Weekend eating: March 8-9

Dinner Saturday night, brunch Sunday morning.


Agave y Aguacate

35 Baldwin, at Henry, 647-748-6448, @AgaveyAguacate Celebrated for the now-defunct Kensington Market cantina that no less an authority than Anthony Bourdain called “some of the most amazing Mexican takeout north of the border – any border,” Francisco Alejandri resurfaces in Baldwin Village in the former home of the equally legendary Gaston’s. Anyone who ever stood in line for hours at the old one-man operation will appreciate the now speedy service. Tables and chairs, and forks, too! Best: returning favourites like chileajo, stir-fried fingerling spuds, pearl onions, green beans and chickpeas in garlicky guajillo pepper sauce and mild queso fresco cheese white fish ceviche verde with avocado, tomatillo and coriander pesto chile relleno, blistered poblano peppers stuffed with pineapple and puréed avocado, dressed with pickled onion and roasted garlic slow-poached veal ‘n’ pork meatballs in smoky chipotle gravy red pinto bean stew laced with fabulously fatty pork rind tiramisu-like lime charlotte with black Hawaiian lava salt. Complete dinners for $40 per person, including tax, tip and an imported beer. Average main $9. Open for dinner Saturday 5:30 to 11 pm. Reservations accepted. Licensed. Access: two steps at door, washrooms upstairs. Rating: NNNNN

Das Gasthaus

107 Danforth, at Broadview, 647-352-5044, dasgasthaus.ca, @DasGasthausTO Ex-Spice Room sommelier Ruthie Cummings’s German gastro-pub seems of two minds – part fine Mitteleuropean dining room, part student-friendly beer hall. Like the cozy room’s decor – mismatched chandeliers, velvet-tufted banquettes – the kitchen plays it right down the middle. Best: to start, the charcuterie board groaning with rustic chicken liver pâté, Haus-made pickles, sliced salami and smoked Gouda served with a basket of warm pretzel buns roasted beet salads in creamy yogurt dressing pounded pork schnitzel cleverly breaded with pretzel crumbs over a pool of walnut brown butter, a handful of perfectly executed string beans and a whole lotta dill bright red cabbage rolls with smoked ham hock and nutty wild rice in tomato sauce to finish, old-school cherry strudel. Complete dinners for $45 per person, including tax, tip and a microbrew. Average main $18. Open for dinner Saturday 4 pm to 1 am. Reservations accepted. Licensed. Access: barrier-free. Rating: NNN


778 St Clair W, at Arlington, 416-342-1906, pukka.ca, @pukkatoronto Harsh Chawla and Derek Valleau’s stylish uptown bistro goes where few local Indian restos ever venture – upscale. A creative kitchen, smooth service and noise levels that allow for conversation make full houses the norm rather than the exception. Reservations essential most nights. Best: tapas-style starters like papri chat with puffed rice, ripe mango and Granny Smith apple dressed with pomegranate seeds in sweet yogurt dressing spicy south Indian fried Chicken 65 garnished with nasturtiums shareable mains like nutty butter chicken with wilted fenugreek leaves smoky lamb chop “lollipops” à la Vancouver’s Vikram Vij in minty cream sauce sides of French green beans with caramelized onion and shredded coconut baskets of buttery garlic naan and crisp whole wheat rotis to finish, sundae-like Eton Mess in pomegranate syrup and sweet lassi cream topped with rosewater-soaked meringue. Complete dinners for $60 per person, including tax, tip and a glass of wine. Average main $22. Open for dinner Saturday 5 to 10 pm. Reservations accepted. Licensed. Access: barrier-free. Rating: NNNN


Kinton Ramen

51 Baldwin, at Beverley, 647-748-8900, kintonramen.com, @KintonRamen And you thought getting into Guu was difficult! This Baldwin Village spinoff of the relentlessly popular Church Street izakaya shifts the focus from tapas-like bar snacks to massive bowls of Japanese noodles, to the point of obsession. Little wonder lines form outside the 30-seat sweatbox half an hour before it opens. And be prepared to get stuffed: leaving anything other than an empty bowl is considered bad form. Bonus: mouthwash in the washrooms. You’ll need it! Also: 668 Bloor W, at Manning, 416-551-8177. Best: to start, deep-fried boneless chicken wings in hot sauce fiery cabbage kimchee dense deep-fried tofu in Kewpie mayo the only mains, meal-in-one bowls of soup based on four “secret” layered broths – shio (salty), miso (soybean paste), shoyu (soy sauce) and spicy (lighter fluid) – swimming with astonishingly firm fresh noodles, caramelized roast pork shoulder or fatty belly and various toppings, including soft-boiled eggs steeped in sake, seaweed and raw grated garlic for the unconventional, ramen topped with Swiss cheese, frozen corn and Thai basil in miso broth spiked with butter. Complete meals for $20 per person, including tax, tip and a lemonade. Average main $10. Open for lunch Sunday 11:30 am to 3 pm, dinner 5 to 10:30 pm. No reservations. Licensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNNNN


91 Dundas E, at Church, 647-748-1717, santouka.co.jp/en Hogtown’s infatuation with all things ramen continues apace at the local outlet of this Hokkaido-based franchise close to Yonge-Dundas Square. Although there’s almost always a lineup, efficient servers get most customers in and out in 45 minutes. Don’t do sodium? They’ll lower the salt! Smallish portions and somewhat higher prices compared to the competition reduce the rating. Best: your choice of either milky salt-based shio, rich shoyu lashed with soy sauce or more mellow miso broth with al dente house-made noodles, cha shu pork, slivered scallion ‘n’ seaweed, a few strips of bamboo shoots and the thinnest slice of kamboko fish cake possible, the generally standard-equipment slow-cooked egg an additional buck-60 sides of fatty braised toroniku pork jowl perfunctory ground pork gyoza dumplings. Complete meals for $20 per person, including tax, tip and a mug of green tea. Average main $12. Open Sunday 11 am to 11 pm. No reservations. Licensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms in basement, communal seating. Rating: NNN


261 Queen W, at Duncan, 416-596-8080, touhenboku.ca, @touhenbokuRamen Though it doesn’t look that different from almost every other ramen house in town – cramped seating, frenzied staff, permanent queue out the door – this Tokyo import features a lineup of chicken-based soups instead of the usual pork, the secret weapon schmaltz (aka chicken fat). Bad for the arteries, great for the skin! Best: two styles of house-made noodles – spaghetti-thin or fettucini-wide – in either salty shio or rich shoyu-infused chicken broth topped with a choice of lean slow-braised pork loin, fattier belly or relatively fat-free chicken thigh, finished with sheets of toasted seaweed, slivers of rubbery black wood ear mushrooms, halves of soft-boiled nitamago egg and chopped raw scallion make any of them spicy with a shot of garlic and chili oils potsticker-style gyoza dumplings stuffed with minced pork. Complete meals for $17 per person, including tax, tip and tea. Average main $10. Open Sunday 11 am to midnight. No reservations. Unlicensed. Access: barrier-free. Rating: NNN

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