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The Urbanist’s Toronto: Where to Eat


Loire  

The Toughest Tables in Town
And where to go instead when you can’t nab one.

CAN’T GET INTO THIS ONE?
Ortolan

1211 Bloor St. W.; 647-348-4500
“This,” says Toronto Life critic Chris Nuttall-Smith, “is the type of restaurant Toronto does best”: a hole-in-the-wall, shoestring-budget, chalkboard-menu place, opened four months ago by two young chefs in the not-quite-gentrified Bloordale area.

TRY THIS ONE
Niagara Street Café

169 Niagara St.; 416-703-4222
Easier to get into than Ortolan (they take reservations), the café recently brought on Nick Liu, “a great young chef who once worked at London’s Fat Duck,” who is known for successful experiments with offbeat flavors, like spicy black-bean snails with shiitake chips.

CAN’T GET INTO THIS ONE?
Acadia
50C Clinton St.; 416-792-6002
The month-old effort by ambitious (and “slightly cocky”) chef Matt Blondin delves into the French-Canadian roots of Cajun cooking, with dishes like a tender veal rack with yam dumpling, turtle-bean succotash, and mustard greens.

TRY THIS ONE
Origin

107–109 King St. E.; 416-603-8009
The modernist destination in downtown’s historic quarter was opened last year by Toronto’s molecular-cooking standard-bearer, Claudio Aprile. “He’s doing really creative things, like an amazing shrimp ceviche paired with nitrogen-frozen kernel corn and tomato confit.”

CAN’T GET INTO THIS ONE?
Ici Bistro
538 Manning Ave.; 416-536-0079
A tiny spot on an isolated residential block just south of Koreatown, with a veteran French chef doing stripped-down bistro food that works beautifully. “Anything fried—the black-trumpet-mushroom croquette, served with foie gras, for instance—practically floats away.”

TRY THIS ONE
Loire

119 Harbord St.; 416-850-8330
The solid, uncrowded alternative is just down the street in the heart of Harbord’s well-trod restaurant row. Expect “interesting North American takes on French flavors,” like a lamb burger with Quebec Brie on a challah bun baked next door—and killer service to boot.



Snacks of the North
Adrian Ravinskyof 416 Snack Bar 181 Bathurst St., a new, cutlery-free pub that celebrates Toronto’s diffuse culinary obsessions (Indian lamb chops, corn dogs, Scotch eggs, cinnamon buns) selects his favorite quick bites in a city that’s lousy with them.

1. Italian Veal Sandwich
There’s a team of nonnas breading and frying veal cutlets in the back of the original California Sandwiches (244 Claremont St.) in a former grocery store in Little Italy. They make their own hot peppers, sauce, breading, everything.

2. Vietnamese Cold Rolls
The best spot I know is called Xe Lua (254 Spadina Ave.), which means “the train.” They have a make-your-own-rolls platter that features a lemongrass-pork-peanut stir-fry, pickled carrots and daikon radish, a pile of fresh basil, vermicelli, and rice wrappers—and you roll your own. They throw in what is probably the best fried spring roll you’ve ever had on the side.

3.Trini Double
A hot, soft chickpea-flour pastry stuffed with Trinidadian chickpea curry at Ali’s Roti (1446 Queen St. W.). It’s the only roti spot I’ll go to, mainly for the tamarind chutney and a hot sauce so serious it comes in quarter-ounce cuplets, so you don’t scald yourself.


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