Top 10 RESTAURANTS

Rating: NNNNNWithout doubt, 2000 was the year of the chef. As a new wave of 20-something talent turned the restaurant.


Rating: NNNNN

Without doubt, 2000 was the year of the chef. As a new wave of 20-something talent turned the restaurant scene on its ear, a few of the old guard proved they still have some tricks under their toques. Toronto has never eaten so good.


1Tempo 596 College, 531-2822

Tempo co-owner and chef Tom Thai upped the sushi stakes by combining the freshest possible ingredients with creative brilliance to fashion some of the most dazzling food in town — of any genre. Wonderful stuff like Spanish mackerel or grouper cheeks followed by an untrimmed raw scallop on its half-shell, finished with sake lobster maki drizzled with white truffle oil and a grilled fiddlehead handroll. Best of all, Tempo now takes reservations.

2Patriot 131 Bloor West, 922-0025Never has a spot been so appropriately named. Stellar chef David Chrystian reinvents Canadian cuisine in ways inconceivable to Madame Benoit. She might recognize tourtiere and poutine — though certainly not the way Chrystian transforms them — but I’m positive seared venison with cocoa spaetzle would throw her for a loop. Beautiful room, smooth service, a revelation.

3Susur 601 King West, 603-2205.The best $350 dinner I’ve ever had.

4Focaccia 17 Hayden, 323-0179In an unpretentious boite on a side-street near Bloor and Yonge, ex-Couillard sous Sam Gassira makes magic with forward-looking Mediterranean-inspired mains. Classic meets creative in dishes like braised rabbit with savoy-stuffed “dirty” rice and veggie gumbo or duck confit alongside shrimp ‘n’ water-chestnut dumplings over leek fricasee. A rising star.

5Roxborough 1055 Yonge, 323-0000Unfortunately, both the uptown crowd and the downtown crew find Elaina Asselin’s lovely Rosedale supperclub’s Summerhill location a culinary Scarberia. Too bad — when Asselin’s in peak form, there are few in town who can match her expertise.

6Brar sweets 2646 Islington, 745-4449 755 Dundas West, Mississauga,905-848-3933 199 Advance Road, 905-799-1625.Forget Gerrard’s Little India. The new Indo scene can be found in the burbs at modest joints like this southern Indian vegetarian take-away. Zero decor, but simply fabulous food.

7Jules 147 Spadina, 348-8886Although this insanely popular French eatery doesn’t look it, the basic francophone menu is the real thing. Terrific quiche, crepes and steak bavette at ridiculously inexpensive prices. Incroyable!

8Tournayre Patisserie 1856 Queen East, 693-7997As is this tiny cookbook-correct recreation of a Parisian bakeshop. Spectacular house-made croissants, tarts and breads mix it up with roughly textured pate on baguette and the best bread pudding in town. Weekend lineups.

9Bar One 924 Queen West, 535-1655With a pedigree that includes two of Toronto’s most happening boites — Bar Italia and Ellipsis — it’s no surprise that this condo-land eatery has taken off. A scenester zoo at night, few realize this cool lounge serves first-class brunches seven days a week.

10El Sol 1448 Danforth, 403-8074Far and away the best Mexican restaurant in Toronto, this laid-back family-run affair features the finest mole chicken, chile rellenos and guacamole ever to make it across the border. Co-owner and chef Yolanda Paez is a sheer delight both in the kitchen and out front meeting customers.1. The return of the $40 — and up! — main course. An 80s revival we can do without.2. Restaurant rage. The recent industry boom has led many non-professional first-timers to open spots with equally untrained staff. Bad food coupled with bad service is an insult. Refuse the abuse!

3. P.R.-promoted corporate steak-houses and hotel dining rooms geared to business types. Don’t believe the hype!

Cafe Monaco, Ikea’s Cafeteria, eatons’ CuiScene, Over Easy, Sugar, Fressen and Diablo. * stevend@nowtoronto.com

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