Toronto’s best special occasion spots right now
10 Temperance St., 647-348-7000, thechasetoronto.com
The city’s flashiest seafood spot is The Chase, one of two restaurants in a refurbished 19th-century downtown office building. The ground floor is nice for a lunch of oysters (they typically have a dozen varieties on hand), garlicky snails on toast and an overflowing, buttery lobster roll with a side of house-made dill chips. The menu at the more formal upstairs restaurant 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. It’s a big-night-out kind of place—all crystal chandeliers, bevelled mirror walls and valet parking.
88 Harbord St., 416-929-7788, pianopianotherestaurant.com
When Victor Barry opened a pizza place where Splendido was, his fan base was aghast. Where before there were heavy linens, candles and stately mirrors, now there’s a kooky ’80s vibe of floral wallpaper, white bistro chairs and black floors. Barry’s soft, messy pizzas, impeccable pastas and stripped-down caesar salad are the standout items. Piccolo Piano, in the basement space that once housed Splendido’s wine cellar, is the happiest new birthday party venue in town.
53 Scollard St., 416-962-2822, buca.ca/yorkville
At Rob Gentile’s top-notch seafood spot on the ground floor of the Four Seasons, servers wheel a brass and walnut cart laden with your selection of the day’s catch (perhaps baked branzino), cover the fish with a cloth and crack open a carapace of salt, then present the deboned fillets to the table with the seriousness of a devotional offering.
11 Duncan St., 647-660-0909, byblostoronto.com
With Byblos, nightlife impresario Charles Khabouth anticipated the city’s Middleterranean obsession, converting two floors of an unremarkable historical warehouse into a lounge of low-slung booths and a contemporary dining room that hums with excitement. The principal reason? An endless parade of hand-painted platters of deliciousness: dumplings stuffed with smoked eggplant, molasses-sticky lamb ribs, bundles of vine leaf–wrapped branzino, and on and on.
169 Niagara St., 416-703-4222, edulisrestaurant.com
A seat in this quaint pair of candlelit rooms is one of the toughest reservations in town. Chef Michael Caballo does brilliant things with fish (a rarity in this meaty era), like dusting a slab of albacore with a powder he’s made by dehydrating the tuna’s veins. But the real star of the menu is a beef course of applewood-smoked shoulder, braised cheek and crunchy-creamy fried sweetbreads, all surrounded by a pool of fresh grits made from Ontario corn.