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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.

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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.”

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New Reviews

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

(Image: Jackie Pai)

(Image: Jackie Pai)

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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.

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Openings

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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.

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New Reviews

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

(Image: Gizelle Lau)

(Image: Gizelle Lau)

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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.

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New Reviews

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Review: Dandylion brings intricate, Scandinavian-influenced dishes to Queen West

(Image: Renée Suen)

(Image: Renée Suen)

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Dandylion 2 star ½
1198 Queen St. W., 647-464-9100
Dandylion 2 star ½
1198 Queen St. W., 647-464-9100

Jay Carter spent a decade cooking under Susur and two years as exec chef at Centro before striking out on his own. His dad helped renovate a former bar into a cramped but elegantly understated room of polished concrete, softly lit marble tables, and exposed heritage brick that shows the ghostly traces of long-gone beams and staircases. His first menu is only nine items long and betrays a Scandinavian influence, like a salad of smoked trout, oniony cream, dill, microgreens and salty pops of roe, or cubes of confit chicken under a crunchy blanket of toasted rye. Not all of his experiments succeed: a daily special of white fish is perfectly poached but overpowered by a zealous dusting of smoked paprika. Orange zest and a puddle of crème fraiche elevates a humble walnut tea cake into the sublime.

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Chinatown’s Banh Mi Boys sister shop, Lucky Red, is set to reopen

(Image: Caroline Aksich)

Lucky Red last summer. (Image: Caroline Aksich)

Lucky Red, the Chinatown bao shop from the Banh Mi Boys team, had all the hype it needed to be a hit. Then—just months after its July opening—the takeout spot abruptly closed. A sign posted in the window indicated then that it would reopen soon enough, but the spot’s been dormant since. According to co-owner David Chau, though, Lucky Red is finally set to reopen as a full-service bar and sit-down restaurant in about a month. “The store was kind of rushed,” Chau says of the original launch. “There were a lot of execution issues.” Lucky Red’s bao were too labour-intensive to work as fast food, and the competition—from his own shop a few blocks south and the 416 Snack Bar–affiliated Peoples Eatery on the other side of Spadina—was stiff. The new Lucky Red will serve craft beer and cocktails as well as a Vietnamese-inspired snack menu (with bao, of course). Chau says that other food options might include Vietnamese-style beef tartare, fish sauce chicken wings, southern fried chicken gizzards, grilled squid and deep-fried oysters. Also, for the adventurous sweet tooth: durian pie. “We’re not going to settle,” Chau says. “We’re going to make sure everything is proper.”

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Peter Pan Bistro is close to reopening under new ownership

(Image: Rebecca Fleming)

(Image: Rebecca Fleming)

After quietly closing last April, there are signs of progress at the corner of Queen and Peter. A sign in the window 0f 373 Queen West announces the second coming of Peter Pan Bistro, and the business—purchased by chef Noah Goldberg (The Feasting Room) and his father, Marty—now has a website. The menu hasn’t been posted yet, but a page promises that it’ll follow the nose-to-tail movement with a selection of classic (but “re-imagined”) European dishes that will change daily. Also re-imagined: carpets.

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Openings

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Introducing: Furlough, a new Trinity Bellwoods bistro and cocktail lounge from the owners of BarChef

(Image: Renee Suen)

(Image: Renée Suen)

Name: Furlough
Neighbourhood: Trinity Bellwoods
Contact Info:
 924 Queen St. W., 647-348-2525, furloughtoronto.com, @FurloughToronto
Previously: Ursa
Owners: Brent VanderVeen (sommelier, previously of Rain and Kultura) and Frankie Solarik (bartender), both of BarChef
Chef: Justin Newrick (La Société, Windsor Arms Hotel)

The Food: Small and large plates, including a platter of East Coast oysters; a pillowy pain au lait roll stuffed with foie gras and caramelized apples; and a creamy squid ink risotto studded with seared scallops. Weekend brunch service is scheduled to start in the spring.

The Drinks: Unlike the hyper-modern creations at BarChef, Furlough’s cocktail list is divided into 16 spirit-forward classics (Toronto, Last Word, Aviation), and 16 original recipes that make use of housemade syrups, bitters and booze-soaked fruit. There’s also a short wine list, a handful of eclectic microbrews and absinthe—complete with tableside fountain service (and a custom-built, bar-mounted fountain that’s on the way).

The Place: Think classic bistro: Parisian-style stools, a marble-topped bar and a wall peppered with vintage paintings, plus a tin ceiling to top it all off.

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Pie Eyed: Seven takes on a classic comfort food

Savoury pies, the ultimate winter comfort food, are popping up in imaginative new variations. Here are some of our favourite meat, potato and lobster pastry pockets.


Savoury pies, the ultimate winter comfort food, are popping up in imaginative new variations. Here are some of our favourite meat, potato and lobster pastry pockets.

Click to see a larger version

Click to see a larger version

1 Pork Pie
The best option at Gino Amodio’s new midtown lunch spot, Pie Squared, is the PK— a pastry pocket stuffed with lightly spiced pulled pork, sweet corn kernels and ribbons of caramelized onion. $5. 366 Bloor St. E., 647-350-2743.

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Openings

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Introducing: Porter House, a new vegan pub on Dundas West

(Image: Renee Suen)

Name: Porter House
Neighbourhood: Little Portugal
Contact Info: 1321 Dundas St. W., 647-346-3000, porterhouse.com@porterhouse_to
Previously: Brockton General
Co-owners and co-chefs: Ross Corder (Hot Beans, formerly of Hogtown Vegan) and Rick Hardisty (Fresh, Momofuku Noodle Bar, Woodlot)

The Food: The cheekily named Porter House is Corder and Hardisty’s answer to the lack of vegan pub options in Toronto. But while their meatless menu is stocked with decidedly British-sounding snacks and mains, there isn’t a piece of mock meat to be found: the two chefs use ingredients like shredded jackfruit for their pulled-pork sandwich and puy lentils to play the part of steak in a lentil-and-ale-pie. Other substantial plates include curry and roasted cauliflower–topped fries, and a ploughman’s lunch of prepared fruits and vegetables, miso-cured tofu and pickles, accompanied by a beer gravy. A late-night menu is in the works.

The Drinks: The bar menu is heavy on craft beer; a changing selection of bottles, cans and draught features a number of hard-to-find brews like Westvleteren 12. A short selection of liquor and wine is also available, and one out of the six taps is devoted to cider.

The Place: Aside from new flooring and beer and spirit bottles lining the walls, minimal changes have been made to the space, previously occupied by Brockton General—even the mishmash of old chairs, barstools and antique dishware was inherited from its former occupant.

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Sponsored Content

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Ten Toronto dishes putting innovative spins on traditional cuisine

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The Year of the Ram is all about the f-word: fusion (don’t worry, that’s the last time we’ll use that bad, bad word). Hogtown’s new food obsession mirrors our city’s melting pot makeup. Chefs are concocting mash-ups that combine two—sometimes three, or four—cultures into a single recipe. A rib-sticking gnocchi poutine, for example, combines Italian and Quebecois traditions into a perfectly cheesy mess that’s sure to help you survive the dregs of winter. Here are ten tempting plates that fuse, mix and mash traditional cuisines, creating distinctly Torontonian dishes.

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AAA Bar is bringing barbecue to Leslieville

(Image: Rebecca Fleming)

Adelaide East’s Texas-style barbecue joint AAA Bar is opening up a little sister saloon in Leslieville in the space previously occupied by the short-lived Hummingbird Caribbean. Co-owner Racquel Youtzy (who also operates Riverdale’s Mr. Ciao with her partner Tiz Pivetta) says to expect more of the same, just in a much smaller space, and with wine on tap. “It’s more of a family neighbourhood,” says Youtzy. “But we aren’t going to do anything different—we’re always kid-friendly.” The (also adult-friendly) bar will offer the same drink specials as the Adelaide location: a dollar-an-ounce wine, three-dollar tequila shots and five-dollar Triple A draught. Youtzy is hoping to have it open by the end of February.

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Dave Sidhu, king of the Playa Cabana empire, is heading east

(Image: Rebecca Fleming)

Dave Sidhu, the man partly responsible for an increase in Toronto’s taco consumption, is making an eastward expansion with a sixth restaurant. Sidhu, whose other spots include three “Playas” (Cabana, Cantina and Hacienda), La Libre and Barrio Coreano, is adding Cocina Economica to his collection. Cocina will open near the edge of Corktown at 114 Berkeley St., which until last October was home to The Berkeley Cafe. Sidhu, inspired by a month spent in Mexico cooking in (you guessed it) cocina economicas—small, inexpensive residential kitchens presided over by women—says Cocina Economica will offer a menu “entirely different” from his other venues. “The food [cooked in the cocinas] is low-and-slow-braised Mexican,” says Sidhu. “It’s what the locals eat—delicious, homestyle dishes.” Sidhu purchased the Berkeley Street building when he got back; despite its tiny footprint, it has two levels, two patios and can seat more than 100 diners. Sidhu’s shooting for an opening in spring.

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Hawker Bar is moving on up (to the second floor)

Hawker Bar, as seen from the street in 2012 (Image: Karolyne Ellacott)

Ossington’s Singaporean snack shop, Hawker Bar—currently the size of a street-food stall—is expanding its business to the second floor. Thirty extra seats are being added to the upstairs dining room along with another service bar, and the restaurant will take reservations (which are something of a rarity on the strip). New additions to the menu will include chef Alec Martin’s take on a Black Angus strip loin; braised duck legs served with a Thai red curry; veggie rendang; and a coconut milk–marinated fried chicken that’ll replace the Hainanese chicken rice. The changes should take place on or around Valentine’s Day, so plan on having a little more legroom to slurp a bowl of something spicy (like this fiery laksa soup) with someone special.