A global meeting…full of hungry people

The clock is ticking for the Global All Hands meeting in August, which will be held here in Toronto, which will have people coming in from France, the UK, the States, the Netherlands, Finland and Australia. What do all these people have in common? They’ll probably want to eat while they’re here.

I’ve already started getting requests for “what should we see, where should we eat?”

For my money, I’d go for a stroll in Chinatown, then head into Kensington market for dinner at La Palette (256 Augusta Avenue, 416-929-4900). But then, I’m not exactly known for being in tune with all the best places in Toronto…so help me out; what is there to see and do in Toronto, and where’s the best meal to be had?

7 Responses to “A global meeting…full of hungry people”

  1. Alison Brooks
    July 17, 2007 at 4:05 pm #

    Hi Aaron,
    I would suggest they visit the Toronto Chowhound board for specifics on where to eat in Toronto, but generally the consensus is that the best places to eat are:
    North 44
    Colbourne Lane
    Amuse Bouche
    Lai Wah Heen
    Sushi Kaji

    Here are some reviews of some of the upper end ones:
    New Yorker in Toronto-a review
    First, a big thank you to all the Toronto chowhounds-I read your posts with great interest for a number of months before my trip (part of my year long celebration of my 50 years, in which I go to a city and eat and spend too much.) Following is a brief review of each-details are missing, as drinking too much is also part of the plan.

    Jamie Kennedy wine bar: our first stop upon arriving, we sat in the room which opens up onto the street (filled with dogs for Woofstock.) We had fries (yes, you must have those fries), asparagus, arugala salad, croquette monsieur, potato rosti with smoked trout. The Sunday brunch is a deal, at 2 dishes for $20.00. A special mention to our waitress, who warned me of the somewhat high price I was paying for the suggested wine pairing (Christian Moreau Vaudesir-it was worth it.)

    Cava: A warning-this address is a mall, and about the middle of the block there’s an alleyway, where you find this place. We had olive/fennel salad, foie gras pinchos, pea soup with mint, anticuchos, mushroom tamale, Swiss chard, quail, molten chocolate cake. All very nice and relaxing-good pacing and a pleasant atmosphere…and it’s open Sunday night.

    Canoe: The view is great, although I had my back to it (gallant, eh?) We went for lunch-very professional service. We had beet salad, gnocchi, sable, pork medallions, butter tart. The sable was especially good, but I thought the overall food quality was quite high, considering they have that view. If the cost seems too dear, at least have a drink at the bar-same view.

    Crush: The space is ok, nothing special. We had endive salad, asparagus, gnocchi, paella, branzino. Everything was good, but not great…I wouldn’t go out of my way to eat here. And I had the 20-something waitress question my wine selection (I have bottles older than you! I thought but didn’t say.) I don’t mind a suggestion, but to argue? Yikes.

    Globe Bistro: Very nice space-we sat upstairs, where you can watch the action below in your comfy booth. It seemed the whole place was going to the concert at Danforth Music Hall. They did a fine job of getting us all out in good time. We had gnocchi, foie gras (really good, but a bit small), black cod with soba noodles, pickerel, strawberry/rhubarb pie. I was quite impressed with the quality of food and service here. I especially loved the cod (and the waiter was spot-on with his wine suggestion with that dish-a Waterstone Pinot.)

    Jaimie Kennedy Gardiner-a very nice space on the third floor of the Gardiner, looking towards the ROM (mostly the old building, if the new bit scares you off.) Since the space is not really separate from the museum, you get tempting cooking smells while looking at the ceramics (Don’t skip that!) Fries( again), smoked salmon, chive soup, Gardiner burger, prime rib sandwich, madeleines. The service was a little confused, with waiters wandering about not knowing who (or which table) gets what. The food was good, but I’d pick the wine bar over this space if you want to try JK.

    Susur: I liked the serenity of the room (and that crazy changing color wall) and the service was perfect. I’m not that good at remembering tasting menus, so forgive me. They brought out 5 amuse, sirloin with mustard, foie gras, cod, many desserts. I have to say, I think they fell short, especially considering the price tag. There was nothing that rang out to me, and many of the dishes (especially the desserts) just fell flat.

    George: Lunch in the outdoor space is very special. Asparagus salad, gnocchi, black cod, wild salmon, beignets (I could have eaten another serving of them.) This is very solid food, and the garden space makes it perfect. I felt very relaxed and well treated here. In New York terms, this would be Union Square Café-a place to return to again and again-it won’t knock you out, but you’ll always be happy here.

    La Maquette: I hadn’t planned on eating here. We had reservations at Colborne Lane at 8:30 on Friday night. We had a long day and were quite hungry. We came into Colborne and were told that our table “Wasn’t quite ready.” We are not really bar types, so we sat on the bench in the front. And waited. When two people came in and were promptly taken in to be seated, I inquired again-oh, they are at a larger table…we waited 20 minutes, and the loud music in the bar area was getting to us. We got up to leave, and the host told us he was “trying to turn the table” but I said no thanks and left. If you’re getting older and grumpy, you might want to have an early, midweek reservation here. I had remembered La Maquette from when I looked at the sculpture garden. The calm waterfall, lovely evening and quiet atmosphere were a welcome change. We had organic green salad, foie gras, lobster linguine, seafood risotto, poached pear. No, this isn’t cutting edge, and the quality is fine, but not anywhere near the top…but I loved lingering over wine and coffee and watching people wander into the garden and look at the , er, plastic cobweb currently sited there.

    Banfi: We had lunch here between Casa Loma and Spadina House (thanks, downtown, for the suggestion.) There are a number of spots to eat in the immediate area, but this appealed most. We arrive around 1:00 as others were leaving and had no problem getting a table. I liked the rustic atmosphere (and the cool tables on a hot day.) We had arugala salad, spinach salad, gnocchi with garlic, penne with tomato sauce. Note that the wines on offer are a bit limited (house red, house white, etc.) Not a fussy or complex place, but good, solid food and nice for lunch. A note-it isn’t like the climb up the stairs from Dupont, but it is about 3 times longer and is uphill.

    Splendido: This is a perfect restaurant. The space, service, food, are flawless. We had the grand tasting menu (copy provided, so I can report)- yellowfin tartare, pea soup with poached lobster, white asparagus with copper river salmon cuit sous-vide and Hollandaise, sea scallops with pork belly, porcini dusted halibut with morels or squab breast with porcini mushrooms, Chocolate soufflé with butter pecan ice cream, pistachio cake. Everything was excellent or amazing…the asparagus was one of the best dishes I’ve had. I had the wine pairing, and when my wife mentioned she’d just taste mine and have one full glass on her own, the sommelier offered a half-portion tasting to her. And they substituted the set dessert for the pistachio with pleasure. This is what one looks for in a fine-dining restaurant (of course you pay dearly for it, but you don’t feel too badly about it!)

    Lai Wah Heen: Another serene room, with tablecloths and individual seating (no dim sum shared tables here!) We had crepe sandwiches with salmon, crystal shrimp dumplings, sticky rice, barbequed pork bun, steamed dumplings with pork and bok choy, steamed chicken and fish maw, baked pastry turnover with ham and shrimp (I’ve never had anything like it, and am now seeking it in NY) , scallion and pork pastry, mushroom and chicken pot-sticker, cream custard tart. I’ve eaten a lot of dim-sum in my life, but this was among the best (of course it was also the most expensive.) But well worth it, and not that much more than lunch at any regular restaurant in the mid-range. By the way, this is perfect for lunch before an event at the Four Seasons Centre. We arrived at 11:30 and were safely in our seats for the 2:00 matinee.

    Perigee: First, it’s not so hard to find-and the handy streetcar stops not that far away. I really like the whole district. Perigee is on the second floor, and has a rustic quality. The regular tables set around the sunken kitchen provide a great view of the cooking, and it’s a delight to have the dishes explained by chef Riley. His enthusiasm is truly charming (he reminds me of another wonderful chef, Joseph Centeno at Opus in LA.) The entire staff is professional, yet relaxed. If you are looking for food perfection without the stuffy high-end restaurant experience, this is it. This would be perfect for someone who wants to try fine food, but is a bit afraid to do so. We had the blow-out tasting menu, with wine pairings. What I especially loved is that we each received a different dish with each course-so we had many, many different dishes. Alas, with the generous wine pairings and the fact that we left early the next morning to return to NY, I don’t have much of a clear item by item list. But I do remember that everything was excellent (the butter…the breadsticks…the buffalo..the venison.) If I was nearby, I would return here again and again. This was my favorite.

  2. Julie Stevens
    July 17, 2007 at 4:07 pm #

    North of Bloor: North 44, Cava,

    Avenue Road & Davenport area: Bistro 990,Boba, Mistura

    Downtown East: Colborne Lane, George, Canoe, Blowfish, Harbour 60

    Downtown West: Susur, Foxley, Coca, Xacutti, Lee, Solendido

    For less $:

    North of Bloor: Zucca, the italian place at yonge and eng that you love

    Downtown: Boulevard Club,Indus Junction (new but i heard it was great), Fressen (veggie) , Terroni, Pony, Lee Gardens, Swan

  3. Julie Stevens
    July 17, 2007 at 4:11 pm #

    the king west area has tons of restaurants that people could go to like fred’s not here, kit kat club, red tomato, il fornello etc.

    things to do: musicals, plays, rom, ago, yorkville, kensington, queen west, beaches,

  4. Alison Brooks
    July 17, 2007 at 4:12 pm #

    Easily overlooked: Fat Cat, 376 Eglinton W., west of Avenue Rd. (they have a Fat Cat Wine Bar on Roncsvalles, which is OK, but go to Eg/Ave.) The chef, Mathew Sutherland, is arguably one of the best in the city. (I’ll forestall debate… no, not the best, at least not yet.)

    Japanese – for sushi, Hiro on King St E. is still the best, to my mind. For non-sushi, omikase-style small plates, I’d suggest Sagano on the top floor of the Delta Hotel at Kennedy Rd and Hwy 401. You have got to try the grilled yellow tail collar. (Phone in advance to make sure that they have it.)

    In Kensington Market, La Palette is a funky bistro, notable for serving horse (which I highly recommend). They also have an interesting wine list, especially if you like French from oft ignored regions like Cahors. Make sure that ask for the extensive wine list.

    More upscale bistro, Pastis on Yonge just south of Summerhill.

    As with above, Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar. I’ve only ever been for dinner. Try to get a seat at the chef’s bar. Worth the wait, if necessary.

    If you’re in the mood for Greek, the Danforth is ruled by mediocrity, except for Avli (Danforth and Chester). It’s very Greek, but more interesting and sophisticated than the run of the mill. The rabbit pie is beautifully aromatic, and the wine list has some truly rare and excellent Greek vintages.

    Chiado, at College and Dufferin, has the best Portuguese wine cellar in North America (worth the splurge), and the food is a very creative take on traditional Portuguese cuisine (e.g., grilled espada on a roasted beet risotto). All the staff is excellent (friendly, attentive, knowledgible), but if you go on Friday, and get Carlos, you’ve won the lottery. In all the years I’ve gone there, they’ve never put a foot wrong. Note: I don’t know whether they’re open for lunch anymore, might be dinner only.

    For African, here has been debate here recently about the best Ethiopian, and I haven’t tried them all, but Ethiopian House (Irwin St, west of Yonge, north of Wellesley) is certainly excellent. I haven’t tried it, but a Senegalese place in Kensington Market is getting a lot of good word of mouth. I forget the name, but check through the Toronto board for posts in the last week.

    For tapas (some traditional, some not) Torito on Augusta Ave. in Kensington Market (I don’t live there, really!) is very good quality and value.

    Gastro-pub fare, my votes go to The Rebel House (Yonge and Crescent Rd.) and The House on Parliament (Parliament St. south of Carlton Ave.), depending where you find yourself. At the HoP, I had a gumbo soup that made me weep, it was so good. Their menu is good (and typically pubby), but pay attention to the daily specials – that’s where the kitchen really shines. They do duck confit, very good fish specials, old school/new twist. (It’s an old lion and a young buck in the kitchen: good mix.)

    Best (“gourmet”) sandwiches in the City: Black Camel (two locations: 4 Crescent Rd. and Adelaide W, just east of Spadina Ave.), especially for the pulled pork (go for the charmoula mayo).

    If you can arrange transportation, and reserve immediately, a pilgrimage to Michael Stadtlander’s Eigensinn Farm is certainly in order. (Transportation of some sort is a must, as it’s near Singhampton, about a two hour drive from Toronto.) If you’re unaware of it, here’s a link to an article by one of our leading food writers:
    When I went with a group of foodie friends a few years ago, we all agreed that it was one of the best food experiences of our lives.

  5. Nyk
    July 17, 2007 at 5:57 pm #

    I had some recommendations for a local…

    – Ruth’s Chris Steak House right near your hotel (can’t recall if it’s under the Hilton or the Sheraton – both are within a block of each other); pricey, but excellent steaks
    – Canoe, which is at the top of the TD Centre close to your hotel; again, pricey, but one of Toronto’s better known restaurants, great view
    – CN tower (that old tourist standby): if you make a dinner reservation, your trip to the top is free; food is quite good
    – Bistro 990, very good food, again a bit pricey, hangout of celebrities when they come to T.O. for the Film Festival, etc.
    – Esplanade Bier Markt, which features Belgian food and a huge selection of beer; fun atmosphere, ‘normal’ prices
    – that’s it off the top of my head – but if I think of more I’ll let you know. There are obviously millions of places to choose from.

    Would love to know if any of these are good / great and worth a visit…?

  6. Derek
    July 17, 2007 at 8:21 pm #

    I think Jamie Kennedy does the most Canadian thing, with the best use of seasonal/local ingredients. Well, Stadtlander’s pretty awesome, but good luck organizing/affording something.

    As for stuff to do, everyone says the Bata Shoe Museum is surprisingly good. There’s also the classic boat/booze cruise. You could also hold a race portaging canoes along Richmond St, and make the winning team chug warm Labatts Blue and crush their empty cups on their heads.

  7. josh thorpe
    July 17, 2007 at 10:09 pm #

    -Oishi Kada on Augusta s. of College: good sushi, dinner only, atmosphere very plain, prices good
    -La Palette on Augusta s. of College: great French-inspired food, organic meat etc., great wine and beer, not cheap, call ahead
    -Hibiscus on Augusta s. of College: gluten-free organic veggie food
    -The Beaver on Queen e. of Gladstone: decent food, beer, wine, good prices
    -Ri Kishi (spelling?) on Bloor near Dovercourt: reportedly excellent sushi, pricier, I think
    -Pho Phung (sp?) on Dundas near Brock: excellent Vietnamese, decent prices for large servings, not the usual fare — the real deal

    -Textile museum
    -Queen West gallery hopping
    -Transac for live music
    -Soundscapes for buying CDs
    -Kensington Market for carnivalesque car-free days and stinky fish shops

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