There are so many things to eat, drink, do, and experience in Toronto that we sometimes are overwhelmed by the options. To help us (and you) plan our calendar we're launching a feature called The Monthly Spotlight. Here we'll bring you list of five reastuarants to eat at, bottles to drink, events to hit, and cool things to just sit back and take in.
If you have any suggestions for future months leave a comment below or shoot us an email at themonthly [at] spotlighttoronto.com.
Where to Eat
Jacob Wharton-Shukster and 26-year old Chef Jonathan Poon launched Chantecler in March 2012, in Parkdale and quickly built a reputation for presenting a modern take on Canadian food. The feature local ingredients whenever possible. The bar is one of the coziest in the city but offers the best spot to eat Jonathan’s exciting plates (he will present them himself in most cases) and drink Jacob’s creations. It’s one of the most exciting restaurants to open in 2012, representing a new attitude in Toronto.
Dishes to try: Albacore tuna, potato gnocchi, ricotta gnudi, sea buckthorn parfait.
Hours: Wed 6pm – 11pm, Thu – Sat (6pm – 12am), lettuce Sun (6pm – 1am)
1320 Queen Street West, Toronto (Map)
The popular gastropub in the financial district is packed every day for a reason: The space is bright and comfortable. The food that Chef Graham Pratt and his team push out is unpretentious, hearty, and globally inspired. Local microbrews, crafty cocktails, and an approachable wine list complement the menu. Recently the restaurant opened its doors for Saturday night dinners, allowing the culinary team to flex their creative muscles and experiment with a variety of dishes and flavours that you wouldn’t normally find during the week.
Dishes to try: Korean barbecue wings, fish tacos, deep fried beer croquettes, and smoked trout.
Hours: Lunch (Mon – Fri 8am – 10pm, Sat 5pm – 10pm)
372 Bay Street, Toronto (Map).
David Chang’s empire recently invaded Toronto with not one, two or even three, but four outlets. Not only do the Momofuku restaurants (Noodle Bar, Daisho, Shoto) bring some great dining options to Toronto’s dining scene, but it also signals that we’re going through an exciting phase as a culinary city. Head to lunch at Noodle Bar during the week when the lineups and wait times are shorter (if you are going during the weekend, get there right at opening, or in 90 minute intervals). Or we say, just go whenever, put your name and number down with staff and head up stairs for a cocktail or two at Nikai.
Dishes to try: at Noodle Bar the hanger steak, rice cakes, the ‘Momo’ Ramen, and chicken buns. At Daisho go for Bo ssam or fried chicken, carrots, and secreto.
Hours: Momofuku (Lunch 11:30am – 3pm, Dinner 5pm – 11pm). Daisho (Dinner 5:30pm – 11pm)
190 University Avenue, Toronto (Map).
One of Toronto’s pinnacle fine dining restaurants has really hit a groove this year, providing a level of service and dining that is rare in its surroundings and parallels what you may experience at Michelin-starred restaurants in New York City. Chef Victor Barry’s evolving tasting menu highlights Canada's best ingredients (the current winter game menu brings in meat from all over the country) and is a full sensory experience.
Dishes to try: The tasting menu (ask for local wine pairings), or from the menu the Cornish hen, or Rouge farms duck, fried duck egg, foie gras parfait.
Hours: Tuesday to Saturday (5pm to 10pm)
88 Harbord Street, Toronto (Map)
John & Sons Oyster House
Established restaurants are opening second locations in Toronto's west and east ends all the time but, with a few notable exceptions, those of us north of Bloor are left to choose from what has been here for the past ten years. John Belknap (who also owns Rodney's by Bay) is swimming upstream and with his new place near St. Clair and Yonge that was a Terroni not so long ago. Oysters–from all over the world, depending on the season–are the focus but he and chef Sonia Potichnyj have also taken care to create a full menu for those who feel like making it a meal. We'll be counting the days until patio weather returns to their outdoor, corner space.
Dishes to try: Colville Bays or Pemaquids if they're on the oyster list; start with the smoked trout salad from the menu.
1 Balmoral Avenue, Toronto (Map).
What to Drink
2010 Thirty Bench Small Lot Chardonnay
Availability: Winery www.thirtybench.com
This is a great Chardonnay that manages to capture all the ripe lushness of a warm vintage, while still maintaining that Niagara signature cool climate elegance. Look for notes of pineapple, golden apple and yellow peach to combine with pear custard, oak spice and tangy cultured butter resulting in a textured wine that's satisfying, but not too rich.
2010 Hidden Bench Roman's Block Riesling
Availability: Winery www.hiddenbench.com
This plot of Riesling vines is 34 years old, making it amongst the oldest in Niagara. That means that even in a warmer vintage like 2010, where Rieslings can sometimes taste a little flat, this wine always displays a core of chalky minerality that provides great liveliness. Winemaker Marlize Beyers has brought fantastic balance to this iconic Riesling leaving just enough residual sugar to balance the acidity. It makes for a wine that's far more approachable in its youth than the laser-sharp, bone dry vintages of the past, while still tasting like it could come from nowhere else. Along with that beautiful chalky limestone mineral core, there's flavours of pithy lime, peach, floral tangerine blossom and gala apple.
2012 Hinterland Ancestral
Availability: Winery www.hinterlandwine.com
Colloquially nicknamed “The Babymaker”, this low-alcohol, medium-sweet pink sparkler is the kind of wine that's great to have on hand because it's so versatile. Full of beautiful juicy watermelon, strawberry and bramble preserve notes, it's the wine you should reach for in hard to pair situations like: brunch, fruit desserts or spicy foods like Thai and Indian curries or fiery Sichuan dishes. It works wonderfully because it has the sweetness to stand-up to those bold foods, while bringing bubbles, which act as the perfect palate refresher.
2010 Malivoire Stouck Cabernet Merlot
Availability: Winery www.malivoire.com
In recent years Malivoire has expanded its line-up to include Cab-based blends, mostly in the Guilty Men line, but this marks the first time I can recall the Beamsville winery doing so as part of its upper-tier Limited Edition line. The winery picked a good year and great farm to do so. The Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot comes from the 5th generation Beamsville family farm of Malivoire Cellar Master Dan Stouck. Chock full of blackberry, black raspberry, black currant, black cherry and black plum notes with hints of herbal licorice and vanilla and dark chocolate, this is a rich Cab-blend made for cold autumn nights.
Amsterdam Tempest Imperial Stout
Price: $5.95 for a 500ml bottle
Availability: LCBO 291100
As we transition into winter and its hearty dishes no other beer quite satisfies for me like a big, inky stout. This local one from Amsterdam is hitting LCBO shelves for the first time and judging by previous releases at the brewery, it won't last long. Full of wonderful coffee, mocha, and dark chocolaty notes this beer provides rich, bold slightly sweet flavours. But it also has some spicy hints of black cardamon, pepper and a hop bite to keep things balanced. For those that like to cellar high-alcohol beers like this, it's sealed beautifully from a dip in black wax.
What to Do
Gourmet Food and Wine Expo – November 15 to 18 – www.foodandwineexpo.ca
This annual wine trade show brings together the best in local and international wine, paired with good eats and an even better atmosphere. If you are interested in getting social in Toronto with people who have the same oenophilic tastes as you, this is your event. Tickets start at $20, though we recommend going the VIP route and pitching in the extra $20.
What's on the Table – November 7th – thestop.org/event/07-nov-2012
This charitable event is the highlight of the food calendar in November. The $225 ticket supports many breakthrough initiatives for The Stop Community Kitchens while providing the guest with a seriously stellar food and drink evening. Considering giving to the cause!
Food for thought – Reel Asian Festival - November 9th – www.reelasian.com
What is the role of food? While it is often the gateway to culture and tradition, this diverse group of cineastes and food lovers begin at the intersection where food meets film. Expect a cornucopia of insight into how communities are defined by their distinctive and delectable treats, how contemporary food culture has developed and a geek-out with the audience through a collective fascination with food.
The Royal Agricultural Fair – November 2 to 11 – www.royalfair.org
The Royal celebrates its 90th anniversary in style. Bring the family out for a unique farm-in-the-city experience and stay for the culinary delights. This is the staple November event in this city!
Regent Park Film Festival – November 7 to 11 – http://regentparkfilmfestival.com/
This is the premier "off the beaten path" movie festival. All are aware of the glitz and glamour for TIFF, but the guts come to light at the annual Regent Park Film Festival. It's Toronto's only free-of-charge film festival, showcasing local and international talent, with a focus on relevant content for Regent Park, the largest and oldest public housing project in Canada.
Five Cool Things
A taste of Spanish tapas in downtown Toronto. The latest concept by restaurateurs Hanif Harji and
Charles Khabouth focuses on authentic Spanish food, with a fun wine list and many options for
affordable Cava. A rustic tapas menu (runs daily from 3 – 5 pm) presents a snacking menu with most
options under $10, and a good selection of Jamon should you choose to splurge. Dinner opens up the
chance to get meat heavy, or if you’re with a group, three different versions of paella.
Hours; 1130am – 11pm
478 King Street West, Toronto (Map)
The popular global affairs magazine recently opened a Toronto bureau very recently on College street. The shared space with sister company Winkreative, is the perfect place to shop for current and back issues ($24 a piece), and an interesting array of gizmos and gadgets.
GwaiLo Pop-up at the SoHo Metropolitan Hotel
While they wait for their new restaurant to be ready (hopefully for the Lunar New Year in February 2013), Chef Nick Liu and his mixologist partner Chistina Kuypers are putting on a series of pop-ups in the space that used to be Sen5es. The six-course menu is $75 plus tax, 18% tip, and optional $45 drink pairings. For more see our post from the media preview for the series.
328 Wellington Street, Toronto (Map)
Designing 007. 50 Years of Bond Style
Making its North American premiere at TIFF Bell Lightbox following its unveiling at London’s Barbican Centre this past summer, Designing 007: Fifty Years of Bond Style is the largest and most comprehensive exhibition ever devoted to Bond, featuring costumes, props, models, gadgets, concept artwork, storyboards and other fascinating artifacts from the series. Signature Bond items featured in the exhibition include the steel teeth worn by Richard “Jaws” Kiel in The Spy Who Loved Me (1977); the Anthony Sinclair overcoat worn by Sean Connery in Dr. No (1962); the poker table from Casino Royale (2006); and multiple gadgets from Q Branch.
Tiff Bell Lightbox
350 King Street West (Map)
Oast House in NOTL
After months of anticipation Niagara-on-the-Lake craft brewery Oast House has opened. Fittingly the focus of the brewery is on farmhouse beers and matches the big red barn the brewery is housed in. The line-up is centred on a Belgian-style farmhouse Saison, which has a great balance between the floral and stone fruit flavors and its hoppy and spicy notes. Right now a pale ale completes the line-up, but expect some more ales with Belgian farmhouse twist in the future including: a Belgian style IPA, a Berlinner Weisse and something making use of the Niagara specialty Icewine.
2017 Niagara Stone Road, Niagara-on-the-Lake (Map)