Food & Drink

Twelve of Toronto’s best new private dining rooms

Holiday party planners, take note

Cheers to the unsung heroes of the holiday season: the party planners! This list of a dozen sensational private dining rooms should take some of the stress out of venue-scouting for any festive shindigs, be they for family, friends or colleagues. From Cantonese feasts to Michelin-starred buyouts to Japanese listening lounges, this roundup of new(ish) private dining rooms has something for just about every event size, budget and taste.

Ristorante Sociale's semi-private dining room
Photo by Joshua Best

Capacity: six seated in the semi-private room, 12 seated in the main room Perfect for: “Mature” King West revellers

Decked out in surreal costumes, dancers animate this King West resto-club. Typically, restaurants that serve tons of sizzle lack substance, especially when it comes to the food—not so here. The younger and sassier sibling to Enoteca Sociale styles itself as an Italian steakhouse, and the dishes deliver on both quality and presentation. Set-menu dinners start at $140 per person and include the porterhouse: an enormous bone-in steak that comes to the table in a smoke-filled cloche, begetting oohs, aahs and Instagram likes. While there’s only one semi-private room (separated from the hoopla by a brass-beaded curtain), the entire place was designed with group dining in mind. There are multiple large tables in the main room that can seat up to a dozen diners.

Osteria Rialto's private dining room is in the restaurant's wine cellar
Photo by Alex Saint

Capacity: 14 seated Perfect for: Oenophiles and cinephiles

Winemaker and financier Moray Tawse was the driving force behind the Paradise Theatre’s magnificent rehabilitation. So it’s not surprising that the restaurant’s wine cellar—which doubles as Osteria Rialto’s private dining room—houses some seriously rare vintages (like a Roberto Voerzio Fossati Case Nere for $795) alongside some bottles from Tawse, of course. The four-course family-style menu changes seasonally but is always authentically Italian. Expect the evening to kick off with an array of antipasti and spuntini followed by a parade of pastas and proteins like the lobster spaghetti and the 28-day dry-aged prime T-bone. Set menus start at $75 per person. For larger events, Blue Door, Paradise Theatre’s bottle shop, which can accommodate 35 guests, is also available. Fun fact: the theatre itself can also be rented. Who doesn’t love dinner and show?

Bar XXX, Little Sister's sister speakeasy, is available to rent for private parties
Photo by Rick O’Brien

Capacity: 16 seated, 20 standing Perfect for: Cocktail connoisseurs

Since snatching the top spot on the Canada’s 100 Best New Bars list, this subterranean Portland Street speakeasy can be nearly impossible to nab a seat at, and reservations aren’t accepted. Typically, patrons of Indo-Dutch restaurant Little Sister are given special cards inviting them downstairs for a post-dinner tipple. When the space is booked out for private events, there’s a little less subterfuge, but the draw remains: the cocktails, by Alex Lakusta and Robin Wynne, are among the city’s best. Depending on the event, a drink list can be curated in advance, and platters of favourites like lumpia, ayam goreng (a spicy fried chicken) and beef rendang croquettes arranged. Prices vary.

Bar Avelo
Photo courtesy of Bar Avelo

Capacity: 18 seated, 25 standing Perfect for: Plant-based parties

A stone’s throw from the chaos of Yonge and Bloor is this circa-1884 cottage that feels far removed from today’s Toronto. Restaurateur Roger Yang did most of the renovations here himself, and his recently finished second-storey speakeasy—complete with a vaulted wainscot ceiling—looks like it’s from another century. While the ornate space screams Gilded Age, the tapas-style menu is entirely contemporary and plant-based, including crab cakes made from lobster mushrooms and jackfruit as well as European-style cheeses made from nuts and aged in house. Private parties can opt for a parade of nibbles or an elevated vegan tasting menu. As all menus are designed specially for each event, prices vary.

Part of the private dining room at Hong Shing in Toronto
Photo courtesy of Hong Shing Restaurant

Capacity: 25 seated, 40 standing Perfect for: Family-style Cantonese feasts

When in town, Director X and Simu Liu often stop by this Cantonese-style Chinese stalwart. What keeps bringing them back to the 26-year-old spot? It may be Hong Shing’s multi-generational special sauce, so to speak. Since Colin Li joined his parents as a co-owner, he’s been working on updating the joint while ensuring that the restaurant’s soul remains intact. One of his recent upgrades: the VIP room. The sleek space, styled with neon signage and bold wallpaper, was designed with parties in mind—there’s even an area for DJs to set up. The family-style set menus start at $75 per person and include crowd-pleasers like pork xiao long bao, ginger scallion lobster and balsamic sweet-and-sour pork. And the bar’s baijiu cocktails will get any party started.

A set table at Trapézi, a new private-dining experience from the Mamakas Food Group
Photo by Ashley van der Laan

Capacity: 28 seated, 60 standing Perfect for: Greek-loving gourmands

The team behind Mamakas doesn’t flirt with half measures: if they’re going to do private dining, they’re going to go all out. Their new 1,000-square-foot space, located on top of Ossington’s Koukla, is ultra lavish and awash in walnut and brass. The room is highly flexible: guests can choose to re-enact the Last Supper with an XXL table that seats 28 or set up multiple four-tops or cocktail tables. With a dedicated event planner, Trapézi has everything covered, from florals to AV set-up. And because this is a dedicated event space, Trapézi isn’t fettered to restaurant hours, which means it can be booked for celebratory brunches as well as lunches and dinners. Starting at $65 per person for brunch or lunch and $100 per person for dinner.

The private dining room at AP Restaurant in Toronto
Photo courtesy of AP Restaurant

Capacity: 30 seated, 40 standing Perfect for: Sushi with skyline views

With floor-to-ceiling-windows, this haute aerie, located 51 storeys above Bay and Bloor, offers some of the city’s most stunning views. It’s a welcome reprieve from all the windowless private dining rooms. For seated affairs, chef Antonio Park has developed three multi-course menus ranging from $125 to $225 per person. The most lavish of these, the Tea Leaf menu, starts with Bluefin tuna tataki, rock shrimp tempura and Wagyu gyoza followed by a selection of exquisite nigiri. The meal reaches its crescendo with a Canadian prime rib steak, kimchi rice and truffle-miso-buttered baby corn. For standing events, options include hot and cold food stations (sushi, of course, being one of the options) and passed hors d’œuvres such as crab croquettes and duck gyoza.

Lao Lao Bar's semi-private dining room
Photo by Joshua Best

Capacity: 14 seated in the semi-private room; 30 seated, 50 standing in Down Lao Perfect for: Creative crowds

For smaller gatherings where you still want to feel the pulse of the party, Lao Lao Bar’s semi-private room—separated from the main dining room by forever-ajar antique Egyptian doors—is perfect. The only hitch? The space can’t be reconfigured, so it’s only for family-style meals. Down Lao, a rentable room on the restaurant’s lower level, meanwhile, is ideal for cocktail receptions. The space can even be reconfigured to accommodate entertainment—owners Jason Jiang and Seng Luong are open to anything, from drag queens to aspiring crooners (karaoke, anyone?). Sit-down dinner menus are particular to each event, which means the price per head varies, but recommended sharables include green papaya fritters, barbecue chicken drunken noodles and crispy coconut rice salad. For standing events, passed app options include taro rolls, shrimp laap, tapioca dumplings and moo ping (pork skewers).

The private dining room at Susur Lee's new restaurant in Toronto, Lee Restaurant
Photo by Joshua Best

Capacity: 30 seated, 40 standing in the private room; 40 seated, 50 standing in the Nook Perfect for: Susur Lee devotees

Since migrating 600 meters north, from King West to Richmond, Susur Lee has gussied up his famed dishes—the Singapore-style slaw, for example, is now a whopping 24 ingredients and taller than ever. The new dining room, located in the just-finished Waterworks, is equally adorned: Brenda Bent–designed tapestries, abacus partitions, reclaimed bar stools covered in vintage embroidery and abstract chandeliers that could double as sculptures combine to give the space a museum-like quality. Sharing menus start at $100 per person and include many of the Iron Chef’s greatest hits, including the aforementioned slaw as well as “Luckee” shrimp cheung fun and cheeseburger spring rolls. Passed one-bite nibbles include Thai shrimp-and-chorizo skewers and mini goat cheese tarts. And for an extra bit of pomp, there’s even an oyster cart.

Kissa, a listening lounge on King West in Toronto
Photo by Joshua Best

Capacity: 45 sitting, 130 standing Perfect for: Audiophiles

This second-floor room was designed to be the ultimate after-party space. Decked in green velvet and black marble, Kissa has been frequented by celebs—specifically, rappers—including Post Malone, Central Cee and Lil Baby, who all surely appreciate the bar’s acoustics. Here, vinyl-spun tunes are played over a Bryston Amp–powered vintage JBL speaker system that was custom built by Sounds Better (Jojo Flores and Mike Oliver). Set menus range from $85 to $150 per person and feature Japanese small plates like yakitori skewers, binchotan-grilled sea bream and Wagyu tenderloin.

Massive paintings line the walls of DaNico's dining room
Photo by Joshua Best

Capacity: 56 seated, 110 standing Perfect for: An extremely elegant dinner party

Few Michelin-pedigreed places allow buyouts, so we’re not sure how much longer this sister restaurant to Don Alfonso will continue closing down its College Street room for private events every Monday and Tuesday. Chef Daniele Corona has devised three four-course Italian menus, all priced at $200 per person. Expect fussed-over food like micro ravioli stuffed with wine-braised lamb and served with smoked eel and fresh mint. The canapé list, meanwhile, reads like the greatest hits from a storied Sorrento restaurant that’s held three stars for a decade (think foams and prime proteins like lobster, Wagyu and pink diamond oysters).

A festive spread at the Joneses, a new restaurant in Toronto from Oliver and Bonacini
Photo by Hector Vasquez

Capacity: 20 seated, no standing in Eastwood; 32 seated, 40 standing in Kitt (fully private); 60 seated, 70 standing in Hepburn (semi-private) Perfect for: Pleasing even the pickiest of eaters

The brand behind Canoe, Jump and Leña is at it again. O&B’s new power-lunch hotspot, the Joneses, is slated to open in just a few weeks in the space formerly occupied by Drake’s sports bar, Pick 6ix. The eclectic menu aims to please with American classics (mac and cheese, wedge salad, grilled prime steaks), Detroit-style pizza and pressed sushi. With three private dining rooms, it’s no surprise that hosting larger events is the Joneses’ jam. Lunches start at $79 per person, dinners at $89. For cocktail parties, canapés on offer are a mix of high- and low-brow bites best exemplified by the foie gras PB&J, which is simultaneously elevated and nostalgic.


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