Toronto’s Best Restaurants During the Honda Indy Weekend
Toronto is Canada’s city with the most population. Also one of the most ethnically varied. And this shows in the food universe. One can truly find every kind of cuisine on the Queen city’s streets. Also, this offer stands for every kind of budget as well.
Momofoku Group-Toronto (190 University Avenue)
- Noodle Bar (First + Second Floor)
- Milk Bar (Second Floor)
- Kōjin (Third Floor)
“Momofuku” is the brain-child of chef David Chang. Meaning “lucky peach”, it first opened in New York in 2004, and in Toronto in 2012. Right beside the Shangri-la Hotel, this glass-cube contains not just one, but three different restaurants. On both the Ground and Second Floors, the most popular option, the Noodle Bar, offers a menu made up of ramen dishes, steamed buns, and fried chicken. The Second Floor is where the Milk Bar serves as take-out all sorts of desserts like cookies, cakes, and truffles. On the Third Floor reigns Kōjin (the Japanese fire god), the higher-priced restaurant, a steakhouse built around a wood grill. Under the direction of Columbia-born chef Paula Navarrete, this piece of carnivore heaven places the utmost importance in the use of local meats (all stemming from Ontario Hereford-Angus cattle) and produce on its menu.
Yukashi (1241 Bloor Street West)
This is a small, intimate restaurant but the atmosphere is akin to a zen monastery. Here, executive chef Daisuke Izutsu creates every night a different omakase menu, prepared with surgical precision, every dish exploding into mind-boggling complexity. Opened in 2018, this Japanese restaurant is the latest in chef’s Izutsu’s career. He served in 2001 as the private chef for the Japanese Consulate General in Toronto. In 2006 he opened the much-celebrated Kaiseki Sakura and won the Number One Chef award for 2007 by Now Magazine readers. Using fresh seasonal ingredients imported directly from Japan, Yukashi’s menu is tainted in mystery. It’s either four courses, nine courses, or the Yukashi special menu, which requires a one week notice in advance (and it costs 300$ or more…).
Seoul Shakers (1241 Bloor Street West)
This is a funky restaurant mixing Asian flavors to American junk-food apocalypse. This snack-bar joint, mixed in with a full bar experience, isn’t by any means a no-go for carnivores. There’s the chopped cheese (comes in “biggie” or “smalls” option), which is made up of a burger patty, roasted kimchi, and meat on potato rolls. Or the tartare, reinvented through the combination of slices of beef, squid sashimi, an Asian pear, a sprinkle of sesame seeds and a quail egg yolk, served on sheets of nori. They are even mixing kimchee, ssamjang and gochujang to tacos, even into a beef rib charcoaled parrilla-style… such adventurous spirit renders this culinary spot as one of the most praised (and most frequented) in Toronto. Prepare to wait for a table…
Patois (794 Dundas Street West)
Patois (French for Pidgin) is Jamaica’s national language. It brings to mind a merger of influences. Here, in Craig Wong‘s mind, it brings up the merging of food cultures (Jamaican and Chinese), all the while respecting the respective ingredients of each. Born and raised in Scarborough, he stems from a Chinese family who had lived in Jamaica for three generations. He graduated with top honors from L’Institut Paul Bocuse (in Écully, Greater Lyon, France), and opened Patois in 2014, close to Kensington Market. Mixing traditional Chinese family-style dining with flavors from Asia and the Caribbean, its menu features Jerk Chicken Chow Mein (it’s signature dish), Kimchi Potstickers “Pierogi Style”, Michiba Crispy Brussels Sprouts. Or, if you’re feeling a wee bit of an empty stomach, you can order “the Whole Shebang” (the whole menu) for $119.99 (the price of July 2019). This gargantuan feat is recommended for three to four mouths…
Scaramouche Restaurant Pasta Bar & Grill (1 Benvenuto Place)
Throughout most of its 35 years of history, this restaurant has been featured in every best-of Toronto restaurant list. Located on the first floor of a condo building, atop a hill overlooking the Queen city, thus with a majestic skyline view, this restaurant is really a two-part affair. The Restaurant features haute cuisine, the Pasta Bar & Grill is a more casual eating place. A notable mention: Scaramouche’s bread service will provide half of its proceeds to Community Food Centres. Chef and owner Keith Froggett upholds a philosophy of “ethical sourcing and civic engagement”, which concretely means cooking with sustainable ingredients, such as British Columbia caviars, Ontario AAA beef, or Quebec suckling piglets, and employing techniques celebrating those incredible flavors.
Dovercourt Village Pizza Company (759 Dovercourt Road and 761 Dundas Street West)
With its motto “In Crust We Trust”, one knows he/she’s in for a treat. This is an upscale Neapolitan-style pizzeria, with three-day-old aged dough. Seating is communal at both addresses. Pizzas are sold either by the slice (5$ each), in 14” or 18” formats. Here, even vegetarian-minded eaters will find satisfaction; about half the menu is destined for them. Queen Margherita, Hungry Vegan pizzas should satisfy even the staunchest appetites. Not to forget the carnivores either. Superior Sausage with its complements of meaty products; and the funny (if not tasty) Thanks, Obama! With its mix of BBQ Spam and Pineapple! And contrary to big pizza chains, they also serve an array of beers.
The Stockyard Smokehouse and Larder (699 St. Clair Ave. West)
One of Toronto’s best barbecue restaurants. The menu is much like everywhere else: burgers, fried chicken, ribs. But owner/chef Tom Davis brings all this to another level. His fried chicken is marinated in his special secret sweet’n’ salty sauce, concocted with buttermilk, for at least 24 hours. His fries are brought to a crisp in duck fat, and come with a melted swiss raclette oozing layer… Davis has recreated a Southern BBQ, which he reserves for his cumin-garlic rubbed upright-smoked chicken and his well-marbled side ribs only three days weekly (Tuesday, Friday and Sunday), from 17:00. For the rest of the week, he serves house-smoked pastrami sandwiches, beefy 6-ounce burgers, and his renowned fries. If you choose to dine in, there’s only a short lunch counter available. Most patrons choose a takeout format instead.
Dragon Boat Fusion Cuisine (160 East Beaver Creek Road #4-6, Richmond Hill)
Located on the northwest corner of the Highways 7 and 404 junctions, this restaurant, first opened in 1999, is one of the most popular Chinese destinations when it comes to dim sum in Toronto. Preparing food with healthy concepts (less oil and less salt in cooking), the service differs from other dim sum in the fact that no carts are used (no pilgrimage of cold items throughout the dining hall), you just order the items you want and your food will be served to your table still hot from the kitchen. There’s an early bird special, from Monday to Friday before 11 am and paid cash, all dim sum (Medium and Large) go for the price of Small items. The wait can be very long, especially on the weekend. It is better to arrive early… Limited and complicated parking is also a big issue. Portions are quite large, be forewarned.
Drake One Fifty (150 York Street)
Designed by Martin Brudnizki and opened in 2013 in the heart of the Financial District, this restaurant is a mishmash of contradicting spaces. It serves as a bar, an arts gallery, a disco, and a restaurant; there’s a popular street-level patio, booths, a 60-foot marble bar; rotating art installations, guest chef dinners, weekly DJs; and a menu designed and actualized by Executive Chef Jon Pong, who choose to come up with a renewed take on the traditional brasserie fare, using local and seasonal ingredients. When you combine all this with all the premium draught beers, complex cocktails and expensive wines being served, you’ll understand very fast why Drake One Fifty is more a place to be seen at than to truly eat/drink in style. Service is aleatory at best, depending on the number of customers/clients and the ever-changing mood of the staff.
360 The Restaurant at the CN Tower (290 Bremner Blvd.)
This restaurant is one of Toronto’s most renowned, both for its food and its view… at more than 351 meters above ground, it combines great dishes to a revolving view of the whole Metropolitan area, enabling a full panoramic experience of the city. Executive Chef John Morris chooses to focus on local Canadian ingredients, to ensure an unforgettable culinary experience. When ordering the Prix fixe menu (Lunch: 2 courses for $60, 3 courses for $74; Dinner: 2 courses for $65, 3 courses for $79), entry onto the Lookout and Glass Floor Levels is free.
Leña Restaurante (176 Yonge Street)
Chef Anthony Walsh created Leña in 2016. He wanted to pay homage to his Argentinian mother-in-law, Elena. She had greatly inspired him in his culinary path, through a passionate food philosophy. Leña’s cuisine puts forth the hearth of South American cooking, combining it with Spanish and Italian influences. The menu is also made up of family recipes stemming from Portuguese Executive Chef Julie Marteleira. The restaurant occupies three floors of the Saks Fifth Avenue store (the former Hudson Bay), embracing the building’s magnificent art deco accents. The stained glass, copper cornices and grand staircases are all original. New features, by DesignAgency, include the main floor octagonal bar, luxurious velvet booths, and rich leather upholstery.
WVRST (609 King Street West)
This is carnivore heaven! When you cross the threshold of WVRST, you might as well have traveled to Germany and entered into a typical beer hall! The menu is fairly straight forward: sausages, ciders, and beers (and a whole lot of those!). Food-wise, you first pick out your sausage (and yes, there are six vegetarian/vegan choices). Then you choose your style (toasted fresh bun or currywurst). After that, you select either your pickled vegetables from the pantry, Belgian-styled or “dirty” fries (both coming in either plain or cooked in duck fat variety), and your dipping sauce. As for the beers, you have an impressive choice of breweries (from Ontario up to Belgium, Germany, and Japan) and an equally impressive range of prices (from $7.50 to a whopping $155, the latter a 750ml bottle of 3 Fonteinen’s Framboos, a beer from Beersel, Belgium).
Tennesse Tavern (1554 Queen Street West )
Despite its name, this is a restaurant for fanatics of Eastern European culinary allegiance. About any dishes coming from the region east or southeast of Vienna appear on this menu. Lobios, Khinkalis, Badrijanis, Pierogies, Spätzles, you name it, it’s there. Even their signature “Tennessee Platter” seems gargantuan: 2 veal schnitzels, debracyna sausage, wood-smoked pork, and 2 Ćevapi, for a mere $47.95…They offer an equally impressive beer assortment. One will definitely go home with a full-belly after visiting this restaurant…
Barberian’s Steakhouse (7 Elm Street)
Barberian’s Steakhouse is a downtown Toronto restaurant, close to Yonge-Dundas Square. Founded in 1959 by Harry Barberian (1930-2001), it is now owned by his son, Arron, in collaboration with Pat Orgera and Jon Andrews. The restaurant comprises two main dining rooms, two private dining rooms, and a two-story underground wine cellar housing over 20,000 bottles from the world’s greatest vineyards, with a dining table available for exclusive parties. The restaurant displays a collection of rare Canadiana on its walls, including original paintings by the Group of Seven. The steaks served are dry-aged and cooked over one of Toronto’s first hardwood charcoal grill. About fifty percent of orders pick out the famous rib steak, in either a 16 ounce ($59.75) or a 24 ounce ($72.50) portion. A bit pricey (considering the availability of Steakhouses in downtown Toronto), but classy and elegant. The service tends to be on the slow side.
NishDish Marketeria (690 Bloor Street West)
NishDish Marketeria doesn’t just serve traditional Anishnawbe food, they’ve started to reclaim native food history and First Nations culture. It started out 15 years ago with Chef Johl Whiteduck Ringuette opening a catering company, to bloom two years ago into a cafe and restaurant selling meals made with traditional native ingredients, as well as creations by local First Nations artists. In a corner the four sacred medicines central to Anishnawbe culture are displayed: sage in a smudge bowl, sweetgrass, cedar and tobacco. NishDish’s simple and cheap menu from Tuesday-Friday is entirely based on the catering services they organize during the week, meaning a different menu each day that rotates depending on the Traditional Feast and events they are working with. An ALL DAY BRUNCH is the chosen format for Saturday and Sunday, with a selection of dishes that include game meats, gluten-free and vegan items.
La Banane, Resto Français (227, Ossington Avenue)
Opened in 2016 by Chef Bradon Olsen in partnership with the King Street Food Company, the name “La Banane” was chosen as it refers to the French phrase ‘avoir la banane’ (to have a banana), meaning to have a big smile on your face. The 80-seat restaurant is built into three distinct areas: a front room with marble tables and booths, a brasserie setting with a raw bar and banquettes, and a real salon. The first thing customers see when they enter is the raw bar, stocked with sustainable and ethically sourced seafood from Hooked and Honest Weight, local seafood groceries. A menu full of classic French dishes, like fluffy omelets, as well as Olsen’s take on liver and onions.
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