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

Free Stuff

4 Comments

Get an entire free lunch at Big Smoke Burger

(Image: Big Smoke Burger )

(Image: Big Smoke Burger )

Next Tuesday—that’s February 17—Big Smoke Burger‘s flagship location on King West is reopening after closing for renovations last November. To celebrate, they’re giving away burgers, fries and fountain drinks for free to anyone who shows up. Customers will be able to choose from a four-ounce classic burger or cheeseburger. Each will be served with ‘the works’ (iceberg lettuce, tomato, red onion, sliced pickles, ketchup, mayonnaise, dijon mustard and fresh jalapeno), unless otherwise requested. Instead of payment, Big Smoke is asking customers make a donation to the Toronto Kiwanis Boys & Girls Club, every dollar of which the burger joint will match. The patties will be passed out starting at 11 a.m., so get there early.

Tues. Feb. 17, 11 a.m.–2 p.m., 573 King St. W., 416-596-6660, bigsmokeburger.com

The Dish

Restaurants

1 Comment

Where can you still score a table for two on Valentine’s Day? These places. (But hurry.)

What restaurants still have available Valentine's Day reservations?

(Images: Dave Gillespie)

No Valentine’s Day reservations? Don’t break out that that fail-safe bolognese recipe just yet. We called around to places that have made our Best New Restaurants lists over the past three years. As of Wednesday night, 15 of them still had some tables for two available (or walk-in space for stragglers), meaning there may still be time to arrange dinner with your loved one at one of Toronto’s top spots. Here’s where all the openings are at:

Read the rest of this entry »

The Dish

Food Shops

1 Comment

Ossington butcher shop Côte de Boeuf is now also a snack bar, sometimes

(Image: Renée Suen)

(Image: Renée Suen)

Whether it needed one or not, the Ossington strip has gained yet another epicurean attraction. The peckish and thirsty can now dine (and wine) while shopping for dry-aged steak and heritage chicken at Côte de Boeuf, the neighbourhood’s famously fancy butcher shop. Last month, brothers Chasen Gillies and Teo Paul (of Union) began hosting “Baron Rouge Nights” four nights a week, during which they turn their grocery store into a low-key, sit-down watering hole. Inspired by Le Baron Rouge, a popular Parisian wine bar, Côte de Boeuf is offering a selection of bites including freshly shucked oysters, charcuterie, cheese platters and tartiflette (a gooey casserole made with bacon, potato and cheese). The fully licensed space can seat up to nine, with enough room left between its repurposed-wine-barrel tables for late-night shoppers looking to stock their pantries.

Thurs.–Sun., 5 p.m.–10 p.m., 130 Ossington Ave., 416-532-2333, cdbossington.com 

The Dish

Food Shops

17 Comments

Whey cool: inside Cheese Boutique’s jam-packed, million-dollar cheese vault

Click to see a larger version. (Image: Renée Suen)

Click to see a larger version. (Image: Renée Suen)

Cheese Boutique, the 10,000-square-foot gourmet food store on the edge of Etobicoke, is not your standard grocer. Even more impressive than its selection of specialty goods (and that Google Street View has been inside) is its in-store, open-to-the-public cheese vault that stocks $1-million worth of dairy products. Afrim Pristine, co-owner and one of six maîtres fromager in Canada, showed us what’s hiding where.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Dish

The Ridiculist

5 Comments

Twelve cholesterol-filled creations at Junked Food Co.

(Image: Caroline Aksich)

(Image: Caroline Aksich)

The junk food mash-ups at this new Dundas West snack shop border on the perverse: doughnut grilled cheese sandwiches, waffle pizzas and Dorito pies are just a few of the stoner-approved dishes on the menu. The aptly named Junked Food Co. is angling to become the post-last-call nosh mecca of the neighbourhood, eliminating the need for Lakeview lineups and 7-Eleven taquitos. And, since everything’s made in-house (except for the Oreos, Doritos and Cheez Whiz), the guilt of wolfing down a two-pound deep-dish pizza at 3 a.m. is (slightly) lessened. Here are 12 of Junked Food Co.’s creations, ranked from relatively tame, to “How did I end up at the CNE?”

Junked Food Co., 1256 Dundas St. W., 647-343-5326, junkedfoodco.com

The Dish

New Reviews

3 Comments

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

(Image: Gizelle Lau)

(Image: Gizelle Lau)

SEE ALL NEW REVIEWS
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.

Have an opinion on Wilbur Mexicana? Add your review here »

The Dish

New Reviews

1 Comment

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

Introducing: Parlor Foods

(Image: Gizelle Lau)

SEE ALL NEW REVIEWS
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.

Have an opinion on Parlor Foods and Co.? Add your review here »

The Dish

Closings

4 Comments

Addis Ababa is having landlord problems again

(Image: Rebecca Fleming)

(Image: Rebecca Fleming)

For the second time in just over a yearAddis Ababa has been forced to close. In December 2013, bailiffs served the longstanding West Queen West Ethiopian restaurant with a notice of distress, saying they owed their landlord $41,980, according to The Grid. And then, two months later, they reopened. But in what now seems to be an unfortunate tradition, the spot is once again out of business, with another notice of distress slapped onto its front door. That notice, dated January 6, 2015, says that this time, they owe $80,000. Calls to the restaurant and a number listed under the same name as owner Aster Ketsela Belayneh both led to functioning, but full, voice mailboxes.

The Dish

New Reviews

1 Comment

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

Introducing: Nana

(Image: Jackie Pal)

SEE ALL NEW REVIEWS
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.

Have an opinion on Nana? Add your review here »

The Dish

New Reviews

1 Comment

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

(Image: Jackie Pal)

(Image: Jackie Pal)

SEE ALL NEW REVIEWS
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.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Dish

Openings

1 Comment

Introducing: Campo, a newish neighbourhood trattoria in Baby Point

(Image: Jackie Pal)

(Image: Jackie Pal)

Name: Campo
Contact Info: 244 Jane St., 647.346.2267, camporestaurant.com, @CampoRestaurant
Previously: Fish Camp
Neighbourhood: Baby Point
Owner and Executive Chefs: Carlos Ventura and Joe Fiocco

The Food: The Baby Point spot, serving a menu of homey Spanish and Italian dishes, opened to little fanfare in the fall. Expect old-school recipes like the handmade gnocchi, pan-seared branzino and brandada de bacalao with milk-stewed salt cod. Almost everything is done in-house, including the made-to-order tiramisu. Brunch is available on weekends and features purgatorio baked eggs (eggs baked in a spicy tomato sauce), toasted country bread bennies and huevos revueltos (scrambled eggs) with stracchino cheese.

The Drinks: Cocktails with Italian and Spanish twists, local beers, a selection of reds and whites by the glass or bottle, a lengthy digestivo menu that includes some rare amaros, and freshly pressed Americanos (of course).

The Place: Gone is the kitschy interior of Campo’s predecessor, Fish Camp; owners Joe Fiocco and Carlos Ventura turned it into a charming, clean-lined trattoria with a farmhouse feel.

The Dish

Restaurants

10 Comments

Fat City Blues wants to bring N’awlins to College Street

(Image: Rebecca Fleming)

(Image: Rebecca Fleming)

The owners of Parkdale’s Small Town Food Co. and former Drake Hotel bartender Simon Ho are teaming up to bring a taste of Louisiana to Dufferin Grove. Fat City Blues—named for a New Orleans entertainment district popular in the ’70s and ’80s—is set to open later this month at College and Delaware where Huntsman Tavern used to be. Fat City Blues will primarily be a live blues and jazz bar, which means that the focus will be on what’s pouring: the drinks menu will feature classic NOLA cocktails (French 75s, sazeracs, hurricanes) as well as the bar’s own twists on them; cans of easy-drinking beer; and a signature brew the guys are working on with Duggan’s Brewery that’s yet to be named (but really, how could it not be “Fat City Brews”?). Of course, there will be po’ boys as well as baked oysters, and come warmer weather, the patio will host crab boils—“Good, simple food,” says chef Talis Baker-Voakes. “When you go to a restaurant in New Orleans, you feel like you’re going into someone’s house. It’s really welcoming,” says Ho. “We want to bring back that social aspect to eating and drinking.”

The Dish

New Reviews

1 Comment

Review: Ovest serves delicate, rustic Italian dishes to the King West crowd

(Image: Jackie Pai)

(Image: Jackie Pai)

SEE ALL NEW REVIEWS
Ovest 1 star ½
788 King St. W., 416-214-6161
Ovest 1 star ½
788 King St. W., 416-214-6161

The rustic-meets-industrial decor of this new, massive King West spot will be familiar to those who’ve sampled the city’s trendiest Italian spots, as will the enthusiastic, accented service. Cranked prices reflect the fashion-conscious clientele (Liberty Villagers and King West nightlifers) who arrive in droves. The expert technique of ex-Terroni executive chef Luca Stracquadanio and his kitchen team is highlighted in nearly every intricately presented dish. Lemon and olive drizzle tops lightly smoked, buttery soft swordfish, punctuated with bright and punchy marinated anchovies. It’s a must-order. Gnocchi, prepared with squid ink and served with a generous helping of sweet lobster, are good, if a little doughy. A wood-oven pizza topped with mortadella meets the city’s unusually high standard for Napolitana-style pie. A rabbit secondo really showcases Stracquadanio’s skill, with the meat first cooked sous vide, then rolled with porcini and speck, grilled and served on a cauliflower puree. The wine list offers more than 150 bottles.

Have an opinion on Ovest? Add your review here »

The Dish

Openings

1 Comment

Introducing: Hanmoto, a Little Portugal izakaya from OddSeoul’s co-owner

(Image: Renée Suen)

(Image: Renée Suen)

Name: Hanmoto
Contact Info: 2 Lakeview Ave., @HANMOTO_
Neighbourhood: Little Portugal
Owner and Executive Chef: Leemo Han (OddSeoul)
Chef: Joe Kim (Electric Mud BBQ, Origin Liberty, Momofuku Toronto)
Bartender: Ihn Huh (Swish by Han)

The Food: A short menu divided into raw and hot items that, in izakaya fashion, are meant to accompany booze. Expect to find Japanese riffs on snack food favourites like the Moto Bun, a fried coco bun filled with Japanese chicken curry and Jamaican slaw; and something called Dyno Wings, deep-fried, deboned chicken wings stuffed dumpling-style with seasoned ground pork, then tossed in a spicy house-made sauce. The Uni Bomb—a daily special and the bar’s play on do-it-yourself tacos—features tongues of sea urchin and all the ingredients needed to make your own hand cones.

The Drinks: A short list of beers, including a few Asian brands, available in bottles, cans or on tap; a few house wines; and a rotating selection of cocktails that, like the food, have a Japanese spin.

The Place: Garage grunge meets Art Deco, with a hit of neon. Han and his father decorated the eclectic space with salvaged finds, like the chairs and the prescription sign hung above vintage cabinets, along with metalwork from the now closed Swish by Han.

The Dish

New Reviews

2 Comments

Review: Bar Fancy, Jonathan Poon’s new snack bar on Queen West, is an easy win

(Image: Gizelle Lau)

(Image: Gizelle Lau)

SEE ALL NEW REVIEWS
Bar Fancy 2 star
1070 Queen St. W., 416-546-1416
Bar Fancy 2 star
1070 Queen St. W., 416-546-1416

With Chantecler, Jonathan Poon proved he could make an ambitious restaurant work in down-and-out Parkdale. His latest project is comparatively easy: a casual snack and drinks place, reached down an alley, smack in the middle of the Queen West bachelorette party district. It’s casual in the extreme: tables are small and closely packed, baseball capped servers crank the volume on Young Americans, and there’s not a mixologist for miles (the drinks list is, for this ’hood, impressively cheap and limited to bar rail and microbrews). Food comes on melamine plates but is coyly posh: smoky shaved ham shoulder and extra-old cheddar with crusty bread, slices of royal gala and a dipping pot of flowery honey; minerally malpeques with a Vietnamese-inspired sauce; and deep fried chicken in a thin, five-spiced batter. His chicken wings, coated with a Szechuan numbing salt that builds with each bite until your mouth burns like a five alarm fire, seems like a cruel joke on the street’s punters.

Have an opinion on Bar Fancy? Add your review here »