The year 2019 saw some major moves from some big names in Toronto. Powerhouse restaurateur Jen Agg opened her newest Dundas West installation in the old Black Hoof spot, chef Jonathan Poon brought northern Thai food to Ossington and Grant van Gameren returned to the kitchen. All the while, our esteemed reviewer Joanne Kates was there to witness and taste everything they dished out. So without further ado, here are the top five most popular restaurant reviews of 2019:
Jen Agg hit another one out of the park in Joanne Kates’ rave review of Bar Vendetta. Kates both bemoans and applauds the rule-breaking restaurateur’s gall. Closed on Fridays and Saturdays? No reservations? The nerve. Despite all this, the housemade crown pasta delights and the meatballs are deemed a must-have. But the best thing about the ’70s-style pasta and wine bar? According to Kates, it’s not the pasta or the wine. Read on.
A review of Toronto’s authentic Mexican restaurant Quetzal came earlier this year, shortly after a very public partnership fallout between serial restaurateur Grant van Gameren and chefs Julio Guajardo and Kate Chomyshyn. With van Gameren behind the counter for the first time since Quetzal’s opening, Kates paid the restaurant a visit to suss out how it was faring, and she was very glad that she did. Read on.
Joanne Kates shared the culinary highs and “sophomoric” lows of her dining experience in her review of chef Jeffery Yap’s new 16-seat boîte Faim de Loup. Kates raves about Yap’s porcine cake, calling it “a savoury moist hit of pleasure,” and overlooks other small but noted missteps (a lack of a bread and butter plate for one). But take note, if you drown her oysters in pickle juice, she may never forgive you. Read on.
The most recent addition to the Grant van Gameren empire did not yield quite as much praise from Joanne Kates. Her review of the Queen West wine bar is less than glowing. Service is slow, food is “meh” and Kates has a sneaking suspicion that her greeter also doubles as a seater and impromptu chef. All in all, Kates painted her experience as a disappointment from start to finish. Read on.
A super cool Thai spot by chef Jonathan Poon and the team at Khao San Road rounds out the top five. Calling it “one of the few honest Thai spots in town,” Kates falls for chef Haan Palcu-Chang’s use of big flavours from his sweet and spicy lamb chops to his P.E.I. scallop red curry. The food and atmosphere are all hits, and if you close your eyes, Kates says you may just be transported to northern Thailand. Read on.