As summer winds down, temperatures cool off, and tan lines fade faster than the sides of a hipster haircut, things are slowly starting to shift inside. But you know what spending more time inside means, don’t you…?
Eating at more restaurants, baby.
While you spent the last few months soaking in the sun, Toronto restauranteurs were fanning the flames on a new lineup of killer kitchens. Here are the nine you should put atop your list for fall feasting.
Taking over the old Remy’s space in Yorkville, the folks that brought you The Chase – alongside a team of chefs hailing from places like Momofuko, Yasu and Don Don Izakaya – are now in the contemporary Japanese game. The venue has 410 seats, a two-level dining room and a monster upstairs bar and patio. But don’t let the size fool you; it ain’t all that easy to get in. They do have sushi, but you’ll want to go for their Robata selection (Japanese-style charcoal barbecuing), their tempuras, kamameshi dish, and, really, any of their large plated meats and fishes. Sneak a few of their incredible cocktails and count them in for brunch too.
Descendant Detroit Style Pizza
Yup, a pizza joint. But not just any pizza joint – an unquestionably unique, thick-but-fluffy-crusted pizza joint that offers pies like “double pepperoni w/ micro basil and Sicilian oregano,” and the recently announced “special” called Hair of the Dog, inspired by a Bloody Mary. It’s a bit of a hike and you might get stuck in a lineup but if you consider yourself a pizza enthusiast, your enthusiasm will not go unrewarded here.
If you like flavour-rich food that has been shrunk down to snort-size (read: tapas), then you will love this place. It’s not a huge menu, but it covers all the bases: kale salad with crumbled goat cheese, Brussels sprouts with honey-glazed tofu, chorizo mac n cheese, bison sliders, Korean short ribs, Caprese salad, and so on. Also, at brunch, their eggs Benny and buttermilk fried chicken and waffles are almost impossible to beat. Chalk up another culinary win for the East End.
A3 Napoli Cibo Di Strada
Toronto officially has a legitimate Neapolitan friggitoria. For those of you who failed the Foodie edition of Italian Rosetta Stone, a friggitoria is place that knows deep-fried cooking like the back of their furry hands. A3 serves a very basic menu of Italian street food and just about all of it is mouth-watering. The highlight is definitely their battilocchi (shortened to “Batt.” on the menu) but their fried seafood and and deep-fried pasta (frittatina) are unforgettable. Not for those sensitive about the ol’ arteries.
Someone needed to absolutely nail a reasonably-priced-fixed-price fine dining experience this summer and Alo stepped in and dropped the hammer. The five-course tasting menu, offering a choice between two items each course, is $89 with the option to add wine pairings for $65. While the portions aren’t huge, they are undeniably satisfying. The atmosphere is open, inviting and engaging, and the balanced spread of fish to foie gras to oysters to lamb is nothing short of excellent. And don’t be afraid to just go for drinks; the cocktail program welcoming you upon entrance is well worth a long, long linger.
Flock Rotisserie + Greens
Flock is the perfect blend of originality and simplicity, sprinkled with a dash of actually-pretty-good-for-you. It’s Freshii-meets-St-Hubert, but better. Naturally-raised chicken in all formats of full, half, legs and pulled can be worked into a sandwich or a salad, accompanied by a rainbow array of healthy, filling supporting veggies that arguably steal the show. And it is very reasonably priced for the portioning. Looking at the photos on their Yelp page is a great way to totally get hooked.
While jerk chicken has certainly made its mark in the Big Smoke, thoughtful, contempo-Caribbean food backed by a full dinner menu isn’t the easiest find in Toronto. But things just got a lot easier with Windup on the scene (not to be confused with the “old” Windup, serving Korean-Japanese vegan fusion). It’s a small menu, but it packs a lot of punch with items like their coconut breaded shrimp, pulled pork tostadas, crab cakes, and perhaps the captain of the squad, the open-faced curried goat roti with pickled mango and plantain chips. And yes, they serve brunch, and yes, at brunch they have Oxtail Benedict.
Café Boulud (Re-Opened/Re-Branded
The highly-anticipated rebirth of The Four Seasons favourite is here and it’s a shoo-in for a Fall favourite. Now wearing its new Brasserie-style bustier, part deux is inspired by Chef Boulud’s family meals back in Lyon with a spotlight on its fancy one-of-a-kind rotisserie hoisting up meat, fish, poultry and veggies. Open for all meals, the highlight is definitely their extensive dinner menu. It covers a classic escargot while putting a full-bodied spin on beer-battered calamari; deftly tackles charcuterie and tartar; offers a brilliant quenelle de brochet, which you won’t find in many places, if anywhere; and just takes down the house with its rotisserie lobster as the main event and profiteroles for dessert. It’s a little heavy on the stomach and wallet, but leaves you plenty light in the head to skip away smirking.
Burgers may have plateaued in this city, but sandwiches are still on the up and up. Case in point: Mattachioni and their kick-ass, Outkast-fresh Italian sandwiches, featuring nothing but the classics like prosciutto, porchetta and Caprese on house baked bread. Taking over business in the old Lieira Bakery outpost, they’ve also decided to complement their sammies and salads with the individual grocery-style sale of all their ingredients. Soon, with a former Terroni chef on the roster, they’ll even be selling pizzas out of a new wood-burning oven.