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Openings

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

toronto-restaurants-miss-things-parkdale-lead1

(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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Restaurants

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Dac Biet brings Asian-American burgers to the downtown core

(Image: Caroline Aksich)

(Image: Caroline Aksich)

Toronto’s love affair with Asian-American fusion isn’t fading: joining the ranks of DaiLo, Patois and R&D is Dac Biet, a pan-Asian burger joint with a Vietnamese name. Dac Biet means “special,” or in this case, “combo with everything.” The burgers at the small spot (previously home to Sam’s Philly Cheesesteak) are loaded with Asian toppings like kimchi, char siu (barbecue pork), house-pickled daikon and more. All of the six stacks on offer start with the same base—a griddled five-ounce patty of freshly ground sirloin, brisket and chuck on a chewy Ace bun—before getting a Vietnamese, Chinese or Korean makeover. The Banh Mi Burger, for example, tops a beef patty with lemongrass pork, pickled daikon and carrot, cilantro, cucumber and mayo. The Korean contender, called the Kalbi Burger (pictured above), comes crowned with kimchi and slathered in a Korean barbecue–flavoured sauce. Fries come topped with kimchi, pulled pork and wasabi mayo, and even the joint’s poutine gets a twist: the Quebecois staple might look familiar, but the gravy’s spiked with pho jus.

213 Church St., 416-703-8878, dacbietburger.com, @dacbiet_burger

The Dish

Food Shops

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Mark McEwan’s gourmet grocery store is open in the PATH

Marc McEwan in front of his new grocery store in the PATH, McEwan.

(Image: Renée Suen)

Bay Street office-dwellers have a new 6,500-square-foot supermarket to forage in: gourmet grocer McEwan, owned by you-know-who, has opened an outpost in the PATH, beneath the TD Centre. As at McEwan’s Shops at Don Mills flagship, shoppers can pick up fresh produce and premium pantry items, and there’s also a coffee bar with pastries and doughnuts, a soup and panini station, a salad bar and a 32-foot-long hot table that includes an extensive selection of curries, many of them meatless. A food truck–inspired menu features twists on popular treats like poutine, tacos and banh mi. Short-on-time commuters might appreciate the selection of oven-ready meals (like Thai shrimp curry and lobster ravioli) and there’s also a takeaway cake counter, display cases filled with Laura Slack chocolates and even an on-site florist for any last-minute hostess gifts (or heartfelt apologies).

66 Wellington St., Toronto Dominion Centre.

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New Reviews

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Review: Drake Devonshire pairs Queen West cool with Prince Edward County flavours

(Image: Jackie Pal)

(Image: Jackie Pal)

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Drake Devonshire 3 star ½
24 Wharf St., 613-399-1851
Drake Devonshire 3 star ½
24 Wharf St., 613-399-1851

The bucolic Prince Edward County hotel and restaurant imports cool touches from Queen West, and chef Matt DeMille’s menu makes the most of the local larder. To start, succulent confit duck wings have a craggy caramelized shell, and shrimp crudo is bright with Quebec canola oil and the briny pop of elderberry capers. Seared local pickerel is buttery and juicy, lifted by a minty salsa verde and fresh fava beans. It pairs brilliantly with an unoaked chardonnay from area producer Rosehill Run (it’s one of many county wines on offer). A sweet cream ice cream, stewed rhubarb and crisp streusel sundae makes for a gorgeous, summery finish—but so do s’mores by the firepit on the deck that stretches nearly to the shoreline of the gently lapping lake.

Have an opinion on Drake Devonshire? Add your review here »

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Restaurants

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This End Up (sort of) returns to Dundas West

(Image: Rebecca Fleming)

(Image: Rebecca Fleming)

Little Portugal’s popular sandwich and cocktail spot didn’t stay closed for long: This End Up will reopen on July 17…sort of. Shortly after the Dundas West favourite left the scene last March, it was announced that chef Deron Engbers and the Monarch Tavern’s Michael Dorbyk would take over the space to open something called This and That. According to This End Up’s co-owner Karen Young, that deal “did not end up seeing the light of day.” The restaurant’s new incarnation will no longer offer the much-loved Big Mac pretender, the Better Mac, but will host a rotating cast of chefs (some established and some up and coming) to showcase their culinary creations. On nights when pop-ups aren’t planned, bar snacks from Charlotte Langley’s Scout Canning and local fermenting folks Mighty Fine Brine will be served. Options on the current menu range from light snacking fare (chips with a medley of dips) to more substantial nosh (a beef bulgogi ssam spiked with strawberry-chili paste). For now, This End Up 2.0 is open from Friday to Tuesday and will be a strictly nocturnal affair (sorry, brunch fans).

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New Reviews

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Review: Little Portugal’s Hanmoto maintains a healthy disregard for dieters, as the best izakayas do

(Image: Dave Gillespie)

(Image: Dave Gillespie)

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Leemo Han’s secretive Dundas West izakaya bears the trademark junk-shop look he and brother Leeto established at downtown’s (now shuttered) Swish by Han and Ossington snack-food spot Oddseoul. The food is meant for snacking and sharing, with nothing costing more than $18 (for six oysters dressed with ponzu and pickled chilies). As at the best izakayas, the chef maintains a healthy disregard for dieters. Prime example: a sandwich of roasted, super-fatty pork belly, coated in soy remoulade, barely contained by a coco bun. Everyone raves about the Dyno Wings, which are stuffed with spicy pork and rice, deep-fried and served in a takeout box. Even more impressive are a tartare of fantastically fresh hamachi and the nasu dengaku—Japanese eggplant charred until the flesh is creamy, the length of it covered in a crunchy, burgundy fuzz of finely shredded deep-fried beets. (The only letdown is the salmon face—Leemo’s stunt-plate equivalent of the pig face that appeared not long ago on hipster charcuterie menus.) The drinks list is short but thoughtful: Asahi on tap, quality sake, and cocktails made with shiso leaf, kaffir lime–infused vodka and Asian pear.

Have an opinion on Hanmoto? Add your review here »

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Closings

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Crush Wine Bar gets squeezed out

(Image: Dave Gillespie)

(Image: Dave Gillespie)

Since it opened in 2002, Crush Wine Bar has been a King West fixture, but its new owners clearly weren’t such big fans: it’s now closed, with the last day of service announced in one short tweet late last month. Niagara-on-the-Lake hoteliers Vintage Hotels, who purchased the oenophile’s paradise from the Queen and Beaver’s Jamieson Kerr back in 2010, sold the restaurant in order to focus on their holdings on the other side of Lake Ontario, according to Crush’s executive chef Trista Sheen. Shortly after the sale, the new owners gave all of the staff two weeks’ notice. “We all kept saying it’s the end of an era,” says Sheen. “It’s the place where I became a chef for the first time, and I just wanted to enjoy the last two weeks—to be with the people I worked with.” Sheen tells us she’ll be taking the rest of the summer off. “I’m going to take it easy: eat out, travel to the East Coast, and enjoy things on the other side of the food scene.” The new owners, meanwhile, haven’t revealed their plans yet.

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Restaurants

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The Pie Commission celebrates the opening of its new Trinity Bellwoods location with free pies

(Image: Daniel Neuhaus)

(Image: Daniel Neuhaus)

Fans of The Pie Commission’s stuffed pastry pockets no longer need to trek to Etobicoke to curb their cravings for butter-chicken pot pie: the ex-Happy Hooker digs on Dundas West have been revamped into a 15-seat pie shack. Over at the west-end factory outlet—where up to 500 pies fly out the door daily—the braised beef rib number reigns supreme, but who knows which flaky creation will be a home run with the city’s hipsters? Odds are, collaborations that involve local flavour (like the Caplansky Pie) are likely to be a hit. On top of the regular savoury offerings, the menu at the new outpost also offers fruit crumble served with Ed’s Real Scoop vanilla ice cream. Something else new to this location: a liquor license. Right now, Great Lake Brewery’s Pompous Ass English Ale is the only beer on tap, but the plan is to add other brews to the draught list. And because the small space can only fit so many people, there are benches out front with built-in “pie platforms” (designed to fit a pie and a side) to provide extra seating for al fresco eating. Oh right, and to celebrate their grand opening on July 16, The Pie Commission will give the first 100 customers at its new store one free braised rib or veggie pie each.

887 Dundas St. W., 647-351-7437, piecommission.com, @PieCommish

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New Reviews

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Review: Bay Street’s Via Vai is the most gorgeous space to enjoy a slice (and the pizza’s pretty great, too)

(Image: Jackie Pal)

(Image: Jackie Pal)

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Via Vai 2 star
832 Bay St., 416-362-0123
Via Vai 2 star
832 Bay St., 416-362-0123

As Toronto’s artisanal pizza craze enters its second decade, the debate over which of the many brick-oven contenders makes the best thin-crust pie has only intensified. But let’s be clear: there is no more beautiful a space in which to enjoy a slice than this Bay Street pizza palace. Sheathed in four storeys of glass, the dining room features massive marble tile walls and hanging glass panels splashed with streaks of Pollock-esque colour. At opposite ends of the room stands a pizza oven shaped like a geodesic dome and a vertebral floor-to-ceiling tower of vino. The overall effect is nothing less than breathtaking. And how’s the pizza? Pretty great: the Diavola—topped with ribbons of spicy sopressata, gooey fior di latte and a mess of mushrooms—features a yeasty, delicate crust that’s thin yet pliable. The tortellini—chewy husks of undercooked pasta flanking bland braised beef and crunchy baby onion—are skippable. The amazingly attentive service is worthy of Via Vai’s splendorous surroundings, as is the short, predominantly Italian and somewhat pricy wine list.

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Restaurants

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Loka Snacks’ Dave Mottershall is Kickstarting a restaurant (and he’s looking for a west-end location)

(Image: Graham Tingle)

(Image: Graham Tingle)

Chef Dave Mottershall, who operates Loka Snacks out of Riverside’s Hi-Lo Bar, has a goal: to open his own restaurant. But what sets him apart from his peers is that he’s hoping to do it with the public’s help. After leaving PEI’s award-winning Terre Rouge last year Mottershall moved to Toronto, working at The Chase before setting up his own business (and tempting Instagram followers with his feed). In this video, Mottershall shares his concept for Loka. With endorsements from some of the city’s culinary heavyweights including Carl Heinrich (Richmond Station), Rob Gentile (Buca), Nick Liu (DaiLo) and celebrity chef Michael Smith, the all-or-nothing campaign is seeking crowd funding to help raise $25,000. In true Kickstarter fashion, project-backers will be rewarded with swag, exclusive dinners, culinary experiences and more.

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Food Events

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What to eat at Front Street Foods, Union Station’s new summertime market

(Image: Renée Suen)

(Image: Renée Suen)

From now until the end of August, the new-and-improved plaza outside Canada’s busiest transit hub is an open-air food market. Open daily, the summer-long pop-up will give commuters, office workers and tourists a chance to taste dishes and drinks from some of the city’s best chefs and food vendors. It’s a welcome sight after years of ugly construction and snarled traffic along Front Street, and the strip’s hot dogs now have to share their street meat title with pollo-pibil tacos, jamon serrano pintxos and snow crab–topped fries. Weekly highlights include breakfast service by a select number of vendors, a licensed bar open Wednesday through Saturday, live music during weekday lunches and a farmers’ market every Wednesday. The current crowd favourites might be Holy Chuck’s freshly ground burgers and Uncle Tetsu’s spongy cheesecakes, but here are 16 other snacks to consider.

 Monday–Sunday, 7 a.m.–9 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m.–9 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m.–6:30 p.m., 65 Front St. W.,  frontstreetfoods.com

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Restaurants

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Anthony Rose’s Bar Begonia will open on Dupont

(Image: Daniel Neuhaus)

(Image: Daniel Neuhaus)

Anthony Rose’sixth spot, Bar Begonia, will be located at 252 Dupont Street just steps away from his trio of Annex eateries. The strangely shaped building has been empty since 2005 when its former occupant, a bar called Nite-Caps, closed. “I feel like every restaurateur has taken a tour through it because it’s said ‘For Lease’ on it forever and ever and ever,” says Rose, who has already started working on getting the place in shape for a November opening.

Rose says Bar Begonia will be a Parisian-style cocktail bar—with a dose of Brooklyn for good measure, of course. “Parisian to me sometimes can be a little too refined, even the dirty places,” says Rose. “I find that Brooklyn has a lot of French influence to it, but it’s a little more country. And I lived in New York for about five years, so I definitely have a lot of that in me.” Although the building itself is on the small side, the real party will be in the back: the current parking lot is being converted into a grassy backyard oasis, complete with an outdoor grill (“à la Francis Mallman,” says Rose) and—in the spirit of reviving old-timey lawn games—the potential for tetherball or ga-ga courts.

The Dish

Closings

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Le Ti Colibri leaves Kensington Market

(Image: Caroline Aksich)

(Image: Caroline Aksich)

With rents rising and condos encroaching, Kensington Market’s patchwork of international shops, bodegas and restaurants is ailing. This month’s casualty is Le Ti Colibri, a teeny spot that served up home-style French Caribbean sandwiches in its backyard tiki hut. “We had been looking for a new location since it was too difficult to obtain an alcohol license where we were,” explains co-owner Kristen Procida. The Guadeloupe native (and one of our reasons to love Toronto) is thinking about opening a food truck or maybe even moving south of the border to open a new restaurant. “We’d been looking to sell the business for over a year, but one of the first buyers wanted to also buy the name, which we didn’t want to sell,” says Procida, who hopes to get back to slinging saltfish bokits sometime soon. Meanwhile, a café called Blintz and a Bong—which is announcing itself as the “home of the all-day stoner breakfast special”—will be taking over the Augusta Street space. (No word on whether or not that special is just a bag of chips with a pint of ice cream.)

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Restaurants

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Tropical tiki bar Miss Thing’s moves into Parkdale

(Image: Rebecca Fleming)

(Image: Rebecca Fleming)

Looks like the Bovine Sex Club doesn’t have Queen West’s tiki bar scene all to itself anymore: Miss Thing’s, a Pan Asian restaurant and cocktail bar under the same ownership as next-door neighbour Wrongbar, has opened in Parkdale. There, chefs Jasper Wu (from Bent) and Paul Hadian (from Momofuku) are turning out their take on Polynesian dishes—raw conch with mango and jicama, Spam pintxos, steak with coconut rice and lobster ramen—to go with bar manager Reed Pettit‘s (from Miller Tavern) tropical cocktails, like the Toucan Sam Shake made with rummy Froot Loop milk. As for the space itself, it’s Hawaii meets mid-century hotel lobby. Currently, the bar is open for dinner and drinks from 5 p.m.–2 a.m., Wednesday to Sunday.

1279 Queen St. W., 416-516-8677, missthings.com, @missthingsbar

The Dish

Openings

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Introducing: Corktown Kitchen, a new neighbourhood local on King East

(Image: Gabby Frank)

(Image: Gabby Frank)

Name: Corktown Kitchen
Neighbourhood: Corktown
Contact: 354 King St. E., 416-901-1188, corktownkitchen.com, @CorktownKitcn
Previously: Weezie’s
Owner and Chef: Matt Griffiths (Air Canada Centre, Ultra Supper Club, Five Doors North)

The Food: A few bistro standbys (burgers, steak frites, half chicken), as well as a couple dishes influenced by time Griffiths spent in Southeast Asia (fresh rolls, grilled shrimp) and a chalkboard of daily specials. “The chicken wings are what people have been talking about,” says Griffiths, of his applewood-smoked, bourbon-sauced wings. At the moment, Corktown Kitchen is open for dinner and weekend brunch.

The Drinks: A selection of tallboys (draught taps are in the bar’s future) and classic cocktails, each made with 2.5 ounces of booze. To prove customers are getting their money’s worth, the drinks are served in two parts: a glass of mix and its accompanying shot on the side. “People are taken aback by it at first,”says manager David William Martel. “But we’re doing this because we want to show you that you’re getting a huge amount of liquor.”

The Space: Brighter than Weezie’s (which had a ’70s rec room feel to it) with a much bigger bar. “I dismantled the old bar myself,” says Griffiths. “It was a bit of an eyesore.” Right now, he’s working on getting his liquor license increased by another 10 people. When that happens, just as many more stools will sidle up to the bar.

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