Top 50 cover

Toronto’s 50 best restaurants

We had 60 of the city's culinary titans vote on their favourite spots to eat in Toronto. And now, the results are in.

Here you have it, the top 50 restaurants of 2019, ranked by some of the most celebrated chefs in the city. Sixty of them, in fact. Chefs like Patrick Kriss, Nuit Regular, Grant Van Gameren and Anna Chen all told us what their favourite spots are and why they love them, and we drew up a definitive guide to the city’s best restaurants in accordance to their answers. Looking for a dinner reservation this weekend, or for every weekend for the rest of the year? You’ve come to the right place. Counting down from number 10 with …

No. 10
SKIPPA

Skippa

JUDGE ROB GENTILE, BUCA RESTAURANTS: “It’s probably one of the best sushi experiences I’ve ever had. Ian takes all of these amazing local ingredients and he just turns it into magic.”

Chef Ian Robinson got his first taste of Japanese cuisine as a teenager. The Japanese wife of a family member would make him homestyle food, which struck him with its simplicity and seasonality. Robinson has pursued those flavours ever since. After working for four years under the esteemed Mitsuhiro Kaji at Sushi Kaji, Robinson went solo with Skippa. Since day one, the Harbord Street restaurant has resonated with Toronto diners. Patrons can order a single piece of sushi (though we’re not sure why you would) or opt for the omakase experience. Much of the seafood hails directly from the Fukuoka fish market. Throughout the meal, chef Robinson will share the origin of each fish, where it was caught and how to eat it.

Skippa, 379 Harbord St., 416-535-8181

No. 9
PARIS PARIS

Paris Paris

Chef Zane Caplansky JUDGE ZANE CAPLANSKY, CAPLANSKY’S DELI: “Paris Paris may be the perfect restaurant. Impeccably executed and perfectly accessible, this place almost defies description.”

Jonathan Poon, Jesse Fader and Gani Schqueir know what the people want. Since sashaying onto the food scene in hipsterville, Paris Paris has been welcomed with open arms. The room — light filled and unpretentious — acts as a fitting backdrop for a culinary team that is pulling weight in all corners. Chef de cuisine Nick Morra, who’s been at Chantecler and La Banane, seduces with his soft shell crab dish. Meanwhile, sous Josh Bagalacsa is doing wild things with charcuterie (namely nabbing a gold prize at the 2019 Charcuterie Masters competition for his chorizo). Baker Patti Robinson does wonderful things with bread. Right now it’s heritage grains and naturally leavened breads. She works directly with farmers and millers that produce the flour used in the loaves. Be sure to grab one for home. Finally, it is a wine bar, and right now folks are sipping red, white and rosé from Martha Stoumen — a California winemaker whose goods are just starting to trickle into Ontario. Poon himself is excited about the arrival of white asparagus (now) and matsutake mushrooms (later). Find them on the menu. To sum up: this is a team you can trust.

Paris Paris, 1161 Dundas St. W., 416-535-5656

No. 8
IL COVO

Il Covo

Chef David LeeJUDGE DAVID LEE, PLANTA: “I love what Ryan is doing there. It’s only going to get better: some honest cooking, great flavours and ingredients!”

In Italian, Il Covo means “the meeting point,” and that’s what has this restaurant is. Unobtrusive from the exterior, the space unfurls into a warm room. Chef Ryan Campbell and biz partner Giuseppe Marchesini hopped over from Buca (where they were the first two employees!) with plenty of Italian culinary knowledge. But rather than turn out fare from one region of the Boot, the team has chosen to cycle through them all over the course of the year. At the start of 2019, Il Covo honed in on the cuisine of the north; in May a central Italy exploration begins; come fall, the food will segue to the south and the islands. Although the regional devotion permeates all aspects of the food and drink, there is still a local lean to the menu. Diners may encounter an Ontario take on a savory pie native to Emilia-Romagna. The trad version matches spinach with egg and nutmeg, whereas the localized take swaps in braised wild stinging nettles and wild ramps. For sweet, a Bavarese dessert is a crisp Roman pastry stuffed with custard, vanilla whipped cream and provincial rhubarb. This is how you travel the Boot.

Il Covo, 585 College St., 416-530-7585

No. 7
MONTGOMERY’S

Montgomery's

Chef Anna ChenJUDGE ANNA CHEN, ALMA: “Guy Rawlings does quintessential Canadian cuisine. His food is very minimal, but his flavours are always on point.”

Montgomery’s is a true labour of love. Chef Guy Rawlings, who cut his teeth at Bar Isabel, opened the Ossington-adjacent space with his wife Kim Montgomery, who takes care of operations. (And the playlists!) Coming into its third year, the restaurant serves contemporary Canadian cuisine that’s dictated by the seasons. Last year, one of chef Rawlings’s favourite products was fresh seaweed. He would steep kombu in broths and then pickle it, purée dulse into a sauce for ‘shrooms and roast nori and serve it with salt. Although many a restaurant looks abroad for their sodium, at Montgomery’s they’re lucky to work with two Canadian producers who transform ocean water into salt. Rawlings doesn’t venture far for fresh produce. He works with local farmers to source vegetables and gathers flavourings from the rooftop garden and another garden 15 minutes away. Upcoming favourites include fennel seed, which will find its way into salami. They’re also big on cured hams. Every 45 days a new ham is salted. Currently Rawlings is keen on boar and warthog (the structure of the leg is different and the meat is darker).

Montgomery’s, 996 Queen St. W., 647-748-4416

No. 6
BAR ISABEL

Bar Isabel

Chef Angela VillaltaJUDGE ANGELA VILLALTA, L’UNITÀ: “My favourite thing is the little Spanish fix I get when I go there. The room, the drink and the food make me nostalgic about Spain.”

When Grant van Gameren debuted his Bar Isabel back in 2013, he was relatively green. After forging a name for himself at the Black Hoof (RIP), the chef departed, causing many a foodie to question his next move. A stint at Enoteca Sociale resulted in a partnership with Max Rimaldi and the birth of the original restaurant in an ever-growing empire. Tiles were flown in from Mexico and chef Brandon Olsen was recruited. Since then, the eatery has matured beautifully. Long wood tables are filled with share-happy diners who travel to Barcelona via pan con tomate, spiffy Marcona almonds and blistered shishito peppers. Those hunting for the extra-special should look out for gooseneck barnacles from B.C. (or occasionally Catalonia). The delicacy is only in season for about a month. Bread is made in-house (upstairs) and is for sale daily after 2 p.m. If you can’t get a table, just grab a loaf for home. Oenophiles should also stay tuned for Cuvée Lila — a red wine collab with Pearl Morissette made exclusively from Ontario Lemberger grapes. This is why people keep coming back.

Bar Isabel, 797 College St., 416-532-2222

No. 5
ALOETTE

Aloette

Chef Steve GonzalezJUDGE STEVE GONZALEZ, BARO & PETTY CASH: “The food is delicious and the portion sizes are great. We even had room for dessert, so we had them all.”

Baby sis to Alo, this downstairs diner is the cool sibling — the more approachable one you want to be friends with (and actually stand a chance with). Walls are clad in sleek wood panelling, servers look jaunty in bow ties, and the food is comforting but never sloppy. The menu isn’t so much greasy spoon but more international: yes, there’s a burger, but there’s also roasted octopus studded with chorizo. A favoured spot for business-y bites come noon, the elevated diner is now offering a prix fixe lunch. Two courses ring in at $25, three for $30. Portions are downsized, allowing guests to enjoy more variety. The gabbed-about wedge salad — avocado, Parm and puffed wild rice laced with chive cream — shrinks down to a more manageable mound. Mains may include the sea trout or steak frites, and a mini apple pie sundae is somehow more fun to eat than the big one. But it’s not only lunch that’s spirited. Rather than shutter between the hours of 3 and 5 p.m. (as most eateries that offer lunch and dinner do), the diner has optioned to lure in an early evening crowd. Dubbed Aloette Hour, the stretched hour involves $10 glasses of wine and house cocktails. Swoon.

Aloette, 163 Spadina Ave., 1st Floor, 416-260-3444

No. 4
GIULIETTA

Giulietta

Chef Elia HerreraJUDGE ELIA HERRERA, COLIBRI: “The food is so on point: simple but amazing flavours, polished techniques with an incredibly executed kitchen.­”

Toronto’s obsession with Italiana never seems to abate, and Giulietta is one of the reasons why. Chef Rob Rossi was at first pooh-poohed (the nerve to close Bestellen!) before being embraced twice over. Rossi partnered with David Minicucci (L’Unità), and they ran with their idea of serving Italian food that’s clean, simple and addictive. Pasta is a must. Ravioli has been jazzed with peas, smoked ricotta and guanciale; swirls of squid ink pasta get heat from Calabrian ‘nduja sausage. Bottarga di tonno (a.k.a. cured tuna roe) hails from Sicily and adds a briny, salty quality to asparagus. Weekenders should ask about large deep-sea Carabineros shrimp from Spain. They’re a coveted find.

Giulietta, 972 College St., 416-964-0606

No. 3
EDULIS

Edulis

Chef Craig HardingJUDGE CRAIG HARDING, LA PALMA & CONSTANTINE: “When dining at Edulis, you always feel like you were invited to an exclusive dinner party hosted by Tobey and Michael.”

Chef Michael Caballo and partner in life and love chef Tobey Nemeth have been at their bucolic Niagara Street restaurant for a handful of years now and have consistently found themselves hovering near the top of the city’s best restaurants lists. It’s no surprise: Their menus are dictated by the whims of the season and tailored to the personal preferences of diners. Chances are, veg, seafood and plenty of wild mushrooms — their namesake — will grace your table over either five or seven courses. This is not a meal to rush through, rather, it is one to linger over and savour while Nemeth and Caballo work their magic. Cape Breton snow crab comes with teardrop peas. John Dory is paired with grilled mountain porcini, pine nuts and white asparagus. Or devour a ballotine of light Sussex chicken, sweetbreads and foie gras with morels, crayfish and sauce Nantua. For dessert? A decadent baba au rhum with Chantilly cream. Special additions to look out for include both black and white truffles (when in season) and the nightly option of a caviar starter. A tin of the good stuff — Imperial Osetra Caviar — complete with accompaniments might set one back a pretty penny ($160), but what a way to begin a meal!

Edulis, 169 Niagara St., 416-703-4222

No. 2
ALO

Alo

Chef Nuit RegularJUDGE NUIT REGULAR, KIIN & PAI: “I love everything about Alo. From the food to the service, the experience is always impeccable.”

With Alo, Patrick Kriss brought the tasting menu back into the Toronto dining vernacular. When the chef opened his French restaurant back in 2015, diners had become weary of stuffy parades of plates. Kriss decided to revive the tradition but do so in his own dignified manner. A flood of accolades came pouring in, applauding chef’s fresh approach to a dusty tradition. Although still young, the space has recently undergone a bit of a facelift (think new bar stools and emerald-hued curtains) in keeping with the ever-morphing nature of the menu. All guests pairing wine with their meal now sip from Zalto glasses, superb stemware handcrafted in Austria. Menu-wise, dishes continue to wow diners. Guests may tuck into delicate hunks of kanpachi crudo jazzed with yuzu kosho, puffed rice and sea asparagus batons. Or cuttlefish on a bed of littleneck clams and Yukon Gold potato, finished with smoked beurre. For those who want fine dining–calibre grub but in a slightly more convivial space, there’s always the barroom. Although Alo opens its hard-to-get reservation bookings every two months, the barroom is made for walk-ins as well as resos. Soon to come is a private dining room across the courtyard from Alobar in Yorkville. Private dinners? We say oui.

Alo, 163 Spadina Ave., 416-260-2222

No. 1
DANDYLION

Dandylion

Chef Grant van gamerenJUDGE GRANT VAN GAMEREN, BAR ISABEL & QUETZAL: “Few chefs in this city have an approach to food as unique and humble as Jay Carter. I admire the thoughtfulness put into the food.­”

At the unassuming Dandylion, Jason Carter can usually be found in the open kitchen, keeping an eye on the line of tables stretching out in front of him. The intimate 30-seat restaurant is four years old, but its game has never wavered: It has kept a tight menu of three appetizers, three entrees, and three desserts. It’s still pleasingly minimal, with a wall of plant life by the front entrance, hinting at the seasonal MO that is embraced by the restaurant. Chef Carter is still ultra-excited about local Ontario produce, from wild edibles to the promise of Ontario’s sour berries and peaches, from organic greens to outdoor charcoal grilling come summer. But, somehow, here, every dish is a new adventure.

Dandylion, 1198 Queen St. W., 647-464-9100

 

To view the entire Top 50 list, click below:

 

Thank you to the following judges who participated in Toronto’s 50 Best Restaurants list for 2019:

  • Claudio Aprile  Master Chef Canada
  • Cale Elliott Armstrong  General Assembly
  • Blair Aspinall  Zucca Trattoria
  • Nick auf der Mauer  Porchetta & Co.
  • Romain Avril  Neruda
  • Suzanne Barr formerly Saturday Dinette
  • Victor Barry  Piano Piano, Café Cancan
  • Francis Bermejo  Mother Tongue
  • Hemant Bhagwani  Goa, Good Karma
  • Matt Blondin  Blondie’s
  • Michael Bonacini  O&B Restaurants
  • Ryan Campbell  Il Covo
  • Zane Caplansky  Caplansky’s Deli
  • Haan Palchu Chang  SoSo Food Club
  • David Chau  Banh Mi Boys
  • Ariel Coplan  Grand Cru Deli
  • Ted Corrado  The Drake
  • Justin Cournoyer  Actinolite
  • Anna Chen  Alma
  • Felicia De Rose  The Chase, Planta Burger
  • Miriam Echeverría  Greta Solomon’s
  • Rob Gentile  Buca Restaurants
  • Steve Gonzalez  Baro, Petty Cash
  • Craig Harding  La Palma, Constantine
  • Ben Heaton  ICONINK
  • Elia Herrera  Colibri
  • Michael Hunter  Antler
  • Daisuke Izutsu  Yukashi
  • Ann Kim  Donna’s
  • Patrick Kriss  Alo, Aloette, Alobar
  • Nicki Laborie  Bar Reyna
  • Charlotte Langley  Scout Canning
  • David Lee  Planta
  • Jackie Lin  Shoushin
  • Nick Liu  DaiLo
  • Haruna Makino  Grasshopper
  • Rosa Marinuzzi  7 Numbers
  • Niall McCotter  Peer to Peer Hospitality
  • Roger Mooking  Food Network Canada
  • Ryan Morrison  Marbl
  • Paula Navarette  Kojin
  • David Neinstein  Barque
  • Brandon Olsen  La Banane
  • Darby Piquette  ONE
  • Jonathan Poon  Paris Paris, Superpoint
  • Ivana Raca  Ufficio
  • Guy Rawlings  Montgomery’s
  • Nuit Regular  Kiin, Pai
  • Guillaume Robin  Louix Louis
  • Anthony Rose  Rose and­­­ Sons Deli, Fet Zun
  • Rob Rossi  Giulietta
  • Tricia Soo  Soos
  • Top Srisomphan  Khao San Road
  • John-Vincent Troiano  Frilu
  • Grant van Gameren  Bar Isabel, Quetzal
  • Angela Villalta  L’Unità
  • Cory Vitiello  Flock
  • Anthony Walsh  O&B Restaurants
  • Craig Wong  Patois
  • Janet Zuccarini  Top Chef Canada