Once again, I had the privilege of being able to eat at a number of amazing restaurants throughout the year. Although they come in all kinds of shapes and sizes, these are the ones that stuck out in my mind as the best. My rules are simple; the restaurant has to be in Canada and I have had to eat there in 2013. This year, they range from a pizza bar to a swanky joint in the financial district. Enjoy!
10. Yakatori Bar- Toronto
This Baldwin Street joint is clean and fresh with a fun environment and diverse menu. I have had the soup there three times and it blows my mind every time. It is always homemade, always vegetarian and always bursting with flavour. You can watch a Leafs game while sipping a microbrew, sake or a reasonably priced cocktail.
9. Pie- Barrie
Most bars stick made-from-frozen pizza on the menu somewhere below the wings, nachos and burgers. Featured on “You Gotta Eat Here”, Pie proves that quality pizza can be the centrepiece of a bar menu. It features a number of thin crust gourmet pizza that are not only fun but compete with some of the trendy metropolitan joints in flavour. The restaurant itself is large and roomy and would appeal to anybody from a family of four to a group of guys heading out to watch the game.
8. Park- Montreal
Cutting edge Asian-inspired food beautifully presented in a rather casual environment. I only went for brunch but appreciated the small but diverse menu. The salad, bibimbap and Jae Chae were elegant and full of flavour. I would easily return for dinner (the sushi looks beautiful) the next time I’m in Montreal.
7. Lisa Marie- Toronto
Matt Basile (aka Fidel Gastro) is a genius. Street food is given a home within the bricks and mortars of Lisa Marie. The menu is infused with creativity. The pork belly cheese thang, a taco made with fried cheese instead of a shell is one example. So is the Caesar served with a 4 oz beer chaser. Every time I get on his website I see new dishes which look as delicious as a trailer for a new Tarantino movie.
6. Barque- Toronto
Barque redefines the smokehouse by infusing Roncesvalles into the decor the same way they inject marinade into their brisket. Speaking of the brisket, patience is a virtue. It is the best I’ve had in the GTA and the highlight of the menu. The rest of the fixings are pretty good too.
5. Stock- Toronto
Realizes that fine dining is more than the price on the menu. You are pampered with over the top service, lavish dishes like enormous diver scallops and in-house chocolate truffles wheeled to your table on a cart. You also get to mingle with the likes of couples wearing matching fur shawls. It’s ridiculous and delicious.
4. Sidedoor- Ottawa
Last year’s number one, I still go back when I’m in Ottawa despite the numerous other choices I have. I love the tuna sushimi. It’s a fun, roomy place that is a mix of all sorts of things. I sent a few colleagues there this year and they came back raving. Guess I’m not the only one.
3. Harbord Room- Toronto
Just because a restaurant isn’t new, it doesn’t mean it isn’t good. Harbord room continues to have one of the best burgers in Toronto and you can suck it back with a number of innovative and award-winning yet expensive cocktails. It’s refreshing to go to a place where you can order anything on the menu and not be disappointed. Any place that openly apologizes for not brining the cornish hen long enough before you order it and still giving you one of the best you’ve had all year works for me.
2. Bar Isabel- Toronto
A quirky, fun environment with no pretension. The Chips, Boquerones, Piquillo, Jalapeno dish is one of the best things I ate all year. Offers a great cocktail list along with a number of beer and wine selections although the latter are a bit on the pricy side. You leave wishing you could have eaten the whole menu.
Mezcla is the true definition of fusion, merging bold Latin flavours with Canadian ingredients and European traditions. The service is impeccable and the decor has a mystical, almost haunting vibe. The Tiradito de Venado and Fois Gras (deer carpaccio with fois gras torchon) tops my 2013 list of dishes, the perfect showcase of the restaurant’s innovative and forward thinking philosophy.