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Restaurants

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Millie Pâtisserie brings more Japanese-style desserts to the downtown core

Millie Patisserie's Japanese cheesecake tarts

(Image: Renée Suen)

Kensington’s Millie Crêperie has opened a sister shop, also specializing in French-inspired Japanese-style pastries, at Adelaide and Spadina. It’s the newest in a string of Asian-influenced bakeries (Kekou Gelato, Lucullus, Uncle Tetsu) to open downtown. Owner Christinn Hua also moved her production facility to the new 700-square-foot space, which is a big upgrade from her wee flagship in the market. The Oxley Street–facing storefront is a candy store, bakery and creamery in one, the display cases loaded with freshly made gelato; green tea, black sesame and yuzu cheesecake tarts; Japanese pudding cups (like upside-down crème caramel); and Hua’s signature mille-crêpe cake in many tempting flavours (though we say go for champagne. Because, champagne).

12 Oxley St., #101, (416) 596-0063, facebook.com

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Openings

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Introducing: Merenda Kitchen, a new Italian spot in Liberty Village

Merenda Kitchen brings eco-conscious Italian to Liberty Village

(Image: Gabby Frank)

Name: Merenda Kitchen
Neighbourhood: Liberty Village
Contact: 171 East Liberty St., #144, 416-583-2131, merenda.kitchen, @MerendaKitchen
Owners: Fabio Gelmo, Cassius Williams (Locus 144)
Chef: Daniel Janetos (Buca, The Saint, Farmhouse Tavern)

The Food: Italian dishes made with organic and sustainably sourced ingredients. The menu follows Chipotle’s customizable-meal model: customers choose a base (greens, grains or panini), top it with a protein (porchetta, meatballs, chicken, crispy mozzarella or ratatouille) and add a sauce (tomato basil, garlic crema or pesto). There’s also a handful of bar snacks, meat and cheese boards and trendy bone broth on offer. Janetos is a health nut, and can accommodate most food allergies and special diets. A portion of Merenda’s profits are donated to a Waterloo-based wildlife rehabilitation program, which Janetos’s mother heads up. “If we’re killing 100 animals a year to feed people,” he says, “I want to be saving 101.”

The Drinks: Classic cocktails, a short wine list, four brews on tap (Kronenbourg, Kronebourg Blanc, Sapporo, Peroni) and a selection of bottled beer. Cold-pressed juice will be added soon, with the option to spike with a shot of booze.

The Space: Tucked away in Liberty Market Plaza, the space (which was previously Locus 144) is a kitchen by day and still Locus Lounge by night. Dinner is served from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., after which it’s party time and the tables are cleared away to make room for a dance floor. Lunch service is in the works.

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Restaurants

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Leslieville gets Toronto’s first taste of Detroit-style pizza

(Image: Rebecca Fleming)

(Image: Rebecca Fleming)

No need to cross the border to get your hands on authentic deep-dish pizza from the Rust Belt: Descendant, a new 20-seat spot in Leslieville, cranks out cheese-heavy Detroit pies from brick-lined Montague Hearthbake gas ovens. Like Chicago-style pies, these pizzas are fodder for nutritionists’ nightmares. A thick layer of dough is pressed into a well-oiled square pan before being loaded with toppings and smothered in tomato sauce. The resulting pies taste like they’ve been deep fried. Descendant’s menu includes by-the-book combos (classic cheese with tomato sauce), but there are some experimental ones, too. The Soppressata Marmalade, for example, includes mozzarella with smoked caciocavallo (a stretched-curd cheese), Calabrian chilies, basil, Mike’s Hot Honey and, of course, soppressata.

1168 Queen St. E., 647-347-1168, @DescendantPizza

The Dish

Drinks

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Five refreshingly boozy cold-brew cocktails

(Image: Caroline Aksich)

(Image: Caroline Aksich)

Across the city, Toronto baristas are pouring thirst-quenching cold brew, the hyper-trendy coffee drink that’s steeped for up to 24 hours (which makes it less acidic than regular iced coffee). Better yet, now bartenders are combining it with booze—and it’s our new favourite way to battle the upwardly creeping humidex. Here are five of the best caffeinated cocktails, and where to find them.

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Sponsored Content

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Free gourmet avocado treats all summer long!

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This summer, Avocados from Mexico is going on tour to offer Canadians a free sampling of healthy and delicious avocado-based snacks! The Avocatour will offer nutritious street food and a variety of recipes as surprising as they are tasty. Whether you’re out with friends or family and whether your taste runs to sweet or savoury, come visit the Avocart and discover the avocado in all its splendour!

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Food Events

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Pop-Up Pick: a month of Twilight Tuesdays from Drake One Fifty and Momofuku

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(Images: Rosemarie de Mesa)

For the second year in a row, Drake One Fifty and Momofuku (with help from Pizzeria Libretto, Richmond Station and Thoroughbred) will transform some not-so-green space downtown into a night market every Tuesday evening for the month of August. Starting August 4, the financial district restaurants will take over the York Street parkette between Richmond and Adelaide, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., for Twilight Tuesdays. Attendees can expect street food snacks (bo ssäm plates, sandwiches filled with sliced-to-order slow-roasted pork shoulder), frozen treats (slushies, soft serve ice cream) and entertainment by local artists. The Drake General Store will also have a booth set up, because what would a night market be without an oddball impulse purchase or two? While there’s no admission fee, tickets ($5 each) can be purchased at the event and each is redeemable for one food or drink item. Twenty per cent of all ticket sales will be donated to the Out of the Cold program at St. Andrew’s Church. Last year, Twilight Tuesdays raised $9,000 which helped to purchase more than 1,600 meals for those in need.

The Dish

Restaurants

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Otto’s brings Berlin’s favourite late-night snacks to Kensington Market

(Image: Caroline Aksich)

(Image: Caroline Aksich)

“Hallo,” reads the neon sign that greets patrons at Otto’s Berlin Döner in Kensington Market. The new 33-seat spot serves up the kind of late-night snacks that fuel German techno-heads, namely döners (not totally unlike our own donair) and currywurst, a poutine-like dish (with its own museum) where fries are topped with sausage and spiced ketchup. Collectively, co-owners Nancy Chen, Konrad Droeske, Matt Eckensweiler and Thomas Masmejean have zero restaurant experience—the quartet is the force behind underground dance parties Mansion and Foundry. Luckily, ex-Auberge du Pommier chef Steven Nguyen is in charge of the food. The team originally wanted to open a Berlin-style club in Toronto, but when red tape got in the way, they settled for opening a restaurant. The party goes well past when other kitchens have closed—the place is open until 3:30 a.m. on weekends—and there are nine German brews on offer, including a black ale called Köstritzer Schwarzbier from a 472-year-old brewery. Head down to the washrooms for a taste of Kreuzberg’s party scene: inside each stall is a glowing, novelty-sized button that, when pressed, transforms der waschraum into das club, complete with flashing lights and throbbing music.

256 Augusta Ave., 647-347-7713, ottosdoner.com, @ottosdoner

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Restaurants

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Block Party: Corktown has sprouted street life, and a bona fide dining scene, thanks to the Pan Am Games

The stretch of King east of Power Street is chockablock with cute new shops and indie coffee houses. On the corner is the neighbourhood bistro Corktown Kitchen. At Roselle, a few doors down, Stephanie Duong makes finicky sweets like Turtle tarts with shortbread and salted caramel; banana éclairs with vanilla custard, caramelized rum bananas and whipped white chocolate; and her showstopping mille crêpe cake

You can tell a lot about a neighbourhood from its pastry. My obsession of the moment is the mille crêpe cake at Roselle Desserts, on King just east of Parliament. Stephanie Duong, Roselle’s pastry chef, achieves near perfection in her rendition of the French classic. She layers 20 crêpes with vanilla custard, then brûlées sugar over top. It’s not too sweet and surprisingly light, a harmonious state somewhere between pastry and cake. It’s so labour-intensive and fragile that Duong currently only sells it on weekends, and then only in limited quantities.

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Openings

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Introducing: Rose and Sons Swan, the Queen West diner with a new lease on life courtesy of Anthony Rose

toronto-restaurants-rose-and-sons-swan-albacore-tuna-beets-lead

(Image: Gabby Frank)

Name: Rose and Sons Swan
Neighbourhood: Trinity Bellwoods
Contact: 892 Queen St. W., 647-348-7926, roseandsonswan.com, @roseandsonsswan
Owner: Anthony Rose (Rose and Sons, Big Crow, Fat Pasha, Schmaltz Appetizing)
Chef: Sonia Marwick (Fat Pasha)

The Food: A menu inspired by Rose’s chef-school years in San Francisco and the five years he spent cooking in Cali. “California cuisine is a very loose title,” says Rose. “What it really means is that it’s just good simple food—not doing a lot to it and using a lot of interesting, good, local purveyors.” So while you might find Frito Pie at Big Crow, the dishes at Swan are on the lighter, fresher side and veggies play a bigger role. (To chef Sonia’s chagrin, Rose has given her a new nickname: Swan-ia.)

The Drinks: Four signature cocktails, a selection of bottled and canned beer and a fairly long wine list featuring more than just California grapes.

The Space: “It looks like it did before, but different,” says Rose, who was in Mexico on a yoga retreat when the Queen West diner went out of business. “I wasn’t supposed to be checking my email, but I did and saw that Swan had closed. By the time I got here I was like 30th in line—everyone in the city had looked at this place.” Refurbished booths, a record player, some flash art by local graffiti artists and a lone surfboard distinguish this version of Swan from the previous one. And there’s a park-facing patio in the back now, which Rose says is perfect for white squirrel sightings.

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Sponsored Content

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Drake Hotel bartender Gord Hannah on Toronto’s cocktail revolution

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Gord Hannah’s Art of the Shot

Bartender Gord Hannah has been leading the Drake Hotel’s hospitality team for more than a decade. He sat down to talk about Toronto’s cocktail revolution, the Drake’s endless reinvention, and that time he got snowed in at a ski lodge with a beautiful bartender and some Jäger.

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Drinks

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Bespoke Bottles: intriguing and less expensive Niagara wines that can only be found in Toronto restaurants

Here’s a secret: many of Niagara’s top producers have a range of what they call licensee wines, which are made specifically to sell to restaurants and not through the LCBO. They’re priced below their retail offerings, so the restaurants can add a markup and still pass savings on to diners. And while they may lack the structure and complexity of the top bottles from the same producers, they more than make up for it with food-friendliness and the zesty, lifted fruit flavour that’s typical of great Ontario wine. Here are some of my favourite licensee brands and where to find them in the city.

(Image: Dave Gillespie)

(Image: Dave Gillespie)

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Openings

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Introducing: WindUp Restaurant, a Caribbean spot on College from Barque alumni

(Image: Caroline Aksich)

(Image: Caroline Aksich)

Name: WindUp Restaurant
Neighbourhood: University
Contact: 382 College St., 647-349-6373, winduprestaurant.ca, @eatdrinkwindup
Previously: Wind Up Bird
Owner: Whitney Knowles and Bryan Birch (both Barque alumni)
Chefs: Bryan Birch (Barque, North 44) and Ryan Graham (Tutti Matti)

The Food: “This is a Toronto version of a Caribbean restaurant,” explains Birch, who has taken Jamaican and Trinidadian favourites and infused them with global flavours. Salt cod fritters, for example, are married with Canadian (bacon foam) and Moroccan (preserved lemon) elements. In an homage to the city’s never-ending taco obsession, the curried goat roti is served open-faced and topped with cilantro and pickled mango. The rest of the menu is rounded out with more traditional Caribbean eats (jerk chicken, ackee and saltfish) plus a smattering of international plates (falafel lettuce wrap, sesame-crusted salmon with lotus root, pulled pork tostadas). The brunch menu includes an oxtail benny served on a coconut bake, which might make for a good post-parade hangover cure come Caribana.

The Drinks: A short wine list made up of new world bottles, but all available by the glass; classic cocktails (dark ‘n’ stormy, rum punch, negroni) and daily specials (like a grilled pineapple mojito); and a selection of craft beer, the majority of which are local brews—with the exception of Red Stripe, of course.

The Place: Birch and Knowles kept the previous restaurant’s name so they wouldn’t need to apply for any new licenses. The 30-seat room is minimalist in design, but warmed up with wood features like a cedar wall, saloon doors and a black walnut bar (with stools designed by Marco Pecota of the Junction’s Pekota). A patio accommodates up to 40 street-side diners and drinkers.

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Openings

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Introducing: Alo, Patrick Kriss’s refined addition to the corner of Queen and Spadina

(Image: Renée Suen)

(Image: Renée Suen)

Name: Alo
Neighbourhood: Queen West
Contact: 163 Spadina Ave., 3rd floor., 416-260-2222, alorestaurant.com, @AloRestaurant
Owner: Patrick Kriss (Acadia, Splendido) and Amanda Bradley (George, La Grenouillere)
Chefs: Patrick Kriss, Matthew Betsch (Eleven Madison Park, Splendido) and Nick Bentley (Acadia, Splendido, Canoe)
Pastry chef: Cori Murphy (Patrice Pâtissiere, Canoe)

The Food: The tasting menu–only restaurant offers an evolving five-course menu (with options) composed of seasonal dishes made with Canadian ingredients, but prepared using French techniques. The bar offers casual snacks including homemade soft pretzels, crudités (fancy raw veggies) on ice and bite-sized pâte à choux pastries piped full of caramel and vanilla Chantilly. Later this summer, a long-format tasting menu will be available for those who snag seats at the kitchen counter.

The Drinks: Sommelier Anjana Viswanatha (Canoe, Luma) has designed a menu featuring wines from small producers, with special attention paid to biodynamic and natural selections (including many by-the-glass options). Bartender John Bunner (Byblos, Yours Truly) serves his takes on traditional cocktails and even has a couple bottled concoctions for sharing.

The Place: Commute Design (Byblos, Little Sister, Patria and The Ritz) was responsible for transforming the 2,800-square-foot space that takes up the top floor of the Victorian building, previously home to a modelling agency. Windows of the polished (but tablecloth-free) restaurant look out to Spadina and Queen West. The building itself is looking much better than it did in the ’80s.

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New Reviews

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Review: Little Italy’s Soi Thai serves stand-out snacks straight from the streets of Bangkok

(Image: Jackie Pal)

(Image: Jackie Pal)

SEE ALL NEW REVIEWS
Soi Thai 1 star½
651 College St., 647-345-8838
Soi Thai 1 star½
651 College St., 647-345-8838

The allure of street food is authenticity and adventure on a plate, with heaping portions, for the price of TTC fare back home. At Little Italy’s Soi Thai, servers recommend two dishes per diner, and that’s conservative, as are the portions. But one could roam the streets of Bangkok for days without finding flavours as rewarding as those racing through the phak bung fai dang, a standout stir-fry of morning glory, garlic and Thai chilies in an umami-rich soy and oyster sauce broth, made in-house by Nopphawan Papa. There’s no pad Thai or curry here: heartier fare includes a tin dish of earthy ground pork threaded with basil and thickened with two runny eggs, best paired with sticky rice from a wicker steam basket. A mound of salmon ceviche dusted with chili flakes and whole mint leaves cools some of the burn from a fiery papaya salad, which is all heat but little of the sweetness that typically balances the Thai staple. The playful decor matches Soi Thai’s ambition to resemble a refuge one discovers unexpectedly, with an assortment of Thai sundries lining the front of the bar and colourful plastic stools beneath tables that are at their most welcoming when topped with frosted mugs of Singha for a backpacker-friendly $5.50. World traveller or not, this soi (Thai for small alley) is a happy one to stumble upon.

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Openings

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Introducing: Miss Thing’s, Parkdale’s new pan-Asian restaurant and cocktail bar

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(Image: Gabby Frank)

Name: Miss Thing’s
Neighbourhood: Parkdale
Contact: 1279 Queen St. W., 416-516-8677, missthings.com, @missthingsbar
Previously: Wrongbar
Owner: Nav Sangha
Chefs: Jasper Wu (Bent) and Paul Hadian (Momofuku)

The Food: Polynesian and Hawaiian cuisine, but with tweaks: the Loco Moco, for instance, takes the traditional Hawaiian plate lunch and switches out the beef patty and brown gravy for flank steak and house-made A1 sauce. Spam comes in the form of pintxos, and fried rice is hit with pineapple and pork belly. “We haven’t even touched on Bora Bora or French Polynesia,” says Sangha. “That’ll be in the fall when things get a little more rich and creamy.”

The Drinks:  Wine and beer are available, but it’s the cocktail program that steals the show. Bar manager Reed Pettit (Miller Tavern) mixes up drinks with tropical twists, influenced, says Sangha, by the cocktails borne from pan-Asian tourist culture—but not as syrupy sweet or electric blue. And while one drink is served in a hollowed-out coconut (the bar’s take on a piña colada, of course), none are meant to be sipped from novelty tiki mugs.

The Space: It’s unsurprisingly brighter, airier and more grown up than its former Wrongbar self. Pink and gold floral murals are painted on turquoise walls, and hanging from the ceiling, unique gramophone horn light fixtures designed by Toronto-based Milke Bau look like brassy flowers in bloom. Miss Thing’s Coconut Room, which is available for events and private parties (disco ball included) and will also host the occasional live show, is in a separate area behind the restaurant.

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