Dinner Saturday night, brunch Sunday morning.
501 College, at Palmerston, 416-964-1555, lacarnita.com, @la_carnita If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Grand Electric in Parkdale must be particularly chuffed. So what if both taquerias appropriated the formula – trendy tacos, hard liquor and harder tunes – from Big Star Tacos in Chicago? Smooth service and the lack of a lineup most nights make the somewhat higher prices that much easier to stomach. Best: owner chef Andrew Richmond’s signature In Cod We Trust fish taco of battered wild Atlantic cod, pickled red cabbage and tart Granny Smith apple lashed with lime, crema fresca, spicy tahini-like Voltron sauce Pollo Frito with southern-style fried chicken in peanut mole sauce dressed with pickled napa cabbage and tomato salsa deep-fried avocado with black beans and peppery chipotle sauce house-made chorizo with pickled red onion and sharp cojita cheese, all on fresh La Tortilleria tortillas tongue tostadas topped with grilled pineapple and beet sprouts in hot sauce halved avocados stuffed with ripe mango, toasted pumpkin seeds and Hostess Hickory Sticks fashioned from deep-fried plantain tortilla chips dusted with powdered ancho chili sided with chipotle-spiked chicken liver pâté charred corn on the cob slathered in yogurty crema fresca and anejo cheese paletas – Mexican popsicles – in flavours like key lime pie coated with crushed graham crackers, and salted dulce de leche with crushed chicharrón. Complete meals for $40 per person, including tax, tip and a pint of micro-suds. Average taco $5. Open for dinner Saturday 5 to 11 pm. No reservations. Licensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNNN
1276 Queen E, at Alton, 647-748-3004, thehummingbird.ca, @hummingbirdTO Conveniently located directly across the street from the Leslieville Beer Store, Otis Creary’s island-inspired bistro cum take-away breathes new life into tradition-bound Caribbean cuisine. Best: to start, saltfish and ackee bruschetta on house-baked bammy flatbread aggressively spiced jerk chicken over local greens with sliced avocado, baby grape tomatoes and caramelized plantain croutons in thyme-scented balsamic vinaigrette delicate dal puri rotis stuffed with callaloo, chickpeas and pumpkin squash Friday and Saturday nights, jerk pork kebabs with sweet peppers and pineapple sided with grilled corn, roasted sweet potatoes or cornbread at weekday lunch, $6 specials like jerk or Jamaican fried chicken with coleslaw and rice ‘n’ peas for dessert, blueberry Sno-Cones. Complete dinners for $25 (lunches $15), including tax, tip and a beer. Open for dinner Saturday 5 to 10 pm. Reservations accepted. Licensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms on same floor. Rating: NNNN
24 Wellesley W, at St Nicholas, 647-345-0905, teppankenta.com Ex-Guu chef Kenta Taniguchi trades his gong for a teppanyaki griddle at this difficult-to-find izakaya (hint: it’s around the back of the condo and across from Northbound Leather). And while the snackable carte and bare-bones room might look like you-know-Guu, it’s noticeably less noisy. Best: to start, old-school guacamole made tableside double-fried chicken wings splashed with mirin and lemon juice blood-red slices of barely seared Angus strip loin brushed with sweet soy sauce ebi cheese, an offbeat mix of home fries, fava beans and grilled shrimp in molten mozzarella cheese sauce Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki omelettes layered with shrimp, squid, pork belly and dried bonito flakes that literally dance on the surface cheesy chan-pote potato pizza with “spicy fish innards” to finish (what else?), French toast. Complete dinners for $35 per person, including tax, tip and an imported beer. Average main $8. Open for dinner Saturday 5 pm to midnight. Reservations accepted. Licensed. Access: barrier-free. Rating: NNN
1416 Gerrard E, at Hiawatha, 416-469-4444, thesiddhartha.com Though the original was shuttered more than a year ago after a fire, Siddhartha rises from the ashes phoenix-like in fancier new digs a few blocks west. Not only is Sid’s all-you-can-eat buffet as exemplary as ever, but it can now be enjoyed al fresco on the only licensed patio in Little India. Best: from the buffet, crisply fried samosas stuffed with potato, peas and mild peppers saag paneer swirled with yogurt biryani-style rice with garden peas and curry leaves stir-fried cabbage with turmeric and mustard seeds mashed eggplant and potato with chilies aloo gobi with curried cauliflower ‘n’ spuds super-moist tandoori chicken legs and thighs while they last to finish, rice pudding, mango ice cream and fresh fruit to drink, lime sodas. Complete buffet dinners for $25 per person (lunches $20), including tax, tip and a domestic lager. Average la carte main $10. Open for $10.99 Sunday lunch buffet 11:30 am to 3:30 pm. Reservations accepted. Licensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN
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
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