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Best New Restaurants 2010

This time last year, the future looked awfully grim. We braced for restaurant closures and recessionary menus, but 2009 was surprising. Though we lost some good places (Perigee, Truffles, Alice’s and Gamelle, in particular), and mac-and-cheese quickly wore out its welcome, it was an exciting time to dine out. Anxious restaurateurs dropped corkage fees and slashed wine markups, while chefs cooked up imaginative prix fixe menus. It suited our mood as well as our wallets: these days, Torontonians want informality. We’re still hungry for local produce and nose-to-tail dining, chefs are once again finding inspiration in Italy and Japan, and the city is finally beginning to develop a serious cocktail culture. Most encouraging of all is the number of new restaurants opening. Here, the best of the vintage.

  • Mattagascar

    So Toronto’s best new restaurant is 2 hours north of the city? Hmmm…I don’t get it.

  • Martin

    James Chatto pontificates on the best new restaurants in Toronto, and as usual appears to dwell in some mysterious and utterly boring alternate reality, where ‘foodies’ strike up conversations with their fellows at the next table to discuss the relative merits of what’s on their plate or in their glass – if a stranger were in fact to lean over to me in real life and pick apart the ingredients in my meal, I think I’d probably ask him to leave the restaurant and never attempt to dine in public again.

    While I enjoyed his book, The Man Who Ate Toronto, for its insights into the dawn of Toronto’s culinary scene, his choices here are largely predictable, from the preamble claiming that these recessionary times call for modesty through to his inevitable contradiction by noting the presence of truffles, foie gras, ingredients flown in from Japan, and vaguely nauseating charcuterie as the measure of a menu’s excellence.

    I’m sure food writing, like travel writing, is not nearly as appealing as a career to those who actually practice it, but that does not excuse the casual abuse of terms like ‘beau monde’, prose which should be taken out to the yard and put out of its its misery.

  • c

    Don’t hate…participate!

  • yyzdavid

    Toronto Dead.
    You guys are so worried about giving away free information that you won’t actually say anything on your website. Thanks for being irrelevant.

  • gbb

    Why…Gee Beav!

  • Francis K

    We don’t have to yell… we have to taste…I support James.

  • Jeff

    Interesting, Martin, how you don’t mention any praise or criticism of the selections rather simply criticize the ‘style’ of writing. Your biggest gripe is an inconsistency between philosophy of the selections and the selections themselves but only in a very general sense.

    Perhaps you should comment on the actual selections based on their merits rather than your incessant digressions.

  • Jerry O’Shaugnessy

    As this column in effectively Chatto’s swan song with Toronto Life, I say we recognize him for tremendous work over the last 20+ years. Good luck and bon appetite, James!

  • munchieHK

    Personally, I find myself in conversation with near neighbours in dining rooms frequently. This is especially true in the more tightly packed places. Since when did it become bad form to be friendly and engaged? Obviously to do so in a hoity toity establishment like Canoe would be a little over the top, but the writer was describing a far more casual and convivial joint in the article. You will note that he did not describe similar experiences at Hashimoto or Splendido. To make a general assertion from a specific occurrence is just a little disingenuous, no?

  • Lynne

    I’m sorry to see James Chatto leaving Toronto Life – due to its “new direction”. I’ve always enjoyed his writing even if I didn’t necessarily agree with him.
    I wish him all the best.

    I don’t agree with some of TL’s new directions which seem to be heading towards shorter and thinner on a lot of topics.

  • david

    To put a plate of pasta and tomato sauce on the cover of Toronto Life and suggest that it is good proves that Chatto and Toronto Life readers will eat again that’s bland and lacking innovation. For good food, tell him to visit New York, Chicago, San Francisco etc… If he can’t afford that, try Vancouver or Montreal. Even tiny Quebec City has more good restaurants than all of Toronto combined. Pasta and tomato sauce, indeed. Why not Chef Boyardee?



  • Val Ste

    David, you serious? Clearly, haterism is the primary reason for your post. Although you cite great food cities, it’s rather ludicrous to think that Toronto doesn’t compete. A solid argument can be made to say that Toronto’s restaurants are, overall, superior to Vancouver, Montreal and Chicago.

    The fact that you think that Toronto is so far behind those cities is laughable and surely indicates that your post is essentially spam… Therefore, unfortunately, the joke is on me for taking a few seconds out of my day to even reply.

  • Geoff

    Chicago?. I think Toronto is a pretty solid city for food and restaurants but it certainly isn’t close to Chicago. Montreal and Vancouver – yes a solid case can be made that Toronto is somewhat better.

  • James

    I think Toronto has a good restaurant scene. But lets face it, it’s not New York, or San Fran; but I think we can compete with Vancouver or Montreal. That being said, I am glad for certain Vancouver restos like Guu coming here…however, Au Noir from Montreal…I can do without.

    It’s not perfect…sure we have Colborne Lane, and I visit often, but it’s no WD50. However, I think Canoe, Scaramouche, and George are amazing restaurants. One thing that we do better than anyone else in North America however, is East Asian cuisine!

  • david

    Nobody does South Asian like Toronto but it’s mostly restricted to Chinese and pitifully few Japanese places as most ethnic food is reduced to the lowest common denominator. This was my point about the other cities. The foodies won’t eat the average stuff. They want better. And Toronto does not have it.

    To equate Toronto foodwise with Vancouver or Montreal is just chest thumping chauvinism. And it’s wrong.

    Toronto has remarkable qualities like fabulous museums, a great diverse population and beautiful architecture but food is not one of them.

    When places like Four Seasons closes Truffles it says a lot about the food culture of a city. I have lived in Toronto for 16 years and cannot rate it as a good food city as opposed to the ones I mentioned.

    Yes Colborne Lane is excellent and Splendido is good (not what it was)& Scaramouche(far from great, but good)and a few others like Canoe, l’Auberge du Pommier and a handful of others. We have a GTA of 5+ million; we deserve better.

    To Val who suggests that my post is spam, I see no arguments supporting her dubious claim. She makes no references to Toronto culinary greatness but rather profers a smug view that she is right. Sounds like a clueless elitist.

    Susar is gone, Splendido has taken a backward step and Perigee is gone.

    To those who have said I am a hater, True. I am a hater of bland, ordinary food. I also feel sorry for people who resort to ad hominems who don’t know better because they are terrified to try something new thus impeding the progress of restaurants in Toronto. They probably think that the Firkin & Mr. Greek are good! And their idea of a great night out is Jack Astors or a steakhouse like Le Castille, Tom Jones, Barberians or the Octogon, places with identical menus, identical interiors, identical taste and identical recipes.

    That is why Vancouver & Montreal are so superior. As proof, go on line and look at their menus. Ditto for NYC, LAX, SFO & ORD. Even Dallas, Miami and Houston put us to shame.

    I am not a qualified critic but I have gone to ALL the spots other than the Eigensteins. I think $350 per head is far better spent at Paul Bocuse in Lyon, Per Se in New York, Joel Robichon in Vegas or The French Laundry in Napa. My dream would be El Bulli outside of Madrid or The Fat Duck or Le Gavroche in London but reservations are really tough to come by.

    But when locals consider Bistro 990 and La Maquette true French, one wonders.

    I Reiterate: When the signature magazine of a city puts a photo of pasta & tomato sauce on its cover, one really wonders. It is akin to a one horse town recommending Harvey’s. Or the joys of attending a tomato sauce fueled mediterranean wedding.

    Anyway, Trump, the Ritz and Four Seasons are opening new hotels. Maybe we will have a chance to sample excellent fare like the ones they offer in NYC.

    But I’m not holding my breath.

  • HPC

    I am reading most of these posts in shock. It seems like everybody is taking sides and talking trash without taking a step back and looking objectively at the culinary situation in Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto.

    I have lived in Toronto for 22 years but have spent the last two years cooking in Vancouver. The restaurant I worked at won best new restaurant in Vancouver this year so I feel I can speak on the food scenes in Toronto and Vancouver with some authority.

    The fact is that in terms of more Refined Western food–not fine dining, there are no true fine dining restaurants in Canada except for Toque in Montreal–Toronto has more options. I have had better experiences in Western restaurants in Toronto. In my opinion, places like Paramour, The Black Hoof, Canoe, even Pizzeria Libretto are better than the likes of Refuel, DB Bistro, Lumiere and other such restaurants in Vancouver. That being said, La Quercia in Vancouver is probably one of my favourite restaurants anywhere, the most simple, delicious Italian food around.

    What is more, Toronto has a much larger ethnic population which I think adds to a very exciting food scene in terms of simple, delicious food. I am thinking of Jamaican doubles in Kensington, Little India, Little Portugal all those places make Toronto so very exciting for a true food lover.

    Vancouver is above and beyond in South East Asian food. Au petit on Main St. is so far above any Vietnamese food in Toronto, you wouldn’t be able to understand it until you went there to try it. And for Thai food Maenam in Kits is more refined and uses more traditional ingredients than the “best” Thai restaurants in Toronto: Think cockroach sauce, Holy Basil, pandanus leaves, hand made curry pastes, etc.

    Chinese food is largely of the same quality especially when you compare the best Chinese restaurants in the city which are located in either Richmond or, here in Toronto, are located in Markham, Scarborough and North York. Chinatowns in Vancouver and Toronto are great for quick, simple food but lack the refinement and sophistication of places like Shanghai River in Richmond or Paradise in North York. Sadly, most of these places are never even visited by Westerners too shy or too uneducated to enter these often intimidating restaurants.

    Finally, I cannot believe people saying that having pasta on the front cover is a sign of Toronto’s unsophistication in food. What is more, it insults me that people would say that pasta is boring and bland.

    Any self respecting cook knows that it is the simplest food that is the hardest to execute. Well done simple food requires one to show the utmost respect to the ingredients and also requires a level of craftsmanship that takes years to develop. If anything, a picture of a sous-vide piece of meat with three foam sauces on the cover of the Magazine would be even more an indication of Toronto’s adolescence as a food city, signifying its utter lack of understanding of, and respect for, that which is the basis for any nascent food culture: Simple food, done well.

    In the end, I think people just need to understand that every city will have its pros and cons, not only in the food industry, but in every other area as well. I have loved living in Vancouver and Toronto and it’s the job of the residents of those cities to embrace what is good of those cities and ask for more of it….not dwell on what is bad about each city.

    I am headed to Denmark on sunday to cook in a Michelin starred restaurant so hopefully after I get back in a year I will have a better idea of where Canadian restaurants stand in the grand scheme of things and I will be sure to let you guys know how it was.

  • Anna

    If Torontonians are willing to commute 2hours to get to work, I don’t see why they wouldn’t travel the same to try a new restaurant. Good food is becoming an experience in Toronto as much as anything else.

  • Ado

    Comparing Toronto with New York, Montreal, Chicago is a bit unfair. These cities have a long-standing culture of fine cuisine. Toronto is relatively new to this world.

    The troubling thing for me is that other cities are constantly striving to improve and innovate. Toronto, on the other hand, is quite smug and complacent with what it has. One doesn’t get the impression that Torontonians are demanding anything better than what they have.

    Another real difference is in the clientele. New York has plenty of restaurants filled with hip, well-dressed, attractive people. There is little I have experienced that equals “the buzz” that accompanies a new restaurant in NYC hitting its prime – the people, the food, the vibe.

    Toronto seems to have never included hip in its vocabulary. Stylish? Hot? Only words in Toronto.

    Hopefully it will improve because of our restauranteers and chefs.

  • craig

    HPC nails it in every sense! just read his/her post to get an informed and accurate depiction. Dave, I’m assuming you haven’t been to a number of the better places that are quintessentially about food rather than Name/Brand recognition seeing as they probably don’t have a place for you to hitch your high horse.

  • Deb

    I have had the great pleasure of dining at Toque in Montreal. It is by far and away one of the best restaurants in Canada. Toronto’s Splendido back in the day was pretty good too but a totally different experience. I hate to say but I haven’t been anywhere of late in TO that really impresses.

  • James

    I’ve never been to Toque, so I can’t say. But surely, Scaramouche, and Auberge could be considered fine dining, maybe I am not as experienced? I am quite happy with the food scene in Toronto, it could be better, but so could anything.

    With Perigee and the Old Splendido gone, there are few destination restaurants anymore. I hear Pat Riley just started working at Amuse Bistro, I keep driving by, but have yet to visit.

    I agree with everything HTC said, even the sous vide comment; I have an emulsion circulator and make pretty good bison, but can’t for the life of me make great tomato sauce from scratch. But I don’t agree with the South East Asian comment, call it Toronto Pride, but I think we do better SE Asian cuisine than them. I am part Thai and Lao, and I visit the region regularly. With restaurants like sukho Thai, I think ours is better.

  • Soma Sengupta

    Thanks for the list. I agree with what you say Toronto’ans want & I look forward to visiting the establishments.

  • Marco

    Chicago? really?? I wouldnt give up my Terroni for Pizzaria Uno any day of the week!

  • Lana

    Visited AME, on of your best 2010 rest. last week. So impressed with the reno. Also, I love your salad presentation. Yet, the overall food quality is so so. A bit disappointed with your the signiture dish – Striplion(picture on your article) and Beef Ribs from the Hot Kitchen section. They were totally dried out and tasteless. However, it’s a great place to visit. Hope things will get better next time.

  • Marco

    HPC for mayor! Well done



  • LH

    I agree 100% HPC said in his comment. I personally am a fan of simple food done well. When there is simplicity in a dish, there is no hiding the quality of ingredients, the care taken to prepare those ingredients, and the thought put into the combinations of flavours and textures. A simple but perfect plate of pasta to me is perfection. Enoteca Sociale, for my tastes, does pasta perfectly. We have plenty of wonderful restaurants here in this city. I have eaten in New York, San Fransisco, Vancouver, and Montreal, and in my opinion, we should be proud of our restaurants and our growing food scene.

  • foodie

    As someone who was born and bred in TO. I think too many of us need stop being so provincial in our thinking. Although Toronto has vastly improved over the last decade, it still has miles to go to become a culinary “hotspot”. Toronto has 0 Michelin star restaurants, one Relais Gourmand an hour away {in Cambridge) and tons of average but not many outstanding restaurants. Travel to NYC ( eg. PER SE, Daniel ) or Chicago ( eg. Everest, Charlie Trotter’s), and be the judge. I am just trying to be honest, not insulting. Toronto maybe the centre of the hockey universe but it is not of haute cuisine.

  • suzannefoodie

    TORONTO has a lot of really good restuarants to choose from and they are all over the place here is my top spots

    Kow Loon for dim sum.
    Tutte Matte for italian,
    Koghanee for sushi
    BLD Restaurant for good food
    Ice Cream Patio for pizza
    Harbour 60 for Steaks!
    Moe pancer for deli

  • Alecta

    Um, David, you say:
    “Nobody does South Asian like Toronto but it’s mostly restricted to Chinese and pitifully few Japanese places ”

    The term South Asian refers to India, Sri Lanka et al. China and Japan are general categorized as Asian or East Asian. *sigh* Grade school social studies FAIL

  • Alecta

    Why oh why do the people of toronto have this desperate need to compare it to other cities!? Toronto is Toronto and that’s a pretty damned cool thing to be. If I wanted to live in London, New York or the like, I would. I don’t: I want to live in Toronto, thank you.

  • Joseph

    I love great food and know it when I find it, but would never claim to be a ‘foodie’. I can count on one hand the number of times per year I pursue fine dining in Toronto; yet I travel the globe extensively and seek out the best in each place I go. I can definitley say I have had great dining experences in Toronto.

    Reading the opening post (Martin) I was a bit taken aback. I have never met James Chatto, but did speak to him once by phone more than a decade ago. He was already a well known Toronto food writer. I am NOBODY in the food world, did not know anyone notable in that scene, and had only a few mid-level food world connections. But one day I had a question about where to find a restaurant with a certain element of ambiance (the details are not important) and nobody I knew could answer the question. Later in the day I happened to pick up a magazine with one of Mr. Chatto’s articles in it and began to think maybe this guy would know the answer, if there was one to be had. So I called a number in the magazine credits and left him a message. I later told some friends and the common response was ‘you nut, he’ll never get the message / never call you back’.

    Well he did call back! I was pleasantly surprised because I never really expected it either. He called and spoke to me for 15 – 20 minutes discussing first the question itself and then speculating aloud to do the best he could to help me. He was wonderfully pleasant and sincerely trying to help: me, the young food nobody.

    In retrospect I guess he came across as exactly the sort of food critic who is comfortable enough in his own skin to actually speak to the person next to him in a restaurant if the atmosphere suggests such is appropriate. If you disagree with the man’s conclusions, feel free to share your thoughts. But please, if all you can do is attack the man, spare us. It adds nothing. All the best to you Mr. Chatto…and, you too Martin.

  • Jessica

    I love that so many of my favourite new places to eat made the list! Guu and Hoof Cafe are two seriously delicious restaurants – both dripping with cool atmosphere – where you can enjoy a full meal and drinks for far less than the usual ‘best resto’ prices. Good job representing the younger demographic!

  • AJL

    Wow! I just spent the last 20 minutes reading the trail of posts. Love it! What I see in the mix of opinions is passion for good food. Exactly what Toronto needs and has. So far I’ve been turned down for reservations at 3 restaurants for tonight…Nota Bene, Harbord Room, Trevor’s Kitchen. So me thinks that our restaurant scene is alive and kicking…Personally I think good food is a matter of opinion, great food is a matter of taste and experience.

  • Paul D

    Toronto has not Michelin star restaurants because the Micheline guide doesn’t review Toronto. That has no reflection on the quality of the restaurants in Toronto. Come on.

  • S

    Ame was obnoxious, loud, full of the most horrid people and 2 vodka sodas at the bar cost me $30.

    This wasn’t a restaurant/club, this was an obnoxious petting zoo full of the most obnoxious clientele.

    Did I mention this place was obnoxious?
    Never again.

  • S

    And North America doesn’t even compare to some of the simple, no frills but absolutely amazing restaurants in Paris.

    Why is cuisine here so pretentious (and expensive)?

  • jordan

    why, oh why, do i have to click through 12 screens to read this article? please think of the user experience. this one is bad.

  • Ridiculous

    Toronto Life idiocy strikes again.

    And I agree with the guy who pointed out the cover is atrocious.
    It’s supposed to be a celebration of the best food in the city and you have some shitty shot of pasta and tomato sauce with some crappy 200 dollar illustrations and handwriting over top of it? Christ, who art directs this rag?

  • Laura

    Horrible experience at this restaurant. I had heard of it a number of times and looked forward to going. My boyfriend, 2 friends and I decided to take the trek out to West Queen West last Saturday to give it a try. The service was some of the worst I have experienced. EVER. We waited next door at Salumi as our table was repeatedly given to other patrons, and when we were finally seated, we were ignored or given very short answers. All in all it was a waste of money with bland food and ignorant people.

  • Ridiculous

    Oh, sorry Toronto Life – sorry for criticizing your ludicrous inclusion of a restaurant not even located in Toronto in a Best of Toronto list.

    Sorry for criticizing the horrible art direction on the cover.

    Sorry you take such offense at criticism.

    Hey – maybe you’ll delete this comment too.

  • joe

    i don’t think so. the restaurant is noisy and dirty. horrible…. not like real izakaya in japan.

  • vrs003

    After reading this article about the Queen and Beaver’s excellent fish and chips, we headed out to the place to check it out.

    Much to our disappointment, there is nothing excellent about this dish, except the salsa. The fish itself, was tasteless and unappealing.

    We went up the lounge since the ground floor was busy. We enjoyed being in the lounge; it was cosy and the place really does have character.

    This is certainly not a place we’d go back to. Not only is it pricey but the food was dismal

  • Leanne

    I recently went to The Local kitchen & Wine bar and it was TERRIBLE. The service was atrocious. Our server (who we later found out was part-owner) was rude and snippy and chastised us for not ordering quickly enough because as he said, “i have a whole bar full of other people waiting for your table!” Geesh!

  • Joseph


    Please please stop with your rambling as you have NOT explored ALL that Toronto has to offer. Where is your mention of Burger’s Priest and the rising tide of burger joints done right? You only seem to concentrate on mentioning restos that are ad noseum mentioned over and over again from one mag to another. Any mention of Zen or Hashimoto or Guu or Frank’s Kitchen or The Black Hoofe? Get over to and have your eyes opened to what’s available in Toronto. Hey a plate of spaghetti with sauce done right can be heaven. Simplicity is the true mark of great chefs. Splendido? La Maquette? Toronto is culinarily more diverse than you think.

  • Locavore

    They are not even open. Closed back in the fall of 2010 as is the attached bakery.

  • alexis


    Toronto’s museums are far from fabulous.

  • DB

    David – you’re clearly a dinosaur, and possibly an ignorant blow-hard.

    All the places you list are about 10 years past their prime. And please realize that El Bulli is absolutely nowhere near Madrid, plus it’s closing in 4 months.

    Food trends and tastes change. I’ve eaten in some pretty nice places elsewhere, but have been pleasantly surprised by some of Toronto’s new spots like the Black Hoof.

    Please enjoy your 5 course, white table cloth, silver service at Le Bernardine. We’ll be trying something new..

  • Josh

    TOTALLY AGREED — just because there are endangered fish eggs or unnaturally fatty duck livers or strange subterranean fungus on the menu, that’s no measure of the quality of the food. That’s just a price-point power-point justifying the cost of the meal. Good food is good food. Good service is good service.

    I’ll take perfectly prepared liver n’ onions served with a genuine smile over charcuterie with a smirk any day.

  • V

    Mattagascar: 6 Garamond Ct. is at DVP and Eglinton; that’s hardly 2 hours away.

  • N1G3L

    I’m sorry to say that Local Kitchen & Winebar is not worthy of your top 10 new restaurants. It’s a balance between ambience and food for any critic’s choice but sadly this cramped and under-ventilated space failed to deliver on their popular Tortelloni dish with a seriously al dente pasta that was crunchy on the folds and overwhelmed the promising taste. After waiting for people to be moved in to vacated tables from the bar 4 doors down the 3 of us were seated at a table for 6 with a couple at one end who kindly closed the front door every time the staff tried to add some fresh air to the space. When the couple left the maitre de replaced them with a group of four that put an extra spin on the closet feel stifling any thoughts of another glass of wine, dessert or coffee. When informed of the inedible pasta entree the waitress immediately took it up with a manager who while promising to investigate with the kitchen didn’t come back with any findings before we received our bill. Definitely not one of those restaurants we wilt on our “I’d go back” list.

  • Glift

    Even if I saw a 905 # I’d dismiss it as not being a Toronto restaurant, but 705?? Never been there and don’t even know where it is. Is it up by Sudbury? Ridiculous

  • dominique

    i think i might wanna come here!

  • Michael




  • Doug

    A lot of new restaurants and catering companies coming up this year, just look at the change from 2010 to 2011. Our catering company, has been in the top 10 Toronto caterers for many years. Excited to see when a caterers list will come out.

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