Weekend eating: March 15-16

Dinner Saturday night, brunch Sunday morning.


Bar Buca

75 Portland, at King W, 416-599-2822, barbuca.com, @barbucatoronto Behind the anonymous facade of a first-floor condo storefront lies the biggest thing to hit the King West strip since half-price wings at the Wheat Sheaf. The cachet of the original trat will get them in the door, but Rob Gentile’s moderately priced Tuscan-style tapas and all-day kitchen open seven days a week till 2 am will make them regulars. If they can get in, of course. Best: bruschetta dressed with duck yolk, beech mushrooms and shaved black truffle crisp baby artichokes with lemony zabaglione custard house-baked focaccia panini with virgin mozzarella and preserved cherry tomatoes, or porchetta with apple mostardo goat ‘n’ ricotta meatballs in tomato sauce studded with raisins at brunch, pork-blood crepes with chocolate-coated figs and buffalo-milk crème anglaise semolina pancakes layered with lemony mascarpone, crumbled pistachio and candied citrus in grappa-fortified maple syrup. Complete dinners for $40 per person (lunches/brunches $30), including tax, tip and a glass of wine. Average main $10. Open for dinner Saturday 4 pm to 2 am. No reservations. Licensed. Access: barrier-free. Rating: NNNN


51B Winchester, at Parliament, 647-748-2121, kingyotoronto.ca, @Kingyotoronto This laid-back Cabbagetown izakaya proves you don’t need the full-bore frat-boy party vibe of Guu and the like to have a good time. Where else can you enjoy shareable plates that are as much fun for the tongue as they are for the eye while a kitschy Japanese sci-fi movie unspools over the bar? Best: rice-paper-wrapped salad rolls stuffed with barbecued cha shu pork, cucumber and lettuce splashed with house-made teriyaki sauce and sweet kewpie mayo tataki-style seared albacore tuna dressed with ponzu jelly and deep-fried garlic chips cold al dente ramen noodles tossed with salty cod roe, barbecued pork, bitter radicchio and strips of both seaweed and scrambled egg hamachi yellowtail carpaccio over organic mesclun, slivered red radish and daikon sprouts in a sesame-wasabi vinaigrette. Complete dinners for $40 per person, including tax, tip and a cocktail. Average main $11. Open for dinner Saturday 5:30 to 11:30 pm. Reservations accepted. Licensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNNN

STAY Cafeteria

388 Spadina, at Baldwin, 416-901-1510 Toronto’s no stranger to East-West fusion. Susur Lee ring a bell? But Tao Zhang and Jianing Hu’s student-friendly spot puts a new spin on this still cutting-edge cuisine, even if the decor – exposed brick, Edison light bulbs – is somewhat generic. Best: to start, deep-fried Taiwanese-style popcorn chicken breaded in what we swear are crushed graham crackers mains like braised beef brisket soup with al dente ramen-style wheat noodles, baby bok choy and chopped Italian tomatoes meatball-sized dumplings stuffed with minced pork, watercress and chives rice casseroles topped with broiled eel in teriyaki sauce and mozzarella cheese cold Korean noodles dressed with shredded chicken thigh, carrot and pickled eggs to finish, baked marshmallow toast creamy egg custard in eggshells served in a ceramic egg carton. Complete meals for $20 per person, including tax, tip and an iced tea or hot chocolate. Average main $9. Open for dinner Saturday 5 to 11 pm. Reservations accepted. Unlicensed. Access: barrier-free. Rating: NNN


Hudson Kitchen

800 Dundas W, at Palmerston, 416-644-8839, hudsonkitchen.com, @hudsonkitchen Since launching with considerable media buzz during last year’s film festival – Brad Pitt, Jennifer Aniston and Mathew McConnaughey all partied here – this high-profile DuWest bistro has evolved into a much more casual dining destination. We blame former Ursa chef de cuisine and Woodlot sous Robbie Hojilla’s brunch! Best: spicy cider-glazed Portuguese chorizo with braised apple, slow-poached eggs and lemony fingerling potatoes roasted in duck fat Reubenesque Bennys on rye-bread bass spread with Russian dressing and stacked with corned-veal brisket, sautéed sauerkraut and sous-vide poached eggs in classic hollandaise French toast with caramelized Filipino-style pork an homage to former employer Marc Thuet’s signature steak tartare with baked crostini, organic frisée and blobs of 65-degree C egg yolk sides of mesclun with walnut brittle in champagne vinaigrette. Complete brunches for $30 per person, including tax, tip and a glass of wine. Average main $14. Open for Sunday brunch 10 am to 3 pm. Reservations accepted. Licensed. Access: bump at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN

Ramen Isshin

421 College, at Bathurst, 416-367-4013, ramenisshin.com Conveniently located a couple of doors down from Sneaky Dee’s, this Japanese noodle house from the crew behind popular Cabbagetown izakaya Kingyo rocks till 2 am Friday and Saturday nights. Friendly servers and a quick kitchen ensure that late-night lineups move at a healthy clip. Best: chef Koji Zenimaru’s signature tan-tan ramen, al dente house-made noodles in long-simmered tonkotsu broth spiked with smoky miso tare and finished with garlic chives, wilted bok choy, minced pork and fatty slices of blowtorched cha shu pork belly roasted garlic ramen with rich house-made shoyu and dressed with raw scallions, bamboo shoots, toasted seaweed, more pork belly and partially poached eggs marinated in sweet mirin Japanese-style poutine with cheese curds, curried gravy and green onion tender takoyaki octopus fritters dressed with Kewpie mayo and wiggling bonita flakes. Complete meals for $18 per person, including tax, tip and a mug of green tea. Average main $10. Open Sunday 11:30 am to 10 pm. No reservations. Unlicensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN

Red Sauce

50C Clinton, at College, 416-792-6002, redsaucetoronto.com, @RedSauceToronto Does what’s left of Little Italy really need another old-school Italian trat? It does when the results are this delicious, the one-time temple to gastronomy Acadia transformed into a budget-minded café that runs from late in the morning till even later at night. All that’s missing are checkered tablecloths and candles in Chianti bottles! Best: garlicky deep-fried pigs’ knuckle sandwich with simple tomato sauce, creamy fior di latte and fresh basil on crusty kaisers or sub-sized hoagies eggplant parmigiana platters sided with Buffalo-style cucumbers in hot sauce, peanuts and blue cheese, and spicy sautéed broccolini with roasted garlic cloves retro clams casino in Mornay sauce with bacon takeout-friendly house-made tagliatelle with all-beef meatballs to drink, boozy Popcorn Floats. Complete dinners for $35 per person (lunches $25), including tax, tip and a tall-boy of Old Milwaukee. Average main $12/$9. Open Sunday 11 am to 2 am. No reservations. Licensed. Access: two-steps at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN

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