Get a tremendous veal sammie at Schnitzel Queen.
778 St Clair W, at Arlington, 416-342-1906, pukka.ca, @pukkatoronto Harsh Chawla and Derek Valleau's stylish uptown bistro goes where few local Indian restos ever venture - upscale. A creative kitchen, smooth service and noise levels that allow for conversation make full houses the norm rather than the exception. Reservations essential most nights. Best: tapas-style starters like papri chat with puffed rice, ripe mango and Granny Smith apple dressed with pomegranate seeds in sweet yogurt dressing; spicy south Indian fried Chicken 65 garnished with nasturtiums; shareable mains like nutty butter chicken with wilted fenugreek leaves; smoky lamb chop "lollipops" à la Vancouver's Vikram Vij in minty cream sauce; sides of French green beans with caramelized onion and shredded coconut; baskets of buttery garlic naan and crisp whole wheat rotis; to finish, sundae-like Eton Mess in pomegranate syrup and sweet lassi cream topped with rosewater-soaked meringue. Complete dinners for $60 per person, including tax, tip and a glass of wine. Average main $22. Open nightly 5 to 10 pm; lunch Saturday and Sunday noon to 3 pm. Reservations accepted. Licensed. Access: barrier-free. Rating: NNNN
924 Kingston Rd, at Lawlor, 416-699-4444, thebeechtree.ca, @TheBeechTreePub Taking his culinary cues from UK gastro-pub heavyweights Heston Blumenthal and Marco Pierre White, first-time restaurateur Robert Maxwell's 34-seat upper Beach bistro isn't out to reinvent the wheel. Those who value substance over surface flash are bound to be impressed. Best: to start, ex-Opus sous Jamie Newman's Pringle-like fingerling potato crisps with buttermilk dip; sausage rolls made with artisanal pork shoulder from Sanagan's in proper puff-pastry shells with fruity house-made HP sauce; creamed cauliflower and stinky Stilton on toast dressed with curly English parsley; grilled double-thick Mennonite pork chops with flageolet beans and roasted Brussels sprouts; halves of roasted Moroccan-style chicken with spicy du Puys lentils and red harissa; 8-ounce burgers of shredded brisket topped with aged cheddar and pickled onion on house-baked brioche; to finish, flourless chocolate cake with Maldon sea salt and unsweetened crème fraîche. Complete dinners for $45 per person, including tax, tip and a glass of wine. Average main $20/$13 brunch. Open for dinner Tuesday to Saturday 5:30 to 11 pm. Reservations accepted. Licensed. Access: barrier-free, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNNN
328 Wellington W, at Peter, 416-935-0400, luckeerestaurant.com, @LuckeeTO Not content with Bent and Lee - not to mention his outpost in Singapore and the upcoming projects at the airport and One World Trade Center, New York City - superstar chef Susur Lee turns his visionary hand to dim sum with spectacular results. Best: cheung fun rice rolls stuffed with poached chicken, caramelized onion and crunchy deep-fried rice paper; dumplings of buttery lobster and asparagus, or spicy Swatow-style chicken with pickled celery; classic har gow stuffed with plump shrimp; minced chicken 'n' shrimp sui mai spiked with orange peel; deep-fried cubes of house-made tofu studded with fresh corn; braised beef and shiitake mushrooms bao; to finish, bite-sized spirals of sponge cake in chocolate ganache. Complete dim sum meals for $35 per person, including tax, tip and tea. Open for dim sum Saturday and Sunday 11 am to 2:30 pm; dinner Tuesday to Sunday 5:30 to 11 pm. Bar menu daily 4 pm to 1 am. Reservations accepted. Licensed. Access: barrier-free. Rating: NNNN
51B Winchester, at Parliament, 647-748-2121, kingyotoronto.ca, @Kingyotoronto This laid-back Cabbagetown izakaya proves you don't need the full-bore frat-boy party vibe of Guu and the like to have a good time. Where else can you enjoy shareable plates that are as much fun for the tongue as they are for the eye while a kitschy Japanese sci-fi movie unspools over the bar? Best: rice-paper-wrapped salad rolls stuffed with barbecued cha shu pork, cucumber and lettuce splashed with house-made teriyaki sauce and sweet kewpie mayo; tataki-style seared albacore tuna dressed with ponzu jelly and deep-fried garlic chips; cold al dente ramen noodles tossed with salty cod roe, barbecued pork, bitter radicchio and strips of both seaweed and scrambled egg; hamachi yellowtail carpaccio over organic mesclun, slivered red radish and daikon sprouts in a sesame-wasabi vinaigrette. Complete dinners for $40 per person, including tax, tip and a cocktail. Average main $11. Open for lunch Tuesday to Sunday 11:30 pm to 3 pm; dinner Sunday to Thursday 5:30 pm to 11:30 pm, Friday to Saturday 5:30 pm to midnight. Reservations accepted. Licensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNNN
237 Queen E, at Sherbourne, 416-363-9176, schnitzelqueen.blogspot.ca Though there are only three seats at the cramped lunch counter (four if you count the stool in the corner), this tiny long-running takeaway near Moss Park is responsible for some of the biggest meal deals in town. Regulars know to come early, after the lunch rush, or phone for delivery into the core. Best: enormous sandwiches on multi-grain ciabatta dressed with mayo and leafy lettuce, then stuffed with pounded, battered and fried-to-order pork cutlets the size of oven mitts; customize the basic model with the likes of lemony potato salad and caramelized onion (the Bernard) or diced bacon, sauerkraut and processed cheddar (the King); chicken schnitzel with sweet 'n' sour Chinese chili sauce; for the vegetarian, deep-fried Edam cheese or eggplant schnitzel with all the fixin's. Complete meals for $15 per person, including tax, tip and a drink. Average main $10. Open Monday to Friday 11 am to 7 pm. Closed Saturday, Sunday, holidays. No reservations. Unlicensed. Cash only. Access: barrier-free, counter seating, no washrooms. Rating: NNNN
Hawthorne Food & Drink
60 Richmond E, at Church, 647-930-9517, hawthorneto.ca, @hawthorneto Following the exit of Cowbell's Mark Cutrara, ex-Starfish and Frank chef Martha Wright takes the reins of this under-appreciated bistro in the financial district. A locally sourced seasonal carte, rock-bottom prices and polished service deserve a larger audience. Those standing in line for tables at the very similar Richmond Station two blocks away, take note. Best: quinoa salad with roasted eggplant, Brussels sprouts and edamame in VQA Riesling vinaigrette; pan-seared Lake Erie perch with corn 'n' crab chowder; chicken liver mousse "brûlée" with caramel sauce and stewed blackberries on crostini; smoky Memphis-style pork ribs with red cabbage and daikon; to finish, chocolate bread pudding with butterscotch ice cream and chocolate sauce. Complete dinners for $40 per person (lunches $28), including tax, tip and a glass of VQA wine. Average main $18/$12. Open for lunch Monday to Friday 11 am to 3 pm, dinner Tuesday to Saturday 5 to 10 pm. Closed Sunday, holidays. Reservations accepted. Licensed. Access: barrier-free. Rating: NNNN
Menu items and prices may have changed. Call restaurant for details.
With files from Steven Davey