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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
Since Grant van Gameren hoofed it from The Hoof last year, it’s not been clear whether (now sole) owner Jen Agg has the creative vision to sustain and renew the brand. A mixologist by trade, she was never going to have it easy with the departure of her wunderkind chef/partner. The Black Hoof itself is not, in my view, as fabulous as it was under Grant.
I have an unfortunate thing with chicken wings. I wish I didn’t. Wouldn’t it be great if I couldn’t get enough kale … or rapini … or Brussels sprouts? Good luck with that. As for the chicken wings problem, dining at Hawker Bar was an opportunity for major backsliding.
Anton Potvin had enough of walking the floor every night at his marvellous Niagara Street Café, and his friends, the husband-and-wife culinary team of Tobey Nemeth and Michael Caballo, were just back from four years of cooking their way around the world. They made the deal, sealed it with a tequila, and shazam, Niagara Street Café became Edulis, Nemeth and Caballo’s new baby.
I don’t think Conrad Black is dining at Gusto 101. For one thing, they don’t take reservations after 6 p.m., and for another, His Lordship might not like the noise. It might remind him too much of where he spent his last couple of years. Oh, and for another thing, most of the good stuff at Gusto is pretty high carb, and Lord Black is apparently trying to lose weight after all the carbs he ate you-know-where.