This year Joanne Kates, our noted restaurant reviewer, ate her way around the city’s best (and sometimes not-so-best) restaurants. Here are her top five reviews from 2017, which thankfully include the terms "curmudgeon," "hipsterville" and "borderline hostile."
Erik Joyal and John Sinopoli, who’ve opened several restos together, are in charge of the food at the Broadview, a project of Streetcar Crowsnest, which put $26 million into a three-year reno of the old pile built in 1891 — now a boutique hotel with three restaurant/bar spaces. Bye bye Jilly’s strip club, hello hipsters. They’re calling it the Drake of the east end.
Then there’s Ardo, the super-popular newish Sicilian restaurant in Corktown. It’s friendly and pleasant-looking, done in pale colours with warm lighting, Sicilian tchotchkes and a great buzz. Lots of people, lots of noise. And a few ringside bar seats overlooking the fast-moving and superbly fragrant open kitchen.
Chef Nuit Regular and her husband Jeff have made a delicious niche in Toronto catering to us, the not-so-hot-chili people. And now Kiin, their fourth restaurant (after Pai, Sukhothai and Sabai Sabai), a pale and lovely room.
Every single plate of food they put in front of us is … fabulous. Glorious ingredients, sourced carefully, fresh, pure, excellent. All treated with utmost respect and grace. Worth putting up with the guy.
Take a restaurant dream team, add a pinch of hipster, a soupçon of cream and a healthy dollop of impeccable seafood, season it à la française, and what have you got? The dishiest new resto to hit Toronto in a year!
Cherry-picking the menu works really well. Some of the fusion items, where East meets Latin, are really fun. Chef’s suite of ceviches are superbly entertaining: we’re captivated by the variegated flavours of tiraditos, raw tuna napped in passion fruit and lulo sauce, with black and white sesame seeds, chili-studded purée of butternut squash and baby greens.
It’s an Argentinian grill: the Argentinian tradition is to cook over a live fire of hardwood and Argentinian lump charcoal, which imparts a bit of a smoke undertone to the meat along with a charred crust that’s kissin’ cousin to crispy. Rather splendid.
Hence my excitement when Guu, the Vancouver mothership, opened a branch in Parkdale. Guu has been fooling around with the Toronto market for a few years. They first opened a fabulous Guu on Church Street and a second one on Bloor West.
I want to adore this restaurant. Guy Rawlings’ pedigree is sterling. Most recently he was operations manager at the esteemed Bar Isabel and Bar Raval, and long before that he was sous chef at Il Mulino on Eglinton, when it was great, and pastry chef at Celestin when it was great.
It’s a great concept. Who doesn’t love lobster and hate paying for it? Lbs. has picked a price point of $22, for which they sell four (!!) mains only: a 1.25 lb. lobster, a warm lobster roll, a brisket burger and a lobster salad. All but the salad come with fries. Sweet and simple.
Chantecler 2.0 has nothing to do with the Asian fusion lettucy thingies of chef Poon, but the room is unchanged — still a small and incredibly sweet bistro with thick wooden tables, some high-top, some regulation height, white tile floors a la française and a cheerful atmosphere with friendly service.