In the recession-stricken aughties, eating out in Toronto was a humble affair—chefs catered to thrifty diners by opening neighbourhood bistros that served sensible comfort food on mismatched dishes. But last year, Aria, a lavish new Italian restaurant, opened adjacent to Maple Leaf Square and reminded us how divine fine dining can be. The swanky room, decked out with shimmering chandeliers, an imposing two-storey wine cellar and 30-foot windows, is the kind of place where paying $37 for a delicately seared veal strip loin and $190 for a hand-blown glass snifter of Rémy Martin Louis XIII cognac seems perfectly natural. Aria’s arrival heralded a comeback for bank-breaking prices. Then, last September, the chef Bruce Woods, ex of Centro, opened Modus, an elegant new restaurant that quickly became a power broker destination. It was followed by Stock, the slick, soaring flagship restaurant on the 31st floor of the new Trump Tower—its menu is just as extravagant as the Donald himself, although much classier. Later this year, David Chang, the prodigious, famously fanatical New York chef, will bring a fine dining incarnation of his Momofuku mini-chain to the Shangri-La Hotel, while chi-chi chef Daniel Boulud is scheduled to open a luxe eponymous restaurant in Yorkville’s new Four Seasons. After such a long absence, the return of expense account restaurants is proof that Toronto, despite the global odds, is flush. Get ready for a feast.
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