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Introducing: Little Fin, the mix-and-match seafood restaurant from the owners of The Chase

Introducing: Little Fin

Name: Little Fin
Contact Info: 4 Temperance St., 647-348-7000, littlefin.ca, @Little_Fin
Previously: Italian restaurant Fiore
Neighbourhood: Financial District
Owner: The Chase Hospitality Group (headed by president Steven Salm), which is also behind The Chase, The Chase Fish & Oyster, and Colette Grand Cafe
Executive Chef: The Chase Fish & Oyster chef Nigel Finley

The Food: The Chase’s latest spin-off restaurant is a casual mix-and-match seafood counter. Diners choose a main item (e.g. crispy fried haddock, smoked maple-brandy wild BC salmon), a preparation method (sandwich, seaweed salad, slaw) and any add-ons or “sea sides,” like chunky potato wedges or chili-spiced broccoli. There’s also a double-decker cheeseburger (served on pitch-black buns, dyed with bamboo charcoal), lobster-topped hot dogs, and whole-lobster meals served with sea-urchin “fancy sauce.”

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Introducing: Buca Yorkville, Rob Gentile’s long-awaited spin-off near the Four Seasons

Introducing: Buca Yorkville

(Image: Renée Suen)

Name: Buca Osteria & Bar
Contact Info: 53 Scollard St. (entrance is through the Four Seasons courtyard on Yorkville Ave.), 416-962-2822, buca.ca, @bucayorkville
Neighbourhood: Yorkville
Owners: Peter Tsebelis, Gus Giazitizidis and Rob Gentile of King Street Food Company
Chefs: Executive chef Rob Gentile and chef de cuisine Ryan Campbell

The Food: Billed as the coastal cousin to Buca on King Street, the seafood-heavy menu includes pizzas, pastas and pescatarian charcuterie, plus daily whole-fish options, like an entire raw branzino that’s expertly sliced and plated tableside. (According to partner Peter Tsebelis, Buca’s seafood is both “sensible” and “traceable,” meaning that care is taken to ensure that the fish served have been harvested in ways that aren’t environmentally destructive.) Similar to Bar Buca, the restaurant serves pastries and specialty coffees during the day, and brunch on weekends. Starting next week, a multi-course tasting menu will also be available.

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Introducing: Mr. Flamingo, a new resto-bar on Dundas West with a surprisingly sophisticated menu

Introducing: Mr Flamingo

(Image: Gabby Frank)

Name: Mr. Flamingo
Contact Info: 1265 Dundas St. W., 647-351-1100, mrflamingo.ca
Neighbourhood: Little Portugal
Previously: Portuguese restaurant O Lagar
Owner: Mikey Apples, who also owns the basement bar Bambi’s (located directly beneath the restaurant), and former Happy Child co-owner Fan Zhang
Chef: Fan Zhang

The Food: Chef Zhang’s CV includes a job at an oyster bar, a stint as a sushi chef, and a three-year run at the Niagara Street Café, where he finessed his French cooking techniques under executive chef Nick Liu. All those influences are evident on Mr. Flamingo’s short menu, which balances simple bar snacks—pickles, potato chips—with sophisticated mains. Zhang boosts his dishes with ultra-luxurious ingredients—baked oysters are topped with lobster and flying-fish roe, and a massive veal t-bone comes showered with truffle shavings. The most intriguing option may be the seared tuna starter, which is served over a pool of “movie theatre popcorn sauce.”

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Introducing: Tinto Bar De Tapas, a bold new addition to Bayview Avenue

Introducing: Tinto

Name: Tinto Bar De Tapas
Contact Info: 1581 Bayview Ave., 416-485-1581, tintobardetapas.com
Neighbourhood: Leaside
Previously: The Mad Italian Gelato Bar
Owner: Nota Bene alumn Otta Zapotocky, who also owns L’Avenue bistro across the street
Chef: Robert Leonard, who previously worked at Lee and Mildred’s Temple Kitchen

The Food: “Everyone’s calling us Basque, but we’re not,” says owner Otta Zapotocky. He characterizes the food as a mix of French and Spanish, with a dash of Latin American. There are subtle Asian notes, too, like a starter of blistered shishito peppers and a soy-spiked baby octopus dish. Tapas options are divided between hot (chorizo mussels, bacon-wrapped dates, escargot) and cold (ceviche, carpaccio, charcuterie).

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Introducing: The Borough, a stylish new gastropub on the Danforth

Introducing: The Borough

(Image: Gizelle Lau)

Name: The Borough
Contact Info: 1352 Danforth Ave., 416-901-1429, borough.ca, @TheBoroughEY
Neighbourhood: East Danforth
Previously: Eritrean restaurant Elelta
Owners: Childhood friends Richard Zimmerman and Jason Ashworth
Chef: Jason Ashworth

The Food: Chef Ashworth’s menu sticks to cozy British comfort dishes, like miniature beef-stuffed Yorkshire puddings and bangers ‘n’ mash with braised cabbage. The restaurant is committed to using sustainable ingredients (hormone- and antibiotic-free meat, responsibly sourced seafood). It’s formed partnerships with local farms, whose names are scrawled on a blackboard near the kitchen.

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Introducing: Nuit Social, a new charcuterie bar on West Queen West

Introducing: Nuit Social

Name: Nuit Social
Contact Info: 1168 Queen St. W., 647-350-6848, nuitsocial.com
Neighbourhood: Little Portugal
Previously: Low-key snack bar Happy Child
Owner: Tino Bianchi
Chef: John Rosal, formerly the executive chef at Modus

The Food: The menu is divided between “social boards” (pick-your-own charcuterie, cheeses and olives) and “social plates” (shareable snacks). Meats and cheeses are sourced from all over the world—there’s soppressata from Richmond Hill, salami from Milan and a rosemary-rolled sheep’s cheese from Spain, plus a varied assortment of olives, including a Peruvian option. Traditional Italian plates (arancini balls, crispy artichokes, citrus-braised octopus) round out the menu, which will continue to evolve over time (for instance, chef Rosal is planning to add some Asian dishes, like maple-soy glazed short ribs).

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Introducing: Essen, a new spot on Dundas West for brisket, smoked salmon and matzoh-ball ramen

(Image: Caroline Aksich)

(Image: Caroline Aksich)

Name: Essen
Contact Info: 1282 Dundas St. W., 416-534-0407, essentoronto.com
Neighbourhood: Little Portugal
Previously: Quinta
Chef/Owner: Leor Zimerman, who closed his Portuguese-French bistro Quinta earlier this year and reopened the restaurant as Essen.

The Food: Essen serves the kind of food you would’ve eaten at home, if you’d been raised in a Jewish household with a French-trained chef for a mom. Ashkenazi and Sephardic dishes are unfussy but prepared with care by Zimerman, who likes to tweak traditional Jewish staples (matzo ball soup gets a ramen makeover, for example). Though à-la-carte options are available, meals are designed to be eaten family style; Zimerman suggests ordering a main (beef brisket, roast Muscovy duck breast), a veg (tsimmis roast carrots, braised cabbage) and a side (duck fat fries, pearl couscous). Essen isn’t strictly kosher, but they don’t serve pork or shellfish, and meat and dairy never mix.

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Introducing: The Drake Devonshire, the Toronto hotel’s cozy (but very cool) lakeside spin-off

(Image: Jackie Pal)

(Image: Jackie Pal)

Name: The Drake Devonshire Inn
Contact Info: 24 Wharf St., 613-399-1851, drakedevonshire.ca, @thedrakehotel
Neighbourhood: Wellington, Prince Edward County
Owner: Jeff Stober
Chef: Matt DeMille, formerly the chef de cuisine at Enoteca Sociale

The Food: Two years ago, former Enoteca Sociale chef Matt DeMille packed his bags and moved to Prince Edward County to reconnect with his roots. Soon afterwards, Drake Hotel owner Jeff Stober snatched up a lakeside property in Wellington, PEC and recruited DeMille to run the kitchen at the new countryside retreat. The hotel’s five menus focus on simple, crowd-pleasing dishes, like hearty sandwiches, fresh pastas and fish and meat sourced from local farms—the Drake’s upscale comfort food with an extra rustic touch. Brunch options include a breakfast burger, buttermilk pancakes and chili-maple glazed fried chicken with pecan waffles.

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Introducing: Saturday Dinette, the healthy Riverdale diner that replaced Hammersmith’s

Introducing: Saturday Dinette

(Image: Gizelle Lau)

Name: Saturday Dinette
Contact Info: 807 Gerrard St. E., 416-465-5959, saturdaydinette.com
Previously: Brunch spot Hammersmith’s
Neighbourhood: Riverdale
Owner/Chef: Suzanne Barr

The Food: Barr used to work as a vegan chef, so she understands food restrictions. Her menu caters to all types of eaters—it includes ribs and beef brisket, but also blackened tofu and millet burgers topped with avocado mousse. Most of her comfort dishes have a healthy twist, like mac ‘n’ cheese made with coconut milk, or “fried” chicken thighs that are actually baked.

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Introducing: The Tempered Room, a mouthwatering new patisserie in Parkdale

Introducing: The Tempered Room

(Image: Renée Suen)

Name: The Tempered Room
Contact Info: 1374 Queen St. W., 416-546-4374, thetemperedroom.com, @thetemperedroom
Neighbourhood: Parkdale
Previously: Brown Sugar Bakery
Owner/Chef: Bertrand Alépée, owner of The Tempered Chef catering company and former co-owner and chef at the now-shuttered Amuse-Bouche bistro
Pastry Chef: Tyler Lang, also from Amuse-Bouche

The Food: Gorgeous mousse cakes, bombes, tarts, croissants, custard-filled pastries and flaky éclairs piped with fruity creams and custards, all temptingly displayed in glass cases. (Alépée worked in Paris with Michelin starred chefs Guy Savoy and Alain Ducasse before settling in Toronto, so his French pastries are the real thing.) There are lots of savoury items, too, like cheesy croque monsieur sandwiches and puff pastry tarts topped with caramelized onions and tomato compote. Crusty loaves by Thuet, Blackbird and The Drake Hotel are available for purchase.

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Introducing: America, the Trump Tower restaurant formerly known as Stock

Introducing: America

(Image: Gizelle Lau)

Name: America
Contact Info: 31st Floor, Trump International Hotel and Tower, 325 Bay St., 416-306-5800, americarestaurant.ca
Neighbourhood: Financial District
Proprietors: Oliver & Bonacini Restaurants and INK Entertainment
Chefs: O&B executive chef Anthony Walsh and chef de cuisine Bill Osborne

The Food: Luxurious takes on classic diner dishes, like flapjacks draped with lobes of foie gras and a Cobb salad tossed with fried frog legs instead of chopped chicken. $170 buys a beef-shin barbecue platter big enough for four, while $150 brings an ounce of Canadian caviar with blinis, crème fraiche and all the other accoutrements. 

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Introducing: Nodo, a stylish new Italian restaurant in the Junction

Introducing: Nodo, a stylish new Italian restaurant in the Junction

Name: Nodo
Contact Info: 2885 Dundas St W., 416-901-1559, nodorestaurant.ca
Neighbourhood: The Junction
Owners: High school friends Vito Tomasicchio, Gianmarco DeZorzi and Charlie Giordano
Chef: Roberto Marotta, the former executive chef at Parkdale’s Maialino Enoteca

The Food: Sicilian-born chef Roberto Marotta cooks Italian comfort food with some contemporary flourishes—the Terra e Bosco (“earth to forest”) platter, for instance, is artfully strewn with jewel-toned veggies and pools of creamy ricotta dressing. Gnocchi comes two ways: “new school” (with wild mushrooms and corn in a truffle-garlic cream sauce) or “old school” (tossed with Brussels sprout leaves in a wild boar ragu). The pistachio-topped cannoli is made from a secret recipe passed down by Marotta’s grandmother.

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Introducing: Branca, an Argentine grill house in a former residential home on Dundas West

Introducing: Branca

Name: Branca
Contact Info: 1727 Dundas St. W., 416-519-8165, branca.ca, @BRANCA_TO
Neighbourhood: Dundas West
Owner: James Bateman
Chef: Kanida Chey, the former chef de cuisine at Weslodge

The Food: Barbecued meats, cooked via traditional Argentinian methods—a charcoal parrilla grill for smaller cuts, and a blazing wood fire for large cuts and whole animals. Short ribs and skirt steak are sliced, fanned across a wooden board and served with house-made chimichurri, harissa and salsa criolla, an Argentinian condiment made with onions and vinegar. Starters include grilled shrimp and Spanish octopus.

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Introducing: Yunaghi, the Japanese tasting restaurant that replaced Ici Bistro on Harbord

yunaghi-intro

(Image: Renée Suen)

Name: Yunaghi, Gastronomie Japonaise
Contact Info: 538 Manning Ave., 416-588-7862, faceboook.com, @yunaghi_toronto
Previously: Ici Bistro
Neighbourhood: Little Italy
Owners: Yurika (who used to work at Ryoji), and Yasuko Miyata
Chefs: Executive chef Tetsuya Shimizu (formerly the sous chef at Yours Truly and chef-consultant for Ryoji’s recently overhauled menu) and sous chef Koichi Fujioka (Hapa Izakaya in Vancouver)

The Food: Shimizu studied traditional kaiseki—the highest form of Japanese cuisine—for 12 years in Japan before moving to North America. At Yunaghi, he uses French techniques to create modern Japanese food that you won’t find at a ramen shop, izakaya or all-you-can-eat sushi joint. Expect a refined tasting menu ($68 for seven courses; $80 for nine) comprised of dainty, complex dishes like black sesame tofu with wasabi and brown butter powder, or white asparagus dressed with almond glass chips and a paste made of tofu and Grana Padano cheese. For those who’d rather not commit to multiple courses, à la carte options are available on request.

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Introducing: Thoroughbred, a tri-level snack bar and restaurant in the middle of the Entertainment District

Thoroughbred-intro

Name: Thoroughbred Food and Drink
Contact Info: 304 Richmond St. W., 416-551-9221, tbto.ca
Neighbourhood: Entertainment District
Owners: High school buds Ariel Coplan and Jacob Fox, and Robin Kemp
Chefs: Ariel Coplan, the former executive chef at Nyood

The Food: The restaurant is divided into several sections, each with its own menu. The main floor serves smaller plates (fried sweetbreads, kung pao cauliflower), while the second floor offers a more traditional menu of burgers, mains and playful apps, like airy pea fritters served with house-made ricotta and macerated carrots. The chef’s table is reserved for family-style meals, the most lavish of which may be the “Ain’t No Party Like an East Coast Party”—a $250 feast of lobster, clams, mussels, chorizo and sides.

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