163 Spadina Ave., Queen West
Daniel Boulud alum Patrick Kriss serves up an inventive tasting menu of French-inflected food, with smaller fusion-style plates served at the bar, making Alo one of Toronto's very best restaurants (it's not really contested). The interior is modern in style with dark-wood floors and copper lighting, so it feels fresh yet cozy. Chef Kriss is obsessed with the quality of the food he serves at the restaurant to the point that they even make their own freshly churned butter (served as part of the bread course). A reservation is essential.
163 Spadina Ave., Chinatown
A new French-American brasserie just south of Chinatown, Aloette is the creation of chef Patrick Kriss, better known for his fine-dining restaurant, Alo, which is right upstairs. Think of it as Alo’s more laid-back, free-spirited sister, where the music is a little louder and you can roll into dinner in a T-shirt and jeans but still get an exceptional meal and some excellent glasses of Syrah, Grüner Veltliner, and Chardonnay. The menu is generally seafood-heavy (tuna tartare with yuzu and lime, torched scallops with green peas and wasabi), but the meat dishes are great, too. Go for the lamb sirloin with shishito peppers, chimichurri, shallots, and parsley, or the burger, which comes with a side of perfectly crispy fries.
18 Dupont St., Yorkville
Named after the mountain range in northwestern Africa, Atlas was opened by chef Doug Penfold opened after a trip to Morocco, where he was inspired by what he saw and tasted. His goal: to transport guests via the keftas zaalouk, and tagines (go for the duck version, with kale, celery root, and harissa) he serves in this tiny dining room in Toronto’s Midtown neighborhood. The intimate, cozy atmosphere and the tagines—meant for sharing—make this a great date spot.
797 College St., Little Italy
Another offering from Bar Raval chef Grant van Gameren, Isabel serves up elevated Spanish classics that feel familiar but fresh. Think whole fish ceviche, sweetbreads, and raw tuna, alongside the more traditional sides, like patatas bravas and boquerones. The desserts do not disappoint; try the dulce de leche ice cream bar or, for those who love a boozy dessert, the Basque cake with sherry cream. The interior is moodily low-lit and warm, with Spanish-tiled floors and stained-glass lamps that cast atmospheric darts of color across the dining room.
505 College St., Little Italy
At Bar Raval, you could be forgiven for thinking you’ve posted up at tapas joint in, say, Barcelona. The décor is pure Gaudí, with an undulating carved mahogany interior that's both cozy and impressive. From Grant van Gameren, the same chef as Bar Isabel, Bar Raval evokes an authentic tapas bar with the spread of small pintxos (finger foods like salt cod, boquerones or tortilla de patatas) laid across the bar to whet the appetite. The main menu is concise, with classic tapas like croquetas and jamón serrano among others—simple but done well—and exactly what you want with a glass of wine.
59 Ossington Ave., Ossington
Boraia offers one of the most original meals you’ll eat anywhere. Husband-and-wife team Wayne Morris and Evelyn Wu have crafted a menu that is pure Canadiana, from the country’s inception to the present day (and with no poutine in sight). Expect dishes ranging from traditional Aboriginal Canadian cuisine to foods eaten by the first European settlers: everything from deviled Chinese tea eggs and pigeon pie to the especially wonderful l’éclade (an aromatic dish of mussels smoked in pine needles). The interior may be simple, but the diverse medley of flavors—so thoughtful and considered—keeps you coming back.
60 Yorkville Ave., Yorkville
Chef Daniel Boulud does nothing in halves, and this café, located in the beautiful Four Seasons in Toronto, is no exception. Café Boulud is a classic French brasserie with a distinctly Lyon-inflected menu, inspired by the chef’s upbringing. The main draw is the rotisserie that turns out the most succulent, rustic-style chicken served with crispy potatoes and country bread night after night. While the food is Provençal in style, the Martin Brudnizki–designed interior is sleek and sophisticated—leather banquettes, mahogany-paneled walls, and a long, vintage-looking marble-and-brass bar. Aside from the chicken, menu standouts include an indulgent duck confit, old-school fish quenelles, and the steak tartare. End your meal with the Grand Marnier soufflé and a digestif to send you straight to sleep.
Chubby’s Jamaican Kitchen
104 Portland St., Fashion District
Toronto’s diversity of ethnic communities mean that you can probably pick any country on a map and find at least a handful of outstanding restaurant options specializing in its cuisine—including Jamaica. Chubby’s, in the city’s Fashion District, is known for its authentic jerk chicken and small bites, the best of which include salt fish fritters with a mango-lime-papaya salsa and spicy jerk chips made of plantains and taro. The interior is bright and cheerful thanks to tropical floral prints everywhere.
503 College St., Little Italy
"Dai lo" translates to "big brother" in Cantonese, which feels apt given that chef Nick Liu’s parents still occasionally make the dumplings. Chef Liu cooks the food he grew up eating through his Canadian childhood as the son of Chinese immigrant parents, but it's reimagined with a little fusion thrown in. Everything is pretty sensational, but the musts are the crispy octopus taco with sambal aioli, the miso salt cod, and the hakka wontons. Aside from the food, the space is really considered and so striking, with blue leather booths and distressed-looking painted-brick walls broken up by sections papered with hand-painted scenes of Chinese nature.
Electric Mud BBQ
5 Brock Ave., Parkdale
Service can be a little brusque here, but who cares? If you’re a fan of BBQ, you have to try this place. The grilled pork ribs (served with avocado, cucumber, and sumac yogurt) and the buttermilk fried chicken are the things to order, but if you’re visiting with vegetarian friends, there’s also a crispy fried Buffalo Cauliflower and a fine beet salad, smoked and served with spiced pecans and gremolata.
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