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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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Introducing: Linwood Essentials, the stylish new speakeasy near Trinity Bellwoods

(Image: Jackie Pal)

(Image: Jackie Pal)

Name: Linwood Essentials
Contact Info: 930 Queen St W., linwoodessentials.com, @Linwood_TO
Previously: Yours Truly spin-off A-OK Foods
Neighbourhood: Trinity Bellwoods
Owner: Jake Valianes
Chef: Ryan Law, who staged at famous Spanish restaurants Tapas 24 and Arzac

The Drinks: Linwood Essentials is run by cocktail enthusiast Jake Valianes, a former bartender who spent a year traveling and tasting cocktails before turning his research into a business. His cocktail menu lists 24 drinks, some of which are rather unusual—a cocktail called “Lunch,” for instance, blends cream cheese infused Amaro with whiskey and black garlic bitters, while the “Artisanal Middle Finger” includes both green chartreuse and a syrup made out of super-concentrated PBR (it’s served in a mason jar and garnished with an orange-rind mustache and a pair of knock-off Ray Bans). Experimental syrups abound, including a particularly mysterious one called “Indian takeout.”

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Introducing: Mamakas, a homey Greek taverna on the Ossington strip

Introducing: Mamakas

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Name: Mamakas
Contact Info: 80 Ossington Ave., mamakas.ca, @mamakasTO
Previously: Fancy design shop Ministry of Interior
Neighbourhood: Ossington
Owner: Thanos Tripi
Chef: Former Trinity Taverna chefs Seb Yacoubidian and Pierre Restivo

The Food: Mamakas—a term of endearment for “mother”—serves traditional mezze and grilled meats inspired by coastal Greek and Turkish cuisine. Many of the dishes are ones that owner Thanos Tripi grew up with, including flaky spanakopita and whipped taramosalata topped with salmon roe. Among the heartier options, a whole seabass is brushed with latholemono (a classic Greek blend of lemon, olive oil and garlic) and grilled over a hot flame, while lamb-chop lollipops are flavoured with oregano and served with garlicky tzatziki. On the sweeter side, the bougasta brings a tower of crisp phyllo pastry layered with orange semolina custard and topped with a gooey honeyed fig.

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Introducing: Kadbanu, a casual Iranian café and restaurant on Dundas West

Kadbanu-Intro

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Name: Kadbanu
Contact Info: 771 Dundas St. W., @Kadbanutoronto
Previously: Chinese restaurant Eastern Legend
Neighbourhood: Trinity Bellwoods
Owner: Salome Mohyeddin, who also runs Queen West kebab bar Banu with her family
Chefs: Banu chefs Amir Sina Derakhshan and Cosimo Trichilo

The Food: Many of the restaurant’s Iranian dishes are based on recipes passed down by owner Salome’s grandmother. Lighter options include a golden beet tartare studded with pomegranate seeds, or a chilled corn soup topped with freshly ground sumac. Some items on the chalkboard menu are meant for sharing, including a bowl of meaty koofteh balls in tomato broth, or the mirza ghasemi, a traditional Persian dish of roasted eggplant topped with a lightly fried egg.

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Introducing: DaiLo (formerly GwaiLo), Nick Liu’s long-awaited “Asian brasserie”

Introducing: DaiLo

Click to view gallery (Image: Renée Suen)

Name: DaiLo
Contact Info: 503 College St., dailoto.com, @DaiLoTO
Previously: Grace bistro, which ended its six-year run last February
Neighbourhood: Little Italy
Owners: Nick Liu, Anton Potvin, and husband-and-wife team David Dattels and Jen Grant
Chef: Former Niagara Street Café chef Nick Liu, who’s been planning this restaurant for years

The Food: This is the latest Toronto restaurant to combine two culinary concepts in a single space. The ground floor is DaiLo, a sit-down restaurant with a full dinner menu. The second storey houses LoPan, a more casual snack bar. On the debut menu, Liu takes the kind of food he grew up with—mainly Chinese cuisine from the Hakka region—and reinterprets it using French techniques (and, in some cases, a hefty dose of irreverence). Some recipes stick fairly close to tradition, like the intricately folded pork-and-shrimp dumplings, which are served with house XO sauce. Others, like Liu’s much-anticipated “Big Mac bao,” are brazenly inauthentic.

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Introducing: The Sterling Social, a pretty new sandwich shop in the Junction Triangle

Introducing: Sterling Social

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Name: The Sterling Social
Neighbourhood: Junction Triangle
Contact Info: 1421 Bloor St. W.,647-978-3977
Owner/Chef: Shauna Jones

The Food: Chef and owner Shauna Jones is excited to share her homey dishes with the Toronto public (they’re already a hit with her son, who always orders the tilapia tacos). Her sandwiches are stuffed with slow-cooked meats, like braised barbecue chicken piled high on a crispy Kaiser, or Dr. Pepper–glazed beef brisket on buttery brioche. Almost everything is made in-house, including a thick Greek yogurt, which is served with granola, and chewy double-chocolate cookies, which can be ordered plain or as part of an ice-cream sandwich.

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Introducing: Montecito, the Ivan Reitman-owned restaurant near TIFF Bell Lightbox

Montecito-Intro

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Name: Montecito
Contact Info: 299 Adelaide St. W., 416-599-0299, montecitorestaurant.ca, @Montecito_TO
Neighbourhood: Entertainment District
Owners: Ivan Reitman, Jonathan Waxman (of Babuto fame), and Tom and Jordan Bitove (from Innov8 Hospitality, the group behind Wayne Gretzky’s)
Executive Chef: Matt Robertson, the former executive chef at Reds Midtown

The Food: The daily-changing menu blends Waxman’s signature California cuisine with Canadian veggies, cheeses, meats and seafood (a list of local suppliers is printed right on the menu). Vegetables are highlighted on almost every plate, including Waxman’s world-famous roast chicken—a dish “so impressive that it’s arguably cause for scientific study,” according to the New York Times—which is served here with fresh herbs and salsa verde. As promised, there is a Ghostbusters-themed dessert (although, contrary to early reports, it doesn’t actually explode). 

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Introducing: Colette Grand Café, the palatial new French restaurant in the Thompson Hotel

Introducing: Colette

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Name: Colette Grand Café and Bakery
Contact Info: 550 Wellington St. W., 647-348-7000, colettetoronto.com, @colettetoronto
Neighbourhood: King West
Previously: Scarpetta, celebrity chef Scott Conant’s short-lived Italian restaurant
Owner: The Chase Hospitality Group (headed by president Steven Salm), which is also behind The Chase, The Chase Fish and Oyster, and soon-to-open Little Fin
Chefs: Executive Chef Michael Steh, chef de cuisine Matthew Swift and executive pastry chef Leslie Steh

The Food: The restaurant’s modern French dishes are sophisticated, polished and pretty. Starters include lobster vichyssoise and frog-leg lollipops with pea purée. Other items are meant for sharing, like a whole roasted bass wrapped in sliced potatoes and an elaborate green-curry crab dish with baguette and grilled-pork terrine. During the day, the casual bakery-café serves sandwiches, snacks and buttery viennoiseries (and, of course, a selection of macarons).

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Introducing: Rush Lane, a modernist snack bar and booze laboratory on Queen West

Name: Rush Lane
Contact Info: 563 Queen St. W., 416-551-7540, rushlaneto.com , facebook.com, @rushlaneco
Neighbourhood: Queen West
Previously: Hot Wings Grill and Rib House
Owners: Jordan Bushell, Alexis Arrowsmith, Simon Hooper, Doug Twigger and Brett Klyszejko
Chef: Chris Scott, the former chef de cuisine at Bero in Leslieville

The Drinks: Rush Lane is owned and operated by a pack of experienced bartenders, so it’s no surprise that the drinks list is pretty interesting. It consists of ten complex cocktails made with far-flung ingredients like “beet grenadine,” “hopped grapefruit bitters” and a type of seasoned vodka that’s been banned in the US since 1978. In the back of the room, a glass-walled laboratory is crammed with tech gadgets, including a rotary evaporator (for flavour-extraction), a centrifuge (for separating substances), a tissue tearer (a next-level hand blender) and a Clinebell ice machine, which can freeze a 300-pound block of clear ice in a day.

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Introducing: Little Sister, a new Indonesian snack bar from the owners of Quince bistro

Introducing: Little Sister

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Name: Little Sister
Contact Info: 2031 Yonge St., 416-488-2031, littlesistertoronto.com, @littlesisterto
Neighbourhood: Davisville Village
Previously: Lucca Fine Linens, a fancy home shop
Owners: Michael van de Winkel and Jennifer Gittins, who also own Quince Bistro
Chef: Michael van de Winkel

The Food: Chef van de Winkel grew up in Amsterdam and spent time working as a chef in the Dutch Navy. There, he learned to cook a colonial-era Indonesian meal called rijsttafel (Dutch for “rice table”). Years later, he continued the tradition in Toronto, where the colourful feasts were a huge draw at his midtown bistro, Quince. Now van de Winkel and co-owner Jennifer Gittens have moved the Dutch-Indo cuisine to a venue of its own. At Little Sister, the menu sticks mainly to the kind of snacks you can eat with your hands: croquettes, skewers and Indonesian-style rendang tacos.

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Introducing: Braised, a new Leslieville bistro from the owner of Lolita’s Lust

(Image: Caroline Aksich)

Click to view gallery (Image: Caroline Aksich)

Name: Braised
Neighbourhood: Leslieville
Contact Info: 896 Queen St. E., 416-519-6280, braised.ca
Previously: Bistro 896, which lasted less than a year in the space
Owner: Sam Scanga, who also owns the Danforth stalwart Lolita’s Lust
Chef: Candace Chase (Trinity Taverna)

The Food: As the name implies, most of the food served at Braised undergoes some form of braising (i.e. searing, followed by simmering in liquid) before being plated. The menu veers toward traditional Euro fare (bruschetta, calamari, braised lamb shoulder), but chef Chase flexes her creative muscles with some less conventional dishes, like braised pork-cheek croquettes with cranberry coulis and tartar sauce.

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Introducing: Pai, the new Thai clubhouse from Nuit and Jeff Regular

Name: Pai
Neighbourhood: King West
Contact Info: 18 Duncan St., 416-901-4724, paitoronto.com, @PaiToronto
Previously: A Golden Griddle
Owners: Sukhothai and Sabai Sabai owners Jeff and Nuit Regular, with Janet Zuccarini (who also owns Gusto 101)
Executive Chef: Nuit Regular

The Food: Thai food experts Nuit and Jeff Regular are slowly introducing Torontonians to Thailand’s full panoply of regional cuisines. They serve central-Thai food at Sukhothai, northeastern Isan cuisine at Sabai Sabai and now, at Pai, traditional dishes from the country’s far-northern tip, which is known for its particularly fragrant and spicy food. Options include a gingery gaeng hunglay curry with oxtail, a pork-and-offal salad, and a DIY papaya salad with salted crab. (The plates are served family-style, and eating with your hands is strongly encouraged.) A simpler menu of bite-sized snacks (e.g. pork rinds, mussels) is available at Bebop, the casual, all-day snack bar.

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Introducing: Cellar Door, a serious southern Italian restaurant at Lakeshore and Islington

Introducing: Cellar Door

Click to view gallery (Image: Renée Suen)

Name: Cellar Door
Contact Info: 3003 Lakeshore Blvd. W., 416-253-0303, cellardoorrestaurant.ca, @cellardoorTO
Neighbourhood: New Toronto
Chef/Owner: Robert Rubino, a CIA (Culinary Institute of America) graduate who trained abroad at Michelin-starred restaurants like Ristorante San Domenico in Bologna, Italy, and L’Atelier Joel Robuchon in Paris, France
Pizzaiolo: Rodrigo Palacio

The Food: Wood-fired pizzas, handmade pastas and other dishes from Rome and Calabria, a region in Southern Italy. A rustic, Calabrese-style pasta combines thick-cut buckwheat noodles with clams, scallops prawns, mussels and preserved chilis. Unlike most Italian chefs, Rubino cooks his food without butter or oil, and then adds a splash of good olive oil prior to serving.

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Introducing: Eastside Social, a new Maritime-themed restaurant near Queen and Carlaw

Introducing: Eastside Social

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Name: Eastside Social
Neighbourhood: Leslieville
Contact Info: 1008 Queen St. E., 416-461-5663, eastsidesocial.ca
Previously: Italian bakery and brunch spot The Upper Crust
Owners: Former Ruby Watchco co-owners Cherie Stinson, of Restaurant Makeover fame, and her husband Joey Skeir
Chefs: Chris Mentier (Céilí Cottage) is helming the kitchen with the help of Stefan Skeene (Ruby Watchco)

The Food: Born-and-bred Haligonians Stinson and Skeir wanted to bring Maritime cuisine to Toronto’s east side. Rather than sticking to straight-up Scotian food, the menu lists coastal fare from spots around the globe, including Peru (sea bream ceviche with pink grapefruit), Portugal (cod croquettes), Mexico (surf-and-turf tacos) and New England (clam chowder). There are also a few contemporary British dishes, like a Yorkshire-pudding poutine swimming in rich demi-glace.

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