Every once in a while you wanna go nuts at a restaurant and pretend money is no object. Here are some spots that are worth forking out for.
FOCACCIA (17 Hayden, at Yonge, 416-323-0179) This unassuming boite on a back street near Bloor and Yonge belies the culinary creativity found within. Chef Sam Gassira joins the pantheon of artistes -- Patriot's David Chrystian, Sarkis's Greg Couillard -- who are shaking the foundations of Toronto's old-guard dining scene. Throw in smooth service and alarmingly low prices and watch the foodies flock. Best: ravioli stuffed with foie gras, lobster and onion with five-spice figs; duck confit salad with scallion marmalade, walnuts and taro chips; potato-crusted and tea-infused smoked salmon with crab and French lentils; pork tenderloin with date pesto, corn cake and creamed Swiss chard; pastry-free espresso cheesecake; superb house-baked breads. Complete dinners for $60 per person ($25 at lunch), including all taxes, tip and a glass of wine. Open for lunch Monday to Friday 11:30 am to 2:30 pm, for dinner 6 to 10 pm Tuesday to Saturday. Closed Sunday and holidays. Licensed. Access: one step at door, 18 steps to washrooms on second floor. Rating: NNNNN
GUS (1033 Bay, at Irwin, 416-923-8159) Lolita's Lust duo Johnny Katsuras and Laura Prentise bring their upscale take on Greek grub back downtown to digs that are downright swelegant. Savvy service, a chic but unpretentious vibe, cool tunes on the sound system and a well-drilled kitchen crew make Gus a hit from the get-go. Best: pan-seared tuna tossed with sea salt, crushed fennel seed and hollandaise-like avgolemono sauce; five-chop half-rack of roasted New Zealand lamb in a sour-cherry glaze; smoked double pork chop in reduction with stewed multicoloured bell pepper strips; à la carte sides like heavenly feta-infused scalloped potatoes, garlicky emerald rapini and coarse bulgar pilaf studded with dried fruit; starters such as blistered vine tomatoes with grilled mozzarella-esque Haloumi cheese, roasted beets with wilted dandelion greens or oversized meaty lima beans in pulpy tomato purée and creamy feta; for dessert, passion fruit Pavlova or divine rice pudding studded with pistachio 'n' apricot and served in a martini glass with a cinnamon swizzle stick. Complete meals for $65 per person, including all taxes, tip and a glass of wine. Open for dinner Monday to Wednesday 5 to 11 pm, Thursday and Friday 5 pm to midnight, Saturday 6 pm to midnight, Sunday 5 to 10 pm. Bar open till 2 am. Licensed. Access: barrier-free. Rating: NNNN
SUSUR (601 King West, at Portland, 416-603-2205) Susur Lee is one of the top chefs in the world today, and here's proof. Forget Lotus's shabby chic -- this cool, elegant room with suave service dishes up some of the most fabulous food that ever found its way to a plate. Occasionally, it borders on overkill, but what a spectacular way to go! Best: place yourself in the hands of a genius and order the $100-per-person multi-course tasting menu that features many of the à la carte lineup's greatest hits and leaves the senses reeling. And it's served backwards -- mains first, followed by appetizers. Truly a once-in-a-lifetime culinary experience. Complete dinners for $160 per person, including all taxes, tip and a glass of wine. Open for dinner Monday to Saturday 6 to 10:30 pm. Licensed. Access: slight step at door, washrooms on same floor. Rating: NNNN
ROUGE (467 Bloor West, at Brunswick, 416-413-0713) Sophisticated urban cool in an area known for sushi and falafel. In other words, Goldfish without the clutter. Best: deconstructed lobster ravioli strewn with crustacean meat, sauced in a seafood bisque and decked with chive antennae; lamb two ways -- Quebec leg and Australian rack with Pommes Dauphinois and seasonal veggies; melt-in-the-mouth seared foie gras with brioche toasts, roasted pear and citrusy sauce bigarade; lunchtime steak frites with green peppercorn sauce and matchstick frites; velvety seasonal soups like roasted fennel with curry and tarragon-infused oil. Complete meals for $50 per person ($25 at lunch), including all taxes and tip. Open for dinner Sunday to Thursday 5:30 to 11 pm, Friday and Saturday to 11:30 pm, and for lunch Wednesday to Saturday noon to 3 pm. Licensed. Access: barrier-free, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN