It seemed to me that everyone was at a Valerie party in summer '22. When it opened in June, the restaurant in Hotel X Toronto was new, luxurious and boasted one spectacular view — and the city loved it. Many-an-Instagram boomerang would make it onto my feed, featuring friends clinking glasses on Valerie’s stunning rooftop patio. It was the place to be.

Then, much like my farmer’s tan, summer faded away. Nowadays, bitter cold winds mercilessly whip my face whenever I step outside, and it takes a little extra coaxing to get me to emerge, somewhat disheveled, from hibernation. What would Valerie be like with its patio floor shuttered for the season, I wondered?

Valerie recently launched a new fall and winter menu, and I saw they put on a big bash to celebrate. Intrigued, I made reservations, changed out of my sweatpants and braced the freezing temps to find out just what this Toronto hotspot is like in the coldest months of the year.

Valerie | Chairs in the dining room at Valerie in Hotel X Toronto

Valerie: What’s the vibe?

Everything about Hotel X feels larger than life, and the grandeur continues in the three-storey restaurant it wears as a crown. The cavernous lounge room on the 27th floor is accentuated with plush blue chairs and a glowing bar featuring a smartly dressed bartender gliding to and fro. Snazzy decor finishes the atmosphere, including one particularly eye-catching cheetah-print carpet.

The room gives way to windows framing a magnetic vista of the city, a view I’d argue is one of the best in Toronto — and it’s all indoors, safe from frigid temps. I can hardly pry my eyes away throughout my meal, fumbling around for my chopsticks as I’m transfixed by the skyscrapers’ twinkling lights and plumes of steam slowly billowing out from their roofs.

Valerie restaurant | The dining room and bar at Valerie in Hotel X Toronto

Thursday to Friday, Valerie is a bonafide nightlife hub — it even has a bottle service menu. It’s an excellent starting point for a soirée of romping out on the town, or to end the evening with boozy tipples after a show at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. Mere steps from Liberty Village, the chic atmosphere is a welcome change of pace from the rowdy crowds of nearby King West.

Valerie isn’t always a raucous party, I discovered. I visited on a Wednesday evening, and it was quite relaxed — which ended up lending itself to a more enjoyable dining experience. Despite the music getting louder as the night went on, the crowd appeared to mostly be there to tuck into a meal. It was certainly different from the flashy Instagram stories I'd seen, but a more intimate, romantic vibe suited the space nicely.

Valerie: What’s on the new menu?

You’ll find lots of Japanese-inspired dishes on the new menu at Valerie, and there’s even a sushi bar on the 28th floor for the freshest cuts with a side of spectacle. Expect some fusion on the menu, too, like the udon carbonara or tuna tartare with wonton and ponzu.

Other highlights include the Korean fried chicken, which I’d venture to say has been genetically engineered to satisfy tipsy cravings. Gloriously crispy brussels sprouts top a squash purée, and the crunchy kimchi soba salad delivers pops of flavour in every corner of my mouth.

Valerie restaurant | Kimchi soba salad at Valerie in Hotel X Toronto

With the intimate Wednesday evening atmosphere, the full spotlight was on Valerie’s menu. While some of the items do tend to lean a bit on the pricier side, the dishes are elegant and delivered in appetite-satisfying portions. Coupled with the mesmerizing view, I’d certainly recommend heading to Valerie for a romantic dinner date.

Valerie: What’s on the cocktail menu?

Valerie | Ben Kingstone at Valerie in Hotel X Toronto

It’s worth travelling to Valerie just to ogle at some of the curious concoctions and whimsical infusions on the cocktail menu. Beverage manager Ben Kingstone (Parc Ave, Kasa Moto, Roses Cocina) is the mastermind behind many of these quirky flavour combinations, and told me that experimenting with different fusions is his favourite part of the job. His passion is obvious from the first sip — the sriracha cordials, pandan and honey ginger syrups in his drinks had me smacking my lips and tipping my (hypothetical) hat to the bartender.

There’s no shortage of flair, too. A whimsical alternative to bottle service, Valerie offers a tableside serve for their 24 Hours in Toronto cocktail. Servers cart out a Japanese tea set filled with dry ice, and then pour a clarified milk punch in, unleashing a rolling smoke reminiscent of a foggy morning in the city.

Valerie | One Night Only cocktail at Valerie in Hotel X Toronto

One Night Only

Tequila, mezcal, sriracha cordial, pandan syrup, lemon and lime all mix together for this innovative take on a spicy margarita. Those with a keen eye will spot the V carved into the ice cube — a nice touch.

Valerie | Hot Step cocktail at Valerie in Hotel X Toronto

Hot Step

Valerie’s best-selling cocktail, the Hot Step mixes tequila, Martini Fiero and a passionfruit and mint cordial, with soda to top. Light and refreshing, it pairs perfectly with Valerie’s view of the city.

Valerie | Back to Black cocktail at Valerie in Hotel X Toronto

Back to Black

French oak barrel aging combined with toasted cherry wood gives this take on an old-fashioned woody undertones, and the miso syrup adds a pleasant umami note. It’s made with rye, cognac, amaro, salted miso syrup, sweet potato shrub, black walnut bitters, orange bitters and a miso glazed sweet potato chip.

Valerie | 24 Hours in Toronto cocktail at Valerie in Hotel X Toronto

24 Hours in Toronto

At your table, servers pour a crystal-clear pink liquid into your glass filled with dry ice. It’s silky smooth with a milky punch, made with vanilla vodka, sherry, peach liqueur, absinthe, peach tea cordial, lemon juice, caster sugar and whole milk.

Dinner and drinks for two: about $115 before tax and tip

11 Princes' Blvd.,