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Toronto's 10 Hottest Restaurants

By Suresh Doss
March 3, 2014

It’s been an exciting year for Toronto’s dining scene. From farm-to-table to modern Cantonese, and fried chicken to smoked sweetbreads, the city’s restaurants are gaining international recognition for their progressive cuisine. Grab your phones - here’s a list of the hottest restaurants worth checking out.

  • Chase Toronto

    Since opening six months ago, the multilevel Chase complex (Chase Fish & Oyster Bar below, Chase restaurant above) has quickly earned praise as being the complete package for a grand night out. The Oyster Bar’s all-day menu is a seafood lover’s dream, featuring a daily raw bar stocked with the best available bivalves, seafood towers and daily fish specials cooked the way you want. The lunch menu also features some of the best fried chicken in the Downtown core. Chase upstairs is more refined, packed every night with a progressive Americana-themed menu great for dates or group dinners.

    Why it's hot: Beautiful interiors, sweeping views of the Financial District and modern North American plates.

    Must order: Whole-roasted chicken for two ($71)

    Insider tip: The oyster bar's menu makes for some great pre-dinner snacking, along with a great wine program to get the night started off properly. 

    10 Temperance St.; 647-348-7000

  • Carbon Bar

    David Lee's newest 150-seat restaurant is a departure from the more formal Nota Bene, and opts for a casual, Southern-inspired atmosphere and food in a 7,000-sq.-ft. space designed by Giannone Petricone Associates. Smoked goat ribs, beef brisket and pork ribs pay homage to Lee's travels. 

    Why it's hot: Inspired by Lee's love for barbecue, the menu is reflective of the last two years Lee has spent in the Southern U.S. eating and judging his way through barbecue and grilling competitions.

    Must order: The brisket! ($18)

    Insider tip: It may be hard to grab a reservation, but the bar is more accessible and gives you a bird's eye view of the restaurant. 

    99 Queen St. E.; 416-947-7000

  • Chantecler

    Located in Parkdale, Chantecler has quickly gained a reputation for its shareable lettuce-wraps meal (braised meats complete with all accoutrements) and a limited daily tasting menu prepared personally by Chef Jonathon Poon himself. The restaurant recently launched Sunday brunch service, with many items paying tribute to Cantonese dim sum.

    Why it's hot: Picture-progressive Canadian fare sprinkled with hints of modern Cantonese.

    Must order: The chef's tasting menu ($65) and the beef tartare ($12)

    Insider tip: Reservations are hard to come by, so best if you pop in earlier in the week and grab a seat at the bar.

    1320 Queen St. W.; 416-628-3586

  • Bar Buca

    Rob Gentile's new Italian snack bar in the King West district has quickly created an obsession over shared Italian plates. The tiny 38-seat bar features a full morning menu of assorted pastries, incredible cannoli and great coffee cocktails. Once lunch kicks in, there are over 30 shareable items on the menu, highlights include the artichoke salad and the grilled skewers.

    Why it's hot: The endless options of snacking plates on the menu allow you to customize your experience. Grab a quick pre-theatre snack, or eat and drink for hours. 

    Must order: Baby octopus spiedini ($7), artichoke crudo ($7)

    Insider tip: The chef's rail has the best seats in the house.

    75 Portland Ave., No reservations.416-865-1600

  • Richmond Station

    Richmond Station is farm-to-table at its finest, as chef Carl Heinrich highlights all things local with a menu that focuses on seasonal ingredients and Ontario-raised meat. The restaurant’s $19 three-course prix fixe is the popular lunch item, with a guarantee that you won’t be late for heading back to work. Dinner wonderfully showcases provenance and the ethnic diversity of the kitchen. It’s local with a global twist: think items like jerk chicken, fennel and potato pierogi, and Middle Eastern-influenced desserts.

    Why it's hot: Farm-to-table at its finest, no one showcases Ontario products better than Heinrich and his team of cooks. 

    Must order: The Station burger ($20), quinoa salad ($16)

    Insider tip: If you're dining with a group, the restaurant has a cozy private dining space at the back in the pantry room. 

    1 Richmond St. W.; 647-748-1444

  • Electric Mud

    Don’t let the no-reservation policy deter you: this casual barbecue shack is totally worth the wait. The food is inspired by - but not limited to - Southern American cooking. Take the ribs, which match smoked meat with an Asian-inspired tamarind and chile glaze, and are smothered with crushed peanuts and scallions. Crispy fried chicken, loaded with spices and served with a honey sauce, is some of the best in the city. 

    Why it's hot: A grungy room with cheap food and drink. The environment is loud but cozy and instantly casual-feeling, and no one cares that you're licking your fingers after each bite. 

    Must order: The ribs ($14.50), fried chicken ($9.50).

    Insider tip: The cocktail menu is limited, but the bar houses a formidable bourbon list.

    5 Brock Ave.; 416-516-8286

    Photo credit: Renée S. Suen

  • Home of the Brave

    The newest from the folks behind La Carnita is all about celebrating everything Americana. The dining room is decked out in graffiti art, diner-style booths and vintage light fixtures. The open kitchen riffs on classic American classics while the room gets blasted with hip-hop and '90s rock. The Kentucky Fried Handshake Sandwich comes complete with a deep-fried chicken foot; Johnny cakes are topped with smoked trout.

    Why it's hot: This kind of Americana food is hard to come by in Toronto, classic dishes taken up a few notches to a nostalgic sound track. Whether you sit in the booth or at the long bar, the entire room is one big party.

    Must order: Chicken and waffles, Kentucky fried handshake sandwich.

    Insider tip: The drink menu features fun cocktails by guest bartenders from restaurants around the U.S.

    589 King St. W.; 416-366-2736

  • Drake 150

    Queen West hipster-laced Drake makes a splash in the core, bringing the cool to the Financial District with Drake One Fifty. Designed by British designer Martin Brudnizki, the expansive space features artwork by Douglas Coupland, cork ceilings and a 360-degree bar, and is complemented by chef Ted Corrado’s bistro menu. Eat through a daily raw bar, pizzas from the wood-fired oven and luxury items like the côte de beouf, whole-grilled fish and seasonal seafood platter that are designed for sharing. Power-lunch-popular hits include the short-rib burger, rotisserie chicken, and the signature liver and onions.

    Why it's hot: Drake 150 brings the same charm and excitement that made the Queen West bar an instant hit. It's a beautifully designed space with plenty of eye candy and a killer cocktail menu. 

    Must order: Dorset Ontario Lamb ($28), liver and onions ($26)

    Insider tip: Call ahead to avoid disappointment, the restaurant is packed daily but oftentimes cancelations are released just before dinner time. 

    150 York St.; 416-363-6150

  • Cafe Boulud

    Star chef Daniel Boulud’s first Toronto outpost is in the mezzanine level of the Four Seasons Yorkville hotel, presenting a fine-dining menu that is split four ways: La Saison (seasonally themed), Le Potager (vegetarians rejoice), Le Voyage (Asian-influenced) and La Tradition (highlighting the chef's French roots). 

    Why it's hot: The cool space is adorned with Banksy-ish paintings by Thierry Guetta, glass tables and plenty of French wines from the 350-label cellar.

    Must order: Kolapore Springs trout ($32), grapefruit givre ($12)

    Insider tip: Stop by D Bar, located on the hotel's main floor, for a nightcap on the way out.

    60 Yorkville Ave.; 416-963-6000

  • Photo by: Renée S. Suen

    Shoto

    The tasting menu reigns supreme at Momofuku’s Shoto. The 20-seat open dining space puts you front and center with the kitchen brigade as you embark on a 10-course dining experience like no other in the city. Standout dishes include the goose wonton dumplings, sunchoke consommé, spaghetti with nori and banana cashew crumble. 

    Why it's hot: The menu takes you on a global journey of textures and tastes.

    Must order: The tasting menus ($150)

    Insider tip: A more affordable tasting menu is available Tuesday to Thursday ($95). The beverage pairings are a must - they include local and international wine, beer and a variety of cocktails

    190 University Ave.; 647-253-8000

    Photo credit: Renée S. Suen

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Places Mentioned

Cafe Boulud

French • Bloor-Yorkville

Food- Decor- Service- CostE
 
 
 
Momofuku Shōtō

Fine Dining • Entertainment District

Food- Decor- Service- Cost 
 
 
 
Bar Isabel

Spanish • Little Italy

Food- Decor- Service- CostE
 
 
 
Richmond Station

Financial District

Food- Decor- Service- CostM
 
 
 
Electric Mud BBQ

Barbecue • Parkdale

Food- Decor- Service- Cost 
 
 
 
Chantecler

Canadian • Parkdale

Food- Decor- Service- Cost 
 
 
 
The Chase Toronto

Seafood • Financial District

Food- Decor- Service- Cost 
 
 
 
 
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