla, an Argentinian condiment made with onions and vinegar. Starters include grilled shrimp and Spanish octopus.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Dish

Drinks

1 Comment

Autumn Brews: 10 cosy craft beers hitting LCBO shelves this fall

Autumn Brews: ten great craft beers hitting LCBO shelves this fall

Ah, fall. Crisp air, cool nights, and big, hearty beers that’ll warm you up like a chunky sweater. This autumn’s stouts, porters and seasonal harvest ales deliver roasted malts, creamy textures and the toe-tingling warmth of a higher-than-average ABVs. Here, the 10 best brews hitting LCBO shelves this month, from Danish flavour bombs to Halloween-themed bottles.

Numbers: 1 (Green)Great Lakes Brewery Saison Dupump
$5.95 | 650 mL | 5.2%

Pumpkin beers can be polarizing—some beer geeks them, others hate them. We’re pretty big fans, albeit only in moderation, which is why this unique take on the traditional Belgian saison has us excited. The saison profile still dominates with peppery yeast and bready malts, while spices like nutmeg and clove remain soft and subtle. It delivers pumpkin pie flavours, but remains very drinkable.

Numbers: 2 (Green)Hitachino Nest Espresso Stout
$4.25 | 330 mL | 7.5%

This Japanese stout takes the dark chocolate profile of roasted malts and adds fresh espresso beans to deliver a mocha-like flavour with hints of molasses, brown sugar and a light bitterness on the finish.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Dish

Food Shops

2 Comments

Grab juice, lunch or a jolt of caffeine at this cute new café in Christie Pits

(Images: Gizelle Lau)

(Images: Gizelle Lau)

With smoothies trending in Yorkville, Leslieville and Liberty Village, it’s no surprise that Christie Pits now has a dedicated destination for healthy elixirs. Fueled, which opened earlier this month at Bloor and Ossington (across the street from the subway station), has the sleek white walls and rustic wooden touches of a trendy indie café, but its menu is pure granola: fruit and veggie juices jacked hemp seeds and ginger, and elaborate rice bowls topped with zingy vinaigrettes (the signature “Fueled” box includes rice, greens, roasted sweet potatoes, mushrooms, zucchini, “spicy cashew cream” and ponzu-tamari dressing.) One vice, at least, is permitted: espresso-based drinks (made with beans from Pilot Coffee Roasters) are blasted out of a massive silver Simonelli machine.

Fueled Espresso and Fresh Bar, 739 Ossington Ave., 647-849-0078, fueledcafe.ca, @fueledcafe

The Dish

Restaurants

2 Comments

Pop-Up Pick: In-N-Out burgers are coming to a historic mansion on Jarvis Street

(Images:

(Images: sign, Anthony Quintano/Flickr; kitchen, D.C.Atty/Flickr; Osteria di Ganzi, Renée Suen; burger and fries, Sarah J/Flickr)

In-N-Out patties are, for some, the Platonic burger ideal—squashy, sloppy and sizzled on a flattop, with just the right ratio of grease to salt—and they’re coming to Toronto, at least temporarily. Ganzi Osteria, the Italian restaurant in the historic Gooderham House on Jarvis Street, announced earlier today that it’s hosting the fast-food chain for a lunchtime pop-up tomorrow (i.e. Thursday, September 11) from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. According to the flyer, people will be able to choose from three burger options: Double-Double (two patties, two slices of cheese), Animal Style (mustard-grilled patty with lettuce, tomato, pickles, grilled onions and extra spread) or Protein Style (a burger wrapped in lettuce). One can only speculate about what, if anything, this means for the future of Toronto burgerdom, but there’s a chance it will spell good stuff for local In-N-Out fiends (and less good stuff for the Priest).

Thurs., Sept. 11, 11-3, Ganzi Osteria, 504 Jarvis St., twitter.com

The Dish

Restaurants

Comments

Chantecler’s Jonathan Poon is probably opening a new restaurant on Queen West

 (Image: Bar Fancy/Twitter)

(Image: Bar Fancy/Twitter)

For a couple months now, we’ve been keeping an eye on the Twitter account for Bar Fancy, a new restaurant scheduled to open on Queen West this fall. The psychedelic pizza avatar may not scream “serious culinary endeavor,” but we’d bet good money that it’s a new restaurant from Chantecler co-owner and chef Jonathan Poon, which would make it one of fall’s most exciting openings. The biggest clue? Poon has been aggressively re-tweeting all of Bar Fancy’s tweets, and most of Bar Fancy’s photos, including ones from a recent eating tour of New York, have been reappearing on Poon’s personal Instagram feed—the most recent being this pic of the under-construction restaurant’s interior, which was posted by Poon with the caption “Day 1.” The apparently gold-plated space seems to be located at 1070 Queen West, just east of Dovercourt. Updates to come.

The Dish

Food Shops

3 Comments

This Junction shop makes Calabrese sausage sandwiches from a 100-year-old recipe

(Images: Gizelle Lau)

(Images: Gizelle Lau)

Over in the Junction, Sorella Toronto is saluting the neighbourhood’s meatpacking history with its authentic Italian sausages. Owner Mario Garisto, who opened the little shop earlier this summer, grinds sausages from a 100-year-old recipe passed down from his great-grandmother (who’s still alive at 101) and perfected by his mother. The plump links are made with pork butt, natural casings, a little seasoning (fennel, chili), and that’s it—no fillers, nitrates, oils or even water. (Chicken, lamb, beef and turkey sausages can also be made to order.) For on-the-spot eating, soft buns from Solero Bakery are topped with mild, medium or “Garisto spicy” sausages, plus optional toppings like rapini, caramelized onions, tomato salsa and homemade garlic oil (there’s ketchup, too, if you must). Six bucks buys a sausage sandwich and a drink.

Sorella Toronto, 2763 Dundas St. W., 647-773-2582, sorellatoronto.com, @sorellatoronto

Advertisement

Advertisement

Advertisement