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Decoding the real and imagined T.O. restaurants in Shinan Govani’s new novel

Decoding the real and imagined T.O. restaurants in Shinan Govani's new novel

As the social columnist for The National Post, it is practically part of Shinan Govani’s job description to eat out in Toronto. No wonder, then, that in his debut novel, Boldface Names, there are plenty of dishes served along with the dishing. Govani calls the book a “tell-some,” in which Ravi—a fictional gossip columnist for, ahem, The National Mirror—navigates the semi-imaginary Toronto “of the rich, the famous and the wicked.” This includes the restaurants, of course, and some of the locales may seem very familiar to local foodies and gadflies. We’ve pulled back the thin veil and created this crib sheet to the eating establishments of Boldface Names.

• One restaurant is described thusly: “A mainstay of the feudal classes—a wholly subterranean eatery that drew people night after night, with its moodily lit, Vermeer colouring making all those people better-looking than they really are.” Among those spotted in the scene: a “hornet’s nest of hockey wives,” “the most hated man in hockey” (Sean Avery, natch) and Reva Linds, “an often-face-refreshed home decor deity.” How could it be anywhere but Sotto Sotto?

• And/Or is a fictional bar that comes up several times in the book: “Known for its steep drinks, fancy-pants, and proprietor with well-attended-to torso,” it attracts a crowd of “young-looking older women with starter marriages” and “gay-looking (mostly) straight men.” Sound familiar? Our money is on Amber.

A spot named Dooyn, located “on Queen,” gets a quick mention. Hold the name up to a mirror and it’s clearly Nyood.

• Deciding where to go to brunch, Ravi and his entourage run through a number of options: Lai Wah Heen, The Harbord Room, Oddfellows, The Rivoli and One. After much debate (“What was it about Homo sapiens, otherwise competent and quite functioning, when it came to the knotted decision-making that goes into this most sacred of Sunday secular rituals?”) they settle for the cheap-chic offerings of The Drake.

• One cool spot from Boldface is the D-Loft, located “down near Wellington”—one notch down the alphabet from C Lounge.

At one point, Ravi and his starlet dining partner get fries at a new “hot spot” called Tall Poppy Syndrome. This might be a reference to the too-fast growth of frymaster Jamie Kennedy’s restaurant empire.

A pivotal scene is set in a west-end social club. In the house that day: David Cronenberg, Alexandra Weston, Jim Balsillie and a certain MTV host known for having “wildly unkempt nether regions.” Sounds like the Spoke Club to us.

Boldface Names by Shinan Govani. HarperCollins Canada. $19.99.

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