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Best of Toronto

The Best New Restaurants in Toronto, 2008

Posted by Tim / January 30, 2009

Best New Restaurants Toronto 2008Of the 11 places on last year's roundup of the best new restaurants in Toronto, only one (Karuchie) has since gone bust. Another has overhauled management (Coca) but as for the other nine, life seems to be humming right along.

I hope at least the same can be said a year from now for the crop of restaurants born in the city during the past 12 months. We're now in recessionary times and already menus are being nipped, tucked and tweaked. Promises of more comfort food and value-pricing (and no, I'm not talking McD's) are becoming more common; and higher end new spots like Nyood and Nota Bene are likely to see more empty tables than they'd like if housing prices and stock portfolios continue to plummet.

With a few exceptions food trends started to shift this year. I'm thankful that not every new restaurant serves tapas; and the whole molecular gastronomy thing appears to have been little more than a flirtatious fad.

Instead, looking at this year's batch of star newbies, I'm spotting themes like communal dining (OddFellows), raw food (Rawlicious) and serious devotion to the art of cured meats (The Black Hoof).

Here's a rundown of the top 12 with honorable mentions to Mildred's Temple Kitchen, Sidecar, Spice Route and Madeline's which just missed the cut.

Also: See our list of The Best New Cheap Eats of 2008.

Pizzeria Libretto

Pizzeria Libretto

Forget Terroni, Lower Ossington is where pizza is at. Combine a no reservation policy with Torontonians' new found love for Neapolitan pizza and this place hums with line-ups out the door nightly. The secret ingredients here are freshness and an authentic wood burning oven crafted in the mother country. San Marzano tomatoes and Fiore di Latte Mozzarella are brought in daily and the pizza cooks in less than 90 seconds. More »

Harbord Room

Harbord Room

Anointed the 3rd best restaurant in Canada by En Route Magazine, the Harbord Room almost single-handedly ushered in new energy to the often below-the-radar restaurant row on Harbord between Spadina and Bathurst. Try the steak frites, calamari or risotto; or cure your hangover with some eggs benedict at their popular Sunday brunch. More »

Black Hoof

Black Hoof

Starring the former owner of Little Italy's Colbalt and the ex charcutier at Amuse Bouche, Lucien and Canoe, the Black Hoof is now ground zero when it comes to sharing pig ears and horse sausage with your best friends. Don't leave without ordering a bowl of the cabbage soup and bone marrow, a perfect match for dunking with some fresh Thuet bread. More »

Table 17

Table 17

The owner of Table 17 might have screwed the pooch with the now shuttered Izakaya on Front St., but his new spot in Riverside hits it out of the park. The restaurant is divided into two rooms and features huge mirrors, chalk board wine menus, stunning chandeliers and amazing fresh cut fries. Brunch is a good option here too. More »

Delux

Delux

It may not get as much fanfare as some other spots around Ossington, but Delux (which opened in the former home of The Sparrow about a year back) knows its way around a Cubano Sandwich. Featuring upcycled lighting from Castor Design and some comfy booths it's a good bet for an intimate meal. Just be sure to save room for some cookies and milk for dessert. More »

Le Petit Castor

Le Petit Castor

Rosdale's Le Petit Castor already has locals clamoring to get a table on a Saturday night. This is THE midtown place to see and be seen at the moment. The owners have done wonders making the former Thai Magic location over into a cozy but stylish "gastropub", complete with rather pricey favourites like chicken wings, steak frites and mac and cheese. More »

Amaya Bread Bar

Amaya Bread Bar

From the same people who brought us the excellent Amaya the Indian Room comes the Bread Bar, the home of more fresh, inventive Indian eats. The kitchen takes inspiration from Calcutta street food and a daily tasting menu can be had for the whole table to sample a mix of the best offerings. More »

School Bakery and Cafe

School Bakery and Cafe

Like its name suggests, the School Bakery and Cafe brings a high school theme to life (but in a good way) complete with blackboards, bookshelves and uniforms worn by the waitstaff. Currently serving breakfast, lunch and brunch, a dinner menu is slated to be added to the repertoire by Summer. More »

Discussion

19 Comments

MK / January 30, 2009 at 12:09 pm
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That photo of the bar with the cool ceiling is definitely an eye catcher! Where is that?
missyq / January 30, 2009 at 12:11 pm
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Not sure I'd add Le Petit Castor. They've been lambasted and much maligned repeatedly for their out of sorts and underwhelming menus, which even they've admitted is 'still being worked out'.
Didn't The Star say, 'shame, it's a nice space, it'd be a lovely location for a restaurant'? ouch.
There are also rumors that owner Luke McCann (obviously a marketing mavin!) has instructed staff to admit only the 'beautiful people' (of which I'm sure there are many in well-heel'd Rosedale) to tables for dinner. Well that's unfortunate for us only just not-so-unfortunate looking.
Best time to visit Castor is post-dinner rush when said gorgeous folk stand up from their table to crowd the floor and cut loose for the evening, which may be a masterpiece of an understatement. I saw one Gucci-wearing minx puking up what must have been quite a number beyond her limit of 16 dollar martinis all over a back booth. yuck. I doubt real so-called foodies would've stuck around.
Let's call a spade a spade, Castor is a bar/lounge and was always intended to be - they just offer food in an attempt to be civilized. But from what I hear, the poorly executed fare is far from it...
I doubt anyone from BlogTo has actually even EATEN there judging from the sparse review (or else I'm not sure it would've meritted the glowing praise of a top ten spot). Need some real food-journalism to digest for inspiration guys? The Star's article: http://www.thestar.com/living/Restaurants/article/562640
Tim replying to a comment from MK / January 30, 2009 at 12:14 pm
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That's Odd Fellows
tom / January 30, 2009 at 12:57 pm
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Go raw foods, thanks for the list i will check out the raw food place.
o_O / January 30, 2009 at 01:04 pm
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I got into raw food this year so I'll vouch for the trend but Rawlicious isn't a resto I'd recommend. Nice staff, enjoyed the atmosphere but the food isn't in the same league as Live. Live usues more imagination and takes a lot of great risks in terms of the flavours and textures it combines.
Joe / January 31, 2009 at 12:54 am
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Wish I'd remembered to nominate/vote on this one; my votes go to <a href="http://www.torontolife.com/guide/restaurants/bistro/melanies-bistro-patisserie/";>Melanie's Bistro</a>, right around the corner from my house. Really fantastic food there.
Puzzled / January 31, 2009 at 11:18 am
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How did some of these places even make it onto your list? You've never reviewed half of them (the "write-up" consists of about two sentences). I particularly loved the one for Delux. No review from BlogTO, and the single comment on the page mentioned the Cubano sandwiches and cookies - voila, they "know their way around a Cubano Sandwich" and "save some room for the milk and cookies" you write in your blurb here.

This so-called Best list is laughable at best, and shameful at worst. The poster here who commented on Le Petit Castor was right - try some real food journalism for a change. Or at least, step away from the computer and try out the restaurants you recommend.
o_O / January 31, 2009 at 12:33 pm
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Puzzled, BlogTO isn't endorsing these places, this is just the results of their annual poll of readers.
papa / January 31, 2009 at 01:17 pm
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you guys might want to add to the tittle '...chosen by YOU, the readers'

or something to that effect. there just always seems to be so many 'puzzled' ones out there.
Paul / January 31, 2009 at 02:10 pm
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Yeah, the blogto crew could make their lives a lot easier by explaining how the 'top 10' were selected each time they publish one of these.
TIm replying to a comment from Puzzled / January 31, 2009 at 08:26 pm
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The fact we don't have full reviews of the restaurants has no bearing on weather they made the list. I'm really a bit perplexed why some get all up in arms about this.....It would be far more constructive if you simply let everyone else know what restaurants you thought should have made or been left off the list.
Denise / February 1, 2009 at 12:32 pm
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hey oddfellows: why does your site say that you take reservations if you don't? why does your voicemail say to leave your reservation, but then you don't return the message? enjoy your 15 minutes of new restaurant fame. don't be surprised when the initial buzz wears off and your communal table is empty - people generally like to be treated nicely in exchange for giving you their money.
ed / February 3, 2009 at 12:42 pm
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I'm sorry. there's nothing 'best' about this place. ok, maybe this....'best overpriced food in a fancy box'. seriously, one of the worst sandwiches i've had in a while....but i came in some real nice packaging.
ed / February 3, 2009 at 12:47 pm
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sorry...i'm referring to 'school'
marla / February 3, 2009 at 04:41 pm
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Pizza Libretto...really? The pizza was OK, but comparable to Terroni and the service was not only lacking but outright rude and unprofessional.
elevator / February 5, 2009 at 11:03 am
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* Overnight accommodation in a luxurious guestroom
* A romantic dinner for two in Tundra Restaurant
* Full Breakfast Buffet for two in the morning (also in Tundra Restaurant)
The Valentine's Day package is available February 13th and 14th, 2009 and is $219.00 per room, per night. Dinner in Tundra Restaurant is also available for $59 per person.

To book the package please contact Reservations at 1-800-HILTONS or for dinner only, please contact Tundra Restaurant directly at 416-860-6800.

145 Richmond Street West, Toronto, ON
www.hilton.com
yum / March 7, 2009 at 09:20 am
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School: Certainly delicious, but the portion sizes are bullshit small for the price.

And whoever the HIlton employe is above my comment making a lame plug for the Hilton should piss off.
LopMootogamk / August 11, 2012 at 11:37 pm
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COSPLAY / September 26, 2012 at 11:38 pm
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Puzzled, BlogTO isn't endorsing these places, this is just the results of their annual poll of readers.

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