Why chow down at Club Monaco when, for the same prices, you could be dining at Chanel? Well, not actually Chanel, but upstairs from its atelier in the Colonnade. Since last February, wunder-chef David Chrystian has been wowing Toronto with his audacious take on indigenous Canadian cuisine at Patriot (131 Bloor West, 922-0025).
Impress festival-goers from out of town with lunch mains like lobster omelette with potato-fennel salad ($14.50), prime-rib au jus on potato-sourdough focaccia with frites ($10.50) and Madame Benoit-inspired tourtière with mesclun greens ($9.50). Plus prix-fixe dinners at $25.
Focaccia has two distinct faces, one haute, the other home cookin', both plainly superb. The fancier facet (17 Hayden, 323-0179) offers first-rate fare from chef Sam Gassira in a classy but cozy setting. Lunches feature dishes like duck confit with braised red cabbage ($13) and osso buco spiked with anchovy-infused portobello gravy ($14). Dinner rocks with roasted East Coast salmon over saffron risotto piled with asparagus and pooled with vanilla essence ($18).
Focaccia's other half (13 Hayden, 922-8171) specializes in old-school southern Italian classics perfect for takeout. Wedges of frittata and pressed sandwiches stuffed with grilled veggies and smoked provolone (both $5) make excellent between-film bites.
Around the corner, Biryani House (6 Roy's Square, 927-9340) ladles up wallet-friendly Indian vegetarian thalis -- two curries, basmati, raita, salad and pappadam -- for only $4.50.
One over, Ritz Caribbean Food (10 Roy's Square, 972-7480) can fix up anyone with a jerk jones (half-chicken $5) or a craving for curried veggies ($5 small/$6 large).
At $150 per couple, the tasting menu at Senses (15 Bloor West, 935-0400) is probably beyond most festers' budgets. But their street-level food shop is slightly more reasonable. Fancy a lobster club on white ($10.95), or chicken and portobello mushroom on Ace baguette ($9.95)? Or go full-out luxe with cold lobster-studded mashed potatoes ($2.95/100 grams).
'Course, they can't compare with the ultra-cheap (59 cents/ 100 grams) creamy potato salad at Value-Mart's deli counter (55 Bloor West, 923-8831) in the lower level of the ManuLife Centre. For the same price, there's coleslaw and macaroni salad, too. Pair this up with a two-and-a-half pound rotisserie chicken ($6.99) and fashion a major picnic in the park.
As well, Bento Nouveau has set up a stand at Value-Mart's entrance, where a sushi assembler -- he's no Hiro -- rolls up fresh vegetarian futomaki ($2.99), California rolls ($3.99) and Samurai sushi combos ($5.99) with actual raw shrimp, salmon and tuna.