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Restaurants

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Best New Toronto Restaurants 2013

Best New Restaurants 2013

One thousand three hundred and eight. That’s how many restaurants opened in 2012—more than triple the year before, and the year before that. Toronto is in the middle of a restaurant boom that’s changing the way we eat, drink, date, schmooze, celebrate and generally revel in the city. The shimmering Momofuku triplex has dignified business execs devouring pork ssäm with their hands, and couples happily—gratefully—shelling out $400 for 10-course tasting menus. Downtowners are piling into rowdy izakayas for after-work sake and Sapporo, while Brit pubs are, to the amazement of every Firkin-going anglophile, becoming destinations for refined dining. Canadiana is no longer just a term for moose-print sweaters and maple leaf mittens, but a bona fide big-city cuisine borne of chefs obsessed with heritage meat and wild plants, preferably foraged in the Don Valley. Yes, Toronto is so flush with new places to eat that keeping up with them has become a full-time job. This year, Toronto Life’s critics were busier than ever, stuffing our faces, snapping photos on the sly and analyzing every last aspect of the dining experience. After much debate, we winnowed down 1,308 establishments to the top 10. Here, our annual ranking of the most innovative, interesting and delicious new Toronto restaurants.

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The Dish

Features

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Gastropub Crawl: the good and great among the new wave of British pubs

Can a new crop of British pubs push the comforting cuisine beyond stodgy pigs and puddings?

The Oxley in Yorkville serves up solid standards with a side of kitsch

The Oxley in Yorkville serves up solid standards with a side of kitsch

Toronto is a town obsessed with the culture of its constitutional overlord. We woke up early to watch the royal wedding, eagerly pirated the latest episodes of Downton Abbey, and still flock to Stratford for our annual dose of Elizabethan manners. Now we’re doing the previously unthinkable: craving British food. It isn’t a new fixation—the city has long had its share of toads-in-the-hole velvet banquettes and dark wood panelling, but there’s a new seriousness to the endeavor.

In 2009, the Manchester-born chef Andrew Carter and Jamieson Kerr, the British expat who also founded Crush Wine Bar on King West, opened The Queen and Beaver on Elm Street, the city’s first (and still best) sophisticated pub. Across town that year, the renowned oyster shucker and Starfish proprietor Patrick McMurray launched The Ceili Cottage, a raucous Irish pub that, while not British, helped lift Toronto out of its Firkin fog and raised our expectations of pub food.

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The Dish

Restaurants

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New Reviews: The Grove, Hawker Bar and Actinolite

A refined British pub, a homey Hallam bistro and a Singaporean snack bar

The Grove star ½
1214 Dundas St. W., 416-588-2299

New Reviews: The GroveChef Ben Heaton worked in some of Toronto’s best kitchens—One, Colborne Lane and Globe Bistro—before opening this new Dundas West spot with former One colleague Richard Reyes. Judging by the confidence and creativity on display in his British cuisine, Heaton has never been more at home. The long, dimly lit room has the vibe of a top-notch local, with cask-conditioned beers on tap, Britpop on the speakers and a Wimbledon-worthy Pimm’s cup executed to sour, cucumbery perfection. Minimalist menu descriptions make every dish a surprise. A stunning appetizer brings a trio of chubby scallops seared flawlessly (i.e., hardly at all), complemented by granny smith matchsticks, sautéed leeks, celery leaves, pickled walnut and stinging nettles that bring out the depth of the seafood flavour. Mains are prettily plated. The beef two ways—braised short rib and seared, roasted hangar steak—is wond­rously tender, sided by two deep-fried oysters and a bath of briny oyster emulsion. The tart lemon curd with elder­berries and clotted cream scores higher points than the heavy ginger cake with custard and marmalade. French and New World wines by the bottle come dearly, so it’s best to buy by the glass. Closed Mondays. Mains $16–$20.

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Openings

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Introducing: The Grove, Dundas West’s new spot for modern English cuisine

Owners Fritz Wahl, chef Ben Heaton and Richard Reyes (Image: Renée Suen)

Over the last few years, formerly low-rent areas like Ossington, Parkdale and Dundas West have become culinary destinations, with a spate of new restaurants serving up affordable and inventive cuisine in casual dining rooms. The latest in this line is The Grove, a 50-seat Dundas West restaurant from chef Ben Heaton (One, Colborne Lane, Globe Bistro), Richard Reyes (One) and Fritz Wahl (Senses) that’s aimed at introducing Toronto diners to modern English cuisine.

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