The 18 best King and Queen West restaurants right now

The 18 best King and Queen West restaurants right now

Our highest-rated restaurants in these two 'hoods

Back in the ’70s, Alo’s space housed an infamous after-hours club called Elephant Walk. Photo by Dave Gillespie

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Alo ★★★★½
163 Spadina Ave., 3rd Floor, 416-260-2222

Patrick Kriss’s Alo—the city’s best restaurant in many years—avoids all the tasting-menu pitfalls. Five courses come with options (counting the amuse-bouche and intermediary courses, the number of plates can actually hit 10), the price per person is only $89 and there’s not a whiff of stuffiness about the beautiful space. Ultimately, what sets Alo apart is Kriss. In his kitchen, lamb becomes as tender as beef cheek, and a stew of veal tendon, trotters, cockscomb, kombu and bonito is finished with frozen and shaved foie gras. Most nights, dessert (made by Canoe vet Cori Murphy) is a choice between three chocolate options—there is no wrong answer.

Buca’s prosciutto pizza. Photo by Sara Steep

Buca ★★★★½
604 King St. W., 416-865-1600

Few places encapsulate Toronto’s dining culture better than Buca, where executive chef Rob Gentile prepares some of the city’s most original and intricate plates in a bare-bones industrial room. Creamy smoked burrata tops spicy pig’s blood spaghetti with sausage and rapini. Truffle shavings adorn ricotta-filled fried zucchini flowers—a dish that’s described (accurately) by a nearby diner as “better than sex.”

A spread at Byblos. Photo by Dave Gillespie

Byblos ★★★★
11 Duncan St., 647-660-0909

The dining room is one of the most elegant in the city, with caramel leather banquettes and a barrel-vaulted ceiling. A plate of the creamy house-made labneh—a thick Persian-style yogurt—comes with chunks of wood oven–fired flatbread. Hand-painted Turkish plates bring pinched dumplings stuffed with smoky roasted eggplant, deep-fried lamb ribs sticky from a chili-flecked molasses, and grilled rib-eye smothered in a za’atar-flavoured butter. The star of the night is a lidded clay pot holding a mound of basmati rice studded with marcona almonds and barberries.

The vodka caesar at Jacob’s and Co. Photo by Caroline Aksich

Jacobs and Co. ★★★★
12 Brant St., 416-366-0200

The place is bright and modern, with T.O.’s finest pro athletes often squeezing into four prime horseshoe booths. You could make a meal of the addictive white-cheddar popovers, but you’re here to eat steak, and Jacobs’s Ontario cattle producers are the sizzle. The aged-60-days, 18-ounce bone-in prime Hereford strip loin from Guelph is pleasingly chewy yet still tender, with a perfect char protecting its rare heart and a flavour that finishes like parmesan or asiago.

Los Colibris’ rajas poblanas. Photo by Renée Suen

Los Colibris ★★★½
220 King St. W., 416-979-7717

If your relationship to Mexican food extends no further than taco joints run by gringo hipsters, then it’s time to experience the joys of the cuisine as interpreted by chef Elia Herrera. She presents the dishes of her native Veracruz with technique and polish, in a dining room that’s just as sophisticated. Rajas poblanas, a marvellous creamy casserole of chicken, corn and poblano pepper mopped up with house-made corn or flour tortillas, configures familiar south-of-the-border flavours in novel ways.

Montecito. Photo by Dave Gillespie

Montecito ★★★½
299 Adelaide St. W., 416-599-0299

To lend his new restaurant credibility, director Ivan Reitman (Ghostbusters, Meatballs) brought in New York’s Jonathan Waxman, who is known for launching the farm-to-table movement back in the ’70s. The menu closely resembles what Waxman cooks at Barbuto, his rustic Italian restaurant in the West Village. His signature dishes include a sublime crispy half chicken covered in a caper salsa verde, and fresh-cranked pastas dressed in simple sauces that are deceptively hard to perfect—like a spaghetti bambino with parmesan and butter.

Patria. Photo by Dave Gillespie

Patria ★★★½
478 King St. W., 416-367-0505

Only a few years old, this glitzy Spanish restaurant, hidden between King West condo towers, already feels like an institution. Blistered piquillo peppers are stuffed with patiently slow-stewed oxtail and blanketed with salty melted manchego. Gulf shrimp are coated in a brash, pungent parsley and garlic remoulade. Petite beef-and-pork empanadas come with a bracing red pepper sauce. The night’s one flaw is a steak of ibérico pork, the pricy cut left a few moments too long on the grill.

Part of Lamesa’s Kamayan (hand-to-mouth) service. Photo by Max Lander

Lamesa ★★★
669 Queen St. W., 647-346-2377

Lester Sabilano and Daniel Cancino have a valuably rare understanding of how colonial history influences a cuisine’s flavours (in this case, the Spanish-Chinese-Malaysian mélange of the Philippines) and more important, how those flavours can be sold to a mainstream audience. Pancit, a typically egg-heavy noodle dish, is lightened up with a handful of green peas, chopped mint and red chili. The pork inasal—7 Up–marinated pork chop grilled, chopped and tossed with cooked pineapple and pearl onions—is sticky, sweet and excellent. For dessert, there’s halo-halo, a colourful sundae of strawberry jelly, purple taro ice cream and sugar-soaked mung beans, every ingredient of which is house-made.

Bar Buca’s porchetta schiacciata, tender roast pork stuffed into herbed focaccia and topped with mascarpone, apple mostarda and green, garlicky agliata. Photo by Dave Gillespie

Bar Buca ★★★
75 Portland St., 416-599-2822

A few steps from Buca proper, chef Rob Gentile’s King West osteria, is his relaxed and casual Bar Buca. Split the gran fritto misto, a two-tiered snack tray piled with lightly battered and deep-fried baby artichokes, rock shrimp, tiny smelt and twists of pigskin. Each bite is perfectly crisp and flecked with fennel-flavoured salt or chili. For dessert, there’s old-fashioned Italian pastries: ricotta-stuffed cannoli, lace-patterned pizzelle and sugar-dusted apple butter bombolone.

Best Toronto Restaurants 2016: Frings
Fring’s butterflied jumbo wild king prawns are served with beurre blanc and a spicy pineapple mango salsa. Photo by Dave Gillespie

Fring’s ★★★
455 King St. W., 416-979-9696

Drake denies rumours he’s an investor in Susur Lee’s addition to the King West after-dark circus, though he’s clearly invested in its success, hyping it on social media and deejaying the opening party. Susur’s sons, Kai and Levi, pals of the “Hotline Bling” king, conceived of the millennial-comforting menu that includes sweet-and-sour cocktail meatballs and jumbo wild prawns, grilled, buttery and as coyly seductive as a Drizzy duet. It’s all far better than it needs to be for the assembled partiers, who are more interested in popping $725 bottles of Armand de Brignac. The star of the night is a heap of fried chicken with Susur-trademarked, wildly contrasting accompaniments (pickled watermelon, chili-laced maple syrup, garlicky aïoli). Degrassi’s most famous grad would approve.

Campechano’s ceviche. Photo by Renée Suen

Campechano ★★★
504 Adelaide St. W., 416-777-2800

At the latest entrant into Toronto’s casual-Mexican scene, fresh sea bass ceviche, swimming in citrus, honours tradition with its tongue-puckering brightness. The restaurant’s namesake taco, a mix of beef and too-tame chorizo, is elevated by a sprinkling of crunchy chicharrones. But as the city approaches peak taco, it takes something special to stand out. Here, it’s the tortillas made with imported corn that’s ground in-house. The vegetal notes in the delicate discs shine in the quesadillas, stuffed with beef or mushrooms and loads of oaxaca cheese. The lone dessert, a lightly spiced flan, exists at the delectable crossroads of cheesecake, butterscotch pudding and crème brulée.

Colette Grand Café. Photo by Dave Gillespie

Colette Grand Café ★★★
550 Wellington St. W., 647-348-7000

This Thompson Hotel restaurant is ultra-polished, styled after an airy Riviera brasserie. It’s run by the Chase Hospitality Group and radiates—for better or worse, depending on your dining tastes—a corporate vibe. The food is expensive (inflated hotel prices are in full effect), conservative and mostly good. Duck magret is cooked to lush red in the centre and is served with vinegary rhubarb compote and a brown-buttery jerusalem artichoke purée—three different elements that burst with umami when forked together.
Le Sélect ★★★
432 Wellington St. W., 416-596-6405

This grand room is elegant and polished, with pressed tin ceiling tiles and a long zinc bar. On occasion, the cooking is sublime—smoked whitefish terrine is airy, cool and expertly seasoned. For the most part, though, the kitchen turns out comforting classics, like bright, acidic sauerkraut laden with fatty pork hock, belly and sausage. It needs just a dollop of the accompanying mustard to hit all the right notes. Bouillabaisse, deconstructed with a bland bisque poured overtop, is the only dish that fails to charm. The magnificent wine list reads like a scholarly treatise, and by-the-glass options are excellent. Chocolate mousse and lemon tart leave nothing to be desired.

Loka’s blueberry-braised venison neck with aligot potatoes and roasted carrots. Photo by Renée Suen

Loka ★★★
620 Queen St. W., 416-995-9639

After a year of making elevated bar snacks at Riverside’s Hi-Lo, Dave Mottershall, armed with Kickstarter funds, moved to Queen West. There are excellent à la carte dishes like the Pig Mack, with house-made pancetta and special sauce on a delicate milk bun, but we recommend the nine-course tasting menu, which brings a barrage of flourishes and garnishes: a cube of crispy pig’s head tagged with ramp mustard, thin leaves of cured pork shoulder dotted with a 50-year-old balsamic, and a log of bone marrow dusted with shaved, cured egg yolk that plays like an aged parm. Knowledgable servers can explain the complex plates as well as they can flavour-profile Niagara wines or craft ciders.

Luckee. Photo by Dave Gillespie

Luckee ★★★
328 Wellington St. W., 416-935-04007

Susur Lee’s restaurant in the Soho Metropolitan Hotel serves dim sum all day, along with a menu of larger dishes designed for sharing. He stuffs dumplings with a subtly floral mince of asparagus and lobster, and fist-size, fluffy bao with a slow-braised, peppery beef. He deep-fries cubes of crab and tofu, and dresses them in a rich mushroom and hoisin sauce. Thick rings of squid come coated in “golden sand”—a Hong Kong–style seasoning that hits the ideal balance of salty and spicy.

Best Toronto Restaurants 2016: Parcae
The hedonistic Québécois dishes at Parcae include crispy chicken skin–wrapped sausage and horse tenderloin carpaccio with duck-egg yolk and pumpkin seeds. Photo by Dave Gillespie

Parcae ★★★
348 Adelaide St. W., 416-398-5335

The nose-to-tail-to-entrail menu in this windowless room in the Templar Hotel’s basement brings some very good Québécois food. Creative extras by chefs Danny Hassell and Joseph Awad make even common dishes surprising: a braised octopus tentacle on a marrow-filled shank comes with uni-slathered toast, buttery potato purée and beef tendon chips, the pretty assemblage brightened by lemon-dressed purslane. For less adventurous diners, there’s an excellent breaded whole quail with sweet maple barbecue sauce, and a luxurious duck-stuffed ravioli smothered in torched, whipped mascarpone. Complicated cocktails are pricy and potent.
Lee ★★★
601 King St. W., 416-504-7867

At Susur Lee’s fine-dining spot, just about everyone orders the Singapore slaw, whose 19 ingredients—including pickled ginger, taro root, daikon, rice vermicelli and fried shallots—miraculously come together under a drizzle of salted plum vinaigrette. The rack of lamb Thailandaise suffers from overly ambitious flavour fusions: the chops are pink and tender, but they come with clashing chili-mint and cardamom-carrot chutneys, lentils and two soggy banana fritters.

A selection of pinxtos at Portland Variety. Photo by Jackie Pal

Portland Variety ★★★
587 King St. W., 416-368-5151

This serene tapas bar is a low-key surprise in the middle of the King West fracas. The striped bass crudo is dead simple in a lemon-lime-orange cure with a sprinkle of baby cilantro leaves, bird’s eye chilies and diced mango, and is followed nicely by a salad of warm, buttery oyster mushrooms, arugula and manchego cheese, drizzled in sweet apple cider and yuzu dressing. A riff on Portuguese churrasco brings a deboned Cornish hen, seared crisp on the outside and ultra-tender inside, served with whisky-infused piri piri that the owners should bottle and sell. Fryer-hot beignets are pound-the-table good.


February 18, 2018

This article previously listed an incorrect address for Loka. It has since been updated.