“Es­tia’s king­fish crudo is as pink and del­i­cate as a tutu”

Toronto Life - - Where To Eat -


MID­DLE EAST­ERN Charles Khabouth and Hanif Harji have turned NAO, their ma­cho steak house, into a glam seafood res­tau­rant that feels like a Mediter­ranean club as imag­ined by Jay Gatsby, washed in chan­de­lier light and Yorkville money. Sparkling-fresh whole fish is the star: del­i­cate sea bass is cooked ten­der over a wood-fu­elled flame, splashed with roasted-lemon juice and grassy olive oil, then flayed ta­ble­side and sprin­kled with barely bit­ter grape leaves. Hal­loumi, seared to form a thick, truf­fle-hon­eyed crust and served with warm red grapes, is like a killer grilled cheese with jam. And crudo brings finely shaved king­fish, as pink and del­i­cate as a tutu, with ca­per berries, horse­rad­ish and lemon zest, all show­ered in more olive oil. Cock­tails, like the bub­bly Es­tia spritz made with Xi­no­mavro rosé, lemon juice and grape­fruit zest, are light and bright to suit the food, as are desserts, like a pis­ta­chiogrape­fruit tart with saf­fron ice cream. 90 Av­enue Rd., 416-367-4141. $$$WOV

Fat Pasha

MID­DLE EAST­ERN Tel Aviv meets Toronto at An­thony Rose’s bois­ter­ous Dupont din­ing room. Ex­pect to or­der a lot: creamy hum­mus cov­ered in chick­peas; a vivid fat­toush salad stud­ded with hal­loumi; and an homage to the chicken liver at New York’s fa­mously schmaltzy Sammy’s Rou­ma­nian, mixed ta­ble­side with slices of hard-boiled egg, onion, crispy chicken skin and a stream of golden, ren­dered fat. And then there are the sala­tim, small sal­ads and dips or­dered three, five or seven at a time—za’atar-dusted lab­neh and rap­ini tab­bouleh are al­most manda­tory—and meant to be scooped up with (just so-so) hunks of pita. Vege­tar­i­ans make out just as well as meat eaters: the must-or­der main is the whole roasted cau­li­flower, sport­ing tahini, pome­gran­ate seeds, pine nuts and a green sheen from a bath of spicy skhug sauce. The cock­tails keep up

with the shtick (Jerry’s Mad­hat­ten fea­tures a ver­mouth made from Manis­che­witz), and the wine list in­cludes a col­lab­o­ra­tion with P.E.C.’s Nor­man Hardie. The suf­ganiyot are worth sav­ing room for: dusted with cin­na­mon sugar, filled with sour cream ic­ing and served on a choco­late mousse bed, they would be Bubbe’s favourite beignets. 414 Dupont St., 647-340-6142. $$$WOVAE

Lit­tle Sis­ter

In­DOne­sIAn With its friendly tat­tooed servers, loud house mu­sic and boozy cock­tails, this piece of Park­dale at Yonge and Eg is a favourite of the lo­cals. They’re drawn in by the invit­ing at­mo­sphere and chef Michael van den Winkel’s well-priced, flavour-packed In­done­sian dishes. Best bets are the se­mur java, a sweet, deeply rich curry of braised beef shoul­der (great with the nasi goreng fried rice); the sa­tay ayam skew­ers with a creamy peanut sauce; and shred­ded chicken ta­cos, packed with pick­led cu­cum­bers and crispy shal­lots. Any mis­steps, like a fried cau­li­flower salad that could use an­other few min­utes of cook time, or a spice-heavy shrimp curry, are mi­nor aber­ra­tions. 2031 Yonge St., 416-488-2031. $$O

North 44

COn­TI­nen­TAL The dream of the ’90s is alive in north Toronto: sesame-crusted ahi tuna, truf­fled frites, veal “two ways”—all the hits that were pop­u­lar when this linen-draped res­tau­rant opened nearly 30 years ago. Stan­dards re­main high even if ex­e­cu­tion feels rote. Warm bread, swad­dled in linen, and soft but­ter ar­rive with the house wine, an un­oaked chardon­nay. Ap­pe­tiz­ers in­clude slice upon slice of cured Ir­ish salmon, with pick­led beets and blood orange seg­ments over a creamy corn purée. Fat lamb chops, big as steaks, get the Mediter­ranean treat­ment with falafels, charred Jerusalem ar­ti­chokes and mild harissa. The Mon­dri­anesque ar­range­ment of rhubarb jelly, poached straw­berry, lime crémeux and lime-in­fused straw­berry ice cream on a crisp, rec­tan­gu­lar tart shell makes for a dra­matic fin­ish. 2537 Yonge St., 416-487-4897. $$$$WVA

Playa Ca­bana

MeX­I­CAn Un­like its off­shoots, the OG Playa is a charm­ing, ram­shackle hole-in-the-wall made of fix­tures that look cob­bled to­gether from flot­sam and jet­sam that washed up on this posh An­nex block. Pa­trons at com­mu­nal ta­bles hud­dle over suc­cu­lent chipotle­mar­i­nated oc­to­pus ta­cos, per­fectly seared and heav­ily slathered with creamy guac. The drink card favours tequila cock­tails and beer, for cut­ting through the chipo­tle smoke of chicken tinga en­chi­ladas that tin­gle with tomato acid­ity, or the dis­ap­point­ingly bland chorizo-stuffed bur­rito topped with two sal­sas and an oozy fried egg. Those for­tu­nate enough to score a ta­ble for two can cel­e­brate their luck by clink­ing chur­ros, del­i­cate and doughy in­side, gilded with whipped cream and blasted with a storm of cin­na­mon sugar. 111 Dupont St., 416-929-3911. $$OV

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