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Restaurant Reviews

Table Talk: Joanne Kates reviews Bar Isabel

If Grant van Gameren were a one-trick pony, you would not be reading this column. Because he would have opened son of The Black Hoof, and why bother with that? After Grant, who was its founding chef, left the Hoof in 2011, he ate his way around Europe, finding most felicity in the tapas of Spain.
May 29, 2013

Kates: can good food be found at Sabai Sabai Kitchen, or just good bar food?

When chef Nuit Regular, the wizard from Chiang Mai, decamped from Khao San Road to open Sabai Sabai, the word “bar” appeared quite frequently in descriptions of the new place. It is, indeed, cooler; charcoal grey punctuated by dozens of Edison lights, music booming.
May 15, 2013

Table Talk: Joanne Kates reviews The Emerson

In the heyday of Pastis, I’m pretty sure that super maître d’/owner Georges Gurnon never put hand to stove. But he nevertheless maintained ironclad control over the food, thanks to his fabulous French aesthetic, the icing on the cake of passion and professionalism.
April 17, 2013

Kates: is Skin+Bones worth the trek to Leslieville?

If you live in Leslieville, Skin+Bones is a great neighbourhood go-to. But is it, in the words of the Michelin guide, “worth a special journey?” Only if fried meat fat is your drug of choice.
April 08, 2013

Table Talk: Joanne Kates reviews Farmhouse Tavern

Farmhouse Tavern harkens back to a time of pastoral pleasures... The farms, the fields, the sweet smell of clover... No matter that most of us never lived that life or that the restaurant’s mission, to use only that which is produced in Ontario, is cute but silly. One, because the environmental benefits of eating local are often exaggerated. Two, because in winter it so narrows the palette.
March 27, 2013

Table Talk: Joanne Kates reviews Rock Lobster Food Co.

The hottest restaurant in town is just another opportunity to shout at your tablemate. Perhaps Rock Lobster Food Co.’s success can be partially attributed to diners’ reluctance to shoulder the moral obligation to be good company.
March 13, 2013

Kates: Banh Mi Boys lives up to the hype

The most delectable sandwich shop in town is a draughty little diner where you can sit at a cramped table… or take it out. Counter service is fast and affable, it’s crazy cheap and the flavours are Vietnamese with some Korean spice.
March 11, 2013

Table Talk: Joanne Kates reviews Richmond Station

Richmond Station is like the best of the British gastropubs — cozy, friendly, and the food is robust and honest, without gewgaws and highfalutin constructions and garnishes.
February 27, 2013

Table Talk: Joanne Kates reviews Patria

How do you make something cool? Restaurants play the no sign game. If it has no sign, only cool people know where it is. Which is why we walk by Patria three times before asking in the nearby Weslodge. It’s down the laneway! With no signs.
February 20, 2013

Table Talk: Joanne Kates reviews JaBistro

My sushi fatigue is so much better now. Sushi fatigue is when it all tastes the same and nothing much jumps out, flavour-wise. It’s when raw salmon and tuna start feeling boring. The thrill was gone.
February 06, 2013

Table Talk: Joanne Kates reviews Red Fish

One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish. Where is Dr. Seuss when we need him? I have a feeling he would have been happy with Red Fish on College Street because Seuss clearly had such a strong sense of justice and fairness. He was always on the side of the underdog, and right now many species of fish are the underdog. Overfishing is killing the Atlantic cod and the Chilean sea bass and the butterfish. Fish farming is playing havoc with the wild B.C. salmon. And yet we continue to consume them.
January 14, 2013

Table Talk: Joanne Kates reviews Momofuku Shōtō

Shōtō is as big a deal as this town makes of a dinner. You can only reserve online, and not more than two weeks in advance. When you reserve, you get a snippy email: “If you cancel this reservation less than 24 hours in advance of your seating time or do not attend this reservation, you will be charged $150.00 per person [the cost of dinner] ... If you are more than 15 minutes late without notice, your seats will be forfeited.”
January 02, 2013

Table Talk: Joanne Kates reviews Strada 241

For the Rubino brothers to open a pizzeria on Spadina is like Meryl Streep playing a walk-on. Like, why? Well, for one, Ame didn’t exactly end well. Their attempt at high-end ultra-modern Japanese and a sophisticated Asian bar met with recessionary times … and it closed.
December 19, 2012

Kates: Museum Tavern is more than just a pretty face

Fun pub grub is rare and sweet, for too often it’s grease all the way. If you find yourself hungry on Millionaire’s Mile at Bloor and Avenue, good luck. Precious little there is fit for humans to eat. The new Museum Tavern, a splendid-looking homage to Parisian bistros like Le Vaudeville, dishes more than good looks.
December 10, 2012

Table Talk: Joanne Kates reviews Café Boulud

When a New York superchef like Daniel Boulud comes to Toronto, a foodie has to go. You can’t just ignore it. You can, however, feel sad that our beloved local superstar hotel, the Four Seasons, wasn’t confident enough to go it on its own, foodwise. Okay, so the super-snazzy Truffles in the old Four Seasons wasn’t a money-maker, and the Studio Café, despite its great beauty, was never exactly a hotbed of gastronomy.
November 28, 2012

Table Talk: Joanne Kates reviews Acadia

At 9:20 on Monday night at Acadia, I went to the bathroom. Not so unusual. But the bathroom itself was. Both rolls of toilet paper in my stall were folded on those cute little v’s like in hotel rooms. It was immaculate and smelled good. All of which was surprising in an almost-full restaurant mid-evening.
November 07, 2012

Table Talk: Joanne Kates reviews Momofuku Noodle Bar

Dammit, the Emperor is back and he’s in his boxers again. I have been wanting (dare I say pining) to go to David Chang’s Momofuku Noodle Bar in New York for years. So of course, I, like every other foodie in Toronto, was ecstatic when Chang opened Momofuku Toronto on University Avenue. Who doesn’t want to go to a noodle shop revisioned as a three-storey glass cube with a monumental gold-toned sculpture out front?
October 24, 2012

Table Talk: Joanne Kates reviews Origin Liberty

Here we go again with the absentee chef thing. Such a crapshoot. Clearly some chefs (cooks?) can make it work. Mark McEwan. Oliver & Bonacini. McDonald’s. Timmy’s. Mario Batali in New York. But mostly it doesn’t work because with food prep, especially at the high end, the devil is in the details.
October 17, 2012

Table Talk: Joanne Kates reviews Bent

A family business is a very complicated creature. The older generation desperately wants the younger generation to succeed. The younger generation desperately wants the older generation out of their face, but they know (some days) that they need them. The older generation wants to trust the younger to do well and do right, but trust isn’t usually an entrepreneur’s strong suit … so they meddle. And if they’re Susur Lee, they meddle deliciously.
September 26, 2012

Table Talk: Joanne Kates reviews Stack

Uptown’s answer to Roncy’s Barque Smokehouse … isn’t. Funny (to me) how popular Stack became the second it opened in the spring. So don’t show up without a reservation at prime time unless you want to wait.
September 19, 2012