Born in Córdoba, Mexico, chef Elia Herrera inherited her voracious appetite for food and cooking from her mother and grandmother. With Los Colibris, she brings Torontonians the traditional dishes she ate as a child. Yes, this is upscale dining, but it’s definitely not stuffy. From the rhythmic tunes playing overhead to the intimate banquettes and warm earth tones of the space and furniture, Herrera is honouring her culinary heritage and elegantly blending it with the modern. Best bet? The comforting Rajas Poblanas: tender hunks of chicken, corn niblets and roasted poblano peppers embraced like a soothing hug by handmade flour tortillas.
Open Monday to Wednesday 5 to 10 pm, Thursday to Saturday 5 to 10:30 pm.
This is Toronto’s most buzzed-about new restaurant, and for good reason. With its intimate atmosphere and Gaudí-esque wooden undulations, Grant van Gameren’s new standing-room-only Spanish pinchos bar feels like a quick trip to Barcelona (if Barcelonians were uniformly bearded and fond of plaid shirts). Cocktails are bold, the Galician octopus rosy and tender, and the sweetbread bocadillo is the most fun you’ll ever have with offal.
Open daily 8 am to 2 am.
Husband-and-wife team chef Wayne Morris and Evelyn Wu give us Canadiana on a plate – the most delicious history lesson you can get. Every dish is full of pride and heritage, with a hint of playfulness. Step into the space festooned with aboriginal artifacts and echoes of early log cabin settlers. Order that darling pigeon pie with its fluted edges and sun-kissed crust. The unctuous, tender squab is a pleasure. Or try the show-stopping éclade: pine-needle-smoked plump, buttery mussels under a domed cloche.
Open Wednesday to Sunday from 5:30 pm. @Boralia_To.
Toronto loves sushi, but for a city of this size there are precious few options for a premium experience. Enter Yasu, a Japanese restaurant on Harbord that, though nondescript, serves some of the city’s best. An Osaka native, chef Yasuhisa Ouchi raises Toronto’s omakase game in a minimalist space, serving gemlike seafood of impeccable freshness, simplicity, imagination, depth of flavour and beauty. After all, sushi should also be eaten with the eyes.
Open Wednesday and Thursday 6 to 11 pm, Friday to Sunday 5 to 11:30 pm. @YasuToronto.
After years of cooking at places like Centro, chef Jay Carter has thrown away the rule book at his recently opened Dandylion. A tight menu of nine dishes (three each of appetizers, mains and desserts) changes almost daily. There’s always a vegetarian option, portions are generous-to-massive, and a focus on flavours and textures makes for a memorable meal. If you’re lucky, he’ll be serving the pear cake with spicy ginger sauce.
Open Tuesday to Saturday 5:30 to 10:30 pm.
In his latest Annex restaurant after Big Crow, Anthony Rose jumbles Middle Eastern and Jewish influences to create a nosher’s paradise. Vegetarians will find lots to love. The best-known dish is the roasted cauliflower, grilled whole and packed with chunks of halloumi that have a texture like fresh calamari. If you’ve got any room left, pack it with sides like rapini tabbouleh (not exactly tabbouleh-like, but who cares?), acidic pickles and creamy labneh.
Open for lunch/brunch Wednesday to Sunday 11 am to 3 pm, dinner Sunday to Tuesday 5 pm to 10:30 pm, Wednesday to Saturday 5 pm to 11 pm. @fatpasha.
Underneath Nick Liu’s laid-back Lo Pan (home of the Big Mac bao), the chinoiserie-adorned DaiLo boasts a menu of more substantial, stately dishes. Entrées like whole fried trout or grilled quail topped with a panko-encrusted fried egg yolk impress, but it’s the juicy deep-fried watermelon dressed with pickled melon rind and light shreds of dehydrated pork that might be the restaurant’s runaway hit. You may never go back to snacking on deep-fried tofu chunks.
Open Tuesday to Sunday 5:30 to 11 pm. @DaiLoTO.
Housed upstairs in the unpretentious Monarch Tavern, Baju is the new BBQ joint owned by Zane Caplansky,who assuredly knows meat. “Pitmaster” Jason Rees happily informs diners about the wood he’s using that day to create the full-bodied flavour of such dishes as the melt-in-your-mouth St. Louis-cut spare ribs and ultra-juicy smoked chicken thighs. Order the Pig Out Platter to split with your hungriest friend – you still won’t make a dent.
Open Tuesday to Saturday 5 to 11 pm. @bajubbq.
Nuit and Jeff Regular’s latest restaurant is a party from the second you walk in: bunting hangs from the rafters, street-market-inspired signs line the walls, and the raucous room noise melds with the smell of spices. Northern Thai dishes like papaya salad mixed with briny, crunchy fermented crabs (for the more adventurous) are prominently featured. The chef’s pad thai might be outstripped by the original at Sukhothai. Instead, go for the fantastically fragrant Massaman curry featuring chunks of tender beef.
Open Monday to Thursday 11:30 am to 10 pm, Friday and Saturday 11:30 am to 10:30 pm, Sunday 5 to 10 pm. @paitoronto.