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Restaurants

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Former Farmhouse Tavern chef Alex Molitz signs on at Geraldine in Parkdale

(Image: Renée Suen)

(Image: Renée Suen)

Geraldine already has the distinction of being Parkdale’s most enchanting place to sip a drink, and now it’s got something new going for it. Alex Molitz, the culinary wunderkind credited with turning Farmhouse Tavern into a bona fide dinner destination, was recently announced as the restaurant’s new head chef. Last we heard, Molitz had left Farmhouse and was about to start a new job with the Hinterland Winery in Prince Edward County (a gig that apparently didn’t last too long). Luckily, PEC’s loss was Parkdale’s gain. Molitz’s debut menu at Geraldine includes parsnip soup with pink peppercorns, wild mushroom pasta and other cozy fall dishes—just the stuff to pair with a bracing absinthe cocktail or two.

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Restaurants

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China Syndrome: DaiLo is a sexy, thrumming rendition of Toronto’s new wave pan-Asian cuisine

China Syndrome

Nick Liu, pictured at left, is a master at combining hot, sour, sweet and salty flavours in dishes like his spectacular deep-fried whole trout with Thai basil and truffle-heavy fried rice

DaiLo 2 star½
503 College St., 647-341-8882
How our star system works »

Chinese fried rice is one of my basic food groups, along with Nibs at the movies, cherry pie at a diner and, before shovelling the sidewalk, a bowl of steamy Cream of Wheat with a pat of butter. I’ve always thought straight out of a takeout box is best—the waxed paperboard imparts magical taste properties—but I’ve recently been spoiled by the version at DaiLo, the excellent new restaurant on College. Nick Liu, DaiLo’s 38-year-old chef, steams the rice with star anise, ginger and cinnamon, fries it with egg and chili-barbecue tofu, then goes all baller and adds truffle paste, truffle oil and black truffle shavings. It’s sweet and spicy and funky and rich—like Drake on a plate.

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New Reviews

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Review: The fusion cooking at Patois is bold, ambitious and strangely satisfying

(Image: Caroline Aksich)

(Image: Caroline Aksich)

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Patois 1 star ½
794 Dundas St. W., 647-350-8999
Patois 1 star ½
794 Dundas St. W., 647-350-8999

The latest fusion to hit the Toronto dining scene is Asian-Caribbean, courtesy of chef Craig Wong, whose Chinese family lived in Jamaica for three generations. The room feels just like an island patio—it’s loud, kitschy, crowded and sweltering. Wong swirls together jerk, hoisin and five-spice into strangely satisfying combinations.

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A new Chinese bao shop is coming to Queen and Bathurst

(Image: Caroline Youdan)

(Image: Caroline Youdan)

Banh Mi Boys should brace itself for some competition on the steamed-bao front. Mean Bao is already beloved amongst visitors to the Village by the Grange food court near Dundas and McCaul, where it’s been operating since mid-2013. The food counter has a knack for being right on-trend—its menu currently includes steamed-to-order dim sum, hot quinoa boxes with various toppings, and (of course) fluffy Chinese bao stuffed with interesting fillings (braised beef with Taiwanese pickle, for instance, or pulled pork with apple slaw). Now the business is expanding with a new location on Bathurst Street, just south of Queen West. The signage is already up, and recent tweets from the restaurant suggest that the opening date isn’t too far off. In the meantime, the prices alone are worth salivating over.

The Dish

Openings

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Introducing: Pizzeria Libretto’s much-anticipated (and PATH-accessible) downtown location

Introducing: Pizzeria Libretto

(Image: Renée Suen)

Name: Pizzeria Libretto
Contact Info: 155 University Ave., 416-551-0433, pizzerialibretto.com, @PizzaLibretto
Owner: Libretto Restaurant Group
Executive Chef and Partner: Rocco Agostino
Chefs di “Cucina”: Tiffany Wong and sous chef Carmen Mach

The Food: The new Libretto serves the same simple, seasonal food as the chain’s Ossington and Danforth locations. The menu is divided between rustic Italian starters (including chef Agostino’s namesake arugula salad with squash and beets) and generously topped Neapolitan pizzas, which are flash-baked for 90 seconds each. At $15 for three courses, the weekday prix-fixe lunch menu is one of the better deals downtown.

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People

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Mark Wahlberg on burgers, 9/11 and his ongoing love affair with Toronto

Mark Wahlberg loves Toronto. And not just because he’s opening up a Wahlburgers restaurant here and wants to move product. He really, really loves it. Here’s why

(Image: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images for Paramount Pictures International)

(Image: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images for Paramount Pictures International)

You and your brothers Paul and Donnie recently opened a Wahlburgers on Blue Jays Way. There are already one million burger joints in this city. What sets a Wahlburger patty apart?
Wow, I dunno. I haven’t visited all one million. In fact, I don’t know anything about the competition. But I do know that my brother Paul is an absolute rock star in the kitchen. It’s one thing to have a celebrity name to draw people in, but it’s his food that keeps people coming back.

What is it about the food?
They’re really, really good burgers. We have the basics, and Paul, Donnie and I each have our own signature creations, but we have mushroom and salmon burgers, too. It’s a pretty extensive menu.

The original Wahlburgers is in Boston. Why did you choose Toronto for your first expansion site?
It’s a great place to test the waters. If a film does well at TIFF, it stands a great chance of being successful around the world. I think the same is true of restaurants. It’s a cutting-edge city with a lot of cool people. If you can make it in Toronto, you can make it anywhere.

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Openings

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Introducing: Wilbur Mexicana, the slick new Mexican restaurant on King West

(Image: Gizelle Lau)

(Image: Gizelle Lau)

Name: Wilbur Mexicana
Contact Info: 552 King St. W., wilburmexicana.com, @WilburMexicana
Neighbourhood: King West
Owners: Will Cumberland, Baird Cumberland and Stephen Chan
Chefs: Daniel Janetos, previously the chef de cuisine at Farmhouse Tavern, and Mario Escobar

The Food: The short menu sticks to simple Mexican street food dishes, mostly of the tortilla-wrapped variety (tacos, burritos, quesadillas, etc.). To start, there’s queso-topped corn and traditional guacamole with chips. The salsa bar stocks eight condiments of varying intensity, including a dare-worthy blend laced with ghost peppers. 

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New Reviews

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Review: Thoroughbred on Richmond Street West is an excellent post-work party spot

(Image: Caroline Aksich)

(Image: Caroline Aksich)

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Thoroughbred 2 star
304 Richmond St. W., 416-551-9221
Thoroughbred 2 star
304 Richmond St. W., 416-551-9221

The DJ’s electro-indie-pop thrums and the well-crafted cocktails go down far too easy at this quintessential after-work party spot. The owners debuted their high-low concept at the Underground Market, where they sold foie gras pop tarts. Thoroughbred’s sharing menus (one vegetarian, one omnivorous) have that same winning mash-up.

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Food News

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Sorry, smokers—no more patios for you

Smoking

(Image: Kari Söderholm)

By the time next spring rolls around, stony glares won’t be the only things stopping smokers from lighting up on patios. Earlier today, the Ontario government announced a new prohibition on smoking cigarettes (and, presumably, anything else) on non-covered bar and restaurant patios throughout the province. (The Smoke-Free Ontario Act currently prohibits smoking in covered outdoor areas, but not on open-air patios.) The ban will extend to a few other places as well, including children’s playgrounds, ice rinks and sports fields, but it’s the patio component that’s likely to incite the loudest grumbles (or cheers, depending). The new rules don’t go into effect until January 1, 2015, so smokers have some time to cram in a few more outdoor-puffing sessions.

The Dish

Openings

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Introducing: Bar Fancy, Chantecler chef Jonathan Poon’s new Queen West snack bar

(Image: Gizelle Lau)

(Image: Gizelle Lau)

Name: Bar Fancy
Contact Info: 1070 Queen St. W., 416-546-1416, @BarFancyTO
Neighbourhood: West Queen West
Owners/chefs: Chantecler’s Jonathan Poon and former Fabbrica chef (and Chopped Canada contestant) Jesse Fader

The Food: “Cheap and cheerful” is how Poon describes the dishes on his short snack menu. “We take a serious approach to food, but it isn’t—ironically—fancy.” Everything’s plated on colourful Melamine tableware, including two different chicken dishes: jumbo wings seasoned with mouth-tingling Sichuan peppercorns and fried chicken pieces paired with pickles, butter and springy white Wonder Bread. The menu will soon be expanded to include some larger options, like a 32-ounce rib-eye steak.

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The Dish

Food Shops

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Meet Bloorcourt bar The Steady’s award-winning vegan doughnut bagel (bagnut? doughgel?)

(Image: Courtesy of Food Network Canada)

(Image: Courtesy of Donut Showdown)

It takes a skilled chef to churn out great-tasting baked goods without using butter, milk or eggs. Last week, Toronto pastry whiz Vanessa Robak, the resident vegan-doughnut maker at Bloorcourt bar and café The Steady, proved her mastery by besting two other North American chefs on an episode of Food Network Canada’s weekly televised bake-off, Donut Showdown. Robak (with partner Baden Cunning) swayed the judges with three unique doughnut recipes, including a wasabi doughnut with sesame seeds and candied ginger, a champagne-glazed pastry with a Pop Rocks garnish and—most intriguing, perhaps—a bagel-esque hybrid with poppy seeds on top and cream cheese icing in the middle. The Steady has been serving its winning pastries throughout the week. (Check the café’s Twitter feed for future updates on daily doughnut flavours.)

The Dish

Nightlife

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Little Portugal gets a sporty new addition

The equally nondescript exterior. (Image: Caroline Youdan)

The equally nondescript exterior. (Image: Caroline Youdan)

The Contender, a new sports bar in Little Portugal, is a bit of a departure for the trendy stretch of Dundas between Ossington and Dufferin. (There is one other dedicated game-watching venue nearby, The Dock Ellis, but its velvet sofas and wonton-chorizo nachos aren’t exactly standard.) The new bar is reportedly backed by a consortium of local business owners, including The Lakeview’Alex Sengupta and John Vetere. And it appears to be the real, no-frills deal: the place is huge, the decor is nondescript and the walls are spotted with about 100 variously sized televisions. (Well, maybe not 100, but a considerable number.) The laid-back vibe extends to food and drink, which are also pretty basic—there are 12 beers on draught and a short menu of concession-style snacks, including pretzels, foot-long hotdogs and nachos (the regular kind—no wontons here).

The Contender, 1166 Dundas St. W., 416-792-3513, facebook.com

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People

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Robert Pattinson sips juice on Bay Street, lunches with girlfriend FKA Twigs in Little Portugal

robert-pattinsonEarlier this week, Robert Pattinson—the man who brought both Edward Cullen and Cedric Diggory to life on the big screen—was spotted hanging out at various Toronto eateries, including Luna café in Little Portugal (near Dundas and Dovercourt), where he ate with girlfriend FKA Twigs, and Bay Street lunch spot IQ Food Co., where he sat in a window seat sipping juice. Pattinson’s new film, a crime drama called Idol’s Eye co-starring Robert de Niro, was scheduled to start shooting in Toronto later this month; however, news broke Monday that the film had been cancelled due to lack of funding. Despite the bad news, Pattinson looked loose and easy (and very mustachioed—here’s hoping that’s a Movember thing) as he strolled around town holding hands and eating cookies with Twigs, who seemed remarkably comfortable for someone who is the object of an entire fandom’s worth of misdirected tween rage.

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Closings

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RIP Ortolan, the pioneering restaurant on Bloor West

(Image: Catherine Gerson)

(Image: Catherine Gerson)

When Ortolan opened in 2011, its quiet seasonal cooking stood out on a strip of Bloor West known for its men’s clubs and discount furniture stores. It made an immediate impression, even landing on Toronto Life’s list of the year’s best new restaurants. Since then, neighbouring spots The Emerson and Whippoorwill have helped turn the once-seedy strip between Dufferin and Lansdowne into a miniature restaurant row. Unfortunately, the added foot traffic doesn’t seem to have been enough to keep the pioneering business afloat. Yesterday, Ortolan announced its impending closure over Twitter. Anyone looking to savour one last supper will have to act fast—the restaurant’s final meals will be served this Friday, November 7.

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The Ridiculist

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Seven daunting dumpling plates from Toronto’s new all-pierogi restaurant

loaded-pierogi-intro

(Image: Caroline Aksich)

At Loaded Pierogi, a soon-to-open snack shop near Church and Front streets (the grand debut is tomorrow, November 5), all plates start with a base of traditional potato pierogies, either boiled or fried. But that’s where tradition ends and innovation (or sacrilege, depending on your viewpoint) begins. The Eastern Euro dumplings are piled high with all kinds of peculiar toppings, like lobster chunks and hollandaise sauce, or an entire confit duck leg with gravy. Between the melted cheese and goopy sauces, there’s a poutine-ish ring to the whole thing—not that we’re complaining. Here are seven pierogi plates babcia never dreamed of, ranked from least to most unusual.

Loaded Pierogi, 9 1/2 Church St., 647-503-3338, loadedpierogi.com

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