Romantic restos

Indulge with your valentine at these hot spots



99 Yorkville, at Bellair, 416-961-2202. Though it looks like Karl Lagerfeld’s powder room, this swanky Parisian-style boutique lounge specializes in luxe mid-day noshes and extravagant desserts. Best: from the $55 afternoon tea, pots of dark Valrhona sipping chocolate finger sandwiches of cucumber and watercress smoked salmon with cream cheese egg salad with curried ‘n’ caramelized onion house-baked scones with Devonshire cream and lemon curd chocolate macaroons mini-eclairs stuffed with candied strawberry and apricot gelée shortbread cookies iced with lime cordial. Average main $20 dinner/$15 lunch or brunch. Open Tuesday and Wednesday 11 am to 10 pm, Thursday to Saturday 11 am to close. Brunch Saturday and Sunday 11 am to 5 pm. Afternoon tea Tuesday to Sunday 3 to 5 pm. Closed Monday, holidays. Licensed. Access: six steps at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN



96 Tecumseth, at Whitaker, 416-913-5830. Located in an obscure west-side side street in the converted row house once home to Susur Lee’s legendary Lotus, owner/chefs Jason Inniss and Bertrand Alépée’s intimate resto features a seasonal contemporary French card as assured as it is spectacularly plated. Best: from the à la carte menu, house-smoked Ocean Wise BC salmon tartare with warm confit potato salad grilled Cumbrae bavette with roasted bone marrow and buttercup squash purée chocolate bread pudding with rum-raisin ice cream. Average main $26. Open for dinner Tuesday to Saturday 6 to 10:30 pm. Closed Sunday, Monday, holidays. Licensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms through kitchen. Rating: NNNN

Harbord Room

89 Harbord, at Spadina, 416-962-8989. Cory Vitiello’s (the Drake, Scaramouche) intimate 35-seat supper club features a sophisticated comfort food card in a stylish setting made for romance. Better still, the kitchen stays open till 2 am seven nights a week. Best: to start, a trio of oysters du jour fresh papardelle with slow-braised rabbit, oyster mushrooms and leeks the 7-ounce house burger on eggy Fred’s bun topped with sharp cheddar and ripe plum tomato, sided with skin-on fries, house-made ketchup and Asian arugula slaw in tarragon sherry vinaigrette to finish, rice pudding with brandied raisins, caramelized plum sauce, and warm house-baked churros. Average main $25. Open nightly 6 pm to close. Licensed. Access: three steps at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNNN


1 Benvenuto, at Avenue Rd, 416-961-8011. Since its launch in 1980, this celebrated room with its spectacular skyline view has been synonymous with deluxe dining. Under co-owner/chef Keith Froggett’s careful direction, the beautiful room continues to be a benchmark of culinary excellence. But book the window tables while you can – word has it, the ‘Mouche will soon be condos. Best: to start, fresh oysters on the half-shell, or hand-cut Kerr Farm steak tartare with cornichons mains like salsa-verde-crusted rack of lamb sided with eggplant and chèvre-whipped potatoes, artichokes and preserved lemon to finish, the signature coconut cream pie with white chocolate shavings and dark chocolate sauce. Average main $42. Open for dinner Monday to Saturday 5:30 to 9:30 pm. Closed Sunday (except Feb 14). Licensed. Access: barrier-free. Rating: NNN


1214 Queen E, at Jones, 416-463-6677. This intimate upscale dining room hidden behind bamboo curtains in three (!) adjoining east-side storefronts features acclaimed ex-Lolita’s Lust chef Laura Prentice’s Mediterranean-via-the-Orient carte. Best: starters like bulgogi-esque Miami Ribs glazed with dark soy, honey, slivered chilies and black peppercorns mains like Muscovy duck breast in lingonberry jus coupled with vanilla-scented scalloped yam to finish, Prentice’s legendary flourless chocolate cake, a closing salvo that’s been on her numerous cards for 30 years. Average main $24. Open for dinner Monday to Wednesday 6 to 10 pm, Thursday to Saturday 6 to 11 pm. Bar till close. Closed Sunday, some holidays. Licensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNNN


354 King E, at Power, 416-777-9339. The best resto in Corktown, Constance Guitard’s thoroughly adult 24-seat bistro comes built for romance, complete with red velvet curtains, well-spaced two-tops, friendly unobtrusive service, and a card of comfort food classics. Best: to begin, steak tartare with grilled baguette and cornichons mains like retro macaroni ‘n’ cheese with bacon, Grana Padano and Asiago vegetarian papardelle tossed with pine nuts, garlic, basil, tomatoes and Parmesan to finish, house-made desserts like lemon-curd cake with raspberry coulis. Average main $20. Open Tuesday to Saturday 5:30 to 10 pm. Closed Sunday, Monday, holidays. Licensed. Access: two steps at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNNN


Le Petit Gourmet

1064 Yonge, at Roxborough, 416-966-3811. Julia & Julia your favourite flick? Create your own diner à deux à la Child from the bounty of this long-running Parisian takeaway for a fraction of the cost of a fancy French resto. Best: slow-roasted chickens dusted with thyme sold by the kilo salads and sides like green beans with cauliflower, broccoli and chunked avocado in a lemony egg dressing scalloped-style potatoes in basic white béchamel sauce to finish, Gateau Basque, a rustic vanilla-custard-filled tart. Average main $9. Open Monday to Friday 7:30 am to 7 pm, Saturday 7:30 am to 6 pm. Closed Sunday. Unlicensed. Access: two steps at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN

Loire Casual Gourmet

119 Harbord, at Brunswick, 416-850-8330. 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, 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. 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


Big Ragu

1338 Lansdowne, at St. Clair, 416-654-7248. Dripping candles, checkered tablecloths and the soundtrack to The Big Night on the CD player make owner/chef Carmine “The Big Ragu” Accogli’s Old World menu even more authentic. Best: house-made gnocchi with tomato sauce, smoked Scamorza cheese and roasted peppers specials like pan-seared lamb chops in red wine reduction with roasted russet potatoes to finish (what else?), tiramisu. Average main $20. Open for dinner Sunday and Tuesday to Thursday 5 to 11 pm, Friday and Saturday 5 pm to midnight. Closed Monday. Licensed. Access: two steps at narrow entrance, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN


Mengrai Thai

82 Ontario, at Richmond, 416-840-2759. Hidden away in a converted 19th-century warehouse loft, Allan and Sasi Lim’s upscale Bangkok kitchen proves there’s more to Thai cuisine than bad pad thai. Best: Golden Pumpkin Soup sided with “crispy morning glory,” deep-fried flowering water spinach in light tempura famous #54 Red Curry, with as much fruit as chicken, in smooth coconut gravy laced with kaffir lime leaf. Average main $20/$12. Open for lunch Tuesday to Friday 11:30 am to 2:30 pm, for dinner Sunday to Thursday 5 to 10 pm, Friday and Saturday 5 to 11 pm. Licensed. Access: seven steps at door, washrooms on same floor. Rating: NNN


Cafe 668

885 Dundas W, at Claremont, 416-703-0668. Think vegetarian restaurants are grim cafés lit by fluourescent tubes and frequented by nutbars? This elegantly appointed split-level space – floor-to-ceiling glass, off-white banquettes – will persuade otherwise. Coming soon: brunch! Best: Southeast Asian-inspired dishes like a ketchup-free take on pad thai tossed with carrot, peanuts, cabbage, sprouts ‘n’ ‘shrooms #1 668 salad dressed with deep-fried tofu and toasted cashews in sweet Sriracha vinaigrette Summer Rolls of cellophane noodles, tofu, carrot, Thai basil and napa cabbage. Average main $13. Open Sunday to Thursday 5:30 to 9 pm, Friday and Saturday 1:30 to 10 pm. Closed some holidays. Licensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNNNN

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