The 12 best restaurants in downtown Toronto right now
Our highest-rated restaurants in the core
Momofuku Shōtō ★★★★★
190 University Ave., 647-253-8000
On the third floor of the Momofuku complex awaits one of the city’s most deluxe dining experiences. Twenty-two lucky diners sit at a black granite bar that surrounds a lab-like open kitchen where a group of cooks work like calm, methodical scientists, preparing nightly tasting menus. On one occasion, a menu progressed from geoduck to sweetbreads to a pea custard laden with trout roe to a corn-stuffed raviolo topped with a crumbling of cotija cheese to a blueberry sorbet with mini-doughnuts made from taro.
The Chase ★★★★
10 Temperance St., 647-348-7000
The city’s flashiest seafood spot is The Chase, one of two restaurants in a refurbished 19th-century downtown office building. The ground floor is nice for a lunch of oysters (they typically have a dozen varieties on hand), garlicky snails on toast and an overflowing, buttery lobster roll with a side of house-made dill chips. The menu at the more formal upstairs restaurant, The Chase, includes sharing platters such as caviar and cured salmon, harissa-spiced grilled octopus and a whole halibut as big as the table, served with a brown butter sauce.
105-10 Bay St., 647-347-7347
From the moment it debuted, Miku’s 180-seat dining room has been overrun—an advantage of being in the heart of the new office district south of the Gardiner. The kitchen is overseen by chef Kazuya Matsuoka, who also runs the company’s three B.C. locations, known for using sustainable fish and for popularizing aburi sushi. Miku’s kaiseki menu is a clever combination of random exotica. One night, its star course was a tiered plate of sushi: ocean trout with jalapeño and pink grapefruit, toro with funky black truffle, golden-eye snapper with a kumquat compote, and shima-aji (mackerel) with okra and dashi jelly. It was one of the most exciting things to happen to fish since Nemo reunited with his dad.
66 Wellington St. W., 416-364-0054
On the 54th floor of the TD Centre, chef John Horne emphasizes Canoe’s Canadiana theme through provenance: creamy Thunder Oak gouda coats a wondrously rich soup of three-day-caramelized Holland Marsh onions and bone marrow; the gnocchi that accompany a buttery wedge of Great Lakes walleye are made of specially sourced potatoes from Alliston. Desserts can be overwrought, like a tribute to Niagara peaches in which the fruit is lost amid all the add-ons, including a pile of Pop Rocks. Servers are as polished as at any O&B restaurant, and are experts in the treasure-filled wine list.
Momofuku Daishō ★★★★
190 University Ave., 647-253-6227
In the three years since it opened, the formal David Chang spot hasn’t stopped growing, adding lunch service, special collaborative events with visiting chefs, and more large-format feasts, like beef rib roasts with yorkshire pudding. The soaring room, with a prime view of the core, is packed even early in the week. A seasonal menu changes frequently but always includes variations on a steamed Chinese bun (perhaps stuffed with crunchy breaded karaage-style chicken, pickled ginger and a squirt of eggy mayo) and lettuce wraps (sometimes with so-flavourful-you-might-mistake-it-for-secreto pork, chrysanthemum mustard and black bean barbecue sauce).
66 Wellington St. W., 416-777-1144
Mark McEwan’s plush downtown steak house is precisely calibrated to pamper the wolves of Bay Street. Highlights of the menu are the luscious Béarnaise-sauced lobster poutine and the selection of finely marbled beef, which includes a 32-ounce bone-in rib-eye, charred but pink within and oozing with buttery fat (suggested for two but easily shared by four, which makes the $138 price tag less of a shock).
Biff’s Bistro ★★★½
4 Front St. E., 416-860-0086
The reboot of O&B’s iconic bistro is every bit as polished as its former self, luring back loyal clientele for power lunches and prix fixes. The vibe is a little less fusty, as new British touches blend with the place’s Parisian traditions: burgundy leather banquettes, black-and-white photos, and London-born bar snacks (rarebit, fish and chips) that offer casual alternatives to duck confit and steak frites. Chef Amanda Ray turns each dish into an artful assemblage of bright veggies, Canadian-raised proteins and surprising hits of flavour. A tiny pitcher of green gazpacho arrives with a plate of delicate smoked sturgeon, asparagus, cucumber ribbons and lemony buttermilk curd for what may be summer’s freshest appetizer. Relatively simple mains, like cumin-dusted lamb with fluffy gnocchi and al dente green beans, dazzle for their drop-dead-perfect cooking.
188 University Ave., 647-788-8888
After a slow start that saw the Shangri-La’s flagship restaurant change chefs and directions, the current incarnation under Damon Campbell is one of the city’s best hotel restaurants. And with tasting menus starting at just $70, it’s also a relative bargain. Glistening pearls of Northern Divine caviar bejewel a savoury doughnut, and a duo of bison (seared loin, braised rib) unexpectedly and deliciously invokes Southeast Asia with peanut, chili and tamarind. A dish of Spanish mackerel with grilled octopus, fermented chili and tiny gnocchi is the perfect balance of refined and relaxed—much like the restaurant’s sharp servers. Desserts, like the warm bread pudding with huckleberry, are overworked and under-flavoured compared to the savoury dishes.
Nota Bene ★★★½
180 Queen St. W., 416-977-6400
This Queen West go-to for pre-ballet dinners and Wagyu steak lunches has gotten a subtle but vital refresh. A new light installation casts a cool, blue glow on couples in suits and statement jewellery (plus the odd group of high-rolling millennials in designer sneakers). David Lee’s retooled menu is still crowd-pleasing, but more 2016: a gin list rivals the wine offerings, sashimi plates have joined charcuterie boards, and vegetables share equal billing with foie gras. A round of eight-hour-roasted celeriac, for example, tinged with Thai basil and ringed with crema and stewed rhubarb, is just as satisfying as the crispy duck salad with its tangles of fish sauce–soaked green papaya, cucumber and chilies. Little touches, like a sea buckthorn coulis to cut a dark chocolate ganache, elevate dishes to special occasion status. Ditto the pro servers armed with crumb brushes and the perfect wine pairings.
Richmond Station ★★★
180 Queen St. W., 416-977-6400
Chef Carl Heinrich has created the perfect Financial District antidote: a snug room with chummy service, fancified farm-to-table food and not a crantini in sight. His smoked rainbow trout salad tastes like the world’s best Jewish brunch food. Grilled veal sirloin rests on buttery puréed celery root, accompanied by bright salsa verde and creamy roasted potatoes; accoutrements are magic, but the veal is overcooked.
325 Bay St., 416-637-5550
The view from the surrounding office towers into this 31st-floor restaurant in the Trump Hotel must be distracting. At night, it’s a Vegas-style club with theme parties, bottle service, micro-skirted beauties and randy brokers. Midday it’s another story: tables of Brooks Brothers suits, quiet talk of serious deals, prevailing calm. It’s the best time to appreciate the stellar menu, which takes you on a culinary tour of the U.S.: chowder with sassafras, an andouille sausage jambalaya, buckwheat flapjacks gilded with foie gras and a gorgeous salad of tuna sashimi, macadamia nuts, nori and puckery pineapple.
Drake One Fifty ★★★
150 York St., 416-363-6150
The downtown extension of the Drake Hotel is an updated Parisian brasserie, with leather banquettes, an elaborate pergola and an oval bar. The menu lists showy dishes plainly targeted at meat-loving financiers, like an extravagant 34-ounce côte de boeuf, intensely mineral from the long aging process, and a plate of deliciously oily B.C. sardines. The house wine, fittingly named Fat Banker, is pretty damn good.