Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

The 10 best new restos in TO


rgruby
 Share

Recommended Posts

Drumroll please ......

10. Cowbell

9. Terroni Adelaide

8. Marben

7. Amaya

6. L'Unita

5, Spice Room

4. Crystal 5

3. One

2. Colborne Lane

1. Lucien

Discuss amongst yourselves.

(oh, he also mentioned that Foxley came in at # 11.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Astonishingly, they all feature chefs/owners that have been around the block a few times (OK Crystal 5 has a chef new to Toronto, but #11 fills out that roster). I guess there's no substitute for long boring experience!

Of course, that couldn't have coloured Chatto's experiences could it?

I've tried 5 of the 10 and agree that Colborne Lane deserves to be there - for the food! And it's by far the chef's best effort to date. But it certainly lacks on the wine side.

Crystal 5 may be OK when they figure out what they're doing. Food was OK, but the dishes were confused (at best) - when I commented that a dish made no sense to me I was asked if the server had told me the order in which to eat the ingredients (!) - (s)he hadn't; so I was told that was the problem - NO - the fact that a client NEEDS to be told the order is the problem!

L'Unita is a good neighbourhood place (although I prefer to be able to converse with dining companions - but it's almost petty to point that out when other places are equally loud). Amaya isn't even the best new Indian (stroll through some other boards for recommendations).

And Cowbell and Foxley still need considerable work before they are the best in their neighbourhoods.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Amaya isn't even the best new Indian (stroll through some other boards for recommendations).

And Cowbell and Foxley still need considerable work before they are the best in their neighbourhoods.

Alright, so what IS the best new Indian?

And Cowbell and Foxley. Er, there really ain't much near Cowbell, and the good stuff near Foxley is really, really different. Just wondering what you're thinking is better in their respective neighbourhoods.

Not that I can put forth a cogent argument for or against whatever you suggest - I consider Foxley in my 'hood and I haven't even managed to get there yet. And, I've had Tom Thai's food at Youki and Tempo (? was that it - maybe Lava too???) and liked a good deal of it. I just don't get to eat out much these days. Having a toddler'll do that.

What would be on your top ten for 2007?

Cheers,

geoff

PS - I will say, yeah, it's the usual downtown suit crowd (or their uptown brethren) along with a couple of the hipster places. But, realistically, most years, that's where the most interesting/inviting new places are going to be for the foodie crowd. And most times, chefs don't just pop out of nowhere - they've got to prove their stuff to get financial backing. Perhaps a good question would be - especially given our multi-cultiness - are our restauranteurs (and chefs) playing it too safe? If anyone thinks that a worthy topic, lets make it a separate thread?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Fair enough comment and request (was out of town in Dallas, so a lag in replying).

The best NEW Indian is Jaaadu - based on 2 visits.

HOWEVER, in 2006 Tabla opened (on nobody's list) and it is well above anything else in Toronto, so my recommendation would be to skip 2007 list and choose that place.

And I stand corrected - I identified 9 of the 10 as being 'retreads' - actually the chef at C5 is also from Toronto (making it 10 out of 10) - it's the management company that's from out-of-town.

And another aside: Chatto gave a 'rave' review to Cluck, Grunt and Low in Toronto Life. But it didn't make his top 10 - deservedly so, as I'm having difficulty finding anybody (other than Chatto) who has a kind word to say about it.

Cowbell and Foxley - my comments were sloppy as I don't know which places opened in 2007 - but I hold to the point that they're not the best locally. Cowbell showed promise with a very small menu (so I anticipated that this would represent the 'best' of the local ingredients). The food was 'comfort' in style (not a problem usually) but what was served was different from even the blackboard menu - and the flavours weren't distinct. With a small menu one would think that the wine list could be tailored - but with only two wines by the glass (1 red, 1 white) any matching became a challenge I couldn't conquer. And the dishes for the two of us came out separately - and 1 wasn't what we ordered.

In fairness, the food was tasty - but VERY expensive for the neighbourhood. if i lived in the neighbourhood would probably have tried again - but certainly wasn't worth a 'detour'.

Foxley was pretty nasty. The dumplings were dried out on top (I suspect they'd been left uncovered in the fridge and the top had dried out, leaving a cardboard consistency). The flavours were repeated in several dishes - I even found it difficult to distinguish between meat and fish! Nothing seemed fresh-tasting. A real disappointment, although I've never beeen a great fan of Tom's. Going back to his start in Cabbagetown (certainly before Cafe Asia, but I don't recall the name of the place) with a spat between the staff (in public) with the chef walking out.

I'm going to have to do a bit of research to see where I went in 2007 (not a great year IMO - and some of the 'new' places I tried may have opened in 2006 e.g. Kultura). Certainly Balsam (In The Beach) was better (for me) than either Foxley or Cowbell - but maybe still not in my Top 10 (but did open in 2007).

Amaya might just creep in - although the service was abysmal, the food isn't bad (just that there's better). When two attempted reservations receive no response that's not a good start.

And I asked for dishes without tomato in the sauce. They did accommodate me, then sprinkled diced tomato over the dish before serving! The server even noticed this - there was a definite pause half way between lowering the plate to the table; a slight upward motion, as if to remove it - then it was lowered again, placed, and the server walked away!

Colborne Lane was pretty good - so far I've been 3 times. But the third time was very disappointing. There are some nifty 'gimmicks' (common to many 'molecular gastronomy' places) but by the 3rd visit the novelty has worn off and the food seems a little subservient to the gimmick. But MUCH better than what was being served at Sen$es, which was very confused and all gimmicks. (Incidentally the Chef & Restaurant Data base is showing the owners and chef at Colborne lane under 2006!).

Just checked on Coca - would have been in my top 10 - but opened in 2006! Similarly Globe Bistro (opened 2006).

I'm almost certain Mengrai Thai opened in 2007 - second only to Linda's for Thai food (IMO) the latter opening about a year earlier. Avant Gout also opened in 2007 - in a new location, but same name as his previous restaurant. Another Top 10 for me.

I probably won't try Lucien without a personal recommendation from someone I trust. Simon Bower (the owner) screwed me over at a previous place (long story and very personal) and Scot Woods delivered possibly my worst meal of 2007 at Habitat (that's the food - not that the service was much better).

Certainly Kaiseki Sakura was my biggest discovery in 2007 - but a check reveals that, too, was from 2006. I also had a very good meal at Bistro 171 - certainly worthy of Top 10 (and opened in 2007) - but it's in Aurora! And Aoyama would also qualify - although I'm not a sushi expert by any means, I did enjoy Aoyama - especially at the price point.

Spice Room is another 'caution' before going. Couillard's Jump-Up Soup has been a stand-out for 20 years. He recycles it everywhere (and it's worth recycling) - but other dishes haven't shown the precise flavours that the soup exhibits. Again need a personal recommendation.

So far this year, I've tried Eleven (needs work) and Nyood (has potential) - but that's for the 2008 list.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just to add another 2007 (which I visited in 2008, but opened in 2007).

"Simple Bistro" gets it all right. Good food, great service, intelligent winelist.

Definitely in my Top 5 for 2007.

Incidentally I have tried Amaya again (convinced by the very positive reviews).

Service has improved dramatically although reservations seem consistently "late" - almost everybody there was comped a glass of something at the bar while they waited for their table.

The food seems to have good ingredients (although the crab in the crab kachoris didn't have any 'texture'). The bread (tandoori) are also very small servings. But the real issue is the sauces which seem to have muddy (rather than precise) flavours. They just don't "sing".

However, if you do go DEFINITELY order the sweet plate which is superb. A shortbread, a spiced truffle and some spiced nut brittle (two servings of each).

Edited by estufarian (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'd like to hear more about your experiences at the other upscale Indian places you've mentioned, as well.

And more about Simple Bistro too. This is the first I've heard of it. Don't even know where it is.

So, if and when you get a chance, please tell us a little more.

thanks,

geoff Ruby

Link to comment
Share on other sites

OK A bit more info.

First a general comment – many (most?) of the places mentioned (even by Toronto Life) are neighbourhood places – not fine dining – not that that should disqualify them, but be realistic with expectations. These are places worth a detour (perhaps) but not a special trip.

http://www.simplebistro.com/home.html

Simple Bistro (on Mt Pleasant, south of Eglinton at Manor Road), sticks to what it does well. The service is better than at most bistros (3 servers for a restaurant that holds about 40 people) so you’re in and out fairly quickly – but I emphasize not rushed out. And very friendly – many customers were greeted by name and when we left it was “Goodbye Mr Estufarian” – obviously not greeted that way as they didn’t know who we were until we mentioned our reservation. A selection of wines available by the glass or half-litre as well as bottles wisely chosen (contrast Cowbell with 1 red and 1 white by the glass when I went). And one of the dessert options was a cheese plate ($12 for 3 cheeses).

Restaurant was clean, and bright enough to read the menu. Bread was sliced baguette – and it was so good we guessed it was from Celestin (just up the street) – and when we finished the first batch (4 slices) they replenished the basket.

The menu is linked above – but my comments:

The salmon roulade was just OK – competent but unexciting flavour – but excellent presentation. Endive salad was exactly what we expected. Especially good textures.

The Risotto was superb – best I’ve had in some time. Just a little resistance to the bite and temperature very hot – so it didn’t end up cold by the last taste. Salmon was pretty good.

Cheese plate was a good effort (I’ve had better, but at least they’re offering one) and the Crème Brulee was very good – not the best in Toronto (go to Avant Gout for that) but very well done. Good temperature contrast and definite vanilla flavour. Avant Gout’s wins out on the aromatics.

Total bill around $150 for two (all-in) – you can do it for less, but at that price I was happy.

Back to the Indian restos. First a general comment – the (vast) majority of Indian places in Toronto use a basic sauce that, at best, is modified for each style of dish. This so-called ‘mother’ sauce means that virtually all dishes have the same underlying flavour. Sort of a one-sauce-fits-all. This can, of course, be a rich, flavourful sauce at the better places, but results in a certain ‘sameness’ in many cases. On the plus side, this means that Indian food here can be great value considering the ingredients. But the downside is that the relatively few places that cook sauces from scratch are swamped in a sea of ‘cheap Indian’ places and also tend to be more expensive because of the labour involved. Almost all of the better places that I’ve tried seem to have ‘dumbed-down’ their menus to reduce the costs (and hence charges) for their dishes. Specifically Amaya, Jaaadu and Tabla no longer feature the complex dishes for which they originally charged in the high $20’s/low $30’s and replaced with cheaper dishes – more in line with what Torontonians have been willing to pay. The other new (2007) place is Indus Junction, which approached the same issue a little differently, by serving a very restricted menu with very small portion sizes, which worked initially, but the small portion sizes really haven’t caught on.

And I should mention Indian Rice Factory, which also cooks from scratch, but has disastrous service.

So, what to do/where to go?

First I avoid ‘Indian Buffets’ at all costs. Soggy Naan, steam table veggies, an ocean of greasy so-called butter chicken. If still a student in need of a refueling I might consider that, but most of the ‘all you can eat’ food in Toronto appalls me.

In the ‘value’ category with decent food at a fair price my #1 is Trimurti (Queen West) which has the best Onion Bhajias in town and some uncommon dishes such as Lamb Pasanda (cooked in cashew paste). Around $50 for two, including beer. For Southern Indian/Sri Lankan I go to Rashnaa (on Wellesley West) for Dosas, String Hoppers etc. and usually get out for under $30 for two.

If I have a yen (!) for subtly spiced Indian food, I mostly go to Tabla. There are a few other ‘upscale’ places e.g. The Host, Kama Sutra which deliver (IMO) the one-sauce-fits all food in admittedly nicer surroundings, but much higher prices than the majority of places. If I’ve missed any ‘genuinely prepared sauce’ places (other than those mentioned above) I apologize – let me know about them.

Indian Rice Factory has good food but the service would be considered poor even in a factory. So it’s not on my current list. Both Amaya and Indus junction have failed to return phone calls and Indus Junction seemed to be out of many (most?) things when I was there. Neither the wine nor beer I attempted to order was available and neither were several dishes (on a very short menu).

Jaaadu started impressively – but the prices were just too high for the neighbourhood, so they’ve gone significantly down-market and now aggressively push their take-out. And the more sophisticated dishes are no longer available.

Amaya has done an amazing marketing job. They seem to have attracted all the reviewers who were impressed with their offerings. Indeed they are MUCH better than 90+ % of what passes for Indian food in Toronto and are to be congratulated. I commented above on my first visit and a follow-up again sees issues. Reservations are consistently late being seated – but again, to be fair, they seat people at the wine bar with a complimentary beverage. But the food doesn’t seem to have retained its ‘character’. The Crab Kachoris had no crab texture at all (although they were nicely crisp). The Lamb Xacutti and the Prawn/Lobster Curry had good ingredients but the sauces were almost identical; and the Bhindi Bhaji (the best dish on my first visit) was now overcooked and limp – compared with the perfect texture first time out. The service is better (other than promptness), but the food has slipped.

Tabla has trundled along most successfully. Ambience is comparable with The Host – white tablecloths etc. And the flavours are truly complex. The heat builds in layers of different spices. They also have changed over time – again the more sophisticated (expensive) dishes have gone from the menu, where most dishes are now under $20. But, for example, their Vindaloo is the best I’ve ever had (caution for beginners: this is the hottest dish on the menu) with layers of spices and heat being (for me) perfectly balanced – although some people, whose opinions I respect, identify too much tamarind. Their Mulligatawny soup is similarly layered. And the vegetarian dishes are standouts. Yet still, their best-selling dish is Butter Chicken! I also like their ‘Naanini’ – a Naan stuffed with minced lamb (no longer on the menu, but available on request). And their Xacutti is much better than Amayas – again complex and layered.

I also comment that both Tabla and Amaya have respectable winelists – almost unknown elsewhere for Indian food.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Drumroll please ......

10. Cowbell

9. Terroni Adelaide

8. Marben

7. Amaya

6. L'Unita

5, Spice Room

4. Crystal 5

3. One

2. Colborne Lane

1. Lucien

Discuss amongst yourselves.

(oh, he also mentioned that Foxley came in at # 11.

#12 Cluck Grunt & Low

#13 Jacobs & Co Steakhouse

#14 Prime (at Windsor Arms)

- from Chatto's blog.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Drumroll please ......

10. Cowbell

9. Terroni Adelaide

8. Marben

7. Amaya

6. L'Unita

5, Spice Room

4. Crystal 5

3. One

2. Colborne Lane

1. Lucien

Discuss amongst yourselves.

(oh, he also mentioned that Foxley came in at # 11.

#12 Cluck Grunt & Low

#13 Jacobs & Co Steakhouse

#14 Prime (at Windsor Arms)

- from Chatto's blog.

cluck grunt and low?

I love barbeque and and I really wanted to get behind them but this is piss poor barbeque, imo. had meat not cooked enough, tough and sticking to the bone. cold ribs, stale cornbread, tough beans and terribly slow service

I know it's only chatto's opinion be he really needs to wrestle thuet's wang out of his mouth. if thuet was rolling sushi at atelier chatto would declare it amazing

ns

There's nothing like a pork belly to steady the nerves - Fergus Henderson

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...