Dinner Saturday night, brunch Sunday morning.
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
101 Portland, at Adelaide W, 416-504-9669, gusto101.com Forget Grand Electric and Yours Truly. Downtown’s current resto du jour is this boisterous Italian trat in a converted chop shop within spitting distance of the Spoke Club. Don’t let the knobs and desperate singles put you off one of the best rooftop decks in town. But unless you book a table for either noon or 6 pm – the only times they take reservations – expect to wait in line. Best: to start, house-made ricotta with house-baked baguette wood-grilled octopus over haricots verts in a citrusy basil vinaigrette mined with tapenade massive main-sized arugula salads dressed with baby plum tomatoes, avocado and sliced rare steak classic summer spaghetti tossed with Manila clams at brunch, thin-crust pizzas topped with San Marzano sauce, local mozzarella, Pingue speck and a runny egg to finish, cioccolato pudding splashed with fruity olive oil and sea salt. Complete dinners for $40 per person (lunches/brunches $30), including tax, tip and a glass of house vino. Average main $18/$14. Open for dinner Saturday 5 pm to close. Licensed. Access: barrier-free, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN
606 King W, at Portland, 416-363-8388, valdezrestaurant.com, @thevaldezTO This shotgun space in a converted warehouse will be familiar to anyone who ever visited the 606 and Cheval nightclubs. While the party vibe hangs on, original Origin chef and Top Chef Canada contestant Steve Gonzalez’s Latin American street food breathes new life into an old room. Best: made-to-order guacamole with yucca, plantain and taro chips bite-sized empanadas stuffed with minced chorizo and cubed potato with spicy chili pepper dip a vegan ceviche of “compressed” melon tossed with slippery strips of seaweed Peruvian chaufa fried rice tossed with shredded duck confit, freshly shelled edamame and salty tobiko fish roe, the lot garnished with the crunchy bits scraped off the flat-top salted watermelon and pineapple popsicle deep-fried wonton pasteles stuffed with cream cheese and sided with quince jam. Complete meals for $50 per person, including tax, tip and a michelada. Average main $22. Open for dinner Saturday 5 pm to midnight. Reservations accepted. Unlicensed. Access: barrier-free. Rating: NNN
1194 Bloor W, at Brock, 647-748-1194, kareliakitchen.com, @KareliaKitchen Leif Kravis and Donna Ashley bring a touch of Nordic cool to sleepy Bloordale. Anyone old enough to remember the Copenhagen Room in the Colonnade will be in heaven. Best: to share, the Smokehouse Platter with house-smoked salmon, organic chicken, trout and cured pork tenderloin with sweet ‘n’ sour pickles, grainy mustard, fig preserves and Ryvita flatbread crisp potato rosti dressed with beet-cured gravlax, smoked trout and slow-poached eggs scrambled ducks’ eggs sided with smoked salmon and home fries smoky bacon ‘n’ potato hash with over-easy eggs massive blueberry griddle cakes with whipped maple butter, green-apple compote and dehydrated pear chips open-faced sandwiches to finish, gluten-free chocolate cake house-baked lemon-lime shortbread cookies and black-pepper ginger snaps. Complete brunches for $35 per person, including tax, tip and an Akvavit Sour. Average main $14. Open for brunch Sunday 10 am to 3 pm. Reservations accepted. Licensed. Access: barrier-free. Rating: NNNNN
200 Carlton, at Ontario, 647-748-5000, thescullery.ca, @The_Scullery Taking a page from Israeli chef Yotam Ottolenghi’s modern Middle Eastern playbook, Laura Sestito and Fiona Byrne’s laid-back Cabbagetown café turns traditional sides into mains with spectacular results. An ever-changing carte designed to eat in or take away guarantees no two visits are ever the same. Best: terrific salad combos like creamy green lentils with lean Danish bacon, sour cherries and Gorgonzola in citrus vinaigrette blackened corn, ripe tomato, fresh basil and pickled red onion prosciutto, fresh fig and mozzarella panini on Ace baguette with mixed greens in pesto daily specials like roasted boneless chicken breasts with peanuts, saffron and rosewater old-school cinnamon buns and scones at weekend brunch, caramelized pecan waffles with spiced apple sausage and jalapeño-infused maple syrup. Complete meals for $20 per person, including, tax, tip and an iced tea. Average main $9. Open Sunday 8 am to 5 pm. Reservations accepted. Unlicensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms on same floor. Rating: NNNN
2009 Yonge, at Glebe, 416-483-3747, tabule.ca, @TabuleToronto While owners Diana Sideris and Rony Goraichy include pita pockets on their card, this casual uptown eatery offers, instead of falafels, solidly executed grub made with quality ingredients at affordable price points served by friendly staff in a pleasant room. The annexing of the storefront next door now means that lineups – once very common come dinnertime – only happen during the weekend rush. Also: 810 Queen E, at DeGrassi, 416-465-2500. Best: to start, a plate of complimentary pickles – crunchy dills, sour purple turnip, unpitted black olives, hellishly hot baby banana peppers follow with garlicky hummus with toasted whole wheat pita grilled haloumi cheese over baby arugula in pomegranate vinaigrette house-made grape leaves stuffed with rice ‘n’ tomato dipped into Lebanese cream cheese smokily grilled skewers of bell pepper, tomato, red onion and zucchini sided with cumin-kissed basmati pilaf laced with brown lentils honey-doused squares of green pistachio baklava. Complete dinners for $30 per person (lunches $20), including tax, tip and a Stella. Average main $15/$8. Open Sunday from noon. Reservations accepted. Licensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN