245 Queens Quay W, at Lower Simcoe, 416-504-1020, amsterdambrewhouse.com, @AmsterdamBH With its 350-seat patio right on the lake at Harbourfront, this cavernous warehouse should be a tourist trap. Instead, it's a gastro-pub worthy of those of us who actually live here. An unexpectedly competent kitchen, quick service and great optics will make us return, but only when they can the annoying AM top-40 muzak they insist on inflicting on customers. Best: thin-crusted pizzas dressed with house-made beerwurst sausage, roasted garlic and wild mushrooms drizzled with a syrupy stout reduction; hefty house-ground brisket burgers with bacon, cheddar and beer-battered onion rings sided with sweet potato frites; to finish, root beer floats with vanilla bean ice cream and deep-fried Oreo cookies. Complete dinners for $45 per person (lunches $35), including tax, tip and a house-brewed beer. Average main $18. Open for dinner Saturday 5 pm to 2 am. Reservations accepted. Licensed. Access: barrier-free. Rating: NNN
Bar Isabel's tapas, like fried chicken and sticky eggplant, are superb.
797 College, at Shaw, 416-532-2222, barisabel.com, @barisabel797 Isabel? Bar Decibel, more like! Though ex-Black Hoof charcuterie king Grant van Gameren's latest taverna looks like it stepped right out of the back streets of Barthelona, its acoustics recall the nearest bowling alley. A small price to pay for some of the most skilfully executed tapas around. Best: to start, devilled duck eggs dressed with shredded salt cod and morcilla blood sausage; the mixed charcuterie platter - water-buffalo slinzega, pork jerky, hunter's sausage and imported Iberico ham, say - with candied apple mostardo and warm sourdough sprinkled with sea salt; southern-fried chicken over deep-fried eggplant drizzled in honey and chili flakes; grilled hanger steak with blistered shishito peppers, grilled spring scallions in classic romesco sauce on the side; to finish, salted chocolate mousse splashed with buttery olive oil. Complete dinners for $55 per person, including, tax, tip and a glass of cava. Average tapa $11. Open for dinner Saturday 6 pm to 2 am. Reservations accepted. Licensed. Access: barrier-free, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNNNN
Hit the buffet at Siddhartha Pure Vegetarian.
Siddhartha Pure Vegetarian
1471 Gerrard E, at Rhodes, 416-463-9777 Sister to Gautama down the block, this Subcontinental all-you-can-eat buffet is one of the tastiest in Little India. And the only one that doesn't feature butter chicken. Likeable servers steer first-timers to the good stuff. Best: from the buffet, deep-fried veggie pakoras and samosas; veggie szubji like saag paneer swirled with yogurt; stir-fried cabbage with mustard seeds; spicy eggplant with potatoes and green chilies; paneer in sweet red tomato sauce à la butter chicken; sweet ‘n' sour Manchurian-style meatless kofta meatballs; from the à la carte menu, fried lentil idly with fiery Sri Lankan-style sambar; the tandoori platter with smoky paneer, cauliflower and tofu on a bed of raw cabbage and red onion. Complete dinners for $25 per person (lunches $20), including tax, tip and a lime soda. Average la carte $10. Open for $10.99 lunch buffet Sunday 11:30 am to 3:30 pm. Unlicensed. Access: two steps at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN
Menu items and prices may have changed. Call restaurant for details.
With files from Steven Davey