Expert recommendations for the best places to eat in four price ranges: budget ($), moderate ($$), expensive ($$$), and luxury ($$$$)
Ba Shu Ren Jia
“It’s for adventuresome eaters: authentic Szechuan food is ferociously tasty and aggressively spiced.”—Chris Nuttall-Smith, former food editor, Toronto Life magazine. Casual eatery in the city’s northernmost reaches; clientele often hail from mainland China here for a taste of home. 4771 Steeles Avenue E; tel. +1 416 335 0788.
The Cheese Boutique
“Put together a lunch of local bakery Celestin’s fig bread and a triple cream Riopelle from Quebec. Co-owner Agim Pristine makes a mean espresso, too.”—Sasha Chapman, food columnist, Globe & Mail. Pungently perfumed paradise for the literati; infinite assortment of exotic artisanal wedges, olives, and fresh-baked loaves for take-out. 45 Ripley Avenue; tel. +1 416 762 6292. www.cheeseboutique.com
“I can almost believe I’m in Naples when I’m sitting on the patio with a tumbler of red wine and a margherita pizza.”—Sasha Chapman. Laid-back and festive ambience attracts lineups at almost any hour; robust and frank Italian fare; leafy backyard patio invites languid limoncello-sipping. 720 Queen Street W; tel. +1 416 504 0320. www.terroni.ca
“If I’m with friends, I’ll go to Torito to share some tapas (Serrano ham, Chilean tripe stew, white-bass ceviche).”—Sasha Chapman. A jubilant, stylish, and petite tapas bar in Kensington Market, outfitted with wooden tables and festooned with signs of Spain (bottles of Spanish riojas and sherries line exposed brick walls); warm, charming service. 276 Augusta Street; tel. +1 647 436 5874.
“Chef Nathan Isberg is self-taught and prepares authentic, tasty Spanish tapas, using fresh local Ontario produce.”—Chris Nuttall-Smith. Long candlelit bar and tryst-inviting wooden booths; hand-cut Serrano ham, Catalonian flatbread, and an impressive selection of Spanish wines and sherries. 783 Queen Street W; tel. +1 416 703 0783.
“Colborne Lane is a winner. The food is very innovative without being over-the-top, the setting is dramatic, and it’s cool and casual.”—Alan Davis, executive editor, Night Day city guides. Memorably imaginative molecular-gastro restaurant (chef pours flavored cream into liquid nitrogen to make ice cream). 45 Colborne Street; tel. +1 416 368 9009. www.colbornelane.com
Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar
Populist, dressed-up comfort food; try the Québécois poutine made with Yukon gold potatoes, artisanal cheese, and pulled pork. “The best way to eat French fries.”—Chris Nuttall-Smith. A vibrant, ever-bustling, and intimate room; esoteric wine list. Nine Church Street, tel. +1 416 362 1957.
Starfish Oyster Bed & Grill
“Sit at the bar so you can watch proprietor Patrick McMurray shuck.”—Sasha Chapman. McMurray won the world oyster-shucking championship in 2002; homey, lively, pretense-free room welcomes with varnished plywood tabletops and lots of organic fare including Royal Malpeque oysters and fresh scallops. 100 Adelaide Street E; tel. +1 416 366 7827. www.starfishoysterbed.com
“For an intimate dinner, it has to be the steak frites at La Palette.”—Sasha Chapman. Toasty French bistro in Kensington Market; swathed in Provençal fabrics and swelling with Edith Piaf chansons; engaging, attentive service; petite, but long on charm; perfect for candlelight trysts. 256 Augusta Avenue; tel. +1 416 929 4900.
Splendido Bar and Grill
“Life will never be the same after his [Chef David Lee] white truffle polenta.”— Sasha Chapman. Located in Toronto’s Annex; sweeping high-ceilinged, white-linen dining room sandwiched amid Laundromats and used bookshops; polished black-tie service. 88 Harbord Street; tel. +1 416 929 7788. www.splendido.ca
“His [Chef Susur Lee] flavor combinations are inventive and novel; an evening here is an event.”—Chris Nuttall-Smith. Glamorous gastronomica in a pared-down room: food (not decor) wins the spotlight; seven-course tasting menu remains the choice feast for visiting foodies. 601 King Street W; tel. +1 416 603 2205. www.susur.com
“The wild-hunted caribou, served in a puff-pastry tourtiére and sided with Jerusalem artichoke puree is incredible.”—Chris Nuttall-Smith. Perched on the 54th floor of The Toronto Dominion Bank Tower and offering striking views of Lake Ontario and the Toronto Island. Toronto Dominion Tower, 66 Wellington Street W; tel. +1 416 364 0054. http://www.oliverbonacini.com/Canoe.aspx/
Eminently civilized, old-world Portuguese dining room serves city’s finest fish and seafood; meals come with memorable prologues (Portuguese corn breads, olives, cheese, honey, and balsamic); winsome, mains (black espada; improbably gigantic shrimp; salt cod); infallible, polished service. 864 College Street W; tel. +1 416 538 1910. http://www.chiadorestaurant.com/
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