2011 marked a great year for restaurants in Toronto. There were many new openings this year and a lagging economy doesn’t seem to stop patrons from going out and enjoying the multitude of excellent restaurants in our fair metropolis.
A brief overview of new openings this year that I’m LOVING:
So what will I try this year?! I think that depends on new openings but I also realized there’s a few classic restaurants that I haven’t yet tried. Challenge Accepted!
. Barque. It’s a great name but it reminds me of the awful tasting root beer that had everyone saying “Bark has bite.” I popped into this new addition to Roncesvalles village (way-west end) on a Sunday afternoon and it was packed with the brunch crowd (and a very interesting waiter whose outfit and makeup were clearly inspired by Adam Lambert). Anyways, it’s all about the BBQ so let’s get those fingers smeared in some sauce! PS Gorgeous site and branding. PPS who is their food photographer? DAMN.
Update Dec. 27: Check. Had the half rack ribs, cuban corn and arugula salad. Delish! Review is on Yelp.
The Ace. Down the street from Barque on Roncy is The Ace and it’s hipster haven. It feels like a transplant from Swan Restaurant with its diner-like setting. It suits the neighbourhood perfectly and looks like a fun place to imbibe late night. I was told their chicken thigh sandwich is popular and curious to see how it compares to the one at County General.
Update Feb. 7: The fried chicken was the PERFECT comfort dish on a grey and misty night. This is the new diner to be at. Their fries are fantastic as well. Plus, nutella perogies! Yes, you read that right. A nice nod to this Polish nabe.
The Fuel House TO – Mackenzie Chu is tres active on the Twitters and he personally popped by to say hello when I was at Acadia with friends so his new sandwich shop is on my list. And apparently, he makes a good sandwich. He also owes us and our crew a tweet up there.
Update Jan 11, 2012: Lovely ambiance. Mac is amazing. He gave me Cold FX for my hacking cough and it helped. We had the banh mi (needs more flavour; he knows this and took the criticism with gracefulness); the burger was a solid burger and the fatty, thick bacon strip was a nice accompaniment on it. Plus, green tea for the cold! Great first date place.
4. Scaramouche. It’s been around as long as I’ve been old but I still haven’t had the opportunity to experience what’s considered one of the best views in the city. I’m told the pasta bar is incredible and I will be going here in January with a few of my social media friends to devour their coconut cream pie.
Update: on January 11, 2012 blog post. The coconut cream pie was worth the visit alone and a great way to try an expensive, fancy pants restaurant without breaking the bank. Also, I just found out that the pie is 1,000 calories for the slice. Why, why did this have to come to my attention?! But who cares? It’s good.
. Nota Bene. Ah, David Lee (ex Splendido – another raved about restaurant I haven’t been to). He’s one of our country’s greatest chefs and everyone I’ve talked to says that NB serves up one of their most memorable meals. I’ve been invited to come here and I hope to do a review. Already I want to try: Yucatan Hot and Sour Soup; their whole cheese menu (OMG); the Chitarre (Chi…what?) pasta, pine mushrooms and shaved truffles; Butternut squash ravioli with shaved truffle; Salmon sashimi; Nova Scotia lobster salad and brussels sprouts (with tempura bits!). So yeah, basically the whole menu.
Update Dec 28: Check. Had the Hot and Sour soup (flavour!); sashimi (fresh); and Nova Scotia Lobster Salad (mouth-gasm). Also, the creme caramel was the highlight of our amazing meal. One more on the list: the sea bass. Delish! My reviews are on Yelp.
L’unita. Niagara Street Cafe. This out of the way restaurant has the locals flocking despite the fact. It’s not your typical fare: Cornish hen, ox tongue et al. but I’m willing to try. This looks delish: Japanese Bolognese, Rare Beef Tataki, Basil Soba Noodles, Chili Tomato Consommé, Parmesan Oil, Truffle Pearls
After deliberation, Niagara Street Cafe is off the list. Their executive chef recently departed, so I know it won’t be the same experience. As delicious as the food looks, the menu isn’t something I’m totally familiar with. I’m usually into trying new things (hello, this list!) but I think I want a more tried and true menu.
So #6 will be back to my 2011 resolution of L’unita. I’m a sucker for a good carbonara so that’s what I’ll be having. And I have not had carbonara for a very long time! L’unita has got a great reputation and their pizza was super tasty the first time I came. It’s been years and it’s time for a return.
Update April 15: The carbonara did NOT disappoint. L’unita also hired a new chef (an ex Black Hoofer at that) and some new spring menu items. The desserts were also another highlight. Get the dessert! Yelp review here.
7. Tati Bistro. Harbord Avenue is not an area I hang around enough and I’m hoping to change that because as I walk by, many restaurants including and especially Tati Bistro seem to be bustling. What I want to try: cassoulet, steak frites, salad frisee aux lardons et Roquefort, and onion soup (to start). Joanne Kates (food critic for the Globe and Mail) lists Tati as one of her top 100 restaurants (number 56 to be exact) and describes it as quintessentially French, so I’m sold. As a part b to the Harbord diairies, I’ve never brought anything from Harbord Bakery. So that also needs to change. And also, Harbord Room needs an updated visit. The last time I was there was two years ago. Eeps!
Update: visited Jan 13. I had the steak frites and onion soup. Yum and Yum. I’ll need to come back for the brunch, salad frisee aux lardons et Roquefort and cassoulet. My review is on Yelp.
Local Kitchen and Winebar. When I was walking by on the other side of the city (aka Parkdale) the other day, I noticed this cute little restaurant. It seems like (excuse the awful pun) such a local place. The Salumi tasting and the smoked pancetta look delectable. A door or two down is their other operation, Bar Salumi. It’s a small menu consisting of appetizers and pizza and I like that there’s not too much choice but enough. This is probably one of the restaurants I’m most excited to try on this list.
Update February 3, 2012: Local was fantastic. If you love Italian, please make a reservation here! Bar Salumi has some fantastic pizza as well. Both are wonderful date places. Also, if you get the chance, go to the chef’s table at Local Kitchen. An amazing night with my friend @WildandGame.
9. Buca. Friends have told me that this is their favourite Italian food in the city and now I’m curious. I’ve heard mixed reviews about the service and clientele but I’m interested in having my own experience. Maybe this will be on the birthday list for 2012 (unless I’m in another country!). There’s no menu on their site though (annoying). That said, they probably change up their menu a lot.
. Gale’s Snack Bar. Nothing on the menu here is over $3 and I know it’s not going to be good food. But I’m more intrigued by the atmosphere and the people watching here because it’s been around for a very, very long time. The location isn’t ideal (Lakeshore) so I need to round up a posse that’s brave enough to come here with me. I also need to determine when it’s open. Does anyone know if its open on the weekend?
Update: January 2, 2012. Came here at around 4 p.m. and FINALLY found out their hours. M-F: 10-6; S: 12-5. You can read my Yelp review.
Honorable Mentions (if I muster up the excitement/commute/a date): Ici Bistro; Ortolan; Fabbrica; School for brunch; more of Swirl Wine Bar’s menu; Mistura; L’unita/Malena; Swan for dinner (and brunch again!).
And here’s another list I made for 2011 in my tumblr. I’ve tried a few on this list and I did not regret it but as seasons change, there’s some restaurants on that list I’m no longer excited about or interested in trying.