Red Tea Box 696 Queen W, at Euclid, 416-203-8882.
The secret six-seat café hidden away in a shabby-chic coach house behind this exquisite patisserie and chocolatier has to be one of the most exclusive restos in town. And romantic. Where else can you laze on a chaise while nibbling Pacific Rim exotica washed down with small-farm biodynamic teas in a setting worthy of a Brontë sisters novel? Best: the $28 dessert bento, passion fruit caramel tiramisu, passion fruit tarts with lavender cream, burnt marshmallow or chocolate matcha; orange apricot passion fruit almond and chocolate passion fruit mud cakes; passion fruit custard strudel; steamed passion fruit pudding cake; by the slice, vegan gluten-free chocolate raspberry torte. Complete lunches for $35 per person, including tax, tip and tea. Open Monday, Wednesday and Thursday 10 am to 6 pm, Friday and Saturday 10 am to 7 pm, Sunday and holidays 10 am to 5 pm; afternoon tea Monday to Thursday 2 to 4:30 pm, Friday and Saturday 2 to 5:30 pm, Sunday noon to 3:30 pm. Closed Tuesday. No reservations. Unlicensed. Rating: NNNNN
Black Hoof 928 Dundas W, at Gore Vale, 416-551-8854, theblackhoof.com.
Now that Jennifer Agg and Grant van Gameren have announced the closing of the Hoof Café and its imminent transformation into Black Hoof & Company, the original Hoof will continue under the aegis of long-time charcuterie chef Colin Tooke. And you thought it was difficult getting a table before! Best: the notorious horse tartare "sammy" dressed with Spanish onion and a raw egg served on Thuet sourdough with the word "HORSE" written on it in hot sauce; Montreal-style smoked tongue with melted Gouda and brie on brioche with house-pickled gherkins; pig's head tacos layered with crunchy strips of pork and guacamole cream. Complete dinners for $55 per person, including tax, tip and a glass of wine. Average main $16. Open Thursday to Saturday 6 pm to 1 am, Sunday and Monday 6 to 11:30 pm. Closed Tuesday, Wednesday, some holidays. No reservations. Licensed. Access: two steps at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNNNN
Foxley 207 Ossington, at Dundas W, 416-534-8520.
Tom Thai may have made his name with creative takes on sushi at Canoe, Youki and Tempo, but this Oz pioneer has a style uniquely his own - Portuguese grills with an Asian accent. Couple that with friendly, efficient service and an inviting 30-seat room, and no wonder there are queues every night. Best: shareable tapas-style mains like brontosaurus-sized slabs of citrus-marinated, grilled then braised then grilled again pork side ribs in sweet chili-lime-soy sauce garnished with crispy threads of shallot; sautéed Szechuan-spiced frog's legs in poblano pepper ratatouille; slow-braised beef cheeks in red curry finished with fresh coriander; sticky black rice pudding in coconut milk with mango. Complete dinners for $50 per person, including tax, tip and a glass of wine. Average main $16. Open for dinner Monday to Saturday 6 to 11 pm, bar till close. Closed Sunday, holidays. No reservations. Licensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNNN
Tomi-Kro 1214 Queen E, at Jones, 416-463-6677.
Overshadowed by the far more raucous Gio Rana's next door, this low-key Leslieville trat now spans three storefronts, each more dimly lit than the last. Chef Laura Prentice (ex-Lolita's Lust, Gus and a list of other innovative eateries so long, if we were to include them all, we'd have no room for the sex ads at the back of the paper) drags dated Danforth-style grub into the 21st century. Best: foie gras crème brûlée with lingonberry jam; kalbi-like Miami Ribs glazed with soy, honey and Thai chilies; gorgeously fatty duck breast in sour cherry jus; chef's legendary flourless chocolate cake, a closing salvo that's been on her card for 30 years. Complete dinners for $65 per person, including tax, tip and a glass of wine. Average main $23. 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
Zocalo 1426 Bloor W, at Sterling, 647-342-1567, zocalobistro.com.
Who could've imagined that the most exciting local chef since Susur Lee would be cooking in a super-laid-back café in the middle of nowhere (aka the Junction Triangle)? But that's where you'll find Joel MacMillan and his deconstructed card of idiosyncratic combos, no two bites the same. Starting this weekend, he serves these genre-defying confections five nights a week. Best: vegan parsnip 'n' turnip purée sided with mini double-cream brie grilled cheese sandwiches and mincemeat jam; "broken bread sandwiches" of chicken in pink peppercorn gravy with golden beet and horseradish slaw and roasted mixed onion mash on St John sourdough sided with a garden's worth of organic greens in red wine vinaigrette; at dinner, seared lamb loaf in mushroom jus over warm pickled peppercorn potato salad. Complete dinners for $45 (lunches $30), including tax, tip and an organic lager. Average main $14/$10. Open Wednesday to Monday from 10 am, dinner 5 to 10 pm. Bar till close. Closed Tuesday, some holidays. Licensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNNNN
Pizzeria Libretto 221 Ossington, at Dundas W, 416-532-8000, pizzerialibretto.com.
A runaway smash since it opened in the fall of 2008, Rocco Agostino and crew's insanely popular upscale pizza parlour is planning to launch its second location this summer on the Danforth. Until then, you'll have to wait in line with everyone else. Can't stand the crowd? Take out! And, no, Libretto doesn't deliver. Bonus: three course $15 prix fixe at lunch. Best: beautifully blistered Neapolitan-style thin-crusted pies dressed with Pingue prosciutto, arugula, heirloom tomato and garlic; duck confit with caramelized pear and minimal cheese; definitive Margheritas with San Marzano tomato sauce, fior di latte mozzarella and oven-crisped basil leaves; buttermilk-battered calamari with nutty chipotle Romesco sauce; lemony panna cotta with blueberry coulis. Complete dinners for $45 per person (lunches $30), including tax, tip and a tumbler of Chianti. Average main $15. Open Monday to Saturday noon to 11 pm, Sunday 4 to 11 pm. No reservations. Licensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNNNN