505 College St, Toronto, ON M6J 2J3, Canada
Bar Raval looks ordinary from the outside, but inside, the sinuous lines of the floor-to-ceiling mahogany woodwork—bar, walls, window frames—instantly bring Gaudí to mind. Created to mimic the spirit of Barcelona’s pintxos bars (in addition to the Catalonian influence of the decor, platters of food are laid out on the bar, as is the Basque pintxos tradition), the space is often packed. In the mornings, patrons sip lattes and enjoy doughnuts finished with a lick of chocolate and spiced hazelnut.
1 Benvenuto Pl
White tablecloths may have been cast aside at many Toronto establishments, but Scaramouche doesn’t play by trends. No barn-board tables or Edison bulbs can be found here. This swank uptown restaurant is a classic, having wined and dined customers—and topped many a restaurant list—for over 35 years. Take a tip from regulars and start the evening with the foie gras terrine before ordering entrées like Canadian grass-fed filet mignon or pork with hazelnut spaetzle and white asparagus. And, by all means, leave room for the coconut cream pie.
3328 Yonge Street
Shoushin is, hands down, Toronto’s finest destination for fish—and for convincing customers that they’ve somehow been transported to Tokyo. The fish isn’t gussied up with sauces and you won’t find a dragon roll in sight; instead, simplicity reigns supreme. The kitchen serves Edomae sushi, which is prepared in the most traditional way. (The ancient name for Tokyo is Edo.) Order either from the set menu or opt for an omakase dinner and leave the meal entirely in the chef’s hands.
1378 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M6K 1L7, Canada
The West End neighborhood of Parkdale, once considered an unsavory part of town, has undergone a transformation. One of the new arrivals is the Shameful Tiki Room, a Vancouver transplant with a kitschy Polynesian atmosphere. The cocktail selection emphasizes drinks made with rum and orgeat—tiki ingredients from the 1950s—particularly fruity, boozy punches. The best, dubbed the Volcano Bowl, arrives tableside in conjunction with a smoke machine, a thunderous voice-over, and a flaming “volcano” in the center of the drink vessel. It doesn’t get much more fun than this.
163 Spadina Avenue
Alo arrived on the Toronto foodscape when formal restaurants with tasting menus were becoming rare. Happily, chef-owner Patrick Kriss paid no heed to trends. Diners at this daring second-floor establishment enjoy a tasting menu of classically prepared French dishes like a steelhead trout topped with crème fraîche and caviar or a rib eye steak with béarnaise sauce. If you are not in the mood for an extravagant meal, or can’t get a reservation, opt for a seat at the bar for some well-crafted cocktails and snacks.