Recent Reviews

Rating: NNNNN CALIFORNIA ROLL & CRAZY SUSHI (320 Bloor West, 960-3888) Traditionalists may balk, but this L.A.-style sushi salon wraps unconventional.


Rating: NNNNN


CALIFORNIA ROLL & CRAZY SUSHI (320 Bloor West, 960-3888) Traditionalists may balk, but this L.A.-style sushi salon wraps unconventional ingredients — cream cheese?!? — in more familiar rice ‘n’ nori. Expect lineups at peak times for this compact, casually modern spot. Best: Japanese eggplant tempura with sweet soy dip Yummy Crispy, a trio of deep-fried rice-paper tortillas topped with diced spicy tuna Beef Negamaki, sirloin rolls stuffed with sliced green onions salted edamame, young green soy beans in the pod. Complete dinners for $20 per person, including all taxes, tip and a glass of sake. Open Monday to Saturday 11 am to 11 pm, Sunday and holidays noon to 10 pm. Fully licensed. Smoke-free. Delivery. Access: short step at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN

CHEF WONDIY (1671 Bloor West, 530-1609) All too often, Ethiopian dining means long-cooked veggie stews and overdone meat dishes so nearly shoe-leather that only Imelda Marcos could love them. But this fish-out-of-water space — think Tyrolean ski chalet — offers inexpensive made-to-order meals that defy the norm, all served on slightly sour, crepe-like injera. Best: steak tartare Kitfo in spice-spiked butter Gomen Wat, al dente collard greens and sweet green peppers goosed with ginger and garlic silky-smooth Shero Wat, roasted and pureed chickpeas bumped with berbere Ye’ Teematem, a lemon-dressed breakfast (!) salad of shredded injera, seedless tomato, raw onion and green chilies dusted with hellfire-hot mit’mit’a. Complete dinners for $20 per person, including all taxes, tip and a glass of beer. Open daily noon to midnight. Fully licensed. Access: four steps at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN
EASY (1645 Queen West, 537-4893) Funky luncheonette amidst the junk shoppes of Parkdale. All-day brunch everyday, soup ‘n’ sandwich combos, as well as after-5 pasta, steaks and stir-frys make this laid-back joint a hit with musicians and artists alike. Best: Huevos Divorciados — two eggs topped with both red and green salsas, cool refried black beans, chunky tomato-spiked guacamole, rosemary-scented home fries and toasted baguette with homemade ancho chili jam artichoke and tuna salad — hold the mayo — with nutty basil pesto on a grilled crusty Italian bun banana latte smoothies weekend brunch-only Belgian waffles. Complete meals for $15 per person including tax, tip and a glass of wine. Open Tuesday to Thursday 9:30 am to 5 pm, Friday and Saturday 9:30 am to 10 pm, and Sunday 9:30 am to 6 pm. Closed Monday and holidays. Fully licensed. Smoke-free. Barrier-free. Rating: NNNEL PALENQUE (653 St. Clair West, 656-0725) Not as authentically Mexican as it claims to be, this cute cantina has some very good dishes hidden in between mainstream taco, burrito and fajita platters. A large astroturf-carpeted backyard patio causes lineups every night despite the decidedly Tex-Mex menu. Best: Sopa De Marisco, spicy seafood soup thick with mussels, squid, a shrimp or two Chimichanga Tijuana, a deep-fried burrito stuffed with beef, chicken, chorizo or veggies sweet refried plantain dessert served with sour cream and a strawberry on a deep-fried plantain skin. Complete dinners for $30 per person ($14 at lunch), including all taxes, tip and a domestic beer. Open Monday 5 to 11 pm, Tuesday to Saturday noon to 11 pm, Sunday noon to 10 pm. Fully licensed. Smoke-free. Access: two steps to dining room, two steps to patio, washrooms in basement. Rating: NN
JEAN’S FINE FOODS CATERING (2326 Danforth, 422-0617) The couple responsible for two of Toronto’s pioneering Thai-Malay restaurants — Rasa Sayang and Sawasdee — return with this low-key take-away featuring the street foods of Singapore. Fear not, pyrophobes, unless fired with hot sauce, most dishes come moderately spiced. Best: Mee Goreng — saucy and slightly curried udon noodles mixed with shredded shrimp and chicken deep-fried bean curd with chewy black Chinese mushrooms, broccoli and red pepper vegetarian spring rolls stuffed with carrot, cabbage, glass noodles and split yellow peas dunked in garlicky honey dip deep-fried tofu with galangal-goosed peanut sauce spice-tacular homemade hot sauce bottled in-house curry paste and powder. Complete meals for $10 per person, including all taxes and tip. Open Tuesday to Sunday 5 to 10 pm. Closed Monday and holidays. Unlicensed. Smoke-free. Access: bump at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN
KATHMANDU KATHMANDU (505A Yonge, 924-5787) This unassuming spot on the strip is easy to miss, but it’s a true find. Non-greasy north Indian and Nepalese fare served as an all-you-can-eat buffet. Best: mixed veggie curry of cauliflower, eggplant, carrots and potato eggplant bharta cubes of lamb or goat in fiery tomato sauce $3.99 bargain takeout-only shredded tandoori chicken wrapped in naan, coupled with a mango lassi. Complete lunches for $10 per person ($25 at dinner), including all taxes and tip. Open daily for lunch 11:30 am to 3:30 pm and for dinner 5 to 11 pm. Fully licensed. Smoke-free. Access: short step at door, washrooms on same floor. Rating: NNN
MATAHARI (39 Baldwin, 596-2832) The only exclusively Malaysian spot in town, this five-year-old bistro serves first-rate dishes that mix Malay, Thai, Indian and Chinese flavours. But unless you ask otherwise, your meal will be as under-spiced as Geri Halliwell’s solo career. Best: Casbah cashew chicken with peppers, onions, nuts and ‘shrooms with tart tamarind bite Sambal with garlicky grilled shrimp, crunchy green beans and shallots achar-achar, the doubly named appetizer of lightly pickled veggies and pineapple dwarf bananas sauteed in rum and Kahlua. Complete dinners for $35 per person ($17 at lunch), including all taxes, tip and a glass of wine or bottle of beer. Open for lunch Tuesday to Friday noon to 2:30 pm, and for dinner Tuesday to Sunday 5 to 10 pm. Closed Monday. Fully licensed. Access: steep ramp at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN
OCEAN KING (256 Augusta, 972-6615) By choosing carefully, it’s possible to put together a satisfactory Szechwan/Thai spread at prices lower than most in Chinatown. A warning: the pad thai here is as dreadful as the decor. But hey, beer’s $1.99 and there’s a patio of sorts! Best: namesake Ocean King fried chow mein noodles thick with butterflied shrimp, large slices of chicken and barbecued pork, julienned carrot, and green-onion garnish Szechwan pork with green beans steamed oysters with salty black beans skewerless Singapore-style beef satay. Complete meals for $13 per person ($7 at lunch), including all taxes, tip and a domestic beer. Open Monday and Wednesday to Saturday 11 am to 9 pm, and Sunday noon to 9 pm. Closed Tuesday. Beer only. Access: four steps at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN
OPM DEN (418 Dundas West, 260-2688) Yes, it’s a silly name and, no, laudanum’s not on the menu. But this step-above Cantonese-slash-Szechwan spot combines stylish-for-Chinatown digs, cool tunes and better-than-most food. And there’s a curbside patio. Best: fiery eggplant with thin sirloin strips deep-fried bean curd with whole red chilies, carrots, giant snow peas and Chinese mushrooms dim sum like steamed soup dumplings, cold sesame-oil cellophane-noodle salad, and pan-fried potstickers stuffed with sausage. Complete dinners for $25 ($10 for dim sum lunch), including all taxes, tip and a domestic beer. Open daily 11 am to 11 pm. Fully licensed. Access: 10 steps at door, washrooms on same floor. Rating: NNN

QUEEN OF TARTS (1378 Bathurst, 651-3009). Obscenely rich pastries from a modest storefront on an anonymous strip, the Queen bakes truly regal desserts. Strictly takeout, this hidden treasure now supplies treats for Pusateri’s, North Toronto’s chi-chi foodie mega-store. Best: intense lime-infused custard tart crowned with shaved mango and papaya another of mocha-zapped chocolate layered with almond praline brittle bittersweet mole chocolate tart kicked with chipotle pepper bumbleberry crisp, a brown-sugar crusted crumble of berries black, straw, rasp, cran, and blue white, dark, and milk chocolate swirled brownies housemade ice creams and sorbets like caramel swirl, chocolate cherry, and shiro plum. Desserts from $4, including all taxes. Open Wednesday to Saturday 11 am to 6 pm. Closed Sunday to Tuesday. Unlicensed. Smoke-free. Cash only. Access: one step at door, no washrooms. Rating: NNNN
SINTRA (588 College, 533-1106) Upscale Portuguese bistro on the College Cal-Ital strip. Fancy if somewhat dated digs provide a backdrop for expertly grilled seafood that needs more oomph. Despite a cellar holding over 150 vintages, few are available by the glass. Best: Coelho No Churrasco — marinated grilled rabbit sauced with Madeira, sided with a timbale of smashed kidney beans, smoky pork chourico sausage, collard greens and cornbread crumbs. Complete dinners for $45 per person ($23 at lunch) including all taxes, tip and a glass of wine or a bottle of Portuguese beer. Open for lunch Tuesday to Friday 11 am to 3 pm, and for dinner Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday 5 to 10 pm, Thursday to Saturday 5 pm to midnight. Closed Monday. Fully licensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN
SPAHA (66 Harbord, 260-6133) If you’re so hip, why aren’t you here? Instant-nostalgic 90s decor, servers in sky-high platforms and a basement lounge decked out in chocolate brown make this the trendiest spot in town. Opens early and continues till really late with an all-hours brunch-to-supper menu showcasing reasonably priced better-than-most modern takes on classic bistro. Bingo! Best: deeply rich French onion soup with smoky Gruyère and Ace sourdough croutons paired with wine-steamed mussels in flavour-intense garlicky thyme-tomato broth duck confit with caramelized pear ‘n’ apple slices alongside grease-free frites slow-cooked veal chop, lamb sausage and ham cassoulet super salade Nicoise or wine-marinated portobello with walnuts, watercress and beets. Complete dinners for $22 ($15 at brunch or lunch) per person, including all taxes, tip and a glass of wine. Open Sunday to Wednesday 10:30 am to midnight, Thursday to Saturday 10:30 am to 3 am. Fully licensed. Access: barrier-free. Rating: NNN
SUSUR (601 King West, 603-2205). Susur Lee is one of the top chefs in the world today, and here’s proof. Forget Lotus’s shabby chic — this cool, elegant room with suave service dishes up some of the most fabulous food that ever found its way to a plate. Occasionally, it borders on overkill, but what a spectacular way to go! Best:place yourself in the hands of a genius and order the $100-per-person multi-course tasting menu that features many of the a la carte lineup’s greatest hits and leaves the senses reeling. Truly a once-in-a-lifetime culinary experience. Complete dinners for $160 per person, including all taxes, tip and a glass of wine. Open for dinner Monday to Saturday 6 to 10:30 pm. Fully licensed. Smoke-free. Access: slight step at door, washrooms on same floor. Rating: NNNNWONG’S (930 Bathurst, 532-8135) Funky little shack on the fringe of the Annex serving a cross-colonial jumble of Jamaican standards and oddball retro JA-stylee Chinese grub. Best: house chop suey with shrimp, chicken, pork and crisp veggies choy fan — ham, pork shoulder and stewed chicken in thyme gravy with rice ‘n’ red kidney beans red pea soup with slow-stewed beef, onion, potato and leaden hockey-puck dumpling. Complete meals for $12 per person, including all taxes, tip and an imported Red Stripe stubby. Open Monday to Thursday noon to 11 pm, Friday and Saturday noon to midnight. Closed Sunday. Fully licensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN

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