Food & Drink

These are the best dishes of the year, according to Toronto’s top chefs and restaurateurs

Rob Gentile

Executive chef of Buca, Bar Buca and Buca Yorkville

Bar Raval’s kitchen bread

“Bar Raval’s kitchen bread is ridiculous. With the aïoli, piquillo peppers and white anchovies, it’s the perfect balance of acidity, salt and fat, all on a slice of sourdough—it’s heaven. I ordered two back to back.”

Patrick Kriss

Chef and owner, Alo

Del Posto’s bread course

“It’s basically a baby baguette served with mozzarella and fresh cream. One of my sous chefs ate like 10 of them.”

Hemant Bhagwani

Chef and co-owner of Indian Street Food Co., The Fat Beet and Amaya restaurants

The Federal’s “Eggs Federal”

“I’m a big fan of brunch, even during the week. I love eggs, and the best place to have them is at the Federal. Everything in this dish is cooked from scratch, including the potato rosti. I love that they use house-made green onion oil instead of cooking oil, and a rich mushroom tarragon sauce instead of hollandaise, which is typically used for Bennies.”

Amanda Ray

Chef de cuisine of O&B Canteen

Foxley’s frog legs

“This Ossington bistro is consistently great. The frog’s legs are perfectly cooked, and they have just a little bit of heat—I love them.”

Afrim Pristine

Harry’s green burger

I don’t go out a lot to eat, my mornings start early and I have two rescue dogs who I hate being away from. However, I had two incredible meals recently. A couple months ago, I went over to Harry’s with Cory Vitiello and Craig Harding to hang with Grant van Gameren and play some poker. Grant‎ recommended his green chorizo burger. Now, spicy food isn’t my thing, but Grant assured me it wasn’t hot, so I went for it. I’ve now had it probably 10 times, and have begged Grant to put it on UberEats, but to no avail.

My other favourite dish was at Leña. First of all, I want to say that chef Anthony Walsh has been a mentor of mine for a very long time—if he told me to jump, I would go through the roof. Another note: my grandfather adored rabbits and never thought of them as food. This was passed on to my father, then to me and my brothers. We carry every game meat imaginable at the shop, but we never stocked rabbit. So, chefs Walsh and Marteleira brought out this ‎rabbit dish—I didn’t know what to do. He explained to me that it was rubbed in Newfoundland sea salt, anise seed, green chilies, caramelized lemon and slow-roasted over coal—how could I not eat it? I was so torn, but of course I ate it. Mind. Blown. It was tender, delicate—not gamey at all—and so, so tasty. I called him the next day to learn more about it and tell him how amazing it was.

Grant van Gameren

Executive chef and co-owner of Bar Isabel, Bar Raval, El Rey, Harry’s and Pretty Ugly

Montgomery’s salt-baked celeriac

“Guy Rawlings is a master at treating humble everyday ingredients and showcasing them in a way that truly brings out their full flavour. This dish is unassuming to the eye, but full of intensity.”

Leonie Lilla

Chef of Bar Begonia

Imanishi’s agedashi eggplant

“It’s fried eggplant marinated in cold ginger dashi. The texture is smooth and delightful, and it’s the perfect start to a great meal. It’s also highly addictive—I’ve been craving it for weeks.”

Adam Skelly

Co-owner of Adamson Barbecue

Shawarma Frenzy’s shawarma dinner

“My favorite meal of the year is the $7 (that’s tax in!) shawarma dinner at Shawarma Frenzy on Pape. My girlfriend Alison and I end up there for dinner at least twice a week. It comes with a hot lentil soup, which is probably the best soup I’ve ever had. It’s the only shawarma place I’ve been to that takes 10 minutes to make your meal, but it’s so worth it. They could charge me $15 and I’d still pay it.”

Jonathan Poon

Chef and co-owner of Bar Fancy and Superpoint

Honest Weight’s razor clams

“The best meals I’ve had this year were all at Honest Weight. Their food is simple, well executed and perfectly seasoned. The one thing that stood out the most was a razor clam dish that they served back in October. The razor clams were simply cooked and then dressed with an oily chimichurri–type sauce. The sauce itself had a little bit of heat and a slight sweetness to it which was perfectly balanced by the saltiness and brininess of the clams. It came with a side of bread to sop up all the oil and juices. It was the best. I’d happily eat only that for the rest of my life.”

Julie Marteleira

Executive chef of Leña

Her mom’s stuffed crab

“Recapping some of my favourite meals over the last year is so inspiring, but it’s also quite hard to narrow it down to just one favourite meal! There have been so many dishes I have cooked for myself, eaten on trips and tasted in some of Toronto’s best restaurants. But what stands out the most is a family tradition called "JM Seafood Sundays.” It’s something we do at home where we get together for lunch and cook a lot of delicious, fresh seafood.

My mom makes this amazing Dungeness crab. She boils it and stuffs the cavity with the crab tomalley, egg, parsley, cornichons, mustard and port wine. It’s the most amazing thing! Just the thought of that dish takes me to a very happy place.”

Matt Blondin

Chef of Omaw

Superpoint’s side-striped prawns

“They’re just good quality and simple flavour. They come with the shell on, full of roe and served with braised celery. They’re awesome. An omakase meal at Markham’s Kiu was a close second.”

Alexandra Feswick

Chef de cuisine of The Drake Hotel

Hanmoto’s “uni bomb”

“Hanmoto is one of my favourite spots to visit, especially late at night after work. The best dish on the menu is the uni bomb, which is a big serving of sea urchin on a bed of perfectly cooked sushi rice. They enhance the texture with crispy chicken skin—which also gives it a rich, meaty flavour—and big, salty salmon roe. It’s covered in a bunch of toppings like finely sliced scallions, nori and wasabi, that cut the creaminess of the dish. If you go, get the salmon aburi, too, and a signature cocktail. That’s my favourite way to eat—a bunch of small dishes in a chill environment.”

Claudio Aprile

Executive chef and owner of Origin

Woofles and Cream’s savoury green tea soft serve

“This dessert parlour in Markham’s New Kennedy Square makes a green tea soft serve ice cream with Chinese sausage and black pepper. It’s a brave and bold combination of salt, spice, sugar and savoury. Together these ingredients create a fat umami bomb.”

Jen Agg

“Aside from being a particularly pungent flaming garbage pile, whose awfulness has continued to display itself in escalating ways (I mean, it started with Bowie dying and somehow got much, much worse), 2016 was also the year in which I finally accepted I am a creature of habit. I like going to familiar restaurants where my preferences are known by the staff and I can count on consistently good food. It’s an embarrassment of repetition: Mondays at Imanishi, Tuesdays at Foxley and Wednesdays at Enoteca—or some version of that.

So, rather than choosing a specific dish, I’ll choose to be grateful that Imanishi always serves me beautifully fresh sashimi mori as I sit at the bar alone, avoiding small talk and chugging sake. And that table five at Foxley always seems available for Roland and I to settle into conversation over rum and cokes, plus the usual salmon tataki and kale salad (me) and beef cheeks with two servings of rice (him). And that I can continually be both excited by and proud of my former employee James Stanton’s growth as chef de cuisine at Enoteca—despite his constantly changing favourite salads and fussing with the tuna, I can count on it always being delicious. All of this to say that while things seem dire and fake news is somehow a real thing, I take small comfort in the familiarity of my go-to spots.”


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