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Josh's Reviews: Toronto 2011

Josh JosephsonEach link includes the first part of the review. Many of the reviews also include pictures of the individual dishes.

Lunch at Didier Restaurant
Tuesday, December 27
Every Christmas I get together with some friends to drink fine wine and enjoy the good food of Didier Leroy. Didier's and fine wine, are a match!

Splendido Restaurant's Grand Steak Event

Wednesday, December 21
A special event was arranged by chef Victor Barry, a tasting (blind) of some exceptional steaks. But this was also a festive event so we began with 2 kinds of oysters, poached spot prawns, cured steelhead trout, scallop ceviche and dungeness crab, all on a tiered platter service. What a grand beginning!

New Pizzeria Libretto on the Danforth

Sunday, December 18
This is a resto awaited with much anticipation not only for the location, convenient for those who live in the centre or eastern part of Toronto, but also, as it is the only Pizza Libretto that takes reservations. I like the topping varieties that set Pizza Libretto apart. However, I found the nicely blistered crust at this location a bit too doughy/chewy. I much prefer a crispier crust which has a bit of a flake when one bights into it.

County General, The Best Burger Under 13 Bucks, and More

Saturday, December 3
County General is Chef Victor Barry and Sommelier Carlo Catallo's effort (both co-owners of the fabulous high end Splendido Restaurant), on Queen Street. Resident chef, Garth Legree has a knowledgeable hand with rustic cuisine. This is a fun place, featuring great meats supplied by Cumbrae's, one of Toronto's top 3 butchers. It also has a very good bar.

A Unique, Great Japanese Dining Experience at Sushi Kaji, Toronto

Monday, November 28
Many people who follow my restaurant experiences have read my rhapsodies about Hashimoto being my favourite Japanese experience in Canada, perhaps one of 3 best I have experienced in North America. I have eaten at Kaji many times, but I have never had an experience such as this one, no matter how I have tried to work with the staff at this restaurant. But, chef David Lee knows the chef owner well and advised him about what was expected and oh my, what a wonderful result. I will not comment on every dish, but, I must say that the quality and freshness of the fish was exceptional.

Dinner Honouring Nathan Myhrvold author of Modernist Cuisine, Splendido Restaurant, Toronto

Friday, November 25
Nathan Myhrvold is a brilliant polymath, one of the early founders of Microsoft Corporation, a high school grad at 14, he entered UCLA, going on to gain two masters degrees and a PHD, all before the age of 23. He began a career at Microsoft as their chief technology officer until his retirement in 1999, after which he chose to pursue other interests, especially cooking seriously.

An Extraordinary Game Dinner, With Truffle Accents and Extraordinary Wines at Nota Bene Restaurant, Toronto

Saturday, November 19
Chef David Lee created an exceptionally rendered game dinner, hosted by a good friend. David is a Canadian gem and although Nota Bene is a favourite resto of mine, David's remarkably creative, high level skills that are so sensitive to the ingredients he works with, were particularly visible at former his haute cuisine resto, Splendido. Nota Bene has wonderful comfort food, but, one must ask David to create a special occasion meal to truly experience David's highest levels of culinary attainment. For this dinner, for the most part, Chef Lee worked with Alba white truffles and Alba, Molise and Burgundy (which have much less flavour and aroma) blacks.

Gold medal Plates 2012

Thursday, November 17
Gold medal plates is the big fundraiser held across Canada to raise funds for the olympic athletes. This year, Langdon Hall chef Jonathan Gushue was the winner.

A Grand Cru private home Dinner Created by Buca Chef Rob Gentile

Saturday, November 5
One of the great chefs in Canada for his personal take on rustic Italian cuisine is Rob Gentile of Buca restaurant. I get cravings for some of Buca's renditions. This dinner, created for one of the 27 private dinners held on one night to raise money for the Toronto Western hospital and it's world leading research, is the result of the efforts of Todd Halpern of Halpern Imports, and his very capable team who made the arrangements for all the dinners and the dinner and auction held 2 days prior. Some of the world's great winemakers and a leading medical researcher are present at each dinner. The guest winemaker/owner was Ms. Laurence Feraud who supplied all wines (except for the dessert and champagne) by Domaine du Pegau.

Parts and Labour Restaurant, Toronto

Friday, November 4
This was my first visit to Parts and Labour, a Parkdale neighbourhood resto that a number of friends had recommended. The front of the resto is very open but also, at prime time VERY noisy. We had reserved the quieter back area for seating, by the open kitchen. There are 3 tables for 4 there. If you don't like loud dining room noise, that is the place to sit! Watching the chefs was a pleasure. They are well organized, highly efficient and for the most part, in prime time, have a remarkable calm...

New at Nota Bene Restaurant

Wednesday, November 2
Highly capable and creative, chef David Lee loves to work with new ideas for Nota Bene restaurant. This night, he surprised me with a "tongue and tail" terrine en gelee mounted on arugula leaves and on a fried potato "latke" (pancake). OMG I was in food heaven with this dish. The terrine was accompanied by cornichons, a single radish, and pickled beet and onion. The texture and flavours were wonderful.

What's New at Canoe

Monday, October 31
Canoe restaurant has undergone rather extensive renovation. It feels lighter and more open. The service is invariably impeccable. But, how was the food? We had the good fortune of being cared for by the # 2 chef, John Horne, a gent who seems well assured, attentive, observant and very good with the execution and fine tuning of the concept of a dish. We worked with him planning an event for the Chevalier Du Tastevin (Burgundy Wine Society).

"Bacon and Eggs" at Splendido Restaurant!!

Friday, October 28
From time to time, a visit to Splendido provides a wonderful culinary surprise by chef Victor Barry. This time, a novel dish and a new pastry chef awaited us. It was also the beginning of the arrival of fresh white truffles and a special truffle menu was available.

A Stadtlander Barn Burning Fundraiser at Bohmer Restaurant, Toronto

Monday, October 24
Friends of chef Michael Stadtlander and his dynamic wife, Nobuyo, gathered for a fundraiser at the Bohemian Gastropub, to raise money to support the rebuilding of the Stadtander farms barn, that had recently burned down.

Keriwa Restaurant, Toronto

Thursday, September 22
Both organic unsalted butter and seasoned pork fat were presented with very tasty, house made bread made with red fife flour.

A Late Dinner at Pangaea Restaurant, Toronto
Tuesday, September 13
Pangaea is conveniently located at Bay and Bloor and I was able to dash in and be served a terrific late (for me) meal and then I was quickly on my way home. I regret that my battery was too low to allow a flash so the photos are not up to their usual quality and I do not have photos for 2 of the dishes.

Cafe Belong, Toronto

Thursday, September 8
Located in the Toronto Brickworks and no sign, Cafe Belong is bit hard to find, but, it is worth finding. One is greeted by a very open, spare but warm room. It is a lovely space during a wonderful sunset.

The Best Quick Lunch Experience: Burgers or Sandwiches?

Tuesday, September 6
Lucy Waverman, Alison Fryer and I decided to go exploring to some typical (and atypical) haunts.

George Restaurant, Toronto

Sunday, September 4
George has been a highly respected establishment in Toronto, with chef Lorenzo Losetto at the helm. What makes the experience at George particularly enjoyable lunch in the garden during the lovely summer months.

Another Amazing Meal At Centro Restaurant
Wednesday, August 17
Centro's chef Jason Carter is so in tune with current cuisine. A friend and I were going to a local cinema. We thought we would go to Centro for a simple meal. Just a steak, a good glass of wine and go. However, after we arrived, the chef came out and suggested a simple starter and their veal cooked sous vide. So, we went with the flow.

Obika Mozzarella Bar, Toronto

Saturday, August 13
Obika restaurant centers its offerings on mozzarella di bufala campana DOP. The freshly made cheeses are flown in weekly from Italy.
A plate of 3 cheeses: stracciatella di burrata; mozarella di bufala DOP classica; mozzarella dibuffala campana DOP, affumicata, hay smoked for about 4 min. The cheeses rested on raw spinach leaves and was accompanied by cherry tomatoes and black olives.

A Chef's Tasting Dinner At Langdon Hall

Monday, August 8
Jonathan Gushue is gifted. The meal that unfolds below made that obvious to me. This chef possesses a terrific ingredient memory of the many food minutae in his rural environment and from his personal experience. His talent for composing taste and memory is demonstrated by his ability to orchestrate disparate and far ranging flavours into a harmonious uncomplicated dish, taking locally found ingredients and transforming them into heavenly cuisine. He may not exactly duplicate this experience in his dining room where the regular menu is more accessible in a familiar way to diners, but the tasting meal described below reveals his potential and will hopefully serve as an inspiration for an extraordinary private meal for those who truly enjoy and can appreciate such a gustatory experience.

The Little Dog, Toronto

Tuesday, August 2
The Little Dog is a small shop that only serves 3 kinds of meat hot dogs and a veggie dog. It also serves fries and poutine. I did not try the veggie dog. My favourite was the Montreal hot dog, good flavour with a nice crunchy skin. My least favourite was the Chicago 58 hot dog. The flavour was very commercial and for me held no redeeming qualities. The Nathan's dog had fairly good flavour (not as good as the Montreal dog) but lacked a crunchy skin.

Yuzu, Toronto

Sunday, July 31
Not finding many Japanese restaurants in Toronto that inspire me, let alone having truly fresh tasting fish, I attended Yuzu with the usual skepticism. I was very pleasantly surprised by my experience. There were some hits and some misses. Not all of the fish were equally fresh but some were very fresh and the execution of some dishes admirable.

A Visit to Dolce Lucano Salumeria, Woodbridge, Ontario

Friday, July 29
Our little fun group, Joe Bersani, owner/chef at Cantine restaurant and Annie Sibonney, host of the popular Food Network show From Spain With Love, Joanna Sable, owner of Bumpercrop pickled and preserved products and myself, were invited to taste some of the products produced at Dolce Salumeria. Dolce is owned by the husband and wife team John and Paola Zagaria. John is a second generation butcher and hand crafter of the artisanal products produced by Dolce. Tony Cohan, owner of Tony's Cheese and Provisions was there to supply us with some complementary cheeses for the tasting.

Honouring Jamie Kennedy, His Alumni Dinner

Wednesday, July 27
A special dinner honouring Jamie kennedy, the Order of Canada awarded chef, was organized by his staff, former apprentices and sous chefs and took place at the Gardiner Museum restaurant. Attendees were both admiring food industry people and patrons.

Fishbar, Toronto

Monday, July 25
Fishbar recently opened on the Ossington strip, a street of several interesting and very good restaurants. Toronto has a very limited number of truly good fish centric restaurants such as Josos, Malena, Starfish and Rodneys.

Dr. Laffa, Iraqi Food

Tuesday, July 19
Dr. Laffa is a small enterprise offering certified kosher, Iraqi (this may seem like a misnomer) food, on the side a factory building located at 40 Magnetic drive, unit 44-3, North York. It is not easy to find. Being this kind of kosher, it has no meat or milk products in it's food. The hours are Sunday to Friday 9:30am to 7pm. They are closed Saturday. Don't let any of these cultural statements inhibit or discourage you. The people there love you to indulge in good eating and enjoy yourself.

Wurst Restaurant, Toronto

Friday, July 15
Wurst is a new restaurant specializing in sausages and a grand selection of beers. A very limited selection of wines are available by the glass if one is not a beer drinker. Wurst occupies the former location of Thuet, later Conviction restaurant. The space is now a large open hall. To order, one lines up at a counter and is given a number which is placed on the table where one is seated. Waiters bring your order to your table.

Cava Restaurant dinner highlighting Spanish wines

Tuesday, July 12
Cava is an outstanding restaurant to experience regional Spanish flavours influenced by highly acclaimed chef Christopher Mcdonald and his partner and co-owner chef Doug Penfold.

Porchetta Tuesdays at Nota Bene
Monday, July 4
Sometimes, I can't wait for Porchetta Tuesdays at Nota Bene. I began with a very good steak tartar, certainly one of the best in the city. This version was a refreshingly good novelty, with burrata cheese in the middle, especially with a squirt of fresh lemon. As many know, my palate is not a lover of cheese with meat (exception, aged parmesan with carpaccio). This combination was a very good surprise and it was topped with some good shaved parmigiano.

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Susur Still Has His Mojo!! An Exceptional Meal and Exceptional Wines
Thursday, June 30
I personally organized a menu with Susur for a private wine dinner for 9 friends. Susur was in Toronto and in his kitchen. This was a red wine themed evening. The wines were all served with the amuses and hors d'oevres and enjoyed as we chose, with the rest of the meal.

Barque Restaurant at Night

Monday, June 27
We began with a terrific, juicy miami ribs starter with a very tasty bbq sauce
Then, brisket arrived, presented in a cast iron skillet, not too smoky but with a solid beefy flavour and quite tender. The brisket was very good but I might have preferred a little more smoky flavour.

The Drake Dining Roadshow: Summer School

Friday, June 24
The Drake Hotel launched it's Dining Roadshow: First Stop: Summer School Dining Hall which runs from June 23 to Sept 4th. Its a restaurant-within- a- restaurant concept. After Sept 4th, it will change themes... Homemade tomato cream soup with alphabet noodles, garlic and scallion olive oil. This was a wonderful adult version of childhood's Campbell's Alphabet Soup and praised by all.

The Pasta Bar and Grill, Toronto

Saturday, June 18
The Pasta Bar is one of those longstanding, reliable restaurants that has a tradition of being a place for a casual meal that one knows will be good. If you are wondering where you might eat before a show, where you might have a casual meal after work, this is one of those places that knowledgeable Torontonians will attend. The co-owner/ executive chef of both the Pasta Bar and Scaramouche, the more formal adjacent dining room, is Keith Frogget, a well respected and established toronto chef. The operations chef in charge of the Pasta Bar is Scott Hildebrandt. Co-owner Carl Korte is one of the best "front of the house" gents in the city, a classy, knowledgeable and knows most everyone, kind of guy.

What's Your Beef, Group of 7 Chefs at Cowbell, Toronto

Tuesday, June 14
The tragedy is that more people in the GTA did not get to hear about this stellar event held at Cowbell Restaurant. The chefs participating at this event are a good cross-section of the creative vanguard of cuisine in Toronto. Why does Toronto not have it's own version of a Time Out Magazine that could expose this kind of event to the public at large? This is the question of the moment.

Barque, Take 2, Lunch at the Source

Monday, June 13
After reading about takeout Barque, I decided to go to the source. I was hoping for more than sandwiches, but that's it, that's lunch. For those of you hoping for bbq'd sliced brisket or bbq'd chicken or ribs or pulled lamb, those are dinner items only.

Loving Lunch At Nota Bene Resto, Toronto

Friday, June 10
I look forward to hearty lunches at Nota Bene. Wednesday has wonderful smoked meat (I skip the cheese!!). This time, a Thursday, I enjoyed lunch with a friend. So, we got to split the the fabulous, full of flavour, wagyu beef burger (beef from Cumbrae's), cooked medium rare, accompanied by terrific french fries, and the pulled pork sandwich. Both were knock your socks off good!

The Drake Hotel, Toronto: Special Dinner for the Cookbook Store

Monday, June 6
A meal arranged by chef Anthony Rose for the staff of The Cookbook Store consisted of a succession of "surprise" courses. Ricotta cheese with Olives, slow roasted cherry tomatoes with thyme, all drizzled with lovely olive oil, topped on country style grilled toast...

Italian Wine Theme Dinner At the York Club for L'Ordre Mondial

Saturday, June 4
Chef Jason Thede prepared an Italian inspired menu for this Italian wine event organized by Geoffrey Johnson for L'Ordre Mondial.
We began the evening with Prosecco di Vald Vend, Bisol, Brut D.O.C. 2009 along with 3 hors d'oevres: Bresaola with Arugula and Onion Marinade; Roasted Eggplant with Parmesan and Herb Crostini; Marsala-marinated Foie Gras Terrine with Shaved Fennel and Honey.

Mother's Day Brunch: Cowbell, Toronto

Wednesday, June 1
Cheese gougere!! A thin, delightfully crispy puff on the outside and a soft hollow centre. I bet you can't eat just one!

Starfish, Toronto, My Fave for Bivalve Molluscs and Lobster

Tuesday, May 31
Starfish is my “go to” spot for a fabulous selection of pristinely fresh oysters, clams, raw, sweet scallops on the shell (when available) and for me, the best prepared (read: perfectly cooked) fresh lobster in Toronto (I always ask for the male).

Queen Marguerita Pizza, Toronto

Saturday, May 28
I had been reluctant to return to Queen Marguerita Pizza simply because my first experience there, take out (although eaten right outside of the resto), was rather disappointing. The sauce flavour was timid and the crust too chewy and soft, especially in the centre and also the crust was not particularly flavourful. I decided that eating the pizza in the restaurant, as it was presented would be a fair way of assessing the result. Let me say from the first, that these are beautiful looking pizzas that in their appearance offer so much potential.

Ici Restaurant, Toronto

Sunday, April 24
Ici is a very small intimate boite but very comfortable and not too noisy. This latest effort by well known Toronto chef, J P Challet and his partner, chef Jennifer Decorate, is a comfort food haven. Jennifer is also one of the best front of house "greeters" in the city and with her generous smile and warm welcome, she makes one feel right at home!

Didier Restaurant, Toronto

Thursday, April 21
For the best classical French food in Toronto, there is nothing quite like Didier's. The Chevaliers du Tastevin (the Burgundy Wine Society) chose Didier's for their annual member and guest event.

Frank's Kitchen, Toronto

Friday, April 15
Chef Frank Parhizgar is very proud that all of his food is from select regional farmers and that everything served is absolutely prepared from scratch, each day. Justifiably so, from my perspective.

Big Bone BBQ, Newmarket, Ontario

Tuesday, April 12
Big Bone BBQ is a long way from downtown Toronto. Is it worth the drive for an experienced BBQ lover who has been all over North America for good BBQ?

Pork Inspired Extravaganza at The Gilead Cafe, Toronto

Friday, April 8
Jamie Kennedy deserves another medal for his inspired, highly creative heirloom pork themed menu, a degustation of pork put together for a group of wine and food lovers. With the passionate participation of one of the country’s best producers and purveyors of fine beef, pork and lamb, Cumbrae’s own Steve Alexander, the event may have been one of the finest for experiencing a rustic but sophisticated take on regionally sourced pork products of different breeds.

Toca Restaurant, Ritz Carlton Hotel, Toronto

Thursday, March 24
Toca Restaurant's chef is Tom Brodi, former executive chef under Anthony Walsh at Canoe Restaurant. So, I had high expectations looking forward to my dinner there. The room itself has a very comfortable atmosphere. It is both sophisticated and informal in a very modern way. Although I did not order it, i noticed that the menu features the makers one of my very favourite smoked salmons; Wolfhead.

Xam-Yu Seafood Restaurant, Toronto
Monday, March 21
I made a request, well in advance, to have the restaurant bring in a giant Alaskan king crab, now in season, for the centrepiece of our meal. What a wonderful experience! The crab was perfectly cooked and prepared in 3 ways, the first, boiled to a tender doneness, the the thicker portion of the legs split and the sweetly addictive meat easily accessible and served with the crab juice and roe, all in the shell, with chopped scallions

Dining at Inigo Restaurant, Toronto

Friday, March 11
Inigo restaurant is chef Carlos Hernadez' new effort located at 927 Queen street west. It is worth a journey. When he was at Torito restaurant, I found that his oeuvre, for me, made him one of the best chefs in the city. At Inigo, the menu is very limited so his range is not appreciable, but trust me, this chef can cook! What makes him so good for me is the range of intense flavours and textures that are so complementary and that the flavours can be so well appreciated on their own. His cuisine is true comfort food.

Hashimoto Restaurant, Toronto, One of North America's Finest Japanese Experiences

Friday, March 4
We were greeted at the door of the new Hashimoto restaurant in the Japanese Cultural Centre by the chef’s wife. She was dressed in very traditional formal Japanese clothes. We had made advanced arrangements with the chef for a very private, formal kaiseki dinner. All of the fish and vegetables were seasonal and freshly flown in from Japan.

Hadley's, Toronto
Saturday, February 19
Hadley's is a restaurant that has a limited menu of BBQ'd and other non-bbq items. I was there to try the BBQ foods. My first test was the BBQ'd ribs and the sauce. The ribs are quite tasty with a good smokey flavour and what I consider a lip smacking flavourful goodness to the lacquered reduced sauce on the meat.

Torito Restaurant, Toronto

Thursday, February 17
A small informal fun boutique to have a good time with friends, while enjoying good food in small portions, tasting, while imbibing a good mojito or a lovely malbec wine. That is Torito.

La Chaine Des Rotisseurs at Cava Resto, Toronto

Sunday, February 13
It is always a great comfort for me to return to food inspired by a gent I consider one of Canada's great chefs, Chris Macdonald and his extremely able partner, the executive chef of Cava, Doug Penfold. The excuse this time was a dinner organized by my confreres in La Chaine des Rotisseurs.

Frank Restaurant at The Art Gallery of Ontario

Sunday, February 13
I began with a 1/2 order of the seafood bourride. The execution was not a classic bourride, but more of a seafood stew, with mussels, clams, white shrimp and chopped chorizo sausage all in a saffron seasoned broth, sided with a piece of garlic toast.

Campagnolo Restaurant, Toronto

Wednesday, February 9
House made gougere and hot and crispy Epi bread baguette. La Quercia rose prociutto, prociutto so good that if your eyes were shut, you could be eating in Italy...

Reflections on Recent Resto Experiences: Porchetta & Co and Enoteca Sociale

Tuesday, January 25
We recently wrote about Porchetta and Co. Having been a super fan of New York's Porchetta, I just wanted to address the difference between the two shops. First, allow me to say that I am absolutely delighted by the introducttion of a porchetta sandwich shop in the lower portion of Toronto. I no longer have to take a 40 minute drive to the burbs to satisfy my craving. The sandwich experience of each restaurant is truly superior.

What I Love About Buca Restaurant, Toronto
Sunday, January 9, 2011
Buca restaurant is one of the very few restaurants in the Toronto area that serves reassuringly rustic, Italian inspired cuisine.

What I Love About Starfish Restaurant in Toronto
Starfish, despite it's vaunted reputation for a great variety of pristinely fresh shellfish, has a very good menu of "other foods" prepared by a talented chef. It also is my favourite place in Toronto to enjoy really fresh lobster that is never over cooked....even slightly!

Centro's Restaurant: Inspired Chef's Creations
Sunday, January 2, 2011
Chef Jason Carter loves to be challenged and inspired. In preparation for a special event for the Chevaliers du Tastevin (the dinner of the Burgundy wine society) he created a most inspired truffle based menu.

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