1690 Queen W, at Roncesvalles, 416-533-2552, keriwacafe.ca.
Now that the Hoof Café's suckling pig eggs Benny and bone-marrow beignets are a thing of distant memory, our vote for Hogtown's most creative brunch goes to owner/chef Aaron Joseph Bear Robe's innovative midday weekend nosh. Best: to start, a basket of pastry chef Nis'ku Closs's baked goods - flaky petite croissants, carrot-cake muffins, perfect crumbly blueberry scones, buttery shortbread and a ginger snap or two; mains like new potato 'n' onion hash with sliced picnic ham, baked runny eggs, Kozlick's Triple Crunch mustard and funky adobo sauce: seared fatty pork belly confit over sautéed wild mushrooms, shallots and leek sided with organic greens and house-baked Red Fife toast spread with house-made butter; cinammon-bun bread pudding duck leg confit in bullberry sauce dolloped with crème fraîche and tossed with pea shoots.
Open for brunch Saturday 10 am to 2 pm, Sunday 10 am to 3 pm. Reservations accepted. Licensed. Access: barrier-free, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNNNN
Elle M'a Dit
35 Baldwin, at Henry, 416-546-3448, ellemadit.com.
Though the heavy Alsation carte at this très charmant Baldwin Village bistro might not suit a balmy August eve, come a chilly night, it fits the bill like a pair of fleece-lined Gortex gloves. Best: to start, tarte flambée dressed with hickory-smoked trout, fromage blanc, green olives and fresh dill on a flaky flatbread crust so thin it's almost gluten-free; mains like coq au vin with spaetzle laced with onion, mushrooms and slivered celery; velvety foie gras over gingerbread French toast; Baeckeoffe, an Alsatian shepherd's pie thick with slow-braised, short ribs, lamb shank and pork belly sided with greens in cranberry vinaigrette; to finish, another tarte flambée dressed with cinnamon-dusted apple.
Complete dinners for $50 per person (lunches $30), including tax tip and a glass of wine. Average main $20/$13. Open for lunch Tuesday to Friday 11:30 am to 2 pm, dinner Tuesday to Sunday 5:30 to 11 pm. Closed Monday, holidays. Licensed. Access: two steps at door, washrooms upstairs. Rating: NNNN
Don Don Izakaya
130 Dundas W, at Bay, 416-492-5292.
Kaiseki-Sakura's Daisuke Izutsu ditches pricy Japanese tasting menus for inexpensive tapas-style snacks geared to the after-work drinking crowd. Yes, they bang drums and shout occasionally, but the fun isn't as forced - or time-regulated - as the similar Guu. Best: heavily salted Crispy Shrimp complete with heads 'n' feelers; deconstructed Caesar salads of iceberg lettuce, carnation petals, parmigiano, puff-pastry croutons and very runny poached eggs; hay-smoked BC tuna with raw garlic and a line of sea salt; Hoppeta-Yaki, garlicky mashed potatoes, diced chicken and asparagus topped with shaved bonito flakes that, due to the heat, wriggle like worms on a rainy-day lawn.
Complete dinners for $35 per person (sushi lunches $20), including tax, tip and a discounted domestic beer. Average main $8. Open for izakaya dinner Sunday to Thursday 4 pm to midnight, Friday and Saturday 4 pm to 1 am; sushi lunch Monday to Friday 11:30 am to 4 pm, Saturday and Sunday noon to 4 pm. Licensed. Access: two steps at door, washrooms on same floor. Rating: NNNN