Recently reviewed

Tons of restaurants, crossing cultures, every week


Brunch

Debu’s

552 Mount Pleasant, at Belsize, 416-927-9340. Debu Saha’s Biryani House resurfaces uptown with an Indo fusion card that’s as innovative as ever. Chic contemporary digs, friendly service and a $20 three-course prix fixe brunch and lunch deal make the trek north worthwhile. Best: Masala Wedges, deep-fried Yukon Gold potatoes in chickpea batter studded with garlic, chilies and cumin seeds five-bean chaat, fresh black-eyed, green and chick peas tossed with kidney beans, edamame, red onion, Roma tomato and papri “crackers” in jaggery dressing ridiculously delicious garlic naan moist butter chicken in nutty raisin-sweet tomato gravy Goan cod curry in coconut cream carrot halva phyllo pastry purses with berry coulis, and pistachio gulab jaman. Complete brunches/lunches for $35 per person, including all taxes, tip and a glass of wine. Open for brunch/lunch Tuesday to Sunday 11:30 am to 2:30 pm, à la carte dinner Tuesday to Sunday 5:30 to 10 pm. Closed Monday, holidays. Licensed. Delivery. Access: one step at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNNNN

French

Loire Casual Gourmet

119 Harbord, at Brunswick, 416-850-8330. It ain’t as hip as the Double Deuce, but Jean-Charles Dupoire 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

Italian

Buca

604 King W, at Portland, 416-865-1600. If it’s a big room with palpable buzz you want, this hard-to-find Italian trat in a cavernous warehouse boiler room is just the ticket. Rob Gentile’s casual pasta, pizza ‘n’ panini card is just as rowdy, often showboating house-cured salumi. Best: shareable tapas of crisply deep-fried pigs’ ears laced with fennel hollow gnocchi fritti dumplings and house-cured lardo skewers of grilled ewe in crushed peppercorns cracker-thin oblong pizzas topped with house-pickled zucchini flowers and fresh ricotta, or sardines and endive duck-egg tagliatelle tossed with shredded duck ragu, mascarpone and fresh basil to finish, 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

Thai Vegetarian

Jean’s Vegetarian Kitchen

1262 Danforth, at Greenwood, 416-778-1388. Jean and Harry Seow (Rasa Sayang, Sawasdee) return from retirement – for the third time! – with their swankiest resto yet. This unexpectedly upscale 30-seat room, all caramel-coloured walls, sleek banquettes and beaming Buddha on the bar, now comes with an exclusively Southeast Asian vegetarian card. Everything’s available in vegan versions, too. Best: Pad Kee Mau, a ketchup-free take on pad thai thick with cauliflower, broccoli, basil and convincing faux shrimp rice-paper rolls packed with cellophane noodles, raw carrot threads and crunchy ribbons of cloud ear Golden Baskets, brittle pastry shells brimming with garden-fresh peas, corn, carrot and diced organic tofu Japanese eggplant with sweet peppers bitter mustard greens in garlic to finish, deep-fried bananas in honeyed batter. Complete dinners for $25 per person, including all taxes, tip and a pot of jasmine green tea. Average main $9. Open Tuesday to Sunday 5 to 10 pm. Closed Monday, holidays. Unlicensed. Access: barrier-free, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNNNN

Vegetarian

Calico

1226 Bloor W, at Brock, 416-536-1883. You can’t get much greener than former Fressen chef Jared Davis, who either grows most of the produce that makes its way onto his inventive vegetarian card in the resto’s backyard garden or buys it from nearby Dufferin Grove organic farmers’ market. Best: grilled lobster mushrooms with caramelized fennel and cashew cream quinoa-crusted tempeh with baked acorn squash, tomato-basil purée and kasha pillaf apple bourbon cobbler in coconut pastry gluten-free chocolate brownies with fudge sauce at brunch, egg or scrambled tofu frittata-style omelettes du jour with organic house greens and paprika-dusted home fries to drink, rosemary green iced tea. Complete dinners for $30 per person (lunches/brunches $20), including all taxes, tip and a juice. Average main $13/$10. Open for lunch Wednesday to Friday 11 am to 5 pm, dinner Wednesday to Saturday 5 to 9 pm. Brunch Saturday and Sunday 11 am to 4 pm. Closed Monday, Tuesday, holidays. Unlicensed. Cash only. Access: barrier-free, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNNN

Venezuelan

Arepa Cafe

490 Queen W, at Portland, 416-362-4111. Subtitled a “celebration of Venezuelan diversity,” this stylishly appointed space features a menu dedicated to arepas, the stuffed cornmeal griddle cake popular throughout Central and South America. This café’s takes are more elaborate than the norm, piled with savoury fillings and sided with unusually tasty salads. Best: the Adobo, roasted pork tenderloin kissed with peppery annatto and topped with a heap of sweetly caramelized onion and spicy avocado guasacaca salsa cachapa, corn kernel flapjacks finished with slabs of mozzarella-like queso and fresh basil sides of watercress, tomato and avocado salads in lemony vinaigrette dressed with assertively pickled red onion for dessert, chocolate-covered macadamia and caramel tarts to drink, lemonade sweetened with raw sugar cane. Complete meals for $20 per person, including all taxes, tip and a domestic beer. Average main $8. Open Monday and Tuesday 10 am to 7 pm, Wednesday to Saturday 10 am to 9 pm, Sunday 11 am to 6 pm. Closed some holidays. Licensed. Access: barrier-free, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN

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