The best restaurants on Ossington right now
207 Ossington Ave., 416-534-8520
While Ossington may have changed, the appeal of Tom Thai’s eclectic pan-Asian menu hasn’t. His ceviches—wild Nunavut Arctic char with green apple and ginger, or scallops with kumquat and grilled jalapeños—are rendered in bright flavours with invigorating acidic kicks. Like a good song that’s been way overplayed, kale salad elsewhere is something of a bore, but the version here—tender and yielding beneath a pecorino cap—can now be considered a classic.
72 Ossington Ave., 416-850-0093, union72.ca
Chef Teo Paul’s superb Ossington bistro maintains a base of loyal patrons who keep it buzzing but not overwhelmingly busy. The menu skews French with some strong Canadian influences (like the exceptional elk sliders), and the portions are hearty. The sublime steak tartare appetizer, paired with a spicy habanero paste, grainy Dijon mustard and bread-and-butter pickles, could be a meal on its own. Desserts, like the maple bread pudding, are excellent, but a night here is best finished with an expertly made cocktail at the marble-topped bar.
184 Ossington Ave., 416-516-4656, superpoint.ca
The pasta alone is worth repeat visits to Jonathan Poon and Jesse Fader’s hipster red-sauce spot—in particular, a reginette loaded with slow-cooked beef cheek and a heavy blanket of shaved parmesan. The pizza isn’t quite on par with the city’s very best, but it’s but it’s still great, especially the variation on a Hawaiian with mortadella in place of ham. The wine list features one of the city’s best selections of natural and low-intervention bottles.
227 Ossington Ave., 416-551-6263, labanane.ca
Brandon Olsen’s bistro is not a stuffy one. It’s a lot more fun—like a year-round New Year’s Eve dinner party with flapper-era cocktails in fluted glasses, an icy raw bar and a disco soundtrack. Here, you’ll find the city’s finest example of a pâté en croûte, with golden pastry encasing peppery duck-pork stuffing and a cap of wine gelée on top. Julia Child would approve of how Olsen finishes his creamy crab and paella rice gratin in the crustacean’s shell, and how he achieves that extremely rare thing: a correct omelette—crisp exterior, nearly custardy within, timed to the microsecond. An omelette for dinner is one of the more peculiarly French traditions, and (for an extra $80) an excuse to order caviar.
90 Ossington Ave., no phone
Leemo and Leeto Han’s snack-focused menu, served until 2 a.m., is packed with sharing plates of boldly flavoured Asian-fusion munchies that go great with a boozy cocktail. The Loosey, a mini-burger made with ground brisket, processed cheese, kimchee and a kimchee-based hollandaise, tastes like a Korean Big Mac. The tempura prawns, which come deep-fried and drenched in spicy mayo, are unforgettable, and the squash poutine—cubes of deep-fried kabocha topped with mayo, (more) kimchee, curds and gravy—is frighteningly addictive.
80 Ossington Ave., 416-519-5996, mamakas.ca
Traditional standbys like spanakopita and moussaka share menu space with the kind of rustic plates you’d find at an Aegean taverna, as well as refined dishes that wouldn’t be out of place in an Athens hot spot. Still, the kitchen smartly recognizes the importance of letting simple ingredients shine: fried veal-and-beef meatballs are crispy, if under-spiced, on a bed of velvety hummus and garlicky parsley sauce, while sweet, compressed rhubarb and roasted macadamia nuts add complexity to saganaki. Puréed fava—an underused ingredient in Toronto kitchens—and salty capers accompany charred octopus. The bar’s signature cocktails swap in Greek hooch like Metaxa and Mavrodaphne with stellar results.
59 Ossington Ave., 647-351-5100, boraliato.com
Instead of the naked Edison bulbs and subway tile of so many new restaurants, there’s a moody forest mural at Borealia, and a cedar trellis that runs across the ceiling, evoking a Vancouver Island boathouse. The room has personality, as does Wayne Morris’s cooking. He’s inspired by historical Canadian recipes, like pigeon pie with a crust more buttery than any pioneer ever imagined. The highlight one night is a casserole of dense salt cod quenelles, their marine flavour ratcheted up by tender lobes of lobster.
94 Ossington Ave., 416-901-7667, soostoronto.com
The dishes at Soos, inspired by the street food of Malaysia, are original, exciting and consistently excellent. The kapitan tacos are stuffed with lime-and lemongrass-flavoured chicken and served on fluffy coconut crêpes; a dish of laksa dumplings brings silky cubes of house-made tofu floating in a rich, subtly fishy curry broth; and the red chili chicken is fried to crispy perfection then doused in a fiery, tongue-tingling spice rub. For dessert, the pisang goreng delivers a mountain of neighbouring Bang Bang’s burnt-toffee ice cream topped with a crunchy fried banana.
74 Ossington Ave., 416-546-3022, tantorestaurant.com
Chef and co-owner Julian Iliopoulos came over from Cava, and brought with him an instinct for precisely executed, sharable small plates. Among the Argentine hits: empanadas stuffed with smoked ricotta, fragile “churros” of deep-fried puffed potato, and sheets of taleggio draped over pan-fried hen of the woods mushrooms and leek-flavoured gnocchi. That grill gets a workout, infusing smokiness into squid, short ribs and, no minor revelation, a cross-section of cabbage, brushed with pesto and polka-dotted with yellow pearls of cured egg yolk.
971 Ossington Ave., 416-962-8943, actinoliterestaurant.com
On a quiet stretch of Ossington, Justin Cournoyer’s two tasting menus showcase hyper-local ingredients and ultra-modern techniques. Both the four- and seven-course chef’s cards open with a plate of candied lichen, crisp as a fried spider’s web and mildly sweet. What follows changes with the seasons, but the kitchen’s focus on presentation never wavers. Cured capelin add acidic complexity to a satisfying bowl of tender beans cooked with mirepoix, and soft carrots complement the stewed apricots in a dessert that brings a meal to a fine finish.
221 Ossington Ave., 416-532-8000, pizzerialibretto.com
Still loud, still crowded and still serving pizzas that sag in the middle, Rocco Agostino’s original Ossington pizzeria remains as good a place as any to get your Neapolitan pie fix. The pizzas sag because they’re huge and generously topped; one, with cremini mushrooms, buffalo mozzarella, gorgonzola, roasted garlic and pecorino, is as orgiastic as a Berlusconi bunga bunga.