Toronto’s food scene – Glass is excited by the city’s culinary landscape

LONDON has long been regarded as unique given that people from all countries of the world live and work in the city. They also prepare and cook food there so the choice of restaurants offering authentic cuisines on a global scale is staggeringly diverse. Toronto, a city in eastern Canada, also has a population numerically divided between the indigenous and the relative newcomer and in both cities a  hybrid citizenship makes for a very dynamic and exciting food and drink scene.

Toronto’s eclectic restaurant scene for many visitors is unexpected and its distinctiveness as a food capital appears to have sprung fully grown, like Athena from the head of Zeus. Toronto’s foodies beg to differ and claim that its reputation in this area has been percolating for some years, effaced by the city’s less-than-glamorous identity as a place of work and business and cast into shadow by the Californian-style appeal of Vancouver on the west coast. The Taste of the Six – the number of Toronto’s boroughs being a nickname for the city – is proof that times are changing.

The four chefs behind Taste of the Six -SeanThe four chefs behind Taste of the Six and in front of a Toronto skyline.
From left to right, Richard Singh, Jed Smith, Frankie Solarik and Matt Blondin

The Taste of the Six is collaboration between the culinary team of the Shangri-La Hotel and some of the city’s most renowned chefs. Each chef creates an exclusive prix fixe menu, working in the hotel’s kitchen, and the first event in this series took place in February 2017 and featured Chef Matt Blondin, a partner in a Toronto-based hospitality company named The Food Dudes. The second event was in June and saw Frankie Solarik, from Toronto’s BarChef, applying his modernist cocktail alchemy to accompany a multi-course menu. The final collaboration takes place on 19 October when English-born Jed Smith, who moved to New York in 2010 and then Montreal before relocating to Toronto, will be busy in Shangri-La’s kitchen.

Out on the street and eating on the hoof, Toronto’s ethnic diversity is the dynamo behind the multiple choices awaiting the hungry pedestrian. Banh Mi Boys , named after the Vietnamese word for bread (bánh mì), serves up scrumptious baquettes with various fillings plus cilantro and pickled carrots; and I can vouch for the tastiness of the squid with lime vinaigrette. Not far away on Spadiani Avenue, the best chocolate chip cookies in town are to be found at Le Gourmand.

Toronto Food

 Honey-infused cocktails from Shanri-La’s beehive at the hotel’s bar

The hottest neighbourhood for upscale living is currently around King St West and this is reflected in the area’s growing number of interesting eateries. Wvrst is a good example, a funky space that packs in some 150 hungry punters every weekend, lured here by the prospect of artisan sausages: not just of the traditional pork and beef type but also featuring pheasant, bison and elk. Liquid refreshment comes in the form of beers from every corner of the globe while for dessert Soma has an outlet at 443 King St West and here you’ll find deeply satisfying chocolate ice cream.

Shangri-La Hotel Toronto - SEANThe fashion conscious lobby of Toronto’s Shangri-La hotel

For a more leisurely and refined food experience, head back to the Shangri-La Hotel and its signature restaurant, Bosk. The menu is strong on seafood – scallops from Novia Scotia and sablefish from Alaska – complemented with local lamb and quality beef. If you take an excursion from the city to Niagara Falls it’s easy to fit in a visit to Naiagra-on-the-Lake where some 20wineries are situated and at Bosk the wine list features many fine examples of what they produce. The wineries themselves all have tours and tastings and Niagara Helicopters, which run a popular 12-minute flight over the Falls, also offer a wine tour that flies over them and lands among the vineyards.

Foodies on Foot in Toronto - SeanFoodies on Foot in Toronto

Canada has its own take on cocktails, like a Manhattan with maple syrup, and the Shangri-La makes a unique contribution by making use of its own beehive to infuse honey into some of the drinks available in its bar. The beehive is guest-friendly and viewable on the hotel’s patio, making a pleasing addition to Toronto’s food and drink landscape. Check out Foodies on Foot for food tours; DK’s Top Ten: Toronto for city sightseeing and Marco Polo’s Canada East for exploring the wider region.

by Sean Sheehan