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Tons of restaurants, crossing cultures, every week


BQM Diner

354 Queen W, at Spadina, 416-792-7792. Was there ever a more beloved downtown diner than the Stem? This Burger Shoppe offshoot manages to keep the spirit of the old greasy spoon – new, roomier booths, an industrial open kitchen – while greatly improving the quality of the grub. Handsome Ned would approve. Best: Stem Burgers, 6 ounces of cooked-to-order Rowe Farms organic ground beef topped with mesclun, tomato, meaty bacon and runny over-easy eggs on grilled whole wheat buns, skinny skin-on fries on the side thick beer-battered Spanish onion rings in panko crumbs sweetly pulled pork in poutine tofu burgers dressed with organic greens, balsamic-glazed beets and chèvre to finish, rice pudding. Complete meals for $25 per person, including all taxes, tip and a pint. Average main $9. Open Monday to Friday 8 am to 9 pm, Saturday, Sunday, holidays 9 am to 9 pm. Licensed. Access: barrier-free, washrooms in basement, booth seating. Rating: NNN



94 Ossington, at Humbert, 416-953-2356. Like some candlelit Moroccan boudoir, the LeVack Block’s Adam Baguley and Amber Honor Elson’s prototypical Oz storefront interior is painted a faux striped satin, a low-slung pillow-tossed banquette ringing the 30-seat casbah of a room. Ex-JKROM chef Laura Malin’s seasonal and locally sourced carte makes falling in love even easier. Service under former Spendido captain Adly Gawad is consummately professional, neither fawning nor aloof. Best: simple but rich heirloom tomato soup free-range chicken pot pie with sweetly braised red cabbage Ontario lamb shank with crispy sage leaves, roasted pumpkin polenta and Swiss chard for the vegetarian, balsamic-marimated portobello mushroom steaks with creamy green pea risotto to finish, baked Gala apples stuffed with currant ‘n’ oatmeal crumble over maple syrup pumpkin crème caramel with hazelnut biscotti. Complete dinners for $75 per person, including all taxes, tip and a glass of wine. Average main $25. Open for dinner Tuesday to Saturday (and Sunday Feb 14) 6 pm till close. Closed Monday, holidays. Licensed. Rating: NNNN



672 St Clair W, at Christie, 416-652-0075. No froufrou boîte, Carlos de Loddere and chef Claude Boulliet’s (ex-Pastis and Le Bistingo) relaxed 44-seat “resto du peuple” delivers home-style French flavours at accessible prices in a modern, airy room free of country kitsch. Best: the $22 three-course prix fixe – cream of tomato soup followed by salmon croustillant and classic crème caramel, say starters like main-sized garlicky moules marinière in white wine sopped up with Ace baguette rustic mains like supreme of crisply roasted chicken breast in lemony mushroom tarragon non-confit duck leg stewed in red wine, pearl onion and smoky bacon, both sided, like most entrees, with seasonal veg and buttery rounds of creamy polenta thinly sliced bavette with chunky frites for dessert, lemon tart chocolate mousse. Complete dinners for $45 per person (prix fixe $40), including all taxes, tip and a glass of wine. Average main $18. Open for dinner Tuesday to Saturday 5:30 to 10 pm. Closed Sunday, Monday, some holidays. Licensed. Access: barrier-free. Rating: NNN


Madras Masala

796 Bloor W, at Crawford, 647-342-4359. No relation to the late Madras Pantry on Queen West, this inexpensive and surprisingly polished south Indian spot on burgeoning Bloor West features more than a dozen different varieties of oversized crepe-like dosas, our favourite the Mickey Mouse. Friendly formal service and free parking, too. Best: crisp, thin 18-inch rice ‘n’ lentil flour dosa stuffed with spicy onion-laced potato sabji and sided with bowls of soupy sambar, and minced coconut and coriander chutneys like the Gunpowder, detonated with additional Tamil chilies wafer-thin Spring Dosa with stir-fried peppers, carrot, and cabbage house specials like chunky Chicken Chettinadu in aromatic gravy sweet ‘n’ sour Hakka-style Cauliflower Gobi Manchurian house-baked paratha. Complete dinners for $25 per person (lunches $20), including all taxes, tip and a Cheetah lager. Average main $10. Open Monday to Saturday 11:30 am to 10:30 pm, Sunday and holidays noon to 10:30 pm. Licensed. Access: three steps at door, washrooms on same floor. Rating: NNN


Tommaso’s Trattoria

400 Eastern, at Dibble, 416-466-0988. Located next to Rent A Wreck, Tommaso and Bambina Conti’s no-frills Italian cantina does a steady trade with value-minded locals and the nearby film studio crowd. While they can eat in, most do take-away. Best: from the antipasti bar, wilted rapini in horseradish vinaigrette al dente green beans with roasted red peppers in lemon dressing minty fava beans tossed with diced bacon the best breaded veal sandwiches this side of San Francesco $3 pizza slices topped with arugula, ricotta and basil daily specials like fall-from-the-bone veal shank in tomato sauce, chicken parmigiana or gorgeously fatty porchetta sided with roasted potatoes, lasagna and/or manicotti. Complete dinners for $20 (lunches $10), including all taxes and tip. Average main $10/$7. Open Monday to Friday 7 am to 10 pm, Saturday 8 am to 11 pm, Sunday and holidays noon to 10 pm. Closed some holidays. Licensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms on same floor. Rating: NNN


Gerrard Spaghetti & Pizza

1528 Danforth, at Rhodes, 416-463-7792. Sure, laugh at this this family-run 40-year-old pizza ‘n’ pasta parlour’s 70s decor – net curtains, maps on the wall, TV over the bar – but there’s nothing funny about its excellent pies. One of Toronto’s oldest pizzerias, it was originally located on Gerrard – hence the handle. And no, they don’t deliver. Best: the skinny-crusted Ricardo with roasted sweet red pepper, lightly brushed tomato sauce, quartered button mushrooms, sun-dried tomato, mozzarella, crumbled blue cheese and fresh basil the Nancy with nutty basil pesto, mild chèvre, fior di latte, and sliced Yukon Gold potato to take home, explosive bottled home-grown hot peppers in garlicky olive oil. Complete dinners for $35 per person, including all taxes, tip and a glass of wine. Average main $12. Open Monday 4 to 11 pm, Tuesday to Thursday 11:30 am to 11 pm, Friday 11:30 am to midnight, Saturday 4 pm to midnight. Closed Sunday, holidays. Licensed. Access: barrier-free, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNNN


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 11 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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