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Introducing: Honest Weight, a new seafood shop and lunch counter from one of Canada’s top fishmongers

Introducing: Honest Weight, a new seafood shop and lunch counter from one of Canada's top fishmongers

(Image: Jackie Pal)

Name: Honest Weight
Neighbourhood: The Junction
Contact Info: 2776A Dundas Street West, 416-604-9992, www.honestweight.ca
Owners: John Bil and Victoria Bazan

The Food: Three-time oyster-shucking national champion and seafood expert John Bil has been busy over the last decade running a seafood import company and helping others open their restaurants (including Montreal’s legendary Joe Beef). Now he has a place of his own. Honest Weight’s lunch counter offers alternative takes on typical fish-shop menu items—like okonomiyaki, a savoury Japanese pancake, instead of fish and chips; a rabbit and clam soup; and a fish curry with South Indian flair. Bil says he wants to introduce his customers to lesser-known seafood, “like mahogany clams, stout razor clams and monkfish cheeks.” Oceanic offerings are also available to go—a display case is stocked with scallops, oysters, snapper and cod, all on ice.

The Drinks: Before the liquor license comes in, customers can order an old-fashioned soda made with house-made syrup. The soda water is delivered daily from Magda, the oldest maker of the stuff in the city.

The Place: Beechwood counters, a white-washed swinging door that leads to the kitchen and shelves stacked with decorative dishes all give the space an East Coast feel—and disguise its past life as a denture clinic.

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Introducing: The Four Seven, a new Bloordale bar from Tequila Bookworm’s owners

Introducing: The Four Seven, a new snack and beer bar in Bloordale

Name: The Four Seven
Neighbourhood: Bloordale
Contact Info: 1211 Bloor St. W., @the47TO
Previously: Ortolan
Owners: Jeff Caires and Andrew Usher (Tequila Bookworm) and chef Daniel Usher (Ortolan)
Executive Chef: Daniel Usher

The Food: Late-night eats served until 2 a.m., including big dishes for sharing. Usher’s concise menu includes an Italian-style grilled squid; socca, a gluten-free chickpea-flour crepe topped with either lamb or eggplant; kashkaval pane, Bulgarian fried cheese; and mushroom and pecorino gnocchi, a holdover from the chef’s Ortolan days.

The Drinks: Small batch local and international brews, wine, a handful of classic cocktails and one tap dedicated to Ontario ciders.

The Place: The space has been revamped since Ortolan closed a few months back, trading clean lines and cloth napkins for a more casual, grittier bar atmosphere, including wall art designed by local graffiti artist Jimmy Chiale.

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Introducing: Città, CityPlace’s new (but rustic) Italian kitchen

(Image: Jackie Pal)

(Image: Jackie Pal)

Name: Città
Neighbourhood: Harbourfront
Contact Info: 92 Fort York Blvd., 416-623-9662, cittatoronto.com
Owners: Charles Khabouth (Patria and La Société), Hanif Harji (Weslodge and Storys) and Adam Brown of the local Fox and Fiddle
Executive Chef: Ben Heaton, formerly of The Grove

The Food: Heaton’s seasonally inspired menu of Italian comfort food is filled with bright and rustic flavours—the roasted cauliflower dish, for instance, has the vegetable prepared three ways (sliced raw, roasted and pureed), then topped with crispy capers and wine-soaked raisins and an emulsified dollop made of those same two ingredients. Wood-burning ovens on both ends of the restaurant fire out pizza, sourdough, ciabatta and baguettes, but Heaton likes to throw mussels, fish and bacon into the flames for a kiss of smoke, too. Almost everything is made in-house or locally sourced, with one big exception: dry pasta from Afeltra. Says Heaton: “when you can get a superior ingredient somewhere else, you go for it.” The restaurant also serves a weekend brunch that offers breakfast-inspired pizzas and panini, as well as porchetta and eggs. A pizza delivery service is in the works.

The Drinks: An Italian wine list features reds and whites from Northern, Central and Southern Italy. Byblos‘s bartender Clayton Cooper has crafted a cocktail list that stars Italian ingredients like orange blossom, espresso and pink grapefruit.

The Place: Co-owner Hanif Harji found everything in the space, mixing ornate pieces like high-backed green leather banquettes and a wall montage of gold-rimmed mirrors with more casual wood tables and farmhouse chairs. And because it’s CityPlace, ground floor or no, it’s all surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows.

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Introducing: CC Lounge, a new Prohibition-themed bar near St. Lawrence Market

(Image: Renée Suen)

(Image: Renée Suen)

Name: CC Lounge
Neighbourhood: St. Lawrence
Contact Info: 45 Front St. E., 416-362-4777, cconfront.com
Owner: The St. Lawrence Bunch, a business partnership fronted by Costa Kosilos
Head Chef: Brent Richardson, formerly of Glas Wine Bar, La Carnita and Beerbistro

The Food: The menu is heavy on share-friendly versions of old favourites, like mac n’ cheese topped with crushed Goldfish crackers and kale, and fried quail on bacon pancakes. For the real carnivores, there’s also a 12-ounce bone-in aged ribeye that comes on a wood cutting board with a dollop of whiskey ketchup.

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Introducing: Duggan’s Brewery’s second coming, in Parkdale

(Image: Renée Suen)

(Image: Renée Suen)

Name: Duggan’s Brewery Parkdale
Neighbourhood: Parkdale
Contact Info: 1346 Queen St. W., 416-588-1086, duggansbreweryparkdale.com
Owner and Brewmaster: Michael Duggan
Consulting Chef: Rene Chauvin, culinary instructor at George Brown College and former National Golf Club of Canada executive chef, with sous chef Eric Snidal

The Food: This successor to Duggan’s Brewery’s previous incarnation on Victoria Street serves approachable, familiar comfort food. The rotating menu consists mostly of shareable snacks made with local ingredients. Main dishes include a peppered, braised beef brisket, served with sides of corn bread, green beans and chimichurri.

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Introducing: Touhenboku, the ramen shop’s new sushi restaurant in the Distillery District

(Image: Jackie Pal)

(Image: Jackie Pal)

Name: Touhenboku
Neighbourhood: Distillery District
Contact Info: 42 Gristmill Ln., 416-368-8686
Previously: Café Uno
Owner: Zuimei Okuyama
Chef: Veteran sushi chef Aki Kitao, who previously worked in upscale sushi restaurants like Toshi Sushi and Ki

The Food: Unlike Touhenboku’s casual ramen shops on Queen West and Yonge Street, the chain’s Distillery location focuses primarily on sushi. Chef Kitao’s menu includes over 21 types of fish, which are sliced, rolled and torched in both traditional and novel ways. A tuna-scallop roll is blasted with a blow torch and topped with house-made sour plum paste and a sweet miso-sesame glaze. For $45, the chef will prepare a 14-piece omakase (i.e. tasting menu) with interesting options like uni (sea urchin),  tarabakani (king crab), and aji (Spanish mackerel) wrapped in Japanese mint.

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Introducing: Mean Bao, the Chinatown bao shop’s new Queen West location

(Image: Jackie Pal)

(Image: Jackie Pal)

Name: Mean Bao
Neighbourhood: Queen West
Contact Info: 167 Bathurst St., 416-862-7737, meanbaotoronto.com
Previously: A short-lived burger shop called Burger Press
Chefs/Owners: Both the original location and this new outpost are co-owned by Jones and James Cheung, along with their nephew and niece Scott Ching and Erin Cheung. Everyone plays a role in the family business, including grandma.

The Food: Silky bao are piled with savoury ingredients, like peppery barbecue chicken with pickled daikon, or house-braised pork belly topped with a crunchy mixture of peanuts and black sugar. The “Sloppy Jones” is a bao-ified version of dan dan mien, a traditional Szechuan noodle dish made with minced pork, chili oil and scallions.

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Introducing: Parlor Foods & Co., a rustic Canadian restaurant and cocktail lounge on King West

Introducing: Parlor Foods

Name: Parlor Foods & Co
Contact Info: 333 King St. W., 416-596-0004, parlorfoods.com, @parlorfoods
Neighbourhood: King West
Co-owners and chefs: Jason D’Anna and Brett Howson

The Food: Parlor’s comfort dishes are punched up with distinctly Canadian additions, like a swipe of pure maple syrup on a simple charcuterie platter, or ribbons of cold-smoked sockeye salmon in an elegant Nicoise with creme fraiche and pickled beans. Adventurous carnivores may appreciate the unconventional proteins on offer, including sweetbreads (disguised as chicken wings) and horse, which is served raw and paired with a roasted bone-marrow luge.

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Introducing: Borealia, a new all-Canadian restaurant on the Ossington strip

Borealia

Borealia’s braised whelk. (Image: Caroline Aksich)

Name: Borealia (which was one of the alternative names proposed for Canada during confederation)
Contact Info: 59 Ossington Ave., 647-351-5100, borealiato.com
Neighbourhood: Trinity Bellwoods
Previously: Ardor Bistro
Owners: Evelyn Wu and Wayne Morris. The pair met while working at Waterfront Wines in British Columbia. They married last year.
Chefs: Morris, with sous chef Fabrizio DeCicco (previously of Bellwoods Brewery)

The Food: Borealia serves Canadian cuisine befitting its pre-confederation name. There’s no poutine, no tourtière, and no Nanaimo bars. “We were inspired by the immigrants that built Canada and how they tweaked their recipes to work with the indigenous plants,” says Wu. The restaurant’s whelk, a giant sea snail braised in a kombu beurre blanc and served on a soya-spiked bed of seaweed and burdock, blends French and Chinese cuisine. Other dishes on the menu draw from antique French, British and Chinese recipes, some of which date all the way back to Queen Elizabeth I’s reign. The oldest dish on the menu is the pemmican, once a high-calorie staple for First Nations people and, later, Arctic explorers. Instead of a fatty wad of powdered meat mixed with dried fruit, Morris reimagines the dish as a pretty plate of bison bresaola topped with shaved lardo and juniper-pickled blueberries.

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Introducing: NAO, a new Asian steakhouse on Avenue Road from Charles Khabouth and Hanif Harji

(Image: Caroline Aksich)

(Image: Caroline Aksich)

Name: NAO (an acronym for “New and Old”)
Neighbourhood: Yorkville
Contact Info: 90 Avenue Rd., 416-367-4141, naosteakhouse.com
Owners: Charles Khabouth, Hanif Harji, Stuart Cameron and Tim Foley
Chefs: Stuart Cameron (also the exec chef at Patria, Weslodge and Byblos) and chef de cuisine Andrew Bradford.

The Food: The Asian-American fusion trend finds full expression in this plush new steakhouse from restaurant impresarios Charles Khabouth and Hanif Harji. NAO offers some caveman-sized cuts of beef—including a 64-ounce rib steak that’s carved tableside—but it’s not just a boys’ club. “We wanted NAO to be female-friendly,” says Kabbouth. Lighter options (salads, tartare) are punched up with predominantly Japanese flavourings, like miso, yuzu, ponzu and “Bull-Dog” sauce, a sweet and savoury Japanese condiment. (NAO makes its own version in-house.) Cameron spent months researching and sourcing the very best of everything, including fresh wasabi from B.C., Wagyu beef from Japan and bamboo barrel–aged finishing salt from South Korea.

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Introducing: Buna’s Kitchen, a homey new lunch counter in the Entertainment District

(Image: Caroline Aksich)

Name: Buna’s Kitchen
Neighbourhood: Entertainment District
Contact Info: 388 Richmond St. W., Unit 5B, 647-342-5506, facebook.com
Previously: Sido Shwarma
Chefs/Owners: George Brown alums Grace An and Taylor Heon met in culinary school and opened a catering company together, Food Parade, before going the brick-and-mortar route with Buna’s.

The Food: Owners An and Heon are determined to bring old-fashioned home cooking to the downtown core. (Buna is Hungarian for “grandma”). The short menu includes sandwiches (pulled pork, duck confit), poutines and salads, plus a daily changing pasta special. On one visit, it’s bolognese; on the next, it’s fettuccine in a simple marinara sauce.

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Introducing: Baju, Zane Caplansky’s laid-back barbecue joint at The Monarch Tavern

baju-intro

(Image: Gabby Frank)

Name: Baju BBQ
Contact Info: 12 Clinton St., 416-531-5833
Neighbourhood: Little Italy
Owners: Zane Caplansky (best known for his eponymous deli and food truck) and The Monarch Tavern’s Michael Dorbyk
Chefs: Dan Green and Kyle Wyatt, the duo behind pop-up culinary collective Mise En Place

The Food: Baju ascribes to the “Meat and Three” philosophy, which holds that barbecue is best enjoyed along with a trio of equally filling side dishes. At Baju, pulled pork, sliced brisket, spicy Texas sausages and dry-rubbed ribs can be combined with heaping servings of beans, collard greens, cornbread or deep-fried mac ‘n’ cheese nuggets. It’s a simple, soul-infused menu that doesn’t try to rewrite the classics. Explains Caplansky, “This is driving down a country road in Kentucky and finding a great shack that makes ribs, where that’s all they do. We’re keeping it simple.”

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Introducing: Ovest, a polished Italian restaurant on King West from ex-Terroni chef Luca Stracquadanio

(Image: Jackie Pal)

(Image: Jackie Pal)

Name: Ovest
Contact Info: 788 King St. W., 416-214-6161, ovest-to.com, @Ovest_TO
Neightbourhood: King West
Owner: Marco Celio, the former general manager at both Buca and Buonanotte
Chef: Sicilian-born chef Luca Stracquadanio, previously the executive chef at Terroni LA and La Bettola di Terroni in Toronto

The Food: In addition to thin-crust pizzas and truffle-strewn pastas, the debut menu at Ovest includes some interesting departures from typical trattoria fare. A nontraditional caprese salad, for example, combines tuna tartare with whipped Buffalo mozzarella and salsa verde. The swordfish carpaccio—chef Stracquadanio’s signature dish—brings thin slices of smoked fish sprinkled with slivered fennel, orange segments and white anchovies. (“I want to surprise my customers with juxtaposing elements,” says the chef.) Desserts, like the chocolate nest pictured above, are almost too pretty to eat.

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Introducing: Dandylion, a modern bistro on Queen West from former Centro chef Jay Carter

(Image: Renée Suen)

(Image: Renée Suen)

Name: Dandylion
Contact Info: 1198 Queen St. W., 647-464-9100, restaurantdandylion.com
Neighbourhood: West Queen West
Chef/Owner: Jay Carter, who worked for 10 years under Susur Lee (first at Susur, then Lee) before becoming executive chef at Centro

The Menu: “I want people to feel nourished and revived,” says chef Carter of his debut menu. His dishes are sophisticated but not too fussy. Take, for example, an elegant confit chicken dish paired with celery root and toasted brioche crumbs, or a silky poached egg sprinkled with crunchy puffed grains (referred to on the menu as “savoury granola”). There’s no one unifying cuisine at play—Asian and European flavours show up together in a persimmon salad with sprouted black lentils and Marcona almonds, while the stark white dishes and veggie-focused plates suggest Nordic influences.

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Introducing: Wahlburgers, the new Toronto outpost of Mark, Donnie and Paul Wahlberg’s Boston burger shop

(Image: Renée Suen)

(Image: Renée Suen)

Name: Wahlburgers
Contact Info: 46 Blue Jays Way, 416-489-8922, wahlburgers.ca, @WahlburgersCA
Neighbourhood: Entertainment District
Owners: The Wahlberg brothers (Mark, Donnie and Paul), Starwood Group president Bruce Greenbeerg, Metropolitan Hotels president Henry Wu and Difference Capital executive chairman Michael Wekerle.
Chefs: Executive chef Paul Wahlberg and head chef Vincent Leung, who’s also the chef de cuisine at Luckee next door

The Food: Beef and turkey patties are grilled-to-order and piled high with veggies, bacon strips and condiments (including chef Paul’s secret-recipe “Wahl sauce,” which is pretty similar to Thousand Island.) Non-burger options include hot dogs, salads, grilled cheeses and a seared-chicken sandwich named after Donnie’s wife Jenny McCarthy.

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