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Weekly Lunch Pick: Sabai Sabai’s rich and fragrant massaman curry

(Image: Andrew Brudz)

Nuit Regular is one of those chefs whose culinary groupies follow her from kitchen to kitchen. After her recent split with Khao San Road, the place to go for Regular’s distinctive northern Thai cuisine is Church Street’s new Sabai Sabai, where the lunch menu is full of comfort food perfect for the dead of winter.

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Weekly Lunch Pick: the demi katsu sandwich at JaBistro

(Image: Renée Suen)

JaBistro, the youngest member of the Guu family in Toronto, launched its lunch service last week. And while the considerable buzz it has attracted is mostly due to its aburi sushi, which is blowtorched, and its oshizushi, which is pressed into perfect little rectangles, the most interesting item on the small midday menu comes from the “bistro” side.

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Weekly Lunch Pick: the #FourSquare Meal at Hawthorne

The #FourSquare Meal (Image: Andrew Brudz)

Hawthorne Food and Drink’s tiny room is already packed for lunch with Bay Street suits, in large part because of the popularity of the #FourSquare Meal. The lunchtime special is chef Eric Wood’s new incarnation of the Square Peg he used to serve at Fabarnak, which includes a salad, vegetable, protein and dessert served in four tidy compartments (the daily menu is posted on the restaurant’s Facebook page). Our visit brings a bruléed orange on top of truffled fennel and thinly sliced pickled beets; a hearty Swiss-style rösti topped with roasted tomato; a spinach crepe filled with slices of tender smoked beef cheek, green onions and jus; and chewy, just-sweet-enough pecan macaroons with a dab of maple syrup and sautéed apples that taste like they’re plucked from a freshly baked pie. A fun lemon-lime-ginger-mint housemade soda ($3.50) comes in a kitschy boot-shaped glass; mercifully, it doesn’t come with the high-fructose corn syrup that could derail your New Year’s resolution.

The cost: $25, including tax and tip

The time: 1 hour, with a precautionary reservation (the small dining room fills up quickly)

Hawthorne Food and Drink, 60 Richmond St. E., 647-930-9517, Facebook page, @HawthorneTO


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Weekly Lunch Pick: a hearty plate of spaghetti all’Amatriciana at Strada 241

Toronto-Weekly-Lunch-Pick-Strada-241-Rubino

(Images: Renée Suen)

Strada 241, the new restaurant and espresso bar from Made to Order stars Michael and Guy Rubino, is a rustic Italian retreat among the hole-in-the-wall pho shops and greasy Chinese noodle and dumpling houses that line the southern end of Chinatown. Diners snack on the packaged sandwiches, baked goods and pizzas by the slice on communal tables in restaurant’s lofty front area, while the buzzy back dining room, with its bright marble-topped kitchen bar, serves Southern Italian classics.

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Year in Review: all of 2012’s Weekly Lunch Picks, ranked by price

One year, so many delicious lunches. Once again, faced with the impossibility of choosing our favourite midday dining option of 2012, we thought we’d present the full range, from cheapest (a humble St. Lawrence Market fajita at $8) to most expensive (an all-out splurge at Splendido for $85).

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Weekly Lunch Pick: a deliciously messy burger at the revamped Reds

(Image: Andrew Brudz)

Since relaunching in October, the two-storey Reds Wine Tavern is once again humming with business chatter and clinking glasses. Michael Steh’s haute cuisine has been replaced by the unpretentious local fare of new executive chef Ryan Gallagher, a Top Chef Canada alum who previously worked at Ruby Watchco.

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Weekly Lunch Pick: the splurge-worthy December prix fixe at Splendido

Every year, Splendido’s chef Victor Barry and manager Carlo Catallo get into the holiday spirit by opening their doors for that most un-Splendido of meals: lunch. The European Retreat prix fixe series takes place on a few select days in December and is an excellent way to try one of Toronto’s best restaurants at a price far below its standard dinner spend-fest. The 2012 rendition, though less elaborate than in previous years, lives up to this tradition.

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Weekly Lunch Pick: Origin Liberty’s $9 daily sandwich

BLT and Spanish fries at Origin Liberty (Image: Renée Suen)

Earlier this year, Claudio Aprile opened Origin Liberty, taking over a spacious corner of what used to be a Bren gun factory. The lunch menu includes some of the more popular plates from dinnertime but also a collection of sandwiches with international flavour profiles. The best deal is the $9 daily sandwich, which ranges from an indulgent lobster club to a classic meatball and is advertised on Twitter and, appropriately enough, on a sandwich board outside Origin’s main entrance.

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Weekly Lunch Pick: the rare roast beef sandwich at The Oxley

Chef Andrew Carter, the culinary talent behind The Queen and Beaver, is on a mission to restore the good name of pub fare in Toronto, and with his second restaurant in the city, he’s well on his way. The Oxley, situated in the heart of Yorkville, boasts an over-the-top dining room in intense greens and intricate floral wallpapers that screams “pub” as loudly as the menu, which is filled with classic British dishes like fish and chips, lamb curry and duck and potato pie.

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Weekly Lunch Pick: dim sum for one at Cha Lau

Weekly Lunch Pick: Cha Lau

(Image: Renée Suen)

Earlier this year, midtown dim sum staple Cha Liu relocated to a new teahouse-inspired room at Yonge north of College, and changed its name just slightly to Cha Lau. While it still serves all-day dim sum to hungry groups, it also offers an ever-changing prix fixe lunch special ($9) that’s friendlier to solo diners.

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Weekly Lunch Pick: the new three-course prix fixe at Richmond Station

The moules frites from Richmond Station’s prix fixe lunch (Image: Andrew Wallace)

Carl Heinrich’s new farm-to-table restaurant Richmond Station provides a much-needed alternative to the stiff dining rooms of the Financial District. The 27-year-old chef and winner of Top Chef Canada invested his $100,000 prize money to create an 80-seat subway-themed room at the corner of Richmond and Yonge, with old-timey black-and-white photos on the walls and Johnny Cash and John Lee Hooker on the stereo. The restaurant opened for dinner at the beginning of October with a packed reservation book before adding lunch service last week. For now, the noon menu mirrors the short, bistro-pub-style dinner menu, with an added three-course prix fixe ($22).

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Weekly Lunch Pick: homey Italian fare at the revamped Little Anthony’s

Little Anthony’s chicken parmigiano (Image: Renée Suen)

Earlier this year, the long-in-the-tooth downtown Italian spot Little Anthony’s underwent a three-month renovation and transformed into LA’s Italian + Bar, a casual osteria in the shadow of the Sheraton Centre (sister restaurant Mediterra made a similar transition last year, becoming the lauded Estiatorio Volos). Having shed its tired steakhouse attire, the modern, revamped dining room is filled at lunchtime with financial district office workers chowing down on Italian comfort food classics.

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Weekly Lunch Pick: fun, healthy takeout in the Financial District from I.Q. Food Co.

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The seasonal butternut squash hot box at I.Q. Food Co.

I.Q. Food Co. opened its modern spin on the classic cafeteria at the T.D. Centre food mall last March to provide busy Bay Streeters with a rare and valuable commodity: healthy lunchtime takeout made with whole grains, lean proteins and good fats (nothing fried). Their website even provides a nutritional breakdown of the wraps, salads and hot boxes on the menu—though there are also cookies and muffins if you’re not counting calories, but only at the Brookfield location. 

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Weekly Lunch Pick: the just-greasy-enough fried chicken thigh sandwich at The County General

(Image: Renée Suen)

Greasy southern comfort food has been surging in popularity for a few years now, but it’s always difficult contemplating a return to the office after a helping of chili, say, or fried chicken. The County General, Splendido’s cooler younger sibling on Queen West, has a solution, in the form of its perfectly lunch-sized fried chicken thigh sandwich ($14). 

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Weekly Lunch Pick: a rich and warming bowl of ramen at downtown’s Sansotei

(Image: Renée Suen)

This year marked the invasion of the alkaline noodles: Ramen restaurants have been popping up around downtown Toronto, and with them, block-long lineups. One of the newer players, Sansotei, opened its doors last month on Dundas, and has already amassed its share of followers for its tiny, five-ramen menu. The narrow restaurant specializes in tonkotsu broth, a slow-simmered pork bone-based soup that’s full of collagen (this is a good thing) and slicked with beads of glistening fat.

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