The best restaurants on King West right now

The best restaurants on King West right now

Our favourite restaurants along the King-Adelaide corridor

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Kiin
326 Adelaide St. W., 647-490-5040, kiintoronto.com

Chef Nuit Regular built her empire of Thai restaurants with soporific bowls of khao soi. At Kiin, slow-braised beef short rib, the bone rising out of an intoxicating sauce of tamarind and pearl onions, is like an upmarket rendition of that famous dish. She’s dabbling in Royal Thai—a rarefied style of cooking that shares some of the hyper-finickiness of Japanese kaiseki. Everything is so daintily pretty, you’ll fight the urge to leave it untouched on the plate.

Labora
433 King St. W., 416-260-9993, labora.to

The real story of chef Rob Bragagnolo’s Campo Food Hall, is at the rear, where he runs Labora—an apt name, since you get a full view of ­Bragagnolo and his staff labouring over tapas in the open kitchen. The menu emphasizes seafood and modern Spanish dishes inspired by the gastronomy of Barcelona, like a row of cold-smoked mackerel slices standing like soldiers at attention, each paired with a dot of blood orange marmalade.. The star one night was a giant red Spanish prawn, split then grilled and anointed simply with a few drops of olive oil.

Best Toronto Restaurants 2016: Figo
Figo. Photo by Dave Gillespie.

Figo
295 Adelaide St. W., 647-748-3446, figotoronto.com

The casual demeanour of this comparatively unflashy pasta-and-pizza spot belies great sophistication. The thin-crust pizzas, baked in a wood-fired oven, are excellent. Handmade pastas are lightly dressed to show off the noodles. And the house-made ricotta, drizzled with truffled honey, could be the sustenance of angels—all sweetness and light.

Buca’s prosciutto pizza. Photo by Sara Steep

Buca
604 King St. W., 416-865-1600, buca.ca

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, byblostoronto.com

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 Jacobs and Co. Photo by Caroline Aksich

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

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
220 King St. W., 416-979-7717, loscolibris.ca

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
299 Adelaide St. W., 416-599-0299, montecitorestaurant.ca

Film producer Ivan Reitman’s Entertainment District restaurant may serve Californian-inspired cuisine, but Canadian ingredients are given top billing: Fogo Island shrimp, Dolce Lucano charcuterie and Nova Scotia scallops, to name a few. Strozzapreti noodles, each one a tender little closed scroll, shine in their ’nduja sausage, chili and cabbage sauce. And strip loin, pink and flavourful, gets the full béarnaise-and-shrimp-sauce treatment. Deconstructed spice cake with caramel-apple-and-vanilla ice cream looks avant garde but tastes as comforting as ever, while the chocolate mousse beneath a burnt meringue topping pays homage to the dessert’s inspiration: the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.

Patria. Photo by Dave Gillespie

Patria
478 King St. W., 416-367-0505, patriatoronto.com

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. And petite beef-and-pork empanadas come with a bracing red pepper sauce.

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, buca.ca

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.

Campechano’s ceviche. Photo by Renée Suen

Campechano
504 Adelaide St. W., 416-777-2800, www.campechano.ca

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.

Le Sélect
432 Wellington St. W., 416-596-6405, leselect.com

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.

Luckee. Photo by Dave Gillespie

Luckee
328 Wellington St. W., 416-935-04007, luckeerestaurant.com

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.

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

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

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.

Correction

November 13, 2018

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