Toronto’s multicultural dining scene is back in force. “You can have anything you want, from anywhere in the world, by a very talented chef, any night of the week,” says executive chef Kyle Rindinella of King St. West’s Ristorante Sociale. After the pandemic’s disruptions, he’s seen many chefs returning to their culinary roots, reflecting their immigrant backgrounds or diverse inspirations. “Diners could almost play a game of ‘spin the globe’ and point somewhere and probably find a very good restaurant in the city doing that cuisine well, with passion,” says the vet restaurateur.
Embark on this global array at Miss Likklemore’s (433 King St. West, misslikklemores.com), a high energy, Caribbean-inspired dining spot with the city’s largest selection of rum. Originally a pop-up, now there’s a permanent home for Miss Likklemore’s peppery mix of island cuisines. Start with plantain chips and fried rock shrimp, savor the whole smoked jerk chicken and finish with a key lime tart.
Adrak Yorkville (138 Avenue Rd., adrakyorkville.ca) earns kudos for its non-standard takes on Indian dishes such as baby aubergine in a sweet and sour sauce, slow cooked masala jackfruit and biryani cooked in a puff pastry. Cocktails creatively incorporate Indian spices.
Innovative drink combinations continue at Bar Dem, Dzo Viet Eatery’s (308 Dundas St. West., dzovieteatery.com) new Asian-inspired speakeasy, found down a lantern-lit passageway behind the Vietnamese eatery.
Rindinella is a partner at Ristorante Sociale, brining Italian-influenced dishes and an elevated white tablecloth dining experience to always buzzing King St. West. The restaurant, from the team behind Dundas St. West’s Enoteca Sociale, opened in June. Dishes meld Roman flavors and Tuscan fare.
The classic cacio e pepe (spaghetti with black pepper and Pecorino Romano) is the crowd favorite, followed by the breadcrumb-topped linguini vongole (clams in a velvety green sauce of anchovies, parsley, garlic and chilies). The 1,200-gram (approximately two-and-a-half pound) Porterhouse steak is served sliced, finished over apple wood and presented under a cloche. When the cloche is lifted, smoke photogenically drifts up. Pair it with a smoked negroni cocktail poured tableside, recommends the chef. Ristorante Sociale will offer a four-course, set tasting menu during TIFF featuring a white truffle gin cocktail.
Premium steak and seafood are having a moment. Chef Matty Matheson is the Toronto culinary superstar behind Prime Seafood Palace (944 Queen St. West, primeseafoodpalace.ca) set in a bespoke white maple and brass dining room, designed by Omar Gandhi Architects. Local is the mantra for the frequently changing ingredients: Ontario-sourced beef, Atlantic seafood and produce from the chef’s farm. Even the hardwood used in cooking comes from provincial farms. The upmarket surf-and-turf says it all: halibut, topped with trout roe and beurre blanc paired with an eight-ounce A5 wagyu.
Impeccable seafood and dry-aged beef are the focus at Black+Blue Toronto (130 King St. West, blackandbluesteakhouse.ca) a King St. West newcomer with Vancouver roots. This grand steakhouse, which opened in April, is an outpost of Vancouver’s Glowbal Restaurant Group. A glass-walled meat locker lined with bricks of Himalayan salt is visible to all in the two-level, contemporary-styled dining room.
The raw bar offers Canadian and Japanese seafood and shellfish specialties, from oysters to king crab to sashimi. Caesar salad is prepared tableside as are the decadent dessert crepes. It’s a 10-minute walk to Financial District restaurant from the TIFF Lightbox; the daily happy hour from 2:30-5 p.m should entice festivalgoers.
For light bites and a room with a view, Evangeline (51 Camden St., 14th floor, evangelinetoronto.com), the Ace Hotel Toronto’s rooftop lounge, is open from the afternoon to late at night. The appealing small plates are from chef Patrick Kriss, of the Michelin-cited Alder on the hotel’s ground floor. The selection ranges from a chef’s pick cheese board to churros. Fireplaces bookend the clubby interior; take in expansive downtown Toronto skyline views from the terrace. The name Evangeline salutes Canada’s first feature, a 1914 silent era drama.
Festival patrons can experience Toronto’s globally minded dining scene at the TIFF Bell Lightbox with the new Varda, named for French filmmaker Agnes Varda. The bar-cafe is a glam re-imaging of the third-floor members’ lounge. There’s espresso by DeMello Coffee and a polished contemporary look by DesignAgency. Feasting and festivalgoing are a dynamic pairing in Toronto.
- Where to Eat Now in Toronto: Globally Inspired Cuisine and New Steakhouses for Festivalgoers
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