Today, please enjoy Lara O’Brien’s Toronto dining recommendations, just in time for the film festival!
It’s that time of year in Toronto when the glitterati descend upon us for the Toronto International Film Festival. For ten days, the city is filled with actors, wannabes, obsessed fans and paparazzi. The TIFF, one of the finest film festivals in the world, is where major movie deals are brokered and Oscar picks are made. Some of the most poignant and important films have been debuted here recently including Slumdog Millionaire, The Wrestler, and Rachel Getting Married.
But of course no film festival is complete without the schmoozing and the dining! Luckily, Toronto offers something for everyone. The big restaurants that cater to the stars such as Sotto Sotto and Joso’s are impossible to get into and really not worth it during the festival unless you’re more interested in stargazing than eating. Here are some of my top picks for great food, great atmosphere and still close to it all.
Some of the most innovative French food in Toronto is coming out of Loire (119 Harbord St. 416-850-8330). Chef Jean-Charles Dupoire knows what to do with fish—a lost art, I’ve found recently. Favourite dishes include their Riesling cured trout, which is salty, sweet and the perfect texture. Mains include perfectly cooked sea scallops with Jerusalem artichoke puree, moist duck confit and a delicious lamb burger. Local fish such as Lake Erie whitefish and trout are always in rotation. Decently priced wine list. Reservations recommended.
Terroni’s (720 Queen St. West, 1 Balmoral Ave., 57a Adelaide St. East) is a Toronto staple and with three spots around the city, you can always get a table. Serving up authentic Southern Italian cuisine, this is legitimate Italian fare. The pizzas and pastas are the way to go. Pizza Smendonzzata is a no-brainer with sausage, onions and gorgonzola. The St. Nicola da Bari is a Southern Italian dream with capers, onions and real Italian tuna in olive oil. All the pasta is homemade and too good to name them all. Lots of unique Italian wines offered by the glass. No reservations taken.Editor’s note: I still have dreams about the Pizza Puzza at Terroni’s.
This College Street staple still delivers after so many years. The appeal is the simple food and fabulous patio. Giancarlo’s (41 Clinton St., 416-533-9619) serves probably the best carpaccio in the city. Perfect filet mignon is paired with 12 year old balsamic and the best parmigiano. Their pasta limone will keep you coming back for its ethereal lemon cream combo—heaven in a bowl! Also recommended are the whole grilled fish deboned table-side and the superb lamb chops. Wine list is great but can be pricey. Reservations recommended.
La Palette (256 Augusta Ave. 416-929-4900) is a rough gem tucked away in Kensington Market that serves up great French bistro staples. Their steak frites never disappoints. Not to be missed, if you’re not squeamish, is their Quack and Track: one leg of superb duck confit and a small filet of Quebec horse tenderloin. The room is small and boisterous, adding to the French charm. The prix fixe is a deal at $32, offering an app, main and dessert. Obscure and sophisticated wine list that won’t break the bank. Reservations recommended.