10328 Jasper Ave
Begin your evening on the sofa in this hyperminimalist room on Jasper Avenue, snacking on quail eggs rolled in vegetable ash and chatting with fellow ticketholders (diners must book limited seating online). At the chef’s bar, marvel at more than a dozen inventive courses from the brick hearth, including Peking duck glazed in mussel marinade. Natural-leaning wines make for fine pairings, but don’t miss outlandish housemade juices like Anjou pear with horseradish and black trumpet mushroom.
Photo: Daniel Wood
Bar Von Der Fels
Cuisine: Wine Bar
1005A 1st St. SW
A mod little wine bar on 1st Street is home to some sneaky-serious good cooking. The tiny open kitchen serves aioli black with activated charcoal and ink to accompany grilled Humboldt squid. The assertively oenophilic owner plucks an open bottle of creamy Jura chardonnay from the 200-year-old enamel ice bucket. Call him over again and he’ll pair something biodynamic with a 10-year-old baked Cortez Island oyster flavoured with tangy yuzu kosho paste and house-dried scallop.
Photo: Ian Holmes
527, boul. Langelier
The place to be in the Quebec capital was once a humble casse-croûte, now transformed into an intimate trattoria with modern white tiling. Reserve a seat at the counter to watch the savvy two-man kitchen team slice paper-thin rounds of made-in-Charlevoix lonza and zest fresh orange over bitter raw endives and grilled octopus. Get the daily pasta – maybe tender cavatelli with pancetta and almond-arugula pesto – and get that Italian lambrusco too.
Photo: Félix Michaud
1038 Canada Pl.
On the Fairmont Pacific Rim’s glammed-up mezzanine, now lush with greenery in planters and living walls, big flavours from the open kitchen push the menu beyond hotel restaurant. Be sure to try the hand-cut beef tartare topped with umami-rich parmesan foam and an egg yolk “smoked” in apple-wood-infused olive oil. After sundown, join jet-setters and Coal Harbourites in the cocktail lab for avant-garde Manhattans that incorporate mushroom-infused rye, spiced maple and moss.
The subway rumbling beneath your feet every few minutes is just one of many little thrills at this tiny restaurant located directly above Bay station. A glass of Jura vin jaune brings aromas of nuts and curry spice to the bitter endive and walnuts atop a beef tenderloin carpaccio. An old Erykah Badu album electrifies the hi-fi, while a glass of pinotage makes a soul connection with escabeche-marinated Cornish hen.
Cuisine: Latin American
1898 West 1st Ave.
“Progressive Latin” sounds like a bookish tag line, but there’s plenty of playfulness at this humble Kitsilano neo-bistro. Crisped loonie-size arepas come stuffed with sautéed mushrooms and sofrito, while kombucha-vinegar-marinated shallots deliver a tangy snap to a salad of 24-hour-compressed mango and bitter greens. Get a vegan pisco sour before progressing to a glass of albariño from northwestern Spain and pair it with a pan-seared branzino over meaty fried green plantains.
Photo: Luis Valdison
1431, boul. Saint-Laurent
One block south of Bouillon Bilk in Quartier des Spectacles is its sibling, a former thrift store turned sexy wine bar lit by hoop-shaped chandeliers. Frank Ocean plays over a well-dressed crowd busy with Caesar-dressed shrimp guédilles and glasses of pleasantly oxidized Slovenian white from the natural-leaning wine card. Trust the black-pantsuited server when she recommends the baked broccoli with creamy labneh and crunchy spätzle.
Photo: Mickael Bandassak
Holland Plaza, 10932 119th St. NW
By day, sunshine streams through the skylight, as a Duchess Bakery alum serves signature Earl-Grey-and-lavender tea alongside buckwheat galettes topped with fiddleheads and Délice de Bourgogne. In the evening, candles flicker against the brick walls of this renovated industrial building. Sip a smoky dry cider from Brittany and cut into an impeccably seared pork chop partnered with creamed stinging nettles. Yogurt pannacotta spritzed with St-Germain is a choice closer, noon or night.
Photo: Sarah Hervieux
746 Queen St. W.
There are no wrong choices on the prix-fixe menu showcasing creative, colourful cooking driven by ingredients that reflect a truly cosmopolitan Toronto. The Queen West room’s minimalist wood-and-concrete decor keeps you focused on a parade of new flavours. A mesmerizing first course sees sweet raw scallop in fermented green tomato broth with herbal notes of lemon basil and flowering coriander. And a brilliant dessert puts Campari-soaked cherries on koji-infused barley ice cream.
5012 50th St., #102
In this small Prairie-French farming community, foodies flock to a stylish Kickstarter-funded bistro to revel in hearty Québécois cooking. Dip tempura green beans, which come in a maple syrup tin, into a smoked maple mayonnaise dotted with Mexican mole chili oil. Classic ‘80s rock and hip hop and a tobacco-syrup-laced Riel old-fashioned provide liquid courage for attacking a platter of Nova Scotia lobster on poutine sauced in rich bisque.
Photo: Cole Hofstra
11957 Jasper Ave. NW
Bentwood chairs and marble tabletops lend a fin-de-siècle familiarity to this not-quite-French bistro full of pleasing twists and turns. Case in point: the duck breast comes with oven-crisped leeks with shiitakes, in a duck broth unexpectedly spiked with Korean gochujang. To complement the food, cocktail collective the Volstead Act shakes up teacup-full of Japanese whisky with lemongrass and matcha for equal parts comfort and creativity.
Photo: Shane Hauser
123 Princess St.
This is brunch in 2017: the Dude, a tonka-bean-milk twist on a White Russian, followed by mushrooms on puffy sourdough smothered in South Asian coconut curry and dusted with Egyptian dukkah. The team behind Segovia was inspired by Australia’s serious morning meals for this subterranean space, where a neon sign reads “Eat This It’ll Help.” That applies equally to a meaty Italian primitivo or to tomatoes with coconut-milk ricotta and Thai green curry oil.
Photo: Xandra Photography
806 9th Ave. SE
Relax on the enclosed veranda at a century-old farmhouse overlooking the Elbow River. The pros behind the River Café cater to a sophisticated crowd with smoky Laphroaig-forward Foibles & Sins cocktails and panzanella salads with walnuts, housemade ricotta and Red Fife sourdough croutons. A shallow bowl of Artisan sake rice and shiitakes swimming in a rich mushroom dashi is a comfort-food adventure in umami.
Photo: Chris Amat
1009 Hamilton St.
The cuisine of Mexico’s Pacific Northwest cruises up the coast, bringing the slow-building heat of a red adobo sauce to luscious local ling cod. Slink into Innit Designs’ Acapulco chairs and sip damiana-leaf-infused margaritas alongside the young Yaletown professionals who gather here after work. The buñuelo mexicano, a crisped tortilla topped with grilled mango and charred gooeseberry and drizzled with cane-sugar caramel, is a perfectly sweet adiós.
Photo: Hanna McLean
Cuisine: Wine Bar
199 Augusta Ave.
A boisterous romanticism pervades the Kensington Market satellite of the Black Hoof empire. Cava-spritz sippers gather around the bars while candles flicker on intimate tables laden with small plates. Watch chefs in the open kitchen compose a fun dish of tender-crisp snow peas with shaved squid, hollandaise, soy and mustard oil. A lively Czech pinot-zweigelt from the globe-hopping wine list has just enough tannins to stand up to the sweet and fatty sugar-encrusted slow-cooked brisket.
Photo: Alix Critchley
403 Mackenzie Way SW, #5101
Inside a strip-mall complex lies an open kitchen and on-trend salvaged barn-door bar, clues that this is refined city dining transported to Calgary’s distant outskirts. Experienced Italian cooking relies on rural neighbours: a delightfully umami goat cheese made by retired ballet dancers in nearby Acme tops tender pappardelle with fennel pork sausage. Local ranch strip steak, grilled over creamy parmesan polenta, deserves that decanted Chianti Classico.
Jackpot Chicken Rice
318 Spadina Ave.
The main event at this bubbly Chinatown snack bar is Hainanese chicken: The legs are deboned and poached in a stock infused with garlic and pandan leaf, then served with a bracing ginger-scallion dipping sauce. Earl Grey rum punch, Thai-style Granny Smith apple salad and wooden buckets of fragrant schmaltz-cooked rice will make you smile like the Chinese baby holding a watermelon in Jackpot’s immense Technicolor graffiti mural.
Photo: Barb Simkova
227 Ossington Ave.
French elegance is alive and well in an energetic Ossington bistro from a Bar Isabel alum, with a banana frond mural and a disco soundtrack. Match a glass of white Bordeaux with poached white asparagus generously sauced in a tangy tarragon-spiked gribiche. A show-stopping baked sea bass is presented tableside in salt-dough lattice, and then served with a yuzu beurre blanc and turned zucchini.
Photo: Rick O'Brien
1471 Gerrard St. E.
After crushing some panko-crusted katsu cauliflower and tapping the Burdock passion-fruit sour ale, the eclecticism of this candlelit craft-beer pub makes sense. A Gothic mosaic of Kate Bush and Virginia Woolf stands guard over the 18 tap lines of Ontario brews that complement pan-Asian sharing dishes. Many skew Filipino: try the kinilaw, a flavour-packed ceviche of B.C. snapper in a creamy coconut-vinegar marinade that you scoop up with fried cassava chips.
Photo: Robbie Hojilla
Bishop’s Landing, 1475 Lower Water St.
This white-oak-panelled waterfront resto bar, from the Agricola Street Brasserie team, devotes as much interior space to bottle storage as it does to bistro tables. Bring a big appetite for small plates of pickled shrimp, compressed watermelon panzanella and a slab of sweet salmon rillettes. To go with the delicate pineapple-and-nori-studded tuna poke featured on the daily chalkboard menu, the smart somm chooses a Spanish skin-fermented garnacha blanca.
Photo: Jessica Emin
464, rue McGill
This Old Montreal hot spot is all granola glam, offering plant-driven dishes in a space dotted with terrariums and white wishbone chairs. Clients in linen tank tops take up steak knives to attack tender wedges of grilled celery root topped with plump quinoa grains, fennel ribbons and crunchy poppy seeds. Mother Nature would approve of the mezcal-and-coffee-based Sierra Madre cocktail, enriched with woodsy pine syrup.
Photo: Patricia Brochu
Mak N Ming
1629 Yew St.
This intimate red-cedar-clad Kitsilano room dovetails French elegance and Japanese precision. Butter-poached lobster is even more gratifying with an inventive accompaniment of potato-two-ways: roasted in a reduced cream sauce infused with a hit of green nori oil, and blanched in tender-crisp ribbons dressed with nori vinaigrette and spruce tips. Try it with a Sardinian vermentino-chardonnay for thrilling brightness. The kasu semifreddo with rose-petal jelly perfumes the tail end of the tasting menu.
Photo: Glasfurd & Walker
45, av. Mozart O.
The chatty crowd bursts into applause when the kitchen finishes pounding a terrific bison carpaccio, which arrives topped with spicy nasturtium leaves. At this corner bistro in Mile Ex, aromatic white gazpacho is poured à table. There’s dashi gelée and shredded nori to accompany the lime-cured Arctic char. And a sprightly Quebec rosé is waiting in the wooden wine cooler, a restored dépanneur fridge salvaged from the building’s former occupant.
Photo: Mickael Bandassak
3412, av. du Parc
Choose your own adventure at this split-level space by the Pullman wine bar team. There’s Nordika pizza with creamed leeks and sweet shrimp on the fun-loving lower level; upstairs, suppertime gets more serious with stacked sheets of fazzoletti pasta with lobster in a cognac-based tomato bisque. The Tuscan rosé is a good anytime-anyplace choice, as is the house soft-serve with cherry compote and chocolate nemesis cake.
Photo: Dominique Lafond
996 Queen St. W.
There’s a sense of Scandinavia’s swinging 1970s at Montgomery’s, with refurbished teak furniture and textured wall hangings behind its Queen West storefront. Indulge in a delicious bowl of charred curly endive in a nourishing broth made from pork, beef and duck bones. Your smiley server takes a knee to talk wine before returning with a magnum of orange Greco di Tufo, which holds up to the 45-day-aged PEI shoulder steak.
Photo: Renée Suen
Cuisine: Fine Dining
62 Sparks St.
There’s a lot of deal-making and bread-breaking under the soaring ceiling of a Sparks Street bank turned temple to old-school power banqueting. Start with Scotch in a Penicillin cocktail speared with candied ginger. Then get an unimpeachable chicken Kiev, panko-breaded and flash-fried to seal a reservoir of sharp garlic butter. Finish with the hazelnut cream Paris–Brest, the team behind El Camino and Datsun will have you signing on the dotted line.
Photo: Chris Lalonde
600 Ebadora Lane
Stunning views of Saanich Inlet stretch out beyond this white-tablecloth dining room at the Villa Eyrie resort, now a destination for motorsport fanatics. An Italian-in-name risotto with peppery shredded rabbit welcomes West Coast freshness with spring-onion broth and shredded mint grown in the on-site gardens. Match the juicy alder-smoked Cornish hen with a rich white ortega from nearby Blue Grouse winery.
The Salted Vine
37991 2nd Ave.
From a team of Araxi veterans, a neo-bistro unpretentious enough to suit its former mining and logging community yet polished enough to entice Vancouverites to drive an hour for dinner. The drink of choice is a potent rum-cherry-espresso-driven Black Dyke cocktail. Use it to wash down the duck and bison salume on a top-notch charcuterie platter. Aji amarillo sauce and yuzu gel up the exoticism of the Hokkaido scallop crudo, served with fresh potato chips.
Cuisine: Peruvian Nikkei
1076, rue Bleury
Pink neon glows and electro-pop plays as you pull up a stool for bar snacks rooted in Nikkei cuisine, a Japanese branch of traditional Peruvian fare. Don’t miss the namesake tiradito, sashimi-cut tuna drizzled in spicy miso sauce. Stir your lime-and-ginger-spiked pisco chilcano with a lemongrass stalk. Then it’s on to the octopus anticucho skewered atop little mounds of avocado and causa potato. Last call is a killer Alfajores cookie with custardy vanilla ice cream.
Photo: Influencr Agency
Wolfe of Wortley
147 Wortley Rd.
An Encrusted Nail – Drambuie and Scotch freshened with lemon and maraschino – is the first thing to order in this wedge-shaped dining room in Wortley Village. Ontario produce stars on clever dishes such as roasted squash over a faintly smoky zucchini-and-green-olive purée. As Chaka Khan lays down some funk, a chef extends his tattooed arm to present your grilled octopus finished in rendered charcuterie oil.
Photo: Mariam Waliji