Toronto Life - - Where To Eat -

Ace ★★

BAR AND PUB For more than half a decade now, this Ron­ces­valles haunt has drawn a steady crowd of lo­cals who pack the res­tau­rant’s Formica bar for pints and cozy ban­quettes for el­e­vated com­fort food. Pre­vi­ously a diner and later a Chi­nese res­tau­rant, the room is out­fit­ted in art deco ac­cents, mis­matched an­tique din­ner­ware and sepia-toned, pagoda-printed wall­pa­per. Meat-heavy plates, like a vel­vety chicken pâté paired with grainy mus­tard and thinly sliced pick­led onions, dom­i­nate the menu. A bench­mark burger made with hous­esmoked, twice-ground brisket and sweet ba­con jam is made even bet­ter by thick-cut fries. Reg­u­lars know to save room for the tarted-up low­brow desserts, like the crunchy, salty and sweet Skor Ritz pie. 231A Ron­ces­valles Ave., 416-792-7729. $$VAE

Cider House ★ 1/2

BAR AND PUB With al­most 30 ciders on the menu, this for­mer Ron­ces­valles curry house has been trans­formed into a cozy den, out­fit­ted in barn­board and vin­tage li­cence plates. Tuque-wear­ing din­ers throw back flights of On­tario cider and dig into gravy-soaked pub grub, like New­fie fries, loaded with sea­soned bread­crumbs tast­ing of Christ­mas, mushroom gravy, and peas so per­fectly blanched they pop. A mas­sive help­ing of pork schnitzel is sided with cheesy smashed pota­toes and a choice of four gravies. But­ter chicken with bas­mati and naan is a holdover from the joint’s pre­vi­ous in­car­na­tion—sadly it’s more sen­ti­men­tal than sen­sa­tional. 391 Ron­ces­valles Ave., 416-533-7465. $$VE

The Good Son ★★

IN­TER­NA­TIONAL This Queen West kitchen is a rare breed of Toronto res­tau­rant: not only is it mas­sive by the city’s stan­dards, but it’s sur­vived nearly three years on a red-hot, fight-or-flight strip. Helm­ing the kitchen, for­mer Top Chef Canada con­tes­tant and Ge­orge alum Vit­to­rio Co­lacitti calls his culi­nary style “Toronto cui­sine,” and, in­deed, the menu is hard to pin down—jerk shrimp shares space with roasted-squash hum­mus and steak tartare. Still, the cook­ing is solid with some great flour­ishes. A re­fresh­ing sea bream ce­viche with sweet, roasted pineap­ple and crispy yucca chips is an ideal starter, while a per­fectly medium-rare cheese­burger is made even bet­ter by a side of crispy fries with malt aïoli. A fan­ci­fied Hawai­ian pizza crowned with smoked pork cheek, com­pressed pineap­ple and ha­baneros is short on top­pings and miss­ing the bright­ness of a tomato base—but ad­dic­tive ice cream sand­wiches make up for it. Bar­tenders get busier as the night winds on and the spot be­comes more lounge than res­tau­rant. 1096 Queen St. W., 416-551-0589. $$$WE

Lib­erty Com­mons ★★

BAR AND PUB With half a dozen pubs al­ready, the Lib­erty Vil­lage mar­ket might seem sat­u­rated, but O&B has thrown its mug into the ring with this new col­lab­o­ra­tion with Big Rock Brew­ery. The cav­ernous space is packed with fash­ion­able lo­cals, all chow­ing down on Ryan Lis­ter’s com­fort-food clas­sics that are a step above the av­er­age sports bar’s—es­pe­cially show-stop­ping shared mains like beer-can chicken. Lis­ter is at his strong­est when mak­ing the Bri­tish sta­ples of his child­hood, like a cot­tage pie con­sist­ing of fluffy mashed pota­toes, ground beef smoth­ered with ale gravy and ten­der car­rots and peas, all speared with a mar­row bone. Desserts are a bit un­even—sticky tof­fee pud­ding gets a hoppy twist that adds di­men­sion to the su­per-sweet dish, but the rasp­berry sugar–coated soft-serve ice cream tastes more like Fun Dip—so it’s best to fin­ish with a pint of rich stout or porter. Flights al­low guests to sam­ple all of Big Rock’s of­fer­ings, like the ses­sion­able Warthog Ale. 42 Lib­erty St., 416-304-9403. $$$WANOE

Mai­son Fou Brasserie ★★ 1/2

FRENCH At this el­e­gant but un­stuffy French res­tau­rant in Bloor West Vil­lage, Mon­treal ex­pat James Petrin treats hum­ble in­gre­di­ents—of­fal, chicken tails, pota­toes—with se­ri­ous re­spect. Fried chicken liv­ers, de­li­ciously crunchy, sit in a deca­dent pud­dle of creamed leeks; lightly pick­led shal­lots of­fer a pi­quant coun­ter­point. An ul­tra-creamy crab bisque is fra­grant with saf­fron and thick enough to sup­port a few crab beignets and a swirl of crème fraîche. The kitchen gets play­ful by in­tro­duc­ing flavours from for­mer French colonies, in­clud­ing Viet­nam, Louisiana and—in roasted lamb shoul­der with minty chick­pea ragoût—Morocco. For dessert, there’s crème brûlée made with ab­sinthe and a poached-pear tarte tatin doused in an ad­dic­tive mulled wine re­duc­tion. The up­stairs Fou Bar is a work in progress, but by sum­mer, the rooftop pa­tio should be hop­ping. 2197 Bloor St. W., 416-786-9771. $$$WAOE

Lit­tle Sito ★

MID­DLE EASTERN Dis­tressed walls orig­i­nal to the build­ing, climb­ing plants and soft light­ing give this Le­banese res­tau­rant near Christie Pits a cer­tain Beiru­tian charm. It’s an homage to chef-owner Michelle Bouzide’s Le­banese grand­mother, who handed down many of the recipes. This gives the smooth hum­mus and soft, creamy baba ghanoush an hon­est, home­made qual­ity. Cau­li­flower flo­rets, fried to an auburn fin­ish, take a dip in tahini; and house-made pick­les, cab­bage and turnips dyed bright pink from their con­tact with beet juice are snappy. The mar­i­nated chicken thighs in the shish tawook are flavour­ful but dry, while the hushwi (ground beef sautéed with onions and pine nuts) and kibbeh sa­neeyeh (lamb-and-bul­gur cake) lack sea­son­ing and colour. Flaky lit­tle baklavas from Crown Pas­tries go per­fectly with one of the good, strong Turk­ish cof­fees. 840 Bloor St. W. 416-516-6464. $$VE

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