Your in-the-know guide to Canada’s best places to eat and drink
Each of Canada’s big cities has its own distinct style, from hipster Vancouver to multi-culti Toronto to Montreal’s French flair. One thing they share, however, is a dedication to fine food, as these edgy eateries demonstrate.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. When the team behind one of Vancouver’s most popular food trucks, Le Tigre, launched their first restaurant recently, they chose a small-plate formula that showcases their flavour-packed pan-Asian cuisine. The quirkily-named dishes include Silence of the Lamb - lamb sirloin with brown fried rice, corn, asparagus, and satay sauce, topped with fluffy egg - and Gone Fishin’, a whole crispy fish served with tamarind, shallots, garlic and coriander. The cocktails are equally playful: try the Green Lambo, cardamom-infused tequila teamed with Cointreau, basil syrup and white pepper syrup.
Let it rain! Come experience "The Donald" ~ grilled duck paired with rhubarb and topped with foie gras #foiegras #duck #vancouver #sunshine #youwantthis #dinner #saturday #asianPosted by Torafuku on Saturday, June 3, 2017
Not everyone is a fan of the stuffed animals mounted on the wall at Mamie Taylor’s, but most people stop thinking about the décor once the food arrives. The artfully-reinvented comfort food classics include white cheddar grits, piled high with mushrooms, croutons, shallots and a slow-cooked egg, and a perfectly fried chicken served with cinnamon-spiced squash. Not in the mood for a full meal? Snacks such as fried olivesstuffed with blue cheese, currants and sherry are equally tempting.
Tucked away in the heart of Chinatown, Kissa Tanto lures you in with its dusty-rose banquettes, mood lighting and old-school LPs stacked behind the bar. It’s not all about the ambience, however: Kissa Tanto was named Canada’s best new restaurant last year. The menu is an unexpected mash-up of Japanese and Italian cuisines; think porchetta-stuffed agnolotti teamed with smoked cream and kombu-cured olives, or parmesan tortellini served in a seaweed-strewn dashi broth. Wash it down with a tangy salted-plum sour.
It only opened last year, but Brothers, like all classics, is timeless. This tiny, no-fuss eatery greets all comers with good food and a warm welcome. Enjoy a glass of biodynamic wine and some crusty bread while you peruse the menu. Their Cornish Hen has quickly become a staple, teamed with raisins and radicchio or savoy cabbage and chestnuts according to the season. Other options may include clams with confit cherry tomatoes and romano beans, or slow-roasted Niagara lamb shank with fennel and capers. For dessert, the lemony semolina pound cake served with cream and sea buckthorn is recommended.
Nathan Isberg is one of Toronto’s most unconventional chefs, and at his new restaurant, Awai, he is doing something quite different: taking meat off the menu entirely. Equipped with a wood-fired oven and inspirations from right around the globe, he delivers dis after dish of vegetable-based hits. Highlights include the velvety porcini mushroom and cauliflower soup, the charcoal gnocchi made with coal-roasted potatoes, served with black kale and Baharat spice, and the crisp-fried baby eggplant, crunchy on the outside, creamy on the inside.
Steve Gonzalez is famous across Canada for his stint as a judge on Top Chef Canada, the local take on Masterchef. In Toronto, however, he’s known for his way with Latin flavours. Baro offers everything from beef empanadas to a range of ceviches; try the Japanese-influenced version, cured in ponzu and lime and served with nori, edamame, lotus root and radish. The go-to dish is chaufa, a Peruvian take onfried rice made with duck confit and egg.
Don’t let the leather banquettes and marble-topped tables fool you: this is a long way from being just another upmarket brasserie. Chef Olivier Vigneault’s menu of share plates channels plenty of Asian inspiration. Along with classics such as pork and shrimp gyoza and agedashi tofu wrapped in seaweed, there are more edgy creations such as the raw Hamachi, lightly seared with a blowtorch and served with sweet soy, jalapeno and puffed rice. The cocktail menu also works the Asian influence; try the Kung Fu Panda, which blends rum, lime and coconut with pandan mousse.
Marconi restaurant is a more-the-merrier kind of place, its tasty menu of share plates (divided into large and small versions) best enjoyed with a group of people. Top picks among the smaller serves include deer tartare with ricotta and an umami-laden mushroom toast with soy and brown butter. For something more solid, try the pork shoulder on a bed of sauerkraut with a smoky apricot puree, and pillows of gnocchi topped with broccoli, lemon and dill.
Nikkei cuisine – the Peruvian take on Japanese cuisine developed by Japanese immigrants to the South American country – is on show at Tiradito restaurant; and when we say on show, we mean it. The open kitchen dominates the centre of the room, and it is the chefs who bring out the plates. The house specialty is, naturally, tiradito, a tasty concoction of thinly-sliced raw fish with a sauce of miso, tamarind, corn beer and Amarillo peppers.
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