What does the team behind Alo—still one of the toughest tables to book in all of Toronto—do for its encore? Open a diminutive, no-reservations diner, of course. But this is no ordinary lunch counter: the 38-seat space is straight from the pages of a Restoration Hardware catalogue. The staff wear denim, bow ties and Adidas sneakers. Gucci Mane plays in the background. And the menu features comfort-food classics with frills aplenty. The burger, served on a house-baked potato roll, sports a blanket of fried Beaufort cheese and a base layer of sautéed onions; together, they create an almost polyrhythmic crunch. Matthew Betsch’s dishes jump through eras and continents—iceberg wedge salad, clams casino, charred chorizo with eggplant and halloumi— but the results are just as polished as the stainless steel spoons that stir the highball cocktails, including one that blends Burdock’s Vermont ale with a splash of herbal China China. Both the towering apple pie
parfait and the brick of lemon meringue pie mandate the saving of room for dessert. 163 Spadina Ave., 1st flr., 416-260-3444.
The Anne Boleyn
The latest member of the Parts and Labour family is this massive gastropub in the Entertainment District. No expense has been spared on the space: the soaring room can accommodate nearly 200 guests in leather banquettes and at marble-topped tables. The menu is full of traditional British pub grub, including fish and chips, chicken tikka masala, and bangers and mash. There are also a few well-made salads, a perfectly done flatiron steak with triple-cooked fries, and a P&L burger, of course. Flat-screens broadcast sports games, which patrons are happy to take in while enjoying one of the nearly two-dozen beers on tap. 117 Peter St., 416-901-1536. $$VNE
This summer, Claudio Aprile transformed his last Origin location into Copetín, and on any given night you can see the MasterChef Canada judge in the open kitchen, balancing a toasted parm doily on five fat gnudi in a pool of mild reggiano broth. Given that Aprile is back at the stoves after years of sacrificing hands-on control to expansion, it’s surprising that so many of his dishes lack the punch and flavour precision he’s known for: those gnudi need salt, and lobster ceviche bathing in a bland Chartreuse tigre de leche could do with a hit of lime. Yet an exquisitely charred octopus tendril dotted with jicama and grapefruit cubes and swiped with parakeet-green coconut curry is a reminder of what Aprile can do: turn an ingredient that’s on every other menu in the city into something dazzlingly multicultural and alive. 107 King St. E., 416-603-8009. $$$WOVA
The middle child of Momofuku’s three Toronto restaurants, Daisho¯ is also the most consistently rewarding. Its à la carte menu has a few of David Chang’s greatest
hits—buns, kimchee, ham and red-eye mayo—but it’s also rich with Ontario-raised meats and produce. The braised beef short rib is a lusty cut, served with two pucks of arancini made, ingeniously, from vinegary sushi rice. And a ruler-length slab of rainbow trout in a sambal emulsion was easily one of the top fish dishes of the summer. The wine list places well-curated Ontario picks on the same pedestal as some of the world’s great grapes, and there remains no better group dining experience in town than the kitchen’s large-format bö ssam extravaganza, which showcases an entire sugarcured pork butt with a cavalcade of Korean accoutrements. 190 University Ave., 3rd flr., 647-253-6227. $$$WOAE
Chef David Lee and the Chase Hospitality Group are behind this sleekest of veggie burger joints, a quick-service spinoff of Yorkville’s Planta. Vegan and vegetarian versions of fast-food favourites include burgers and fries, shakes and floats. Standouts are deep-fried cauliflower florets slathered in Frank’s and coconut butter for a meatless take on Buffalo wings, and onion rings drizzled with a sauce that tastes like sour cream and onion chips in the best way. A patty of shredded celeriac and hearts of palm called a “crab cake” tastes nothing like crab, but it’s plenty tasty, and the bacon cheeseburger is satisfying, but there’s nothing bacony or cheesy about it—though as far as vegans are concerned, that’s probably a good thing. 4 Temperance St., 647-348-7000. $V