I’ve been to enough restaurants this year to compile a list of I what I think are the best 10 in Canada. I am also including a few which I may not have blogged about since I visited them before I started in June or July. I will begin a daily countdown starting with number 10 and ending with number 1 on New Year’s Eve.
I’m a amateur blogger with a passion for food and this post is nothing more than my personal reflection of a year of eating out. Feel free to agree or disagree. I encourage your comments!
See the urbanspoon list at the link below.
10. Union 613– Ottawa
I can still taste the fried okra and Berkshire pork belly to this day. The environment is best described as union hall meets hipster joint meets smokehouse. The staff is courteous, flexible and attentive. The impressive cocktail list features rotating southern influenced cocktails (usually bourbon) and flavourful local brews. Some of the traditional dishes were presented with a risky twist; the lemon lime parfait was a savory rendition of the normally sweet yet tart key lime pie and the beef brisket was topped with an aggressive salsa verde.
The only major flaw was the rather bland oysters.
In the end, it’s great food and great service in a great environment. I’ll sign the union card.
Check out initial review below and agree or disagree!
9. Trevor Bar and Kitchen- Toronto
Trevor is a meat and fois gras happy restaurant buried in the architecture of Wellington Street East. Well executed main entrees such as coq au vin and prawn spaghettini as well as beautiful desserts are examples of the stellar food. In an attempt to preserve the integrity of the century and a half old building, the decor still makes me feel like I’m eating in a subway station. Regardless, I’ll buy a metro pass.
Check out initial review below and agree or disagree!
8. Table 17– Toronto
Table17 is a quaint place with a great atmosphere located along Queen St. East. It’s not too loud but still manages to have a buzzy aura. It offers an innovative cocktail list and sticks pretty consistently to a well executed menu with large portions and a focus on signature items including oysters, rillette, hot balls and and beef tartare. The polenta, presented table side, was the pinnacle of the meal and the duck entree was done well. The desserts were not mind-blowing but you may not need them after the meal. This is a table I don’t mind sitting at!
The blog post is below. Let me know if you agree!
7. Stoney’s Bread Company– Oakville
Stoney’s Bread Company is the least orthodox place on this list. It’s not fancy, doesn’t have a stunning decor and isn’t the roaring hotspot like some of the others. That being said, the food is wicked. The chicken curry sandwich on their own bread is one of the best I’ve had all year. The pizza had a crust thin enough to allow for delicious origami while thick enough to hold together the fragrant sauce and the other fresh ingredients such as the high quality meats and cheeses which adorn the pies. I’d skip the dessert squares though. Stoney’s may not be the place to bring a first date or to impress your new boss…unless of course they love amazing food and don’t mind taking a trip to a plain jane sandwich joint a bit off the beaten path.
The post is pending. Stay tuned!
6. Chambar– Vancouver
This west coast eatery mixes traditional belgian cuisine with tastes from around the world. Chambar offers an amazing and unique Belgian beer selection and mussels to match. In addition, there is an array of unique and sinful desserts with a presentation that rival some of the landmarks from the countries they represent. The entrees were average and it’s almost too loud to have a conversation but the ambiance is pleasant and the edgy yet traditional menu is for the most part one of the better I’ve tried this year. When it comes to the underrated recreation of Belgian cuisine, Chambar is no sham bar.
Read my earlier review!
5. Charcut– Calgary
Highlights of this downtown Calgary establishment include a trendy environment in the Hotel Le Germain, a decent booze list and amazing well-prepared yet simple food. In particular, the kitchen pickles and pork belly were most memorable. The desserts were decent but limited in choice. I didn’t blog Charcut because I started writing a few months after going. Perhaps it was memorable since it was my first celebrity chef sighting when I chatted with Top Chef Canada contestant Connie DeSousa after dinner. Maybe it was memorable because the food was just damn good.
4. Ursa- Toronto
Ursa is a casual yet elegant eatery which sits quietly on Queen West. Adorned with a long wood bar and open kitchen, it has an intimate environment which is both classic and trendy. As I mentioned in my review, each dish is a story, whether it be the sourcing of the ingredients or the distinct cooking methods. Every plate is presented with an artistic flare with fresh,seasonal fare. The elk tartare was a lesson in leaving good ingredients alone to tell their own tale. In addition, the cocktail list featured quality liquors with fresh ingredients presented in award-winning fashions. Finally, the deconstructed lemon meringue pie was as tasty as it was visually appealing. The biggest downfall regarding Ursa is an ever changing and unpredictable small menu which may not appeal to everybody..but I leave you to decide whether that is a major or just a minor issue.
3. Richmond Station– Toronto
In a few short months, Richmond Station has already established itself as a Toronto hotspot. Maybe it’s riding the wave of chef/owner Carl Heinrich’s Top Chef Canada 2 win. With a great open kitchen and a decor that is classy yet trendy, it’s a welcome change from the stuffy French bistros and hipster-centric caverns which straddle the Toronto streets. The food follows the same pattern, offering classic yet contemporary cocktails, lobster bisque, shucked oysters with fresh condiments and duck two ways. The service, the environment, the chef, the kitchen…all the pieces fit together to make Richmond Station a bitchin’ station.
2. Grand Electric-Toronto
Grand electric has a feel to it like no other place. It’s well…electric. The pozole, the spicy squid and the tacos (especially the arbol chicken and beef cheek) are some of the better things I have eaten this year. There’s a great booze list as well. Despite the long waits and sometimes shady service, the overall feel is hip and cool, catalyzed by loud, hard rap and funky yard sale decor. It’s not clear if the second floor expansion will change the vibe but it shouldn’t change the food on the relatively static but well executed menu. In the meantime, there are no surprises. You’ll get what you expect with Grand Electric; the “it” factor…but first you gotta put your name on the waiting list.
1. Sidedoor- Ottawa
The Sidedoor experience started with impeccable service the minute I walked in and continued until I left. There was a great cocktail list and the food was even more impressive. The tuna sashimi might have been the best thing I ate all year and the sinful donuts were a great end to the meal. I was treated to a fantastic pickle tray that wasn’t even on the menu, which contained everything from melon rind to sunchoke to sea asparagus. The tacos were just fine as well. Sidedoor is an example of a perfect storm in which the service, food and environment collide for a truly memorable dining experience. It was so addictive, the next time I went to Ottawa I walked through the cold at 11 pm on a Monday night praying that by some miracle they’d be open so I could indulge again. They weren’t.