Bestellen

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Meat and Co.: how restaurants like Yorkville’s opulent NAO are reinventing the steak house

meat-and-co

Chef Stuart Cameron cradles a side of beef inside the aging locker at NAO (top left); The stunning multi-tiered chandelier hanging over the bar at Yorkville’s NAO is made of clear acrylic tubes (top right); The menu at NAO lists the provenance of each steak, like this 18-ounce, bone-in prime strip loin from Nebraska. The steaks are aged in-house for a minimum of 40 days and cooked over a wood-fired grill stoked with sugar maple logs. On the side are brûléed mac and cheese and brussels sprouts with miso-cured bacon (bottom).

NAO ★★★
90 Avenue Rd., 416-367-4141
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Last fall, I met with five friends for a bachelor party at Barberian’s, that most old-school of steak houses. Little has changed since Harry Barberian fired up his grill in 1959. At the entrance there’s a wooden statuette of Sir John A., as if to remind the politicians who frequent the place that they’re partners in a grand project. Our waiter addressed us as “sirs” and delivered baskets of bread sticks. The “Bill of Fare,” illustrated with bucks and rifles, includes the ultimate throwback: an after-theatre selection of crêpes Suzette and fondue.

Our little party knocked back bottle after bottle of terrific wine (the cellar is legendary) and did our best to imitate our dads by ordering slabs of garlic bread, baked potatoes smeared with full-fat sour cream, and New York strip (grilled a couple of minutes longer than advisable), a sprig of thyme the only green on the table. Even though we’re all pushing 40, our bachelordom antics largely behind us, we were just getting started—ready to carry on all night like a bunch of Bradley Coopers in search of a tiger. Who knows what trouble we’d have gotten up to if a guy at another table, not much older than us, hadn’t suffered a medical emergency. The dining room fell silent while ambulance attendants wheeled him past on a stretcher.

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Mother’s Day Brunch 2014: nine very delicious ways to say “I love you, Mom”

(Image: Renée Suen)

(Image: Renée Suen)

Mother’s Day is on Sunday, May 11, and Toronto’s best brunch spots are filling up fast. After all, how better to thank the woman who birthed you than to ply her with pastries, prosecco and a gut-busting midday meal? For all you last-minute planners, we pulled together a list of spots that aren’t yet booked up, with options to suit every style of matriarch. Here, nine Toronto destinations for Mother’s Day brunch.

Bar Buca
Chef Rob Gentile’s grown-up snack bar doesn’t take reservations, but his decadent Italian brunch is worth the wait. Choices range from crunchy cream-filled cannoli to chocolate-toped Tuscan crepes infused with pig’s blood, and the cocktail list is similarly inventive. We suggest the Mimosa Rosa, an effervescent mix of prosecco, grapefruit and orange aperol.
75 Portland St., 416-599-2822, no reservations

Hudson Kitchen
Hudson Kitchen’s brunch menu is an intriguing mix of European and Asian flavours—think buttermilk pancakes with bourbon syrup, Spanish omelets and Filipino-style French toast with pork and pineapple mostarda. For Mother’s Day only, meals come with a complimentary package of take-home petit fours.
800 Dundas St. W., 416-644-8839

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Trend Watch

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The Top Food Trends and Who Does Them Best: Shared Meals

Foie gras–stuffed chicken, porterhouse steak and whole suckling pig are the new extravagant norm

The Top Food Trends and Who Does Them Best: Shared Meals

Perfectly seared côte de boeuf at ­Bestellen

There were six of us up against one pork butt—and the pig won. It was a beauty, grown massively plump at a small farm just outside St. Jacobs. Rubbed with brown sugar, it spent a slow afternoon in the oven until the meat pulled apart effortlessly, clouds of steam breaking from the sweet crust. We dug in, mixing the shreds with fresh oysters and kimchee, then wrapping it all in lettuce leaves and savoury crêpes. After a couple of blissful hours, we’d barely made a dent.

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Restaurants

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Friday Night Bites: tables for two at Splendido, Porzia and Bestellen

FRIDAY NIGHT BITESIt’s 4 p.m. on Friday, and you don’t have a dinner reservation. Still, there’s no need to fret (or waste your night waiting for a table). We just called some of the city’s hottest restaurants and found three that can squeeze in two for dinner tonight. Now it’s up to you to get dialing and snag a table before they’re all gone. Today: Splendido, Porzia and Bestellen.

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Friday Night Bites: tables for two at Chantecler, Marben and Bestellen

FRIDAY NIGHT BITESIt’s 4 p.m. on Friday, and you don’t have a dinner reservation. Still, there’s no need to fret (or waste your night waiting for a table). We just called some of the city’s hottest restaurants and found three that can squeeze in two for dinner tonight. Now it’s up to you to get dialing and snag a table before they’re all gone. Today: Chantecler, Marben and Bestellen.

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Friday Night Bites: tables for two at Skin and Bones, Glas Wine Bar and Bestellen

FRIDAY NIGHT BITESIt’s 4 p.m. on Friday, and you don’t have a dinner reservation. Still, there’s no need to fret (or waste your night waiting for a table). We just called some of the city’s hottest restaurants and found three that can squeeze in two for dinner tonight. Now it’s up to you to get dialing and snag a table before they’re all gone. Today: Skin and Bones, Glas Wine Bar and Bestellen.

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Restaurants

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Friday Night Bites: tables for two at Bestellen, Canoe and Origin Liberty Village

FRIDAY NIGHT BITESIt’s 4 p.m. on Friday, and you don’t have a dinner reservation. Still, there’s no need to fret (or waste your night waiting for a table). We just called some of the city’s hottest restaurants and found three that can squeeze in two for dinner tonight. Now it’s up to you to get dialing and snag a table before they’re all gone. Today: Bestellen, Canoe and Origin Liberty Village.

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Restaurants

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Best of the City 2012: four extravagant whole-beast feasts

Best of the City: feasts

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Food Events

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Weekly Eater: Toronto food events for July 30 to August 5

On Tuesday, the Culinary Adventure Company leads a canoe picnic to the islands (Image: Mike in TO)

Monday, July 30

  • Group of Seven Chefs—Fish and Beer Dinner: The seven chefs get together with Bellwoods Brewery for a five-course, seafood-heavy meal with beer pairings. Bellwoods Brewery, 124 Ossington Ave., 416-535-4586. Find out more »
  • Monday’s Dinner chef series at Chantecler: This week, chefs Jonathan Poon (Chantecler) and Jeff Claudio (Yours Truly) will be cooking an 18-course tasting menu full of summer ingredients. Chantecler, 1320 Queen St. W., 416-628-3586. Find out more »
  • 86’D With Ivy Knight: Judge the ultimate Blue Ribbon battle of the butter tart. Competitors from Bestellen, The Gabardine, The Flaky Tart and more. The Drake, 1150 Queen St. W., 416-531-5042. Find out more »
  • Piola’s Monday Night Mixer: Piola’s weekly aperitivo italiano, with cocktail and beer specials and complimentary snacks. 1165 Queen St. W., 416-477-4652. Find out more »

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Restaurants

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Friday Night Bites: Ruby Watchco, The Grove and Bestellen

FRIDAY NIGHT BITESIt’s 4 p.m. on Friday, and you don’t have a dinner reservation. Still, there’s no need to fret (or waste your night waiting for a table). We just called some of the city’s hottest restaurants and found three that can squeeze in two for dinner tonight. Now it’s up to you to get dialing and snag a table before they’re all gone. Today: Ruby Watchco, The Grove and Bestellen.

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New reviews: Stock, Banh Mi Boys and Bestellen

A big-ticket steak house, banh mi to queue for and a scenester meat shrine

STOCK star ½
Trump Hotel, 325 Bay St., 416-637-5550

Just opened: StockMost hotel dining rooms are conventional and quiet—depressing, even—but the restaurant on the 31st floor of the Trump Tower hums with captains-of-industry energy. Wealthy travellers gawk at the view, stockbrokers knock back $50 glasses of Tignanello, and Harry Rosen suits abound, including, on the night we visited, one worn by Harry Rosen himself. A dollar sign replaces the S in Stock’s logo, and there’s truth in advertising. The wine list starts at $50, and a $20 manhattan would be easier to swallow if it weren’t bludgeoned with bitters. Chef Todd Clarmo comes from the Oliver and Bonacini franchise and dishes up hit-and-miss steak house fare. The thick New York strip is tender; the crispy frites alongside come with a fabulous truffle aïoli. The lobster chunks in a salad, however, range from sweet and tender to salty and soggy. Pastry chef David Chow makes an incredible lemon cake with pistachio crumble, yogurt sorbet and lavender pearls. You can do better for less elsewhere, but no one in the room seems to care. Mains $24–$120.

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All-Beef Party: Toronto’s 25 best burgers ranked in order of heart-stopping, messy magnificence

25 BEST BURGERS

Nine years ago, Mark McEwan scandalized Torontonians with his $35 truffled Bymark burger. That was before words like “grass-fed,” “heritage” and “dry-aged” entered into the burger lexicon. The city is now crammed with craft burgers, and carnivores no longer flinch at steep price tags. Competitive chefs bring in whole cows from nearby farms, bake their own buns, smoke their own bacon (twice), replace ketchup with tomato chutney and source the most pungent cheeses they can get their patty-flipping hands on. Thankfully, the mom-and-pop shops haven’t been artisinalled out of business—there are still plenty of sublime greasy-bag burgers around, as well as a few new-school diners ironically replicating them. Here, the very best of the city’s boundless burgerdom.

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The Month That Was

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The Month That Was: the Toronto restaurants and bars that opened and closed in March

The meat mural at Rob Rossi’s new European tavern, Bestellen (Image: Meaghan Binstock)

It can be hard to keep pace with all the new restaurants and bars that open and close in Toronto—which is why every month, we round them all up.

Openings:

• The Federal Reserve—Four friends, mostly with other jobs in the industry, opened this new Dundas West brunch spot, with a late-night menu and cocktails to follow. Read our Introducing post »

• Thirsty and Miserable—A new Kensington Market bar in a storied space, with a fine slate of craft beers (and a menu written on a piece of cardboard). Read our Introducing post »

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Openings

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Introducing: Bestellen, the new College West meat den from Top Chef Canada’s Rob Rossi

Rob Rossi’s new restaurant is no place for carnophobes

The most recent in a slew of west-end spots run by young restaurateurs capitalizing on the affordable rent, Bestellen has finally opened on College West, right next door to Italian eatery Black Skirt (the name is German for “to order”). Chef and co-owner Rob Rossi, who took second place in last year’s season of Top Chef Canada, and business partner Ryan Sarfeld, a trained chef who transitioned to the front of house, modeled their first venture after the kind of place they’d like to hang out in: the music is loud, there are plenty of beers on tap and the menu, designed for sharing, is heavy on the meat.

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Restaurants

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Rob Rossi’s Bestellen to open, finally, on Friday

It’s been a long road. Rob Rossi, the Top Chef Canada season one finalist, first announced he was leaving his gig as Mercatto’s executive chef back in June to pursue exciting new ventures. In time, we found out the venture is Bestellen, a College Street restaurant he’s opening with business partner Ryan Sarfeld. When we toured the construction site back in October, the place was slated for a mid-November opening, but as is common in the industry, the project was beset with delays. Now, after much anticipation, we know the opening date: according to a tweet from Rossi, the restaurant will be open to the public this Friday. We predict lineups.

Bestellen, 972 College St. W., 647-341-6769, bestellen.ca