The 11 best restaurants in Parkdale and Little Portugal right now
Our highest-rated restaurants in the two west-end 'hoods
Jay Carter spent a decade cooking under Susur Lee, and two years as head chef at Centro, before striking out on his own. His dad helped renovate a former bar into a cramped but elegantly understated room of polished concrete, softly lit marble tables and exposed brick. His menu betrays a Scandinavian influence, like a salad of smoked trout, oniony cream, dill, microgreens and salty pops of roe, or cubes of confit chicken under a crunchy blanket of deep-fried rye. Not all of his experiments succeed: whitefish is perfectly steamed but overpowered by a zealous dusting of smoked paprika. Orange zest and a puddle of crème fraîche elevate a humble walnut tea cake to the sublime. Closed Sunday and Monday.
At Chantecler, Jonathan Poon proved he could make an ambitious restaurant work in Parkdale. His latest project is comparatively easy: a casual snacks and drinks place hidden down an alley, smack in the middle of the Queen West party district. Tables are closely packed, servers crank the volume on Young Americans, and the drinks list is limited to bar rail and microbrews. The food is coyly posh: mineral Malpeque oysters with a Vietnamese-inspired sauce; deep-fried chicken in a thin, spicy batter; and chicken wings coated with a numbing Sichuan pepper that builds until your mouth burns like a five-alarm fire.
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An Argentine restaurant is only as good as its meat. Some of the city’s finest is slow-roasted, braised and charred to perfection in a custom-designed cookhouse in the yard behind this Brockton Village spot. Chef Kanida Chey and his helpers begin each day chopping logs for a pit grill, over which they hang suckling pig, lamb leg, Mennonite chicken and fat-streaked accordions of ribs. It’s rustic gaucho fare, but the restaurant is refined: just two rows of marble tables, a small bar and the glow of the sun setting on the nearby parkette. Word has travelled: South American expats are making it their go-to, chattering over long dinners, ecstatic about a taste of home.
The ramshackle room, narrow as a railway car, remains its endearing self, with tight-packed tables and enough beards to meet Parkdale bylaws. Chef Jesse Mutch has replaced Jonathan Poon’s Asian experimentalism with a menu that wouldn’t look out of place on the Left Bank. Mutch is a dab hand at the classics: piping-hot cheese puffs, springy snails, salty rounds of roasted tomatoes bathed in a mushroom and chive broth, and succulent duck wrapped in crêpes with its own gravy. His double-fried frites, as golden as a Trump hotel and dusted with a concoction of salt, sugar, fenugreek and cinnamon, are a city-wide champ. For dessert, there’s a perfectly tempting baked Alaska—though you’d do just as well to end with a brandy and vermouth cocktail tasting of cherries and long nights, called (what else?) a Marcel Marceau.
At this maritime-inspired Parkdale room helmed by ex–416 Snack Bar chef Jon Vettraino, cubes of roasted kuri squash served with a tart ramp leaf purée, croutons, cashews and anchovy butter evoke holiday stuffing in the best way. The Hard Salad is a pimped-out caesar with pickled turnips, purple and sharp, mellowed by savoury fried shallots, shaved almonds and a dusting of grana padano. A wee portion of swordfish crudo is fresh and cool, but ultimately overwhelmed by all its accompaniments: pickled sea asparagus, Trinidad peppers, shiso, mustard seeds and crispy chicken skin. The duck confit crêpe—like a fancy Vietnamese banh xeo—is seasoned with sweet mayo, chilies, peanuts and mint. The two lone desserts, an apple-and-almond streusel tart and a pumpkin pudding, are both excellent.
The salumi at this renowned west-end restaurant is a Platonic ideal of its cold-cut form, from the gorgeously marooned speck to the soft and scrumptious mortadella. Save room for traditional pasta dishes such as cheesy cacio e pepe (the spaghetti is perfectly al dente) or creamy gnocchi with vibrant fresh tomato sauce and a kick of spicy ’nduja. The wine list is epically long, with selections from most regions of the boot.
@Hanm0t0 • Aburi Salmon | This was one of those I-walked-in-circles-to-find-you-but-i-don't-hate-you-for-it because the food was so good type of spots, you know what I mean?? ? I am super grateful my dear friend Jess took me here and this is no doubt an one of a kind hidden gem! This Aburi Salmon took it home with its fresh, tender, flesh and gently seared exterior. Not to mention the other gazillion yummy things adding the perfect finishing touches. I'm the type of person who loves to play with my food (good and bad??), so I enjoyed rolling the dish onto the seaweed pieces provided. Oh what a satisfying feeling it is to eat food you made for yourself ??
Leemo Han’s secretive Dundas West izakaya bears the junk-shop look he and brother Leeto established at snack-food spot Oddseoul. As at the best izakayas, the chef maintains a healthy disregard for dieters. Prime example: a sandwich of roasted, super-fatty pork belly, coated in soy remoulade, barely contained by a coco bun. Dyno Wings are stuffed with spicy pork and rice, deep-fried and served in a takeout box. Even more impressive are a tartare of fantastically fresh hamachi and the nasudengaku—Japanese eggplant charred until creamy, the length of it covered in finely shredded deep-fried beets. The drinks list is short but thoughtful: Asahi on tap, quality sake and Asian-inspired cocktails.
This standout izakaya run by former Guu and Kingyo cooks began as an occasional pop-up in the back of the Dundas West watering hole Churchill. It now has a permanent home down the street, in a former Portuguese sports bar. There’s a short, evolving menu and fleeting specials like smoky, sticky short ribs. The excellent regular options include sticky wings coated with toasted sesame seeds, fritters made of whole corn kernels, barely seared beef tataki, and a meaty squid tentacle grilled and slathered in soy sauce and butter, served with Kewpie mayo. Though there’s Sapporo by the litre, the atmosphere isn’t as hard-partying as at other izakayas. Maybe it’s the Japanese soul records; maybe it’s the serious eating. Closed Tuesday.
Local approximates the air of a rough-and-tumble Italian osteria, and chef Fabio Bondi has a delicate yet playful way with Italian techniques. He pairs creamy fresh-pulled mozzarella with a pungent sautéed garlic stem, and soaks airy smoked gnocchi in a sensational taleggio cheese, rapini and butter sauce. A fillet of mackerel is a touch overcooked, but it comes with a creative smashed salsa of radish, cucumber and roasted corn, spiked with tart preserved lemon.
Owners Mikey Apples, who runs the dive club Bambi’s downstairs, has created an archetypal west-end hangout. The food is date-night-calibre good—but not special-occasion fare. The menu alternates between simple Italian dishes and sparklier flashes of Asian fusion. The former brings chewy fettuccine in lacklustre ragoût (it needs more umami depth and chili zing), while the latter dazzles with oysters broiled in lobster hollandaise, popping with salty tobiko. The sole dessert is a hot doughnut with caramel sauce—pure nostalgic goodness.
Out of her hard-to-miss Queen West kitchen, Ivana Raca serves beautifully composed bistro fare. A rich soup of white asparagus and celery root, the ivory surface rocky with jerusalem artichoke chips and flecks of chive, is the best place to start. Peruvian bell peppers—tender little firecrackers shaped like spinning tops—add just enough heat to spiced pork meatballs and ricotta-stuffed gnocchi. Desserts are worth the calories. A hazelnut chocolate tart is as dense as it is dark, while a spiced orange semolina cake, under a scoop of honeyed goat yogurt, is deceptively light. Some cocktails are too sweet, so turn to the lengthy list of wines instead. Closed Monday.
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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.