Food Top Ten Restaurants 2009 icon-twitter icon-facebook Top Ten Restaurants 2009 By James Chatto | April 1, 2009 AT 8:00 amBy James Chatto | 04/01/2009 These are the places of proven and consistent quality that set the city’s fine-dining standard: the stars in our gastronomical firmament By James Chatto | Photography by Ryan Szulc See the Top Ten Restaurants 2009 » SHOW CAPTION RETURN TO ARTICLE Read More 195115 <h2>1. CANOE</h2><br /> <p>Ludwig Mies van der Rohe saw God in the details. On the 54th floor of one of his timelessly beautiful towers, chef Anthony Walsh and the Oliver Bonacini team have assumed responsibility. Recession or no, every cog of the restaurant’s mechanism is currently whirring in perfect sync, pampering and seducing Bay Street suits, courting couples and A-list gourmets alike. The surprise is the edgy intensity of Walsh’s food. Building an imaginative menu around artisanal Canadian ingredients gives an evening at Canoe substantial artistic backbone—righteous passion plays all the more powerfully in such a suave and sophisticated key.</p><br /> <p><strong>STANDOUT DISH:</strong> Thick slices of rare, amazingly tender squab breast and juicy beech mushrooms are spaced on the plate like a delectable archipelago. Alongside sits a confited squab leg (dark, woodsy meat), jerusalem artichoke quenelle and a bittersweet parcel of black kale leaves. Tiny pools of purple chokecherry and dots of green laurel oil colour a subtle sauce spiked with Newfoundland screech. Such original flavours, but they still allow the squab to rule the roost. <em>66 Wellington St. W., 416-364-0054.</em></p> (Image: Ryan Szulc) Top Ten Restaurants 2009: Canoe Top Ten Restaurants 2009: Canoe https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/top-ten-restaurants-2009-toronto-canoe-96x96.jpg https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/top-ten-restaurants-2009-toronto-canoe.jpg https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/top-ten-restaurants-2009-toronto-canoe.jpg 565 348  https://torontolife.com/food/top-ten-restaurants-2009/slide/top-ten-restaurants-2009-toronto-canoe/ top-ten-restaurants-2009-toronto-canoe 0 0 (Image: Ryan Szulc) 195116 <h2>2. EIGENSINN FARM</h2><br /> <p>Halfway through a meal last summer, the 10 guests left the farmhouse to talk in the lush garden while dusk thickened to night. Inside, Michael Stadtländer fried zucchini blossoms as a garnish for the main course while his wife, Nobuyo, lit the candles in the dining room and changed the Mozart to mellow jazz. Yes, Eigensinn’s magic is as potent as ever. Ingredients are the quintessence of local, seasonal thinking—dessert is conjured from a crop of sour cherries picked in the garden that morning. Stadtländer’s cooking is simply masterful: unaffected, innocent but deeply sophisticated. Dinner here remains an essential pilgrimage for anyone interested in food. </p><br /> <p><strong>STANDOUT DISH:</strong> Those crisp zucchini blossoms grace one of the farm’s piglets, its rack and shoulder roasted in the wood-fired oven, the belly slow-cooked in beer, <br /> honey, spruce and wild ginger, a braising liquid that adds spicy depths to the jus. Morsels of kidney and delicate crackling, glazed baby carrots bursting with sweet, rooty flavour and baby pattypan squash provide the harmonies. <em>RR 2, Singhampton, 519-922-3128.</em></p> (Image: Ryan Szulc) Top Ten Restaurants 2009: Eigensinn Farm Top Ten Restaurants 2009: Eigensinn Farm https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/top-ten-restaurants-2009-toronto-eigensinn-96x96.jpg https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/top-ten-restaurants-2009-toronto-eigensinn.jpg https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/top-ten-restaurants-2009-toronto-eigensinn.jpg 565 348  https://torontolife.com/food/top-ten-restaurants-2009/slide/top-ten-restaurants-2009-toronto-eigensinn/ top-ten-restaurants-2009-toronto-eigensinn 0 0 (Image: Ryan Szulc) 195120 <h2>3. SPLENDIDO</h2><br /> <p>Every city needs somewhere like this—a place for serious fine dining, starting with the champagne cart and a minaret of <br /> canapés before the menu is even presented. This year, the owners, Yannick Bigourdan and chef David Lee, were often away building Nota Bene, but nobody noticed as flawless lieutenants (including chef de cuisine Victor Barry) took the bridge. Lee’s food is the kind that wins stars in Europe—poised and perfectly balanced rather than exuberant. It’s saved from potential fussiness by technical discipline and the elegant sensuality of such flavour combinations as succulent lobster in a chilled cauliflower soup. Gourmets who don’t feel like participating in the full theatre of the evening can dine at the bar.</p><br /> <p><strong>STANDOUT DISH:</strong> Lee’s whimsical “English breakfast” dinner entrée <br /> is a masterpiece of technique. Egg yolks are warmed sous-vide and turned almost to jelly, then pressed between tissue-thin bacon; beans are spooned over toast points crisply fried in duck fat. I still don’t know how he gives such flawless texture and spicing to a black pudding no bigger than my thumb. <em>88 Harbord St., 416-929-7788.</em></p> (Image: Ryan Szulc) Top Ten Restaurants 2009: Splendido Top Ten Restaurants 2009: Splendido https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/top-ten-restaurants-2009-toronto-splendido-96x96.jpg https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/top-ten-restaurants-2009-toronto-splendido.jpg https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/top-ten-restaurants-2009-toronto-splendido.jpg 300 310  https://torontolife.com/food/top-ten-restaurants-2009/slide/top-ten-restaurants-2009-toronto-splendido/ top-ten-restaurants-2009-toronto-splendido 0 0 (Image: Ryan Szulc) 195122 <h2>4. VIA ALLEGRO</h2><br /> <p>The trying trip to Etobicoke brings its rewards: a soothing welcome at the door, the unexpected size and flamboyance of the room, one of the biggest wine and spirits lists on the planet. The mood is that of a crowded party, with versatile chef Lino Collevecchio catering to all tastes, whether simple, traditional, extravagant or avant-garde. His best work is often a combination of these categories: a sliced terrine of octopus puttanesca, for instance, ringed with clams and dressed with salsa verde. Fascinating wines by the glass are well matchaed by Wendy Votto and her team of sommeliers. </p><br /> <p><strong>STANDOUT DISH:</strong> The year’s best beef—a brisket from Via Allegro’s Top Meadow Farms pasture-to-kitchen program—is braised in brunello to the very pink of tenderness. Collevecchio serves it over creamy polenta dotted with speck, grana padano and roasted shallot butter. A tangle of fried potato threads, wild mushrooms in a cream sauce and reduced <br /> braising liquids add crunch, smoothness and intensity. <em>1750 The Queensway, 416-622-6677.</em></p> (Image: Ryan Szulc) Top Ten Restaurants 2009: Via Allegro Top Ten Restaurants 2009: Via Allegro https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/top-ten-restaurants-2009-toronto-via-allegro-96x96.jpg https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/top-ten-restaurants-2009-toronto-via-allegro.jpg https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/top-ten-restaurants-2009-toronto-via-allegro.jpg 250 375  https://torontolife.com/food/top-ten-restaurants-2009/slide/top-ten-restaurants-2009-toronto-via-allegro/ top-ten-restaurants-2009-toronto-via-allegro 0 0 (Image: Ryan Szulc) 195121 <h2>5. SUSHI KAJI</h2><br /> <p>Success has allowed Mitsuhiro Kaji to redecorate his intimate premises on the Queensway—a restored mural here, softer lighting over there—but the master is as eccentric and as brilliant as ever. His omakase menu is a nine- or 10-course adventure, improvised nightly, wherein he and his equally creative kitchen chef, Takeshi Okada, vie to impress. Kaji’s sashimi and sushi are the best I have tasted anywhere, impeccably sourced, cut and garnished, and presented in a profoundly satisfying progression. Expect to sit next to Japanese CEOs and major-league baseball players at the brightly lit eight-seat sushi bar.</p><br /> <p><strong>STANDOUT DISH:</strong> On those rare nights when fresh snow crab (alive moments earlier) is the star attraction, Okada rolls the juicy leg meat and some crunchy julienne cucumber inside a soft yellow omelette that’s as thin as vellum. Seussian wires of crunchy fried noodle and mysterious purple seedlings protrude from the bundle like the furred antennae of a moth. Dots of two sauces decorate the plate, one of yellow egg yolk, the other tinted green with spinach. One bite and it’s gone. <em>806 The Queensway, 416-252-2166.</em></p> (Image: Ryan Szulc) Top Ten Restaurants 2009: Sushi Kaji Top Ten Restaurants 2009: Sushi Kaji https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/top-ten-restaurants-2009-toronto-sushi-kaji-96x96.jpg https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/top-ten-restaurants-2009-toronto-sushi-kaji.jpg https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/top-ten-restaurants-2009-toronto-sushi-kaji.jpg 565 384  https://torontolife.com/food/top-ten-restaurants-2009/slide/top-ten-restaurants-2009-toronto-sushi-kaji/ top-ten-restaurants-2009-toronto-sushi-kaji 0 0 (Image: Ryan Szulc) 195123 <h2>6. SCARAMOUCHE</h2><br /> <p>This midtown favourite glides serenely on, its lease running at least until December 31 (after which, who knows?). Few can fathom the effort required to appear so perennially debonair. Regulars take it for granted, just as they do the understated fluency of the service and the kitchen’s suave legerdemain. Keith Froggett knows precisely how to cook fish (unforgettably juicy roast cod) and vegetables (poached white asparagus, its classic hollandaise sexed up with fried shallots and crispy fragments of bacon). Someone recommends Cloudy Bay sauvignon blanc, and the whole meal takes wing. The denouement is even better now that pastry chef Joanne Yolles has come home. </p><br /> <p><strong>STANDOUT DISH:</strong> Tender rabbit is cooked pink, wrapped in a fragile sheath of double-smoked bacon, then cut into five little drums. Lightweight ricotta gnocchi lie beside them, but plants and fungi steal the show; chanterelles, morels and ramps, fresh peas, and baby red and yellow beets form a diadem of vegetable gems. <em>1 Benvenuto Pl., 416-961-8011.</em></p> (Image: Ryan Szulc) Top Ten Restaurants 2009: Scaramouche Top Ten Restaurants 2009: Scaramouche https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/top-ten-restaurants-2009-toronto-via-scaramouche-96x96.jpg https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/top-ten-restaurants-2009-toronto-via-scaramouche.jpg https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/top-ten-restaurants-2009-toronto-via-scaramouche.jpg 565 377  https://torontolife.com/food/top-ten-restaurants-2009/slide/top-ten-restaurants-2009-toronto-via-scaramouche/ top-ten-restaurants-2009-toronto-via-scaramouche 0 0 (Image: Ryan Szulc) 195118 <h2>7. NORTH 44°</h2><br /> <p>If you’ve got it, flaunt it. The new year brought no visible concessions to the economy at Mark McEwan’s uptown flagship. The two-storey space still has a golden glow, as do the black-clad servers, each one a mine of information about the clever cocktails, affluent wine list and luxe comfort cuisine that is McEwan’s forte. He knows his clientele. An evening here is opulent, but in an uncomplicated way. It needs a touch more gastronomical derring‑do, a riskier improv edge to move up the ranks—but don’t let’s ask for the moon when we already have the stars. </p><br /> <p><strong>STANDOUT DISH:</strong> A moist, pan-seared fillet of European sea bass is everything you might expect. The mussels make the dish: plump, meltingly tender, almost raw, redolent of the sea. Chopped leeks are softly submissive; the juicy meat from a crab claw becomes a crown with a crisp foil of potato. It’s new to the menu, but I think this dish will be around for <br /> a while. <em>2537 Yonge St., 416-487-4897.</em></p> (Image: Ryan Szulc) Top Ten Restaurants 2009: North 44° Top Ten Restaurants 2009: North 44° https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/top-ten-restaurants-2009-toronto-north-44-96x96.jpg https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/top-ten-restaurants-2009-toronto-north-44.jpg https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/top-ten-restaurants-2009-toronto-north-44.jpg 412 275  https://torontolife.com/food/top-ten-restaurants-2009/slide/top-ten-restaurants-2009-toronto-north-44/ top-ten-restaurants-2009-toronto-north-44 0 0 (Image: Ryan Szulc) 195117 <h2>8. LANGDON HALL</h2><br /> <p>On warm summer evenings, romantic guests can abandon the gracious formality of the dining room and eat outside in the garden of Canada’s most elegant country house hotel. They won’t be alone. Last year, the place earned Relais & Châteaux’s elite Grand Chef status, putting it on the international gourmet circuit, a payoff for almost 20 years of investing in personnel and expertise. Chef Jonathan Gushue played a key role in the process, creating menus of sophisticated but never prissy refinement, and making full use of alpha produce from the hotel’s gardens and woods. Cannily chosen wines, at surprisingly friendly prices, are a bonus.</p><br /> <p><strong>STANDOUT DISH:</strong> So many to choose from, but Gushue’s lean, juicy tenderloin of Elora elk is game, set and match. Consciously coarse-textured, fabulously bitter dandelion greens bring the great outdoors onto a plate decorated with black olive paint and a sweet jus reduction; a spoonful of house-made yogurt provides the fat. The dish is simple but elemental. <em>1 Langdon Dr., Cambridge, 519-740-2100.</em></p> (Image: Ryan Szulc) Top Ten Restaurants 2009: Langdon Hall Top Ten Restaurants 2009: Langdon Hall https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/top-ten-restaurants-2009-toronto-langdon-hall-96x96.jpg https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/top-ten-restaurants-2009-toronto-langdon-hall.jpg https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/top-ten-restaurants-2009-toronto-langdon-hall.jpg 350 260  https://torontolife.com/food/top-ten-restaurants-2009/slide/top-ten-restaurants-2009-toronto-langdon-hall/ top-ten-restaurants-2009-toronto-langdon-hall 0 0 (Image: Ryan Szulc) 195114 <h2>9. AUBERGE DU POMMIER</h2><br /> <p>Chef Jason Bangerter has flown under the radar for almost seven years, ensconced in his French country fiefdom up by Hogg’s Hollow. A new reno has wiped the last kitschy corners from the heritage property (though we’ll miss the bar) and given him a kitchen worthy of his talent. I always think of the food as contemporary French, but there’s a strong local component, too, and little grace notes and garnishes that are entirely his own. Service is so seamless you almost don’t notice it.</p><br /> <p><strong>STANDOUT DISH:</strong> Charcuterie (with accompanying condiments) is now every serious chef’s calling card. Bangerter takes a Canadian tack, loading up a barrel stave from Stratus winery with glossy shaved foie gras torchon and saucisson de Savoie (like silken salami), then surrounding the haute protein with spruce tips, pickled chanterelles, celeriac purée, shaved truffle and green apple mustard. The pairing with Marco spruce beer from Quebec is genius. <em>4150 Yonge St., 416‑222-2220.</em></p> (Image: Ryan Szulc) Top Ten Restaurants 2009: Auberge du Pommier Top Ten Restaurants 2009: Auberge du Pommier https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/top-ten-restaurants-2009-toronto-auberge-du-pommier-96x96.jpg https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/top-ten-restaurants-2009-toronto-auberge-du-pommier.jpg https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/top-ten-restaurants-2009-toronto-auberge-du-pommier.jpg 565 281  https://torontolife.com/food/top-ten-restaurants-2009/slide/top-ten-restaurants-2009-toronto-auberge-du-pommier/ top-ten-restaurants-2009-toronto-auberge-du-pommier 0 0 (Image: Ryan Szulc) 195119 <h2>10. C5</h2><br /> <p>It’s a bold decision to go high-end, pricey and avant-garde with a museum restaurant—and to hire a virtual unknown as chef—but the ROM’s gamble has paid off. Ted Corrado’s cooking shows all the local-seasonal loyalty, cosmopolitan freedom and technical finesse of the new Toronto cuisine, but it also has a stylish personality of its own. He takes risks: rabbit with nori paste and a foie gras bonbon is an unexpectedly triumphant amuse. He also brings farmers and winemakers to his dining room, striving to integrate C5 into the city’s foodscape. Now that he has started a catering operation and taken over the museum’s cafeteria, expect the ROM’s gastronomic stock to rise even higher.</p><br /> <p><strong>STANDOUT DISH:</strong> Halibut becomes part of a seaside narrative, the silky fillet set in what looks like a rock pool shared with littleneck clams and mussels. A scattering of bottarga and salmon roe boosts marine flavours; fingers of abalone mushroom are a lovely pun. Garlic foam and bittersweet rapini complete the illusion. <em>100 Queen’s Park, 416-586-7928.</em></p> (Image: Ryan Szulc) Top Ten Restaurants 2009: C5 Top Ten Restaurants 2009: C5 https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/top-ten-restaurants-2009-toronto-rom-c5-96x96.jpg https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/top-ten-restaurants-2009-toronto-rom-c5.jpg https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/top-ten-restaurants-2009-toronto-rom-c5.jpg 412 275  https://torontolife.com/food/top-ten-restaurants-2009/slide/top-ten-restaurants-2009-toronto-rom-c5/ top-ten-restaurants-2009-toronto-rom-c5 0 0 (Image: Ryan Szulc) Topics: Random Stuff Make the most of your city Get one year for only $24 Subscribe now!