Recently reviewed

Haven’t reserved for Valentine’s Day yet? Fear not! These restaurants don’t take reservations, so you may actually get a table.


Café

Red Tea Box

696 Queen W, at Euclid, 416-203-8882. What appears to be an upmarket boutique specializing in over-the-top desserts and pricey estate teas gives way to a secluded rear terrace and a cozy coach house outfitted in French country chic. Best: for $28 afternoon tea (2 to 5 pm), passionfruit chocolate tiramisu chocolate double lavender and chocolate passionfruit caramel tarts candied rose petal white chocolate vanilla cake burnt marshmallow brownie Love Bites spiced triple chocolate mousse and white chocolate raspberry wedding ring cakes. Open Monday, Wednesday and Thursday 10 am to 6 pm, Friday and Saturday 10 am to 7 pm, Sunday and holidays 10 am to 5 pm. Closed Tuesday. No reservations. Unlicensed. Rating: NNNNN

Charcuterie

The Black Hoof

928 Dundas W, at Gore Vale, 416-551-8854. Jennifer Agg and Grant van Gameren’s smoky 40-seat late-night paean to pork has been downtown’s hottest table since its launch in the fall of 08. Maybe not the best choice for a first date with a vegetarian. Best: chef’s signature seared foie gras on brioche with onion jam grilled skewers of beef heart à la Portuguese with salsa verde sea scallops with bone marrow sauce horse tartare sandwiches. Average main $18. Open Thursday to Saturday 6 pm to 2 am, Sunday and Monday 6 pm to midnight. Closed Tuesday, Wednesday, some holidays. No reservations. Licensed. Access: two steps at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNNNN

Contemporary

Foxley

207 Ossington, at Dundas W, 416-534-8520. Tom Thai’s 30-seat pan-Asian-goes-Portuguese boîte has been one of the busiest bistros on Oz since the get-go. So what if he doesn’t take reservations? Leave your cell number, go for a drink at the Communist’s Daughter around the corner and he’ll call you when a table’s free. Best: sautéed Szechuan-spiced frog’s legs in poblano pepper ratatouille slow-braised beef cheeks in red curry finished with fresh coriander brontosaurus-sized slabs of grilled side ribs in caramelized shallot glaze sticky black rice pudding in coconut milk with mango. Average main $16. Open for dinner Monday to Saturday 6 to 11 pm, bar till close. Closed Sunday, holidays. No reservations. Licensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNNN

Italian

Local Kitchen

1710 Queen W, at Roncesvalles, 416-534-6700. The food philosophy of Michael Sangregorio and Fabio Bondi’s candlelit, 28-seat southern Italian bistro is all in its name: slow-cooked locally sourced comfort food. Best: to start, panko-crusted olives stuffed with rabbit bitter radicchio tossed with roasted squash and hazelnuts in Gorgonzola vinaigrette house-made shareable pastas like ziti with house heirloom tomato sauce à la Carmela Soprano secondi like Ontario white fish over Brussels sprouts and fried pig’s jowl guanciale. Average main $15. Open Tuesday to Sunday 5:30 to 11 pm. Closed Monday, holidays. No reservations. Licensed. Access: barrier-free. Rating: NNN

Pizzeria Libretto

221 Ossington, at Dundas W, 416-532-8000. Now that Rocco Agostino and Max Rimaldi’s insanely popular Ossington trat does lunch, snagging a table at Toronto’s best pizza parlour has just got that much easier. Show up any other time after 7 pm and join the queue. Friendly if rushed service, some communal seating. Best: deep-fried buttermilk-battered calamari with nutty chipotle Romesco sauce Neapolitan-style thin-crusted pliable pies dressed with Pingue prosciutto, arugula, heirloom tomato and garlic classic Margherita with San Marzano tomato sauce and Fior di Latte mozzarella and oven-crisped basil leaves duck confit with caramelized Bosc pear and minimal mozza’. Open Monday to Saturday noon to 11 pm, Sunday 4 to 11 pm. No reservations. Licensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNNNN

Terroni on Adelaide

57 Adelaide E, at Toronto, 416-203-3093. Since it opened on Queen West back in 92, this string of southern Italian trats has become one of Toronto’s favourite pizzerias. Why, there’s even one in West Hollywood! Warning: no substitutions! Also: 720 Queen W, at Claremont, 416-504-0320 1 Balmoral, at Yonge, 416-925-4020. Best: you decide: 12-inch uncut thin-crusted pies artfully decorated with minimal sauce and cheese, or barely-there cracker crusts with fewer toppings than found on a slice most elsewhere? And whatever you do, don’t ask for a knife to cut them. You’re supposed to fold. Average main $16. Open Monday to Saturday 9 am to 11 pm. Closed Sunday. No reservations. Licensed. Access: two steps at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN

Spanish

Pepe @ Torito

276 Augusta, at College, 416-961-7373. The darkly lit Barcelona-like basement lounge of this popular Kensington tapas bar is even more romantic than the upstairs room. And the menu’s identical! Best: chewy Chilean tripe stew with chickpeas and Manchego cheese smoked trout over new potatoes daubed with creamy avocado mayo beef tongue ‘n’ cheeks slow-braised in classic mirepoix pomegranate-glazed quail over sweet calabaza pumpkin mash grilled shrimp al ajillo drenched in butter and garlic. Average main $10. Open Thursday to Sunday 5 to 11 pm. Closed Monday to Wednesday. No reservations. Licensed. Access: 10 steps at door, washrooms on same floor. Rating: NNNN

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