The best restaurants in downtown Toronto right now
Our favourite places to eat in and around the financial district
10 Temperance St., Flr. 5, 647-348-7000, thechasetoronto.com
The city’s flashiest seafood spot is one of two restaurants in a refurbished 19th-century downtown office building (Chase Fish and Oyster is the more casual lower-level kitchen). The menu at the formal fifth-floor spot includes sharing platters such as caviar and cured salmon, harissa-spiced grilled octopus, and a whole halibut as big as the table, served with a brown-butter sauce.
105-10 Bay St., 647-347-7347, mikutoronto.com
From the moment it debuted, Miku’s 180-seat dining room has been overrun—an advantage of being in the heart of the new office district south of the Gardiner. The kaiseki menu consists of cleverly combined exotica. One night, the kaiseki’s star course is a tiered plate of sushi: ocean trout with jalapeño and pink grapefruit, toro with funky black truffle, golden-eye snapper with kumquat compote, and shima-aji (mackerel) with okra and a dashi jelly—it was one of the most exciting things to happen to fish since Nemo reunited with his dad.
66 Wellington St. W., 416-364-0054, canoerestaurant.com
On the 54th floor of the TD Bank Tower, executive chef John Horne emphasizes Canoe’s Canadiana theme through provenance: creamy Thunder Oak gouda coats a wondrously rich soup of three-day caramelized Holland Marsh onions and bone marrow; the gnocchi that accompany a buttery wedge of Great Lakes walleye are made of specially sourced potatoes from Alliston. Desserts can be overwrought, like a tribute to Niagara peaches in which the fruit is lost amid all the add-ons, including Pop Rocks. Servers are as polished as at any O&B restaurant and are experts in the treasure-filled wine list.
66 Wellington St. W., 416-777-1144, bymark.mcewangroup.ca
Mark McEwan’s subterranean clubhouse may no longer stand out in the downtown core, where Bay Streeters flock to what’s new and buzzy. But the star chef can still show the new kids on the block how it should be done. A deconstructed grilled-peach-and-tomato salad makes the most convincing case yet that summer should never end, and dry-aged strip loins and rib-eyes never go out of style. À la carte sides, especially the roasted cauliflower with lemon mascarpone and the jalapeño corn risotto, are worth the upsell. And every dish, even the stack of fries that accompanies the $39 cheeseburger, is dramatically plated. About that burger: topped with rich brie de Meaux, shaved truffles and grilled porcinis, its hefty price tag is justified.
4 Front St. E., 416-860-0086, biffsbistro.com
The reboot of O&B’s iconic bistro is every bit as polished as its former self, luring back loyal clientele for power lunches and prix fixes. The vibe is less fusty as new British touches blend with Parisian traditions: burgundy leather banquettes, black-and-white photos and London-born bar snacks alongside duck confit and steak frites. Each dish is turned into an assemblage of bright veggies, Canadian-raised proteins and surprising hits of flavour. A tiny pitcher of green gazpacho arrives with a plate of delicate smoked sturgeon, asparagus, cucumber ribbons and lemony buttermilk curd for a fresh-as-hell appetizer. Mains, like cumin-dusted lamb with fluffy gnocchi and al dente green beans, dazzle for their drop-dead perfect cooking.
188 University Ave., 647-788-8888, website
After a slow start that saw the Shangri-La’s flagship restaurant change chefs and directions, the current incarnation is one of the city’s best hotel restaurants. Glistening pearls of Northern Divine caviar bejewel a savoury doughnut, and a duo of bison (seared loin, braised rib) unexpectedly and deliciously invoke Southeast Asia with peanut, chili and tamarind. A dish of Spanish mackerel with grilled octopus, fermented chili and tiny gnocchi is the perfect balance of refined and relaxed—much like the restaurant’s sharp servers.
180 Queen St. W., 647-748-1444, richmondstation.ca
Subway tiles, vintage posters of the city and a great glass cockpit of an entrance allude to the restaurant’s subway theme without actually conjuring the messy reality of public transportation. Here, chefs Carl Heinrich and Hayden Johnson offer an ambitious menu. Tiny cubes of tuna tartare, gently seasoned with tamari and horseradish, sitting on slices of hakurei turnip, show the kitchen’s delicate side, while pork meatballs with cornbread croutons are deliciously rustic. The burger—medium-rare on a milk bun with beet chutney and aged cheddar—is one of the city’s best, but a lobster capellini, while generous with the crustacean, lacks personality. Desserts, like an ultra-rich PB&J pudding, are as playful as they are tasty
Drake One Fifty
150 York St., 416-363-6150, thedrake.ca/drakeonefifty
Considered a gamble when it opened, based on the sheer scale of the massive, intricately designed space, Drake One Fifty has been embraced by the Bay Street suits who pack the dining room and bar areas from lunch to late night for client meetings, after-work drinks and dinner with colleagues. As it’s been since day one, the menu is a hodgepodge of salads, pastas, pizzas, snacks and mains. Some of the dishes can be overcomplicated, and the cooking less consistent than the west end’s Drake Hotel. But everything is beautifully plated, and the room is still a great place to enjoy a good boozy cocktail.
176 Yonge St., 416-507-3378, lenarestaurante.com
Leña manages to out-glitz the Saks it’s next to. Couples can start the night in the Beaux Arts bar, sipping vermouth and eating empanadas, before graduating to an 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 city’s loudest rooms. Much of that is due to excitement over garlicky Ontario shrimp, chimichurri-painted strip loin with sweet yuca 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.
372 Bay St., 647-352-3211, thegabardine.com
Bay Streeters flock here after work for at least two good reasons: homespun classic cocktails is the first, and a decent selection of by-the-glass trendy wine varietals is the second. And just as it’s easy for one drink to become two or three, it’s even easier to underestimate the gussied-up pub grub: a mountain of brick-red cauliflower nuggets, bathed in Korean gochujang, are as addictively snackable as popcorn chicken; and expert seasoning is evident in both a Nashville-style hot chicken sandwich and a delicately breaded piece of rockfish, served over creamy polenta. An airy Italian zeppole, laced with citrus cream and topped with candied orange, makes for a sweet nightcap.
Cactus Club Cafe
77 Adelaide St. W., 647-748-2025, cactusclubcafe.com
The Vancouver-based chain’s first Ontario location— a gargantuan, three-level, Warhol-decorated space in First Canadian Place—attracts lunchtime lineups of Bay Streeters. Executive chef Rob Feenie’s signature dishes are a few bucks more than the others and come highly recommended by clingy dress– and spiky heel–clad servers. His mascarpone- and butternut squash–stuffed ravioli in a truffle-heavy butter sauce is a signature dish for a reason, and the beef duo (tenderloin and short rib) is both flawlessly prepared and prettily presented.
Momofuku Noodle Bar
190 University Ave., 647-253-8000, noodlebar-toronto.momofuku.com
Noodle Bar might be famous for its steamed buns and bowls of excellent ramen, but the classic ginger scallion noodles deserve a shout-out, too, with a hunk of katsu pork over pickled mushroom, cucumber and cabbage. Pork buns remain the go-to starter, but the shrimp ones are joyful pockets slathered in spicy mayo, topped with pickled onion and crunchy iceberg. Dessert is still a mostly DIY affair: there’s Cereal Milk soft-serve, and the Milk Bar kiosk is stocked with Christina Tosi’s signature truffles and slices of hilariously sweet Crack Pie.