Sample ReviewsThe price rating shown in the heading above each entry indicates the average cost of dinner for two with a modest wine, tax and tip. The cost of dinner, bed and breakfast (if available) is given in parentheses. Where one, two or three stars also appear in the heading, this indicates that, in our opinion, the restaurant has something unusual or outstanding to offer. Restaurants that represent exceptional value for money are indicated by the presence of a pointer. The map number assigned to each city, town and village gives its location on one or more of the maps at the front of the book.
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Zest has won numerous awards for its exquisite Japanese cuisine. Actually, what they do is a fusion of Japanese and Italian. They have created an intimate space of warm colours, textures and intoxicating scents. When we were last there we began with cream-of-cauliflower soup topped with flakes of prosciutto, and went on to a seafood sunomono filled with dungeness crab, tiger prawns, octopus, surf clams and wakame seaweed—an amazing blend of flavours and ingredients. They also offer sushi and sashimi rolls stuffed with albacore tuna, sockeye salmon, organic greens, cucumber and flying-fish roe. Their wild sablefish is marinated for twenty hours with yuzu juice, sautéed kale, beets and togarashi chick peas; their roasted breast of duck is served with organic quinoa, fried leeks, smoked tomatoes and mustard-greens and their deep-fried panko-crusted pork tenderloin comes with a pea-shoot salad dressed in sweet miso. Omakase (placing your trust in the chef) plays an essential part at Zest. You can safely place your trust in the chef’s sashimi, his five-piece sushi or his vegetable tempura. An Omakase dinner costs all of 90.00. This is more than most sushi bars, but it’s worth it. Look for Zest behind a Starbucks at the corner of W 16 Avenue and Macdonald Street.
Blink has wonderful service. The waiters not only bring your meal promptly and with a smile; they also know the score of the current baseball game and will hug you if your team wins. The kitchen likes to start with a parfait of foie gras or a gorgeous squash soufflé. Wild Pacific halibut may follow, crusted with bone marrow. Rib-eye of beef is always on the menu and so is Arctic char. The meal will end with a lovely chocolate pâté with ginger ice cream. There’s an unusual Long Meadow chardonnay to drink and also a half-bottle of Blue Mountain for only 30.00. The Long Meadow is quite a bit more.
Last year Patrick Kriss opened what has to be the best restaurant in Toronto. Here he offers a five-course tasting menu priced at 89.00 a person. With wine, service and taxes an evening at Alo costs almost 300.00—and it’s worth every penny. The critics all say, and it’s true, that what makes Alo is Kriss himself. His cooking is superlative. He begins with a corn sorbet with buttermilk and amaranth, foie gras with king oysters and veal trotters, dungeness crab with lime and spices, hamachi with barese cucumbers and continues, without taking a breath, with rack of Yorkshire pork and Dorset shoulder of lamb and ends with a dark chocolate ganache or a yellow-plum sorbet with bulgur and bitter almond. It’s hard to pick and choose among these pleasures, but our favourites are the pain au lait (made with butter churned in-house and a glass of madeira) and the dungeness crab with Carolina gold rice and lime. All these dishes are meticulously thought out and prepared in classical Parisian style. The wine-list is spectacular; the service is superb.
Normand Laprise and Christian Lamarche still live in a world of surprises, most of which are to be found among their appetizers and amuse bouches. The most remarkable of these is the sea-urchin, adorned with oysters, ginger, soy, daikon and cucumber. (There are also scallops with sumac and gin and carpaccio of venison with sea snails.) It’s a good idea to ask for two appetizers and pass on the main courses, which, apart from the rack of sucking pig, are more pedestrian. The wine-list too is full of surprises. There are only half a dozen Canadian wines, but at the other end of the list there’s a grand-cru Saint-Emilion and a Mouton-Rothschild for 2000.00 a bottle. For ordinary people there’s a sauvignon blanc from Naramata for 81.00 and a chardonnay from the Beamsville Bench for 103.00. But Toque! is not really meant for ordinary people. It’s for people who are able and willing to pay for amazing delicacies presented in the most elegant surroundings.
Lighthouse Picnics have been offered for fourteen seasons now and they’re so popular that it’s wise to call ahead before you come. Jill Curran and her staff of thirteen make everything themselves and they can’t keep up with the demand. If you don’t have a booking, just remember that Ferryland is an hour’s drive from St. John’s and a thirty-minute walk from the parking-lot. The lighthouse was built in 1869 and operated by the same family for more than a century. It had deteriorated badly over time but the staff began restoration in their second year and finished the job in 2004. Ferryland has had a colourful history since it was founded by Lord Baltimore, but it has never been more treasured than it is today. Visitors are given a blanket and a flag to mark the place where they’re sitting. Then while they wait they get to watch the waves breaking on the rocks below and the whales surfacing and blowing. The picnics consist of a salad, a sandwich and a sweet, with a Mason jar of freshly-squeezed lemonade, all for 27.00. If it rains, you can sit inside. We like the sandwich filled with brie and chutney-glazed ham the best, but there’s plenty of seafood close to hand—cold-water shrimp, salmon, crab and curried chicken with mango. If you ask, they’ll even make you a gluten-free picnic.