We’ve enjoyed so many wonderful dinners this year. If you haven’t already enjoyed these DINE recommendations from our 2016/17 issue, here are our dining picks for over the holidays.
Allen’s: Focusing on local food and wine since long before it became fashionable, Allen’s takes enormous care with their product and service. Succulent lamb chops, tandoori chicken popsicles, thick, juicy burgers from Limousine beef, and the most uniquely decadent Chocolate Guinness Cake can be paired with the largest VQA wine selection, over 300 different whiskies and over 140 beers. Allen’s “Meats of Designated Origin” steaks, identified by farm, breed, feed and age, are unrivaled. The loyal and professional team at Allen’s has all been there for decades, and know what their clientele expects.
Carisma: To restore our faith in Toronto’s high-end dining, we enjoy Carisma. It’s always busy, because it’s always good. Warm crunchy bread and creamy burrata are followed by a delicate branzino, crisp and juicy brick-flattened chicken, or beautiful pasta dishes like papardelli with boar ragout and spaghettini with black tiger shrimp and pink peppercorns. We feel as though we’re welcomed into a cozy home, and are treated like royalty.
Carmen’s Steak House: This Victorian-era cottage is a Toronto landmark. The time-honoured traditions of a classic steak house are refined for the modern palate. Tartare of filet mignon with Chinese pepper oil has a spring-fresh essence to it. Scallops splashed with jasmine sea salt emulsion, and caramelized miso black cod are enticing, but the steak…This robust Canada Beef Porterhouse is carnivorous bliss. The pairing with richly seasoned oxtail broth, slow-cooked for three days, makes for the ultimate mouthwatering savoury steak experience.
Cibo Wine Bar: The recipe for success calls for a heaping spoonful of comfort. The pastificio churns fresh pasta, including spelt and gluten free; the pizzaiolo tosses dough before a fiery open pizza oven; and at the salumeria, charcuterie is sliced to order, while grilled trout, Chianti-braised beef, and butterflied veal chops are whisked out of the kitchen to our delight. Rustic wood and brick with butcher block tables enable an easy and accessible ambience for a quiet dinner for two or party for more.
Flor de Sal Portuguese tradition and flare embraced by contemporary flavours of the Mediterranean. Fresh fish, olive oil, and a finishing sprinkle of Iberian flor de sal paired with a wide selection of Portuguese wines. The Feijoada, a warm velvety stew of smoked pork, white bean and lemon thyme is the antidote for winter cold. Grilled octopus luxuriates in a clay pot with white wine. Grilled sardines, and salt cod with chickpeas are classic Portuguese dishes. The Cataplana is a copper pot sealing in all the goodness of clams, shrimp, daily fish, sweet peppers, tomato and white port wine. White linen and an intimate romantic ambience are for those who aim to impress.
The Good Son: An eclectic vibe that embodies the Toronto style. The Good Son is impeccably hip. Walls are adorned with chotchkes, old fashioned clocks and bone China plates. A mosaic tile wood burning oven and grill imparts wondrous aromas and flavours. Jerk shrimp wrapped in crunchy spun potato is paired with mango slaw. Sea bream ceviche with buttery chunks of avocado has a refreshing citric burst. Rib-eye steak is marbled and finished with a woodsy essence. Pizzas are crunchy and chock full of wholesome flavour. Check out the unusual herbs and edibles on the cocktail menu.
Kwan Dim Sum: Cantonese cuisine is lively and refined. Here we find fresh, quality ingredients with vegetarian and gluten free options as well. No MSG on this menu. Bamboo baskets reveal plump steamed shrimp dumplings, sweet doughy pork buns, and crisp truffle spring rolls. Carved at table-side Peking duck is the hot ticket of the dim sum brunch. Chili prawns are sweet, tangy and spicy, and crisply lacquered in garlic. A hot pot of scallops and mushrooms is sizzling and delicious. We want to taste all the tantalizing grouper dishes. Yum Cha tea service includes high quality jasmine, pu-erh and green teas.
Modus Ristorante: The consistent favourite in the heart of the financial district is Modus with its embracing hospitality, sophisticated seasonal menu and unrivaled wine list. Loyal clientele will not part with the spaghetti with smoked-mozzarella stuffed meat balls, grilled swordfish with risotto Milanese, or squid ink tagliatelle with lobster, but a passionate kitchen creates daily specials like Chilean sea bass with cinnamon-tomato basil jam and eggplant Parmesan, and braised beef brisket and fennel triangoli in wild mushroom and marsala beef reduction. Modus boasts a winning wine menu and a variety of decanters for the perfect pairing. This is the trusted companion to the after work crowd and Toronto’s eager theatre-goers.
Montecito: From Hollywood producer to Toronto restaurateur, Ivan Reitman and Jordan Bitove’s Innov8 have splashed California sunshine on Toronto’s downtown core. The menu is eclectic and changes daily. Ingredients are seasonal, naturally raised, sustainably caught, and all the locally partnered farms are listed on the back of the menu. Portions are generous, pricing is gentle. Montecito’s private label wines pair with juicy steaks and roasted chicken. Eggplant caviar with crisp vegetable ash is beautiful. Fogo Island cod in ginger broth, and lamb sirloin with green curry reflect a menu intent on bold flavours without borders. The weekend brunch lays out the whole menu and is the toast of Toronto.
Pukka: A panoply of vibrant colours and spices from the earthen tandoor to the rich and complex curries, without any obtrusive aromas. This is a wine bar serving Indian cuisines and emphasizing local ingredients. Mennonite chicken, Brome Lake duck and fresh seasonal fish are the base for a unique menu punctuated by southern Indian fried chicken, tender duck in grape and lime chutney, Bengali halibut with mustard curry, and beef short ribs braised in black cumin and Kashmiri chili. Lush salads like the Pukka Chat of sprouts, pomegranate, mango and other edibles are sweet, savoury, crunchy and refreshing. Check out the wine pairings and the monthly wine dinners.
Rosewater: The lounge and bar in this sophisticated yet casual dining room fill up fast with the night-out crowd. In the dining room of this historic building the mantra is, “The kitchen is here for you.” Cast-iron seared big eye tuna with ginger scallion broth and crab fire cracker; Moroccan grilled lamb chops with saffron dried fruit and toasted almond tagine; savoury duck breast with a duck confit pot pie, squash puree and wild mushrooms, are all hearty, flavour forward dishes for the palate and the soul.
Shoushin: The best time of year for sushi is in the colder months. Ever inspired, Chef Jackie Lin’s holiday menu includes blue fin tuna with white truffles direct from Alba. His philosophy, kodawari, is to aim for perfection. He selects the rice, the vinegar, the wild caught fish sourced from Japan, and without soy sauce or chopsticks enables a rich Edomae style sushi experience unique to Toronto. What distinguishes Shoushin’s sushi is Chef Jackie’s skill to identify, accent and heighten the flavour profile of each cut of fish. There is a rotating selection of high end sake, wine and spirits. Shoushin offers a variety of fish and cuts that we can’t find anywhere else. Beautiful ingredients, prepared with absolute respect, for clean and authentic sushi dining true to it’s Japanese origin.