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Tons of restaurants, crossing cultures, every week


Leslie Jones

1182 Queen E, at Rushbrooke, 416-463-5663. George Wensley’s offbeat Leslieville eatery is a microcosm of cool: a gallery-style brick-walled storefront, an unusually inventive card – Wensley’s worked with Greg Couillard and Restaurant Makeover’s David Adjey – and a 60s stereo spinning vinyl. Best: to start, organic greens layered with Roquefort, toasted pine nuts and roasted beets in lemon yogurt dressing comfort mains like slow-roasted pulled pork tenderloin sided with paprika-dusted roasted potatoes and garlicky sautéed rapini orzo topped with tiger shrimp, scallops and mussels in chunky tomato sauce splashed with herb-infused olive oil spaghetti tossed with grilled chicken, artichoke hearts and Asiago thin-crust pizzas topped with Kristapsons smoked salmon, goat cheese, fresh dill, capers and scallions. Complete dinners for $50 per person, including all taxes, tip and a glass of wine. Average main $18. Open Wednesday to Saturday 5 to 10 pm. Closed Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, holidays. Licensed. Cash only. Access: barrier-free, but small washrooms. Rating: NNN


492 College, at Palmerston, 416-413-0005. Bill Sweete and Casey Bee could have opened Sidecar, the $24 Prix Fixe Sequel, as their next project but instead chose to give Toronto something we’ve never had: authentic Italian panini. And salad! Fresh-scrubbed servers, breezy La Dolce Vita vibe and cheap $20 bottles of plonk to boot. Best: grilled panini on Boulart’s ciabatta with buffalo mozzarella, oven-dried tomatoes and basil pesto others of Italian-style sausage, buttery fontina and onion slow-roasted in honey thyme-roasted chicken breast with bitter arugula, more fontina and garlicky red pepper mayo La Ferme prosciutto with Taleggio cheese and asparagus, all sided with watercress and arugula layered with shaved fennel and Parmigiano-Reggiano in shallot vinaigrette house-made peanut butter ice cream. Complete meals for $20 per person, including all taxes, tip and a glass of Chianti. Average main $10. Open Tuesday to Saturday 11:30 am to 9 pm, Sunday 11:30 to 3 pm. Closed Monday, some holidays. Licensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNNN



354 King E, at Power, 416-777-9339. When Constance Guitard launched her Corktown supperclub in 06, low-key and value-minded chef-owned-and-operated bistros in less than fashionable neighbourhoods were the exception rather than the norm. Since then, this delightfully grown-up 30-seat room has become a true dining destination. Best: start with steak tartare with grilled baguette and cornichons follow with mains like 10-ounce AAA strip loin steak frites with garlicky mayo retro macaroni ‘n’ cheese with bacon, Grana Padano and Asiago the house 8-ounce burger topped with aged cheddar, bacon, tomato, lettuce and red onion and sided with first-rate parsley-speckled frites vegetarian papardelle tossed with pine nuts, garlic, basil, tomatoes and Parmesan to finish, house-made desserts like lemon-curd cake with raspberry coulis. Complete dinners for $55 per person, including all taxes, tip and a glass of wine. Average main $20. Open Tuesday to Saturday 5:30 to 10 pm. Closed Sunday, Monday, holidays. Licensed. Access: two steps at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNNN


Loire Casual Gourmet

119 Harbord, at Brunswick, 416-850-8330. It ain’t as hip as the Double Deuce, but Jean-Charles Duploire and Sylvain Brissonnet’s charming 40-seat Annex bistro dishes up some of the most competent French-inspired plates in town. Smooth professional service and a carefully wrought wine list deliver substance over flash. Best: to start, warm St. John’s Bakery baguette aps like bitter endive ‘n’ radicchio slaw with watercress coulis and aged Sainte-Maure pistachio-dusted chèvre slow-braised pork belly over yellow-eyed bean and shaved Brussels sprout ragout mains like grilled local partridge over house-made linguine laced with nutty arugula pesto and buttery wilted kale to finish, chai-infused crème brûlée with mini-coconut muffins caramel bread pudding. Complete dinners for $65 per person (lunches $35), including all taxes, tip and a glass of wine. Average main $25/$17. Open for dinner Tuesday to Saturday 5:30 to 10 pm, for lunch Tuesday to Friday noon to 2:30 pm. Closed Sunday, Monday, holidays. Licensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN



604 King W, at Portland, 416-865-1600. If it’s a big room with a palpable buzz, this cavernous Italian trat in a warehouse boiler room is just the ticket. Rob Gentile’s casual card is just as rambunctious, including de rigueur house-cured salumi. For a more intimate evening, book a table in the darkly lit wine bar. Best: deep-fried pigs’ ears with fennel hollow gnocchi fritti dumplings paired with house-cured lardo skewers of grilled ewe in crushed peppercorn cracker-thin pizzas topped with pickled zucchini flowers and fresh ricotta, or sardines and endive duck-egg tagliatelle tossed with shredded duck ragu, mascarpone and fresh basil chocolate mousse cannoli in lemony bergamot custard. Complete dinners for $65 (lunches $40), including all taxes, tip and a glass of vino. Average main $24/$16. Open for lunch Monday to Friday 11 am to 3 pm, for dinner Monday to Wednesday 5 to 10 pm, Thursday to Saturday 5 to 11 pm. Closed Sunday, holidays. Licensed. Access: 10 steps at door, washrooms on same floor. Rating: NNN

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