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:
Best New Restaurants
I’d gladly spend every night in a bar seat facing the open kitchen at Chantecler. Two scruffy young chefs squeeze past one another in a tiny space, cooking with a tabletop deep fryer and an electric stove. Despite the constraints, they produce an exquisitely intricate, ethnically hyphenated tasting menu that seems particularly Torontonian and of the moment. On my last visit, I gorged on tartare with house-made shrimp chips, a Chinese-style double-smoked duck with crisp baked kale, Colville Bay oysters with fresh tagliatelle, a sweet custard topped with sea urchin, and a dessert of buckwheat-flavoured ice cream and Niagara black walnuts. I left thoroughly winded.
That a special place like Chantecler can thrive on one of the grimier blocks in Parkdale only shows how the dining scene is keeping pace with our insatiable hunger to be wowed. Restaurants are experimenting with menus themed around unsung ingredients, flying in like-minded star chefs for one-night collaborations, and building empires down alleys and in former gastronomical deserts like Dupont and Dundas West. The two big name out-of-towners—David Chang and Daniel Boulud—overcame the provincial skepticism of foodie bloggers by demonstrating a deep commitment to the homegrown (their menus read like a directory of southern Ontario heritage farmers). Every block seems to have a new spot specializing in a signature ramen. And for each walk-in-closet restaurant like Chantecler, there’s a new showstopper palace like The Chase to cater to Bay Street’s big spenders.
I’ve eaten my way across this city many times over, sipping more than my share of barrel-aged bourbon, waiting in lines at no-reservation hot spots and discreetly taking notes on my smartphone. The following pages contain my take on the city’s biggest dining trends (including a few I could live without), the 10 most memorable dishes I tried in the past year and a ranking of the top 10 new restaurants.
One thousand three hundred and eight. That’s how many restaurants opened in 2012—more than triple the year before, and the year before that. Toronto is in the middle of a restaurant boom that’s changing the way we eat, drink, date, schmooze, celebrate and generally revel in the city. The shimmering Momofuku triplex has dignified business execs devouring pork ssäm with their hands, and couples happily—gratefully—shelling out $400 for 10-course tasting menus. Downtowners are piling into rowdy izakayas for after-work sake and Sapporo, while Brit pubs are, to the amazement of every Firkin-going anglophile, becoming destinations for refined dining. Canadiana is no longer just a term for moose-print sweaters and maple leaf mittens, but a bona fide big-city cuisine borne of chefs obsessed with heritage meat and wild plants, preferably foraged in the Don Valley. Yes, Toronto is so flush with new places to eat that keeping up with them has become a full-time job. This year, Toronto Life’s critics were busier than ever, stuffing our faces, snapping photos on the sly and analyzing every last aspect of the dining experience. After much debate, we winnowed down 1,308 establishments to the top 10. Here, our annual ranking of the most innovative, interesting and delicious new Toronto restaurants. Read the rest of this entry »
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Toronto Life’s roundup of the restaurants with the biggest buzz, the longest lineups and the toughest tables to snag.
Our annual Where to Eat Now issue lands on newsstands today, crowning a new restaurant as the city’s buzziest. Elsewhere, the already-packed OddSeoul gets a boost from Drake. Read the rest of this entry »
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The perennially popular April issue, featuring our 31st annual Where to Eat Now package, is out today. Pick it up for 15 pages of top food trends, hot chefs and, of course, our list of the city’s 10 best new restaurants. See the table of contents »
It’s been a good year for Claudio Aprile: his food is on the cover of Art Culinaire; he’ll soon be collaborating with Chicago’s celebrated Curtis Duffy for a special preview of the latter’s new restaurant Grace at Colborne Lane at the end of July; and, just as he predicted back in 2010, Aprile is expanding his restaurant group Orderfire, reaching as far as Pearson airport. Aprile’s latest venture: Origin Liberty Village, which quietly opened two weeks ago in the northeast corner of the Liberty Market Building which used to house Liberty Noodle.
The sprawling dining scene in Toronto is more diverse and promising than ever. This year, a handful of 20-something chefs who trained at the city’s old-guard establishments broke out on their own with original, low-rent restaurants in Roncesvalles, Bloorcourt Village and Cabbagetown. New Italian places—some quaint and friendly, others opulent and expensive—outpaced bistros by an angel hair. Canada’s heritage was thoroughly and pervasively plumbed for culinary inspiration. (Is there anything that can’t be glazed in maple syrup?) The barbecue craze progressed into a New Age southern food fetish that involves a lot of top-shelf bourbon, house-made pickles and artisanal sauces. Chefs evoked the Mediterranean on seafood-loaded menus downtown, where, after years of casual comforts, fine dining returned, albeit revamped for diners who couldn’t care less about gourmet bravado and epicurean elitism, so long as their trout is perfectly seared (and comes from Lake Huron). Toronto Life’s critics indulged in it all. We ate, drank, debated and finally ranked the 10 spots that surprised us, delighted us and made us grateful to live in this restaurant-obsessed city. Read the rest of this entry »
Read the rest of this entry »