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Everything posted by estufarian

  1. I've been there as a 'holding tank' for the original Black Hoof across the street. And it was OK - but not as exciting as the original. Not particularly cheap either. But, I emphasize that I haven't been there for Brunch - which is the meal getting the rave reviews.
  2. For a birthday, I'd choose Splendido - a little more elegant. Food is excellent at both, but the atmosphere at Nota Bene is more frantic. It's a larger room and you get more turnover, so more interruptions. On repeat visits to both, I've also found the menu at Nota Bene to be more stable, so there's not as much excitement - but both have great service and great food.
  3. Just a note for other readers who may be tempted to rush there. This is basically a 'factory outlet' and the opening hours are very inconvenient for most diners (except locals). For example it's NOT open evenings at all. And check carefully for lunch (I prefer Fridays).
  4. Last month (Jun 3) I responded to a slightly different request. http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=121906# This contains some superfluous stuff (unless you're driving) but contains most of the places I recommend. It's light on more casual/bistro places - and ignores Italian (as do I) - but if you give the main intersection where you'll stay (or hotel), I can flesh out the more local places.
  5. estufarian


    The menu has been updated for the spring and a couple of the Shang dishes have survived. Because of the $1 corkage promotion on Mon/Tue/Wed (certainly survived through June - haven't checked for July) Wed is pretty much a full house - this has dragged clients to earlier in week. Before tip, two people should get out for under $100 - with maybe 5-6 dishes between them.(that's without wine as I've been taking my own). Wine list is serviceable - fair prices (for Toronto) and the service has been pretty good. Took a group there 2 weeks ago (several first-timers) and they found the prices lower than they had anticipated. And the food was very good for the price. I'd take Lee over most of the Bistros in Toronto. The spicing (much of it Asian) makes the dishes more interesting. And I love their 'frites' too.
  6. Thanks for the endorsement. But a slight difference in taste. I find Lahore Tikka House to be priced almost exactly the same as Trimurti (around $30-$35 for two without beer), but I much prefer both the service and ambiance at Trimurti. Lahore is more Pakistani and Trimurti Indian (if anyone has a preference) - I find the spicing more subtle at Trimurti and prefer some of the 'rarer' dishes (such as Pasanda, which is not common in Toronto). And even if all else was equal I'd go for the Onion Bhaji at Trimurti (that's my personal acid test).
  7. I see a few responses already (and some of these below are repetitions to reinforce those potential recommendations). My question on driving was to be able to include a couple of places en route. You’ll be coming along the QEW highway (unless you cross at Kingston) and there’s a great lunch (and dinner) place in Port Dalhousie. Treadwell’s Farm to Table Cuisine is superb – and will give you a great collection of Canadian dishes (and wines) – better than anything you’ll find in Toronto. About 10 minute drive off the highway. Also, as I note you’re a fan of wd-50 (my favourite restaurant in North America), you might want to check out Blacktree (in Burlington – also 10 minutes off highway). This is dinner only, so might be a destination on your way up (I usually go here on my way back to Toronto from Niagara). The best promoted ‘molecular’ restaurant up here is Colborne Lane – but anyone who’s been to wd-50 will find it a pale imitation. However Blacktree uses the techniques where appropriate, rather than for effect – and their menu changes monthly, usually with some game choices and is more of a fine dining experience (no tasting menu). This place is small – reservations almost essential. Once you reach Toronto, the ethnic choices are myriad – although the better Asian choices are in the suburbs. Downtown, most places seem to strive for a pricepoint rather than quality, although I’d strongly recommend Lai Wah Heen (in the Metropolitan Hotel) for lunch (dim sum in particular – not cheap but superb quality). Regrettably the economic climate has felled the better Indian restaurants. Personally, I avoid buffets (for many reasons) but for Indian to I go to Trimurti (on Queen West) and can give a mild recommendation for Amaya (main restaurant on Bayview, a branch called Amaya Bread Bar on Yonge) which serves good looking food, but they have many problems when it gets busy. Also, in an ethnic ‘Class Of Its Own’ is Chiado – a Portuguese restaurant that’s certainly fine dining – think French with Portuguese ingredients. There are a couple of ‘trends’ that are worth mentioning. The ‘latest’ is Charcuterie – meat, meat, meat! I find these a bit palate-numbing in their relentlessness. The best of the bunch is Black Hoof – BUT BEWARE NO RESERVATIONS – so go very late or just when they open. Very small and quirky and VERY casual! Relatively small menu. The previous trend is known in Toronto as ‘Tapas’ but has nothing to do with that dish! Essentially these are ‘appetizer (small plate) sized portions to be shared’. And we do have some good choices there – I like these as it means one can try more dishes. I’ve been to (and recommend) all of the following – listed in order of decreasing noise – the first is loudest (and essentially correlates highly with age of patron – youngest first): Nyood (Queen West), Lee (King West), Kultura (King East), Madeline (King West). There are multiple ‘bistro-style’ places that serve neighbourhoods well – but I’ve yet to find ANY worth more than a 15-minute (say) drive. People will have their faves all over – but these are just good bistros, for casual everyday (?) food. In the ‘worth a drive’ category there are a couple of mid-range places (or upscale bistro-style menus). Nota Bene is downtown and always features a charcuterie platter, so that’s another way to try the ‘whole pig’. Close to Opera/Ballet house so packed early on nights of performance. A bit further out is Globe Bistro – also with charcuterie. Globe has relatively good wine prices too (although several places are currently offering almost free BYOB midweek/Sunday). Then there are the top blowout places. Splendido is featuring a ‘best of the past’ tasting menu (but the restaurant has been sold effective July 1st –until then same ownership as Nota Bene). And Canoe prides itself on Canadian cuisine – and is good – but I prefer Treadwells (above – much cheaper).
  8. Will you have a car? Where are you staying (area)? And are you driving up (presumably through Niagara)?
  9. I'm certainly not going to disagree. Salad King is same ownership as Linda's. Not as sophisticated, but a 'faster food' version. Great value. Great taste.
  10. Several of the above places have moved: As noted Linda's is now in the 'Shops at Don Mills' development. Thai Shan Inn has moved to Dufferin just north of Eglinton. Young Thailand has had multiple changes. Recently there was one on Dundas West, west of Keele (which replaced at least 3 others I was aware of) and they have reportedly opened a second location on St Clair, west of Dufferin - but I can't confirm that as I totally avoid St Clair now that they've destroyed the access by putting a streetcar right of way in (partial rant here: not only does it take longer than it used to, but they've even REMOVED street car stop when adding the right of way!). In my opinion Linda's ranks #1, Mengrai is #2 and both Thai Shan Inn and Young Thai have slipped.
  11. estufarian


    I've been to Madeline's twice and Lee once in the past 3 weeks. Like you I was pleasantly surprised to rediscover these two places (Madeline more mediterranean; Lee more Asian). And they had $1 corkage on Mon/Tue/Wed this month too. I agree the portions are easily large enough for two to share. And the Shang menus have changed slightly over the 3 weeks (and are different in each location). Was there last night and Susur himself was 'in the house' - putting the finishing touches on the new spring menu (debuting shortly) - so it's clear that Susur still has a hands-on approach to these venues.
  12. Hey - maybe I've hit a chord here. I was thinking maple syrup + piri-piri in the same sauce - but whatever it is, surely the key issue is that we NEED an Ontario sauce so we can 'walk (and eat) proud'. And (assuming some entrepreneur will read this) - why not develop a few different sauces and invite all-comers in and do a taste-off (over a few weeks). Should boost attendance anyway, and then everyone will (should?) come back to taste the winner. Should garner at least one-third regular returning customers. Plus can also boast on their website that they serve 'Toronto's Favourite Sauce' (and as a side benefit mute criticism that it's not as good as KC-style (or NC or the rest of the US)). This seems to be a big win-win proposition. I'll take my reward in BBQ!
  13. Hmm - them's fighting words. I've heard good things about Buster's - but NC style isn't my favourite (deliberate change from SC - I think the tomato vinegar style is mostly western NC - I associate mustard/vinegar with SC and, incidentally prefer it to the tomato/vinegar version; but indeed the cooking styles are similar: EDIT - just noticed the thread title is indeed NC, but the first post refers to a SC sauce). And, as he's not open at weekends that means joining the rush-hour traffic if I'm going there. Which, in turn means that there's another candidate (sort of, right now it's closed for winter until Victoria day weekend) just outside Midland. Mad Michaels in Wyebridge. It's the best I've found (so far) - but Ontario's a big place! http://www.madmichaels.com/ I won't challenge that Buster could be best in GTA - let's face it, that's not too difficult! Incidentally, rather than getting into a discussion over styles of BBQ, I think a more productive avenue is to consider the cooking/smoking/any rub used as a cooking discussion (including cuts of meat) - where we may find more agreement - and treat the sauce separately. Then I can initiate what I consider the 'real issue' - can an 'Ontario-style sauce' be developed that gives this area it's own signature/flavour. The obvious ingredient is to sweeten with maple sugar/syrup and develop a sauce based on that. Another addition might be the piri-piri sauce (or similar) associated with our Portuguese community - certainly that makes the Churrasco chicken here taste "better" (my opinion - perhaps could substitute "different") than is available in most North American places. Then maybe we can have some 'genuine' Ontario BBQ rather than the mostly substandard 'Southern' copies that we've experienced in the past.
  14. That's more encouraging than my attempt. We did the matinee at Roy Thompson Hall and went looking for somewhere to eat (no reservations). One of the places we 'looked in' was Forte (closed). And nothing in the window to tell opening hours or days. Similarly, no menu posted (it was the only place we checked that didn't have a menu posted). Reminded me of the adage "If you have to ask the price, you can't afford it!". Why wouldn't ANY restaurant provide this basic info? Especially in a tourist area - anyone 'strolling' from out-of-town (or in-town for that matter) is a potential customer - at least show her when the wares are available. We ended up at Tundra (at the Hilton) - it was closed but clearly stated when it would open and the menu posted looked good. And we had a very good meal there too - and prices were reasonable.
  15. Of all the places mentioned I think Nyood best fits the bill. It buzzes, the food is good (better than JKWB in my opinion) and the wine list is also good (for Toronto). May need a reservation on a Sat night - especially later in the evening. Although I've never really been a fan of JKWB's food (wine list is best in town) there are several recent reports that the food has declined. I was at Trevor recently on a Sat night - it certainly buzzed - but the food and service were pretty bad! Haven't tried Bite Me - wasn't impressed before the downscaling - always preferred Lee next door. Cowbell is 'very serious' - if you want conversation, then this may be a better choice on another night. Service seems to suffer when they're busy. And Quince also isn't 'Hip/Fun/Vibe' as sadistick freely admits. L'Unita should be fine - I don't recommend it for two people as the 'couple' tables tend to be in Siberia. Coca used to be fun - but has changed hands (all round) in the past few months and I haven't tried the 'new' version - good pedigree though as they also own Globe Bistro, which is always solid and reliable. I'm a little conflicted with Harbord Room. To me it gives a vibe of 'everybody knows everyone else' - and as a newcomer I felt ignored. I also struggled to find anything of interest on the menu (basically ended up with steak frites - which I almost never order) - but have to admit the food was good. And haven't been to the 'new' Mildred (Pierce) Temple Kitchen or Grace. And I'll add Kultura - which has beeen around a while now. Same ownership as Nyood - but the trendy crowd moved to Nyood, leaving Kultura a little more placid - and hence more amenable to conversation.
  16. I've only been a couple of times (it hasn't been open long). Haven't had the burrito - so far only the 'standard' items (omelettes etc). But each time cooked to order and served piping hot. And toast was exactly to my liking (crispy outside, slightly chewy inside) and creditable coffee (for breakfast they don't use the espresso machine). Indeed it may have already changed hands. Certainly no real signs of Italian influences, but I'm not really an Italian afficionado, so am not familiar with Franco's food anyway. The evening dinner has already been suspended (never got to try it - when I attempted it had already closed for dinner - but that's when I noticed the breakfast offering). And it so exceeded my expectations that I may have just been lucky. Still working my way through the offerings - but both times I was really impressed by the service - very anxious to please without being too overbearing.
  17. The AGO restaurant is now open - called Frank (after Gehry) - but I haven't tried it yet. My absolute favourite (in the Museum/Yorkville area) is the Cafe at Holt's (inside Holt Renfrew and upstairs). Don't confuse with the cafeteria style basement food outlet (which is also good, and cheaper, but a little frenetic). I usually don't reserve for brunch - don't want the time limitations, so occasionally can't get in anywhere upscale. Unexpectedly (to me at least) I've always been pleasantly surprised at the Bloor Street Diner (on the Bay St side of the Manulife Centre). Good (not great) food and really good service (but not the greatest ambiance) - and, of course, cheaper than most other places. Not worth a special trip - but my 'permanent' backup in the area. In the Yonge/Summerhill area I'm not sure that I'd go to either place (although both are OK). Rebel House has slipped recently (for me) - and is noisy, crowded and doesn't take reservations. Caffe Doria has good coffee, but I'm not smitten with the food - probably because I find Boccone (Yonge, south of St Clair @ Rosehill) to be far better and MUCH cheaper. I also prefer Boccone's back patio (summer only) which is REALLY quiet! They do have an Espresso machine, but nobody would claim it's top tier (but really low prices). Also, in the same area, Franco's (I believe same family ownership as Caffe Doria - at least when it opened; Yonge a little south of St Clair) does an excellent brunch that's more omelette/salad style (smaller menu). However, Franco's hasn't really settled in - keeps changing its menus/opening hours - so not sure how permanent this will be. And on a downer note: Homeway has really gone downhill. Bad service and barely passable food. I used to be a regular but never go there now.
  18. estufarian

    Nota Bene

    Yes, it's a bit tougher but there's usually availability early (say 6:30) or late (9:30) with a couple of days notice. I was there a week ago and everything was superb. I particularly enjoyed their 'dessert wine flight' which included small servings of a sherry, madeira and port. Or simply book a week ahead.
  19. I expected others to jump in as my recommendations will be fairly conventional - but so you don't feel ignored: In Niagara it's an easy choice: Treadwell's Farm To Table Cuisine in Port Dalhousie. Probably a bit too cool now to sit on the terrace, but the food is always fresh and the wine list is probably the best in the area (and reasonably priced too). Sometimes the neighbourhood can get a bit rowdy (especially Friday nights), but the restaurant itself is an oasis. In Toronto, Splendido stands out (as always). I also love Scaramouche, but on recent visits have found the experience 'same as ever' - not a bad thing, but it just lacks a little zip. Splendido, however, is still working at the top level, even though David Lee has been 'distracted' by also opening Nota Bene (also wonderful, but more downscale). Depending how wine-oriented people are, I might also consider Colborne Lane (8 would be perfect in their private dining room) - but their wine list really hasn't impressed and they don't support BYOW. But the food is certainly "different" - whether you'll like it depends on your tastes. Definitely edgier.
  20. Does anyone find it strange that in all our 'celebrations' of culture we nevertheles ban the eating today of many of these foodstuffs? I'm not advocating the wide slaughter of these 'protected (?)' animals but we don't allow most of these to be sold anywhere; yet others are permitted. Why are ducks permitted to be sold, but moose, beaver etc., outright banned (and caribou is allowed but only if supplied by a "First Nations" merchant)? And venison can be sold only if 'farmed'. Aren't they all equally valid (theoretically) as part of our 'culture'?
  21. Just found this thread as we're planning a trip at end of September also, so I'm piggybacking. This will be our third trip in just over a year (after a 2-year break), so we've already tried some of the places already discussed. Like you I haven't found a lot of recent reviews so would also be interested in updates, but I now have some experiences I can report on as well. Indeed Melisse is 'very' formal - but also very good (in its style). And we also prefer more experimental cuisine - wd-50 in New York consistently provides my favourite meals and the Ludo version of Bastide was my favourite in L.A. Having said that, Sona was possibly our worst meal in L.A. - confused dishes and the wines a total rip-off (approaching fraud). The wines listed as 'sample wine accompaniments' were replaced by wines mostly costing around half the examples. Providence will probably meet your needs - a very good meal that was much more casual than Melisse - and at around half the cost of Sona. We haven't (yet) tried Ortolan - and after disappointing sushi meals (twice) we're now avoiding that cuisine entirely and are saving lots of money. The most impressive meal in our last 2 visits was at Spago - still firing on all cylinders despite the departure of Lee Hefner. We're also considering Bastide and Water Grill - so would also appreciate any updates from anybody - and haven't ever been to Lucques - is that worth a try?
  22. estufarian

    Nota Bene

    I'll make it 3 for 3 on the suckling pig/boudin tart (aren't we egulleters boring). And similarly 3 for 3 on the Cherry Crumble. I hadn't recalled the comments above, but also noted the vanilla ice-cream, as I also found it 'colder' than most ice-cream - i.e. really a gelato. But definitely no ice-chunks in my serving, just a colder mouth feel than 'regular' ice-cream. Also had the vanilla-fig infusion, plus another that had stone-fruits, predominantly peach. Already in my top 10 in Toronto. Very professional all round - and very tasty too.
  23. estufarian


    I've been back a couple of times and, although it's not 'bad', I alway seem to expect more than I receive. Maybe I'm getting grouchy (even grouchier?) but I find Cava extremely noisy and I don't find I can trust the servers recommendations. Everything is 'purportedly' superb - and I haven't found that to hold true. As to what might be 'better' - that's a real problem on a holiday weekend. I've been more impressed with Kultura (which is now quieter on Mondays since the same team opened Nyood - which I also like) - but not sure they'll be open this particular weekend. Mondays are always tough, so I mainly go 'ethnic', although this year have been to Splendido and Coca a couple of times (but Coca is much more casual, and Splendido much more formal). Also tried Lucien - which might fill the bill - generally open Monday. Not the blockbuster the reviews made it out to be, but still interesting.
  24. They only take reservations for the 'opening time' based on reports I've received - but I haven't tried personally.
  25. JKWB doesn't take reservations (OK they sometimes take them for opening time only). The others mentioned all do - and all of these are 'small-plate' sharing - and all cost more than JKWB. And all are noisy (relatively). There's great buzz on Nota Bene (same team as Splendido but more downscale) - but I haven't been yet. Also haven't tried Madeline's (in the old Susur place, next door to Lee) which is supposedly a little more upscale than Lee. The Kultura team have also opened Nyood - which I have tried and is pretty good. The 'young & beautiful' people seem to have moved to Nyood, so it's super-busy at weekends. Sort of a combination bar and 'small plates' experience (also very noisy). And I still like Kultura too (which is now a little quieter). As for reservations, Open Table seems to be expanding its Toronto reach - so check that. As a visitor, I'd still probably choose Splendido - it's simply the best - or possibly Chiado as there's nothing comparable in North America (Portuguese) - but both are "not cheap"! Otherwise I'd attempt Nota Bene - to check it out - or probably Kultura (of those mentioned). Kultura is 'quieter' than Nyood - but share a chef, who is mostly at Nyood - so if you're more in a party mood try Nyood.
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