Toronto Life’s most-read restaurant reviews of 2016

Toronto Life’s most-read restaurant reviews of 2016

From a fast-casual salad counter to a Bay Street sushi spot, these are Mark Pupo's most popular reviews of the year

Flock Rotisserie and Greens

Flock Rotisserie and Greens is chef Cory Vitiello’s brainchild. Flock Rotisserie and Greens is chef Cory Vitiello’s brainchild.
 Photo by Erin Leydon

Flock Rotisserie and Greens ★★
330 Adelaide St. W., Plus three other locations, 647-483-5625, eatflock.com

I was about to give up on salad when I discovered Flock Rotisserie and Greens. Cory Vitiello, the chef-owner of the Harbord Room, known as much for his kitchen skills as for appearing on most-eligible lists, has opened four locations in the past year, including two in the core and a third at Bloor and Church. The fourth replaced THR&Co., his short-lived slow-food restaurant down the block from the Harbord Room. The Flock concept is takeout rotisserie chicken, though I kept hearing from dedicated regulars that it’s really all about the salads. It’s not often that you hear conjoined the words “salad” and “incredible.”

Read the full review to see how you really can win friends with salad.
 
 

Planta

Planta's deeply satisfying veggie burger. Planta’s deeply satisfying veggie burger.
 

Planta ★½
1221 Bay St., 647-348-7000, plantatoronto.com

Plant-based fare has its limitations. I’ve eaten at Planta several times and found as much to love as to not. I want the place to succeed, but often it’s a total turn-off and a case study in how rigid rules can hamper a restaurant. Lee and Salm avoid the term “vegan” yet still maintain a hard line on anything animal-derived. In the bourbon sour, they’ve replaced egg whites with aquafaba (a by-product of chickpeas), and the result is watery. When you order a cappuccino, you get a choice of almond, cashew or soy milk—none of which whip into a respectable foam.

Read the full review of David Lee’s hit-and-miss makeover of vegan food.
 
 

Piano Piano

Piano Piano Chef Victor Barry.
 Photo by Dave Gillespie

Piano Piano ★★★½
88 Harbord St., 416-929-7788, pianopianotherestaurant.com

Where Splendido’s prim servers wore white gloves as they shaved truffle over your handmade tortellini, at Piano Piano they’re in black T-shirts and jeans, and they hand you a folded menu meant to resemble the kind of tabloid Marcello Mastroianni might read standing at an espresso bar (wearing sunglasses). It’s cute, if goofy: the lead story of the first edition was about how Piano Piano is a labour of love for Barry and his wife, Nikki Leigh Mckean, who helps run things and oversees social media—a full-time gig for any new restaurant. The place is totally unlike any other restaurant in Toronto.

Read the full review of Piano Piano, the “anti-Splendido”.
 
 

El Rey, Seven Lives and Torteria San Cosme

Torteria San Cosme's Milanesa torta. Torteria San Cosme’s Milanesa torta.
 Photo by Dave Gillespie

Seven Lives
69 Kensington Ave., 416-803-1086

Torteria San Cosme
181 Baldwin St., sancosme.ca

El Rey ★★★
2A Kensington Ave., elreybar.com

There may be more German sedans parked in the Green P, but the Kensington personality—with its clouds of patchouli and pungent fish, dive bars behind doors you hadn’t noticed, and sidewalks slick with smeared fruit—has yet to be washed away. What seems to have happened is a gentle gentrification that, I’m happy to report, has reinvigorated and added to the neighbourhood’s existing Latin American roster. In a sense, Kensington Market was always waiting to become Little Mexico.

Read our Critic’s full review of Kensington’s new-wave taco slingers, torta stuffers and mescal mavens.
 
 

Chantecler and Bar Begonia

On a busy night at Chantecler, walk-ins can wait up to three hours for a table. On a busy night at Chantecler, walk-ins can wait up to three hours for a table.
 Photo by Dave Gillespie

Chantecler ★★★½
1320 Queen St. W., 416-628-3586

Bar Begonia ★★★
252 Dupont St., 647-352-3337

Perfectly executed simplicity is what makes Bar Begonia and Chantecler worthy of the repeat visits. They’re places where I wouldn’t mind becoming one of those-old timers who returns, week after week, and orders the same thing every time.

Read our Critic’s full review about how these French bistros ditched trendiness and became two of 2016’s hippest hangouts.
 
 

Miku

Miku The star of Miku’s kaiseki menu is a tiered plate of sushi with exotic toppings.
 Photo by Dave Gillespie

Miku ★★★★
105-10 Bay St., 647-347-7347, mikutoronto.com

The star of the kaiseki menu, and the reason I’d rank Miku up with Kaji, was the penultimate course, a tiered plate with seven pieces of sushi. It was one of the most exciting things to happen to fish since Nemo reunited with his dad.

Read about our Critic’s full adventure in kaiseki dining.