All of the new restaurants you should be checking out this month
Where to eat sashimi, Hainanese chicken, steak and empanadas, right now
To convert Celestin into a contemporary Peruvian bar, owner and chef Ivan Tarazona washed the former bistro’s white dining room in a coat of deep teal, swiped the cloths off the tables and introduced a pisco-heavy cocktail menu. The menu, too, underwent a makeover: from prix fixe dinners to a sharing-style menu that includes tapas and platters of expertly cooked seafood and rice. Vestiges of the kitchen’s French training live on in reimagined Peruvian classics, like a seafood-salad causa plated as small towers of creamed potato, fish roe and shredded Dungeness crab. Where most Peruvian options in Toronto lean toward a meat-and-potatoes approach, Bar Mar’s more traditional dishes—like fideo noodles cooked into a paella-style broth, topped with fried calamari and plenty of ink—stand out. The picarones—tear-apart fritters laced with squash and soaked in fig syrup—are a must.
Run by O&B and overseen by Canoe’s Anthony Walsh, Leña manages to out-glitz the Saks it’s housed in. Couples can start the night under the tear-drop chandelier of the Yonge-facing Beaux Arts bar, sipping vermouth and eating empanadas, before graduating to a blue velvet alcove in the upstairs dining room, where there’s a curious mix of blowouts, Brioni and tourists toting Uniqlo purchases. They need to work on the acoustics—it’s one of the loudest rooms in the city. Much of that is due to excitement over garlicky Ontario shrimp, chimichurri-painted strip loin with sweet yucca fries, or rustic rabbit and snails slow-braised in white wine and tomatoes. The wine list, beneficiary of O&B’s deep reserves, is evenly split between stars of South America and Spain, with quite a few available by the glass. Dessert demands churros, long, twisting and extra light, dunked in bowls of luscious Soma chocolate.
Find the nondescript entrance, skirt around the open kitchen that looks to have been cobbled together overnight, catch the attention of a server in the gloomy rear dining room and you’re in for a treat: chef Guy Rawlings, after a pause to help manage Grant van Gameren’s restaurants, is cooking again. He douses heirloom tomatoes in a fiery house hot sauce, crowns waxy new potatoes with a bubbling mass of funky brie de Meaux and marries a silken goose creton, to be smeared on pan-fried bread, with a grainy mustard given extra oomph from a spell in the smoker. The pinnacle of the current pickling fad may be the autumnal plate of cabbage, carrots and beans, so sour your mouth will pucker for hours. Like the menu, the drinks list is to the point and dedicated to small artisanal producers. Nothing, not the thrift-store teak seating or the lumpenly luscious caramelized apple tart, is especially elegant—Rawlings is too busy chasing next-level flavour intensity to worry about pretty.
The exuberant staff (and the sake Jell-O shots) are good indications of the emphasis this lively izakaya in Parkdale puts on fun. The noise level may approach punishing at times, but the volume doesn’t impair the quality of the cooking. Cured mackerel, dense and vibrant, receives a brief, caramelizing blowtorching before it’s set on cubes of pressed sushi rice. In an updated twist on the classic sushi boat, a miniature staircase staggers fresh selections of sashimi, and marinated octopus in a distinctly gelatinous dressing, with a side of nori for wrapping, packs a robust and delicious wasabi bite. Okonomiyaki, a crisp seafood pancake with Worcestershire sauce, mayo and great heaps of billowing bonito flakes filling in for maple syrup, should probably be the next fried chicken.
This converted grocery store gets packed with diners and takeout customers waiting for the kitchen’s stewed, fried or grilled dishes. Kare-kare—a stew of oxtail, eggplant and peanut sauce—is deliciously rich, and a simple plate of ultra-crispy fried chicken and rice is amped up with chili-seasoned skin and plenty of garlic infused into every grain. The restaurant’s lone dessert is no afterthought: made to order with freshly crushed ice, the sundae-like mountain of purple yam ice cream, candied fruit, coconut jelly and leche flan is topped with evaporated milk for an extra rich hit.
The broad spectrum of diners that fill Platito’s two tiny floors suggests that Toronto can’t get enough of Filipino food. Communal tables of 20-somethings, older couples on dates and parents admonishing their kids in Tagalog to put away their iPhones fill this Baldwin spot, tucking into satisfyingly heavy platters of rice and grilled, marinated and fried meats. What Platito fries, it fries well: the battered skin on vinegary adobo-sauced pork sticks to the chops rather than slipping off like a stocking. Crispy bricks of fried pork belly and chopped hot peppers in the pork sisig provide crunch and heat, while an added freshly cracked egg makes it extra rich. The cake-like ube waffles come served with fried chicken or ice cream on top—they’re delicious either way: dense, soft and a striking Prince purple from the yams they’re made of.
Salt & tobacco – thin crust pizzas ? . . A very cozy place for Brooklyn style pizzas. The staff was also super friendly and helped out with my layout ? ps. their hot honey is ? . . Mr. Hand – tomato, fior de latte, pineapple, bacon, jalapeños(my favourite) $17 / Bianca – fior de latte, ricotta, pecorino, cherry tomatoes, arugula $16 / Prosciutto – tomato, fior de latte, Parmesan, prosciutto, arugula $17 . #SaltAndTobacco #salttobacco #pizza #cabbagetown #thincrust #hawaiian #argula #jalapeno #bacon #pizzaTO #pizzalover #pizzanight #eatingfortheinsta #eeeeats #eatingintoronto
This bright and airy pizza place on Parliament artfully splits the difference between sit-down and takeout, Italian tradition and Hogtown trends. But great pizza is all about the dough, and the foundation of these Roman pies is a blend of Canadian all-purpose and Italian 00 flours that yields a mild-tasting, blistered crust when cooked properly. It’s shown off to great effect in the Mr. Hand, a riff on a Hawaiian that mingles mild guanciale and creamy ricotta with sweet pineapple and piquant pickled jalapeños. Undercooked dough, however, spoils an otherwise delectable calzone jam-packed with ricotta and spicy coins of chorizo. All of the pies pair wonderfully with any of the microbrews on tap or the easy-drinking vino served, suitably, in tumblers.
This cozy spot—festooned with strings of patio lights and south-of-the-border-themed bric-a-brac in a crayon box of colours—is all about fast-casual Mexican standards like tacos, quesadillas and burritos. Juicy nuggets of chorizo drowning in a caramelized sea of broiled oaxaca cheese is as good as it sounds, and piquant salsas, like the habanero-spiked Taquera la Luchadora, brighten up succulent pulled chicken tinga tacos. Unfortunately, leaden corn tortillas drag all of the tacos and quesadillas down, and the flank steak within an arrachera burrito remains under-seared, under-seasoned and garnished with wimpy guacamole. To drink, there are house-made aguas frescas, including a tart and sweet tamarindo, and a fragrant pineapple and vanilla tepache with a whisper of chilies.
Pizza Nova president, Domenic Primucci, is the latest to join Toronto’s never-ending Neapolitan takeover, with his new counter-service spot on King West. The room is pleasant enough, if a bit too bright, with a variety of olive oils and fresh basil plants adorning marble-topped communal tables. Staff prep the food behind a glass counter, Chipotle-style. The pies are certainly not Pizza e Pazzi or Libretto-level—the fior di latte is a little chewier than it ought to be and the ’nduja is neither spicy nor spreadable—but it’s still pizza, baby, with fresh-tasting tomato sauce and fine dough. The carbone option (crust blackened with vegetable carbon) looks cool, but tastes exactly the same as the standard stuff.
Part dining room, part café and bar, this newly opened kitchen attempts to wear many hats at once. Ricarda’s excels in decor, with art deco flourishes winking from exaggerated curves of wraparound booths, black-and-white-tiled floors, planet-shaped pendant lamps and a surfeit of marble surfaces. What also works well? The bakery, which churns out crackle-crusted loaves for takeaway sandwiches at lunchtime and blistery flatbreads as larger mains. However, from over-salted meatballs served with sandy parmesan to slightly congealed lamb chop crusts, the sit-down menu could use a little TLC.
A promising new addition to the Dundas West strip, the rustic dining room is cozy and inviting, the music is loud and soulful, and the bar serves up classic cocktails as well as a roster of local microbrews. The food is equally thoughtful and, for the most part, well executed: massive pork ribs are fall-off-the-bone tender, slathered in a sweet and sticky black bean sauce and elevated with a sprinkle of crushed peanuts and fiery red chilies. The collard green poutine made with crispy fries, curds, buttery greens and a rich onion gravy is the platonic late-night snack. But there is room for improvement. An $8 order of fried olives—a dozen or so tiny, pimento-studded guys with a side of lifeless romesco—is a major disappointment, and the watermelon-wasabi fried chicken is overcooked and missing the promised heat.
Superpoint (Not yet reviewed)
184 Ossington Ave., 416-516-4656, www.superpoint.ca
The food is “Italian-ish,” which translates to New York–style pizzas, house-extruded pastas and a smattering of high- and low-brow plates. There is, for instance, an $85 20-ounce ribeye, but there’s also a plate of shrimp-and-pork spring rolls. Much of the menu is classic red-sauce Italian: bruschetta, chicken parm and cheesy garlic bread. Twelve-inch pizzas, made on a sturdy, chewy crust, get blasted for eight minutes in the double-decker Vulcan pizza oven. The list of 30 or so wines highlights biodynamic and organic grapes. Four taps pull Ontario craft beer, while the cocktail program sticks to Italian classics such as negronis and bellinis.
Canis (Not yet reviewed)
746 Queen St. W., 416-203-3317, canisrestaurant.com
Chef Jeff Kang’s (Bosk) dinner-only menu highlights seasonal Canadian ingredients in an austere, 28-seat room decked out primarily with concrete, wood and leather. It’s casual fine dining (Kang calls it “bistronomy”) from snacks to mains, including oysters, house-cured meats, ricotta-stuffed pasta and a whole roasted and dry-aged duck for two. The drink menu favours a rotating selection of large-format beers and organic wines, some of which are available by the glass.
STK (Not yet reviewed)
153 Yorkville Ave., 416-613-9660, stkhouse.com
The 269-seat space from the One Group is divided into four areas: a lounge, two private rooms and a dining room. The latter features steakhouse classics like a dry-aged porterhouse big enough for three, with luxe add-ons (truffle or foie gras butter, king crab). For pescatarians, there’s a raw bar of oysters, shrimp cocktail, lobster and ceviche. About a quarter of the menu, including a tater tot poutine topped with short rib, is specific to this location.The lounge is defined by its sprawling bar, behind which is a wall decked with 54 plaster bullhorns. The cocktail list seems geared towards Sex and the City fans who’ve moved on from cosmos. The Strawberry Cobbler combines Belvedere and muddled strawberry in a martini glass rimmed with graham cracker dust; and the Carrotedaway, a carrot juice–based cocktail is spiked with Woodford Reserve bourbon, Amaro Montenegro, ginger and lemon juice.
Planta (Not yet reviewed)
1221 Bay St., 647-348-7000, plantatoronto.com
The Chase Hospitality Group (The Chase, the Chase Fish and Oyster, Little Fin, Kasa Moto, Colette Grand Café) and David Lee (Nota Bene) have opened a 165-seat space in Yorkville. The concept is a fresh one for these heavy hitters of the Toronto restaurant scene, with a menu devoted to plant-based dishes: coconut ceviche, meat- and cheese-less pizza and carrot dogs served on house-made turmeric buns. Drinks include biodynamic and organic wines, beer and cocktails made with cold-pressed juices from Village Juicery.
Jackpot Chicken Rice (Not yet reviewed)
318 Spadina Ave., 416-792-8628, jackpotchickenrice.com
Chef Craig Wong (Patois) poaches chicken legs and thighs in a perpetually boiling master stock flavoured with ginger and scallions. The bird’s then deboned and served over schmaltz–stir fried rice, with a cup of winter melon soup and a hunk of crispy chicken skin. Two other variations of this Hainanese dish include roasted chicken and braised tofu. Foie gras, a soy-sauce egg or greens, like bok choy, can be added to any plate for a few extra bucks. Drinks are a mix of imported beers (Tiger, Tsingtao) and local craft like Blood Brothers’ Shumei IPA. Cocktails, like the Singapore Slang, are downright boozy.
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We evaluate restaurants on a scale of one to five stars, and we only review places that we believe are worth a visit. Reviewers award stars for food and wine quality, as well as presentation, service, atmosphere, ambition and originality. Read more about our rating system here.