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The 23 best restaurants in Toronto, hands down

This is the definitive list of the best restaurants in Toronto. There are a lot of great restaurants in this city, but a select few stand out above the rest for their impeccable experience and cuisine.

It’s no secret that this city is home to a world-class culinary scene, especially with the Michelin Guide landing on our shores and rounding up its picks for the best restaurants in Toronto. While we have our favourites from the Michelin Guide, as Toronto’s premier food publication, we have our own list of the best restaurants in Toronto (natch) with our own criteria.

When determining Foodism’s best restaurants in Toronto for 2024, we look for consistency above all else. We’ve found that these restaurants deliver top-notch food made with quality ingredients, have excellent bar programs and provide stellar service every single time we visit. From beautifully appointed dining rooms to eccentrically decorated hole-in-the-walls that transport you to another world, the atmospheres vary drastically, but every restaurant on this list offers a unique and fitting backdrop to your lights-out meal.

Representing the city’s diverse mosaic of culinary cultures, our list of Toronto's best restaurants spans from Japanese, Chinese and Korean restaurants to Mexican and Spanish tapas spots. It’s not all French and Italian here. You’ll even find vegan-friendly restaurants on our list. There are classic spots that have been among the city’s top echelon for decades and new Toronto restaurants that have made a name for themselves in recent years.

When it comes to genre and style, there are no limitations here. These are simply Toronto’s best restaurants, ranked in ascending order.

The 23 best restaurants in Toronto

23. Hanmoto

2 Lakeview Ave.

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No reservations, no signage, no phone number and barely any online presence — the food here is so good that this unmarked hole in the wall has relied on word of mouth alone for years, and still sees long wait times on weekends.

Situated on a side street off Dundas near Dovercourt, Hanmoto doesn’t look like much from the outside, but stepping into this divey snack bar under the glowing red lights feels like you’ve been transported to a streetside hideaway in Japan. There’s a warmth and energy here — it’s the kind of place where the bartenders will take shots with you.

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The Japanese-style fare comes in the form of unique, inventive snack plates, unmatched by anything else in the city. Arrive late into the night, order one of their delicious original cocktails or a bottle of sake (the Moonstone Asian Pear Sake, to be precise) and dig in. The Dyno Wings — deboned chicken wings stuffed to a ginormous size with gyoza filling — are a bite of crispy, juicy heaven served in an old-school takeout box.

@hanm0t0

22. Short Turn

576 Queen St. W.

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We’ve held a special place in our hearts for 416 Snack Bar for as long as we’ve been dining out in this city. But while we love the grungy Toronto institution, we can admit that being squished into a high top table for six with strangers in the dark space isn’t unanimously appealing.

Opened last year, sister spot Short Turn is the antidote to all of 416’s (loveable) flaws. Right around the corner from the original spot, the new bar and restaurant is styled to resemble a Toronto streetcar. Shiny, chrome fixtures adorn the long, narrow space that offers ample seating compared to its predecessor. A digital sign outside reads, “416 Snack Bar: Short Turn,” a playful riff off of the TTC streetcars that turn back without completing their route. It’s as Toronto as the original, but with polish and a more mature charm.

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All of our favourite snacks from 416 have migrated to Short Turn — the double deep-fried, crispy Korean fried chicken with gochujang-ginger and sesame; succulent pork belly bao buns; and the addictive ginger-marinated spicy ahi tuna handroll. The cocktail list, however, is brand new and features expertly crafted twists on the classics.

They still don’t take reservations — saunter in for late night snacks and cocktails any day of the week.

416snackbar.com/shortturn

21. Akira Back

80 Blue Jays Way

Best restaurants in Toronto | Inside Akira Back

The Toronto location of chef Akira Back’s namesake restaurant in the Bisha Hotel offers a dazzling experience for special occasions, from the expertly crafted food and beverage program and the exceptional service right down to the ostentatious design. Created by Studio Munge, the charcoal black interior, outfitted with black marble columns and layers of gold detailing underneath a curving blue graphic ceiling, is over the top in the best way.

Feel like you’re dining underwater as you tuck into the delectable menu of Japanese cuisine made with Korean flair. The sushi here goes way beyond your average maki, with rolls like the Brother from Another Mother, unagi topped with ponzu aioli and foie gras. The 48-hour wagyu short rib is so tender and juicy, it almost falls apart with a single poke from your fork. We still dream about that single bite.

akirabacktoronto.com

20. Gia Restaurant

1214 Dundas St. W.

Partners in love and life, Jenny Coburn and Stacey Patterson's story is one of our favourites. Gia, their polished-yet-casual plant-forward restaurant on Dundas West earned (and has retained) its spot on Toronto’s Michelin Guide and the well-deserved crowds and fanfare that comes along with it. 

Gia regularly blows us away with beautiful plates of pillowy, handmade, fresh pasta dripping with sauces that you’ll want to lick clean off your dish. We’re practically begging you to stick a fork into the tonnarelli tartufo, a mound of noodles coated in cashew butter sauce and adorned with thinly shaved truffles. The olive oil cake is so fluffy that we’d use it as a pillow — though, we’d probably eat it first.

giarestaurant.ca

19. DaNico

440 College St.

A reservation at DaNico, Liberty Entertainment Group’s prestige new opening, is something to sculpt your entire month — nay, your year — around. Schedule a babysitter, cancel that kickboxing class, get glammed up and dust off your nicest threads. You’ll want to fully enjoy this.

Set in a heritage bank building across the street from Sneaky Dees, there’s no question DaNico is one of the most beautiful restaurants in Toronto. We’re talking Italian mohair velvet booths, marble counters, eye-popping Versace ceramics and sultry dark-wood finishes. There’s a 30-foot tall wine cellar with over 3,000 bottles (and sommeliers to pick the right label for you). Stunning pieces by Salvador Dali, Damien Hirst and Mr. Brainwash are additional eye-candy.

Executive chef Daniele Corona, who led Don Alfonso 1890 to a Michelin star in 2022, is at the helm here. His signature eight-course tasting menu and à la carte offerings are inspired by the Amalfi coast, with modern Asian influences. The calamarata allo scoglio, for example, pairs thick rings of Gragnano pasta with wild Japanese fish, Mediterranean shrimp and Spanish octopus. Dinner at DaNico is an intimate affair that you’ll be raving about for weeks to come.

danicotoronto.com

18. La Bartola

588 College St.

When most of us picture a plant-based dinner, we conjure an image of a sad side salad paired with a floppy carrot or two, and a haphazard sprinkling of bland tofu cubes. A meal at La Bartola — the only fully vegan restaurant on Toronto’s Michelin Guide — will single-handedly smash that perception.

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The comfortable spot in Little Italy dishes brilliant interpretations of traditional Mexican food that stand toe-to-toe with (if not surpass) its meat-slinging colleagues. That’s thanks to Mexico City-native, chef-owner Iván Castro’s attention to detail and culinary curiosity. Masa is freshly ground in-house, then shaped into toasted cakes that are topped with black aguachile, meaty king oyster mushrooms and fermented black beans. Oaxacan pasillo pepper — a chili that’s exceptionally rare to find on menus this far north — gets incorporated into a mouthwatering peanut sauce that you scoop up and savour with a fresh tamal. We’d drink that stuff like a smoothie, if we could.

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If all that spice has you parched, there’s a lengthy list of cocktails to help douse the heat. The Pachita is a creamy concoction made with popcorn milk (yes, you read that right) and corn rum. There’s a small selection of mezcals to sip, and about 15 tequilas, too.

Castro developed his love for cooking alongside his mother and grandmother, and dedicates La Bartola to the women of Mexico who, he affirms, have been responsible for a “revolution in the kitchen.” Traces of that adoration and respect are everywhere, from portraits of Frieda Kahlo to an art installation of Judy Garland as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, wearing a typical Oaxacan dress.

Best restaurants Toronto | The exterior of La Bartola
Best restaurants Toronto | An art installation of Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz inside La Bartola

La Bartola isn’t trying to be the most glamorous spot in the city (a big "tacos" sign in all caps above the bar is a reminder of the restaurant’s humble origins as a taqueria pop-up and supper club in Castro’s apartment). Instead, it wins your heart with new flavours and unabashed ambition on the plate.

labartola.ca

17. Lake Inez

1471 Gerrard St. E.

There is unassuming, and then there is Lake Inez, tucked away on a quiet stretch of Little India. Stop when you see the piano decorated with wine bottles in the window and slip inside the cozy spot, where hyper-local craft beer meets snack plates with an Asian twist.

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Dishes are constantly changing (you can often find their satisfyingly calligraphic menu on Instagram), but expect playful plates like kimchi beef tartare, pitas and lots of yummy schmear, plus desserts with whimsical names like Sundaes in Brazil.

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Don’t sleep on the wine list, which is just as quirky as the restaurant. By nature of the hubbub and noise-levels at this eastend spot, Lake Inez is one of Toronto's most romantic restaurants. Order a glass of something super French or uber funky, then swirl your glass suggestively as you gaze into your date’s eyes, leaning across the candlelit (careful) table setting to catch every word. Memories will be made, and quite possibly forgotten by morning…

lakeinezto.com

16. Actinolite

971 Ossington Ave.

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Four nights a week, Actinolite lights up the unassuming corner of Ossington Avenue and Hallam Street with warm, glowing lights and an intimate dining experience unlike any other in the city. Here, refined dishes are not inspired by faraway lands, but by the near and often overlooked.

Many of the ingredients used in the multi-course tasting menu have been grown right in the restaurant's backyard garden (where you can also dine beside an open fire in warmer months) or found foraging around the rural Ontario town of Actinolite where chef Justin Cournoyer is from.

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The menu changes intentionally and constantly (they don't even write it down) to reflect the best of what's in season, but it always shines with Ontario gems: braised and roasted Kendal Hills chicken, smoked Georgian Bay Lake trout, house sourdough with yeast butter and aged Maple Dale Cheese. Home has never tasted so good.

actinoliterestaurant.com

15. Dreyfus

96 Harbord St.

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A restaurant named after the wrongly convicted French artillery officer at the centre of a political scandal (the Dreyfus Affair) might not sound like the most romantic locale for dinner, but our feelings for this Harbord Village spot are particularly warm and fuzzy.

Nestled inside a red-brick row house, the cuisine here could best be described as ‘French-ish.’ Expect meaty marvels from an impressive larder, as well as seafood-forward plates, veggie dishes and maybe even a madeleine or two for good measure. Joe Beef alum Zach Kolomeir was raised in Montreal, so there’s plenty of Quebecois influence across the menu — handwritten daily on a chalkboard, naturally.

dreyfustoronto.com

14. Scaramouche Restaurant

1 Benvenuto Pl.

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This isn’t your typical trendy spot of the moment, popping up all over the ‘gram. Rather, Scaramouche Restaurant has been quietly serving their meticulously crafted dishes to celebrities, politicians and big wigs for over 40 years. It’s not the kind of place to see and be seen — it’s for those special moments of lowkey luxury.

Hidden amongst high-end rental apartments in a residential area near Avenue Road and St. Clair West, everything about Scaramouche is quiet elegance. Your visit starts with complimentary valet parking — a precursor to the considerate and thoughtful service that will make you feel like royalty.

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Inside, there’s not a ring light in sight. It's a refined, old-school atmosphere, but the space is relatively modern, complete with a wall of windows overlooking the city’s skyline; crisp, white tablecloths; and impeccable service. From top to bottom, Keith Froggett’s seasonal menu is a total knockout, with dishes like Ontario lamb saddle and plump pan-seared scallops.

Don’t skip dessert. They have one of the most satisfying dessert menus in the city — we’re still dreaming about the coconut cream pie.

scaramoucherestaurant.com

13. The Rosebud

498 King St. E.

It took more than a decade for the space at 498 King Street East to reopen, but it was worth the wait. After some Instagram teasing last summer, the folks behind Mira Mira Diner in the Beaches finally unveiled The Rosebud, an adorably romantic 28-seat wine bar with a difference, at the end of 2023.

Once you’ve taken in the local art by Julia Monson, the cute furnishings and the generally adorable ambience, dive into the unique roster of wines from around the world and the menu of familiar dishes with a twist. Picture a French bistro with Asian flair. Classic Parisian chickpea fritters are given the dim sum treatment, and shrimp cocktail is served with a rich Andalusian sauce courtesy of the culinary ingenuity of Scaramouche alumni, The Rosebud’s chef de cuisine, Jeffrey Yap.

Dishes and wines by the glass will change often, so enjoy as many of the generously portioned plates as you can fit, then head back for more deliciousness, tout suite.

rosebudto.com

12. Bar Isabel

797 College St.

Few restaurants can swell the hearts of Torontonians with pride quite like Bar Isabel, Little Italy’s answer to the moody-lit tavernas and tapas bars of Barcelona. Step underneath the neon sign and through the wooden facade of this casual Iberian icon, where a buzzy world of fun and flavour awaits you.

Music blasts and panache-filled dishes (hello, theatrically stabbed octopus) swirl around diners in such fashion that it’s almost impossible to dine at Bar Isabel and not want to keep the party going. Order the roasted beef bone marrow, and once you’ve scooped out all of the savoury, fatty goodness, take a shot using the bone as a luge — if you’re feeling brave.

Let the good times roll and live out your European vacation dreams with cocktails like the Rambla Highball or the Spanish Fizz, and do not (we repeat, do not) skip the basque cake, slathered with piping hot sherry cream.

barisabel.com

11. Aloette

163 Spadina Ave.

Best restaurants Toronto | Inside Aloette

If we can’t get a reservation at Alo, you better believe we’ll be slipping into a booth at this upscale diner. That’s not to say that Aloette is second fiddle: Alo’s cooler younger sister, located below the Spadina spot on street level, has been serving up inspired (and hella delicious) dishes that have amassed a cult following all of its own.

Order classic cocktails and one of the juiciest burgers in the city from your seat at this diminutive dining spot decked out like a railway carriage. The bar is a fun place to watch the magic happen, but we can’t rule out the opportunity to people-watch the folks on Spadina while crushing a perfectly jiggly-wiggly lemon meringue.

From beef tartare to scallop crudo and iceberg wedge salad, Patrick Kriss and Solomon Mason’s dishes certainly keep us guessing. Before your meal kicks off, slather an alarmingly large knob of butter onto some of the most satisfying dinner rolls in the city while pondering the iconic menu.

aloetterestaurant.com

10. Fonda Balam

802 Dundas St. W.

You haven't had tacos until you've tried Fonda Balam's birria beauty: a warm, hand-made corn tortilla topped with juicy beef birria, chopped onion, cilantro and salsa roja and verde. We dare any fancy schmancy dish in Toronto to make you feel as satisfied as that $9 sloppy handheld.

This casual Dundas West eatery is all counter seating, walk-ins only and the perfect place to post up on any night of the week for chill vibes and impeccable, feel-good cooking that's not "Mexican-inspired," it's Mexican. Full stop.

Best restaurants Toronto | Inside Fonda Balam

Co-owners, partners and co-chefs Kate Chomyshyn and Julio Guajardo have created a welcoming local spot that feels both homey and like you're on vacation at the same time. Come for the tacos (the beef tongue is next-level) but stay for bright plates of ceviche, housemade salsas and guacamole with crispy totopos that could turn any day around.

fondabalam.com

9. Sunnys Chinese

60 Kensington Ave.

Mosey down a dilapidated and nearly forgotten hallway and look for a canary yellow door. Inside, Sunnys Chinese awaits. The antithesis of the outside hallway's cracked floors and fluorescent lights, this vibey restaurant is intentionally designed with a subtle old-school diner aesthetic but dimly lit and windowless like a theatre. The music is loud, the woks are hot, and things get spicy.

The menu is divided into four sections (cold, hot, charcoal and not too sweet) and features lots of shareable dishes for diners to get a taste of regional Chinese food that leans heavily into the flavours of Sichuan, Shaanxi and Guangdong.

Best restaurants Toronto | A set table at Sunnys Chinese

Take, for example, the Husband + Wife Beef (originally from Chengdu, Sichuan), which shows off underrated cuts like shank, tripe and tendon as the flavour absorbers and texture party that they are. It’s bold and numbing, tossed in a house-made Sichuan chili oil, and makes no apologies or modifications for the North American palate. Vegetables like the hot and sour potato and green beans sing with crunch and zingy heat, and the drinks at Sunnys are as funky and fun as the restaurant itself.

sunnyschinese.com

8. Edulis Restaurant

169 Niagara St.

Best restaurants Toronto | The exterior of Edulis

Snagging a reservation at Edulis is like trying to get a pair of coveted concert tickets: sweaty keyboard keys, heart racing and praying your credit card works. It's exhilarating and anxiety-inducing but so worth it — as long as you’re cool with paying for the whole meal upfront, including tip, when you book your table (not including alcohol or add-ons you get at the restaurant).

Look for the charming red house on Niagara Street, which has been converted into one of the city's top tasting menu restaurants specializing in seafood, although it still very much feels like you're dining in someone's eclectic home. And damn, can they ever cook.

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Michael Caballo and Tobey Nemeth serve seasonal treats from their rooftop garden and wine pairings so spot-on they have been known to cause people to blurt out a string of expletives. Any time is a good time to scoff fresh Canadian tuna, wild mushrooms and excellent cheese — but if we had to pick, black truffle season might be the best time to splurge on a lights-out meal here.

edulisrestaurant.com

7. George Restaurant

111C Queen St. E.

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It may be smack dab in the middle of the city, but once you step into George Restaurant, you'll be whisked away into an elegant atmosphere where hushed voices only reach a quiet murmur and the courteous staff wait on you hand and foot.

The real magic happens on the back patio: Cocooned by the surrounding buildings, the lush outdoor oasis is sheltered from the noise of the city. Here, a cozy backyard meets white linens and fine dining — look around and it's all twinkling lights and stars above.

The signature Chef's Choice tasting menu comes in five, seven or 10 courses and each option can be made vegetarian. The dishes can be ordered à la carte instead, but the tasting menu is the real experience. Executive chef Lorenzo Loseto has been surprising and delighting diners at George for over two decades, and his menu of seasonal, innovative fare is an adventure in flavour and texture.

Unique dishes like a pear tart with roasted pork belly and dandelion will take your tastebuds on a rollercoaster ride of unfamiliar yet exciting flavours. The menu changes to feature the best seasonal ingredients, and there could be up to 20 original dishes at any time. Guests have the opportunity to provide their personal preferences for a customized tasting experience. Plus, if your dining companion is open to sharing, you can each ask for a different menu to maximize all the flavours you can taste. Optional wine pairings take the experience to the next level.

georgeonqueen.com

6. MIMI Chinese

265 Davenport Rd.

When we close our eyes, our lips still smack of the tongue-tinglingly spicy sauces and deep flavours from our last visit to Mimi Chinese. Every so often, a really special Toronto restaurant opens and totally shakes up the city’s culinary scene. Mimi Chinese is that kind of place. From the same team behind the hugely successful Sunnys Chinese, Mimi is the more polished, mature big sister, without being stuffy at all.

The ink black space with pops of ostentatious red is unapologetically gorgeous, and instantly demands your attention. Your eyes will boggle from the moment you're greeted by a maître d' in a pressed, black bowtie to when the show-stopping four-foot long belt noodle arrives at your table and is cut with gold scissors.

Mimi is a celebration of China's diverse culinary history gently cared for by young, talented hands that you can watch working away from a window cut into the dining room's back wall. Psst — it's a one-way mirror. The kitchen can't see you digging into cooling scallops sitting in a slurp-able scallion oil and soy broth, or snacking on the city's best shrimp toast. But you’ll see daydreams of the caramelized house char siu long after your epic meal is over.

mimichinese.com

5. DaiLo

503 College St.

Nick Liu is not a fan of the term ‘fusion,’ but what he’s doing with Asian cuisine on College Street is far from traditional (and we mean that in the best way possible). 

Almost a decade after opening, this relaxed Little Italy restaurant, outfitted with Chinese watercolour murals, exposed brick and eccentric decor, is a humble home for the anything-but-basic-cuisine. Liu, who grew up as the son of Hakka parents in Canada, frequently wows palates at DaiLo with his unique brand of Chinese food made with French cooking flair.

From the whimsical, famed Big Mac Bao (now only available on the secret menu) and the fried watermelon that blends sweet, savoury and tangy to sophisticated tasting menus, Liu's cuisine has carved out a cultural blueprint for the city that others can only try to emulate.

Chef de cuisine Dennis Tay is always adding new and totally unexpected items to the menu for a limited run. Quebec snow crab with egg tofu custard, yuzu, morels, corn tempura and popcorn dust. Umm, what? We'll have two.

dailoto.com

4. Restaurant 20 Victoria

20 Victoria St.

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Not all restaurant casualties have a silver lining, but Restaurant 20 Victoria is a true phoenix-risen-from-the-ashes story. The team behind Brothers Food & Wine, the critically lauded but shuttered-by-covid eatery in Yorkville, didn’t waste much time plotting out their next venture. Chris White and Jonathan Nicolaou opened their new spot in the Financial District in the summer of 2021, and before long, the small, dimly lit dining room began serving innovative seafood dishes and a menu full of local flair to enormous fanfare.

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Restaurant 20 Victoria only has 20 seats inside, so you may need to book your tasting menu months in advance. It’ll all pay off once you grab a table and settle in for some of chef Julie Hyde’s seasonal, original cuisine in this white-tablecloth venue that never feels stuffy.

@twentyvictoria

3. Alo

163 Spadina Ave.

Chef Patrick Kriss’s OG restaurant is often touted as the crème de la crème of Toronto’s restaurant scene, and for good reason. Alo has all of the polish, sophistication and exceptional service that you would expect from an old-school fine dining establishment, infused with chic modern design and a contemporary atmosphere.

The cool crowd is on the more mature side — $225 per person remains out of reach for a lot of folks — but as high-end as this experience is, it’s not pretentious or stuffy. Reservations open up a month in advance for a two-month time period, and booking a spot is a severely-sweaty-palms situation. But the result is a room full of diners who are genuinely grateful to be there and want to make the most of the evening by creating a memorable experience (rather than collecting Instagram content).

The tasting menu is a work of art. The 12 courses in the dining room or six courses in the bar room, at a slightly lower price point ($120 pp), is a masterclass in seasonality, flavour combinations and inventive execution. At the time of our visit, standouts included a delicate crudo and rich, buttery foie gras presented as a perfect slice of pie with a texture so smooth it could have got us into bed.

The savoury mushroom risotto was a flavour explosion unlike anything we’ve ever had before, and we nearly wept when it was finished. We opted for the wine pairings with every course which are expertly selected to add depth to every dish. The portions are small, but this is a tasting menu, not a stuff-your-gut menu. If you’re looking for a flavour experience that verges on the sensual, Alo is well worth the price tag.

alofoodgroup.com

2. AP

55 Bloor St. W., 51st Floor

Not everyone goes weak in the knees over a perfect piece of raw fish, but we do, and that’s why we’ve ranked AP so highly among the best restaurants in the city. Here, delicate, incredibly fresh fish is elevated to levels of unholy deliciousness with chef Antonio Park’s flavour-packed (but not overpowering) sauces.

Kissed by a gentle sear on the outside, raw on the inside, and swimming in a slurp-able ginger emulsion, the bluefin tuna tataki might well be the best thing we’ve ever had the pleasure of putting in our mouths. The wagyu skirt steak is so tender and flavourful that all conversation came to a halt when we tried the first bite. And the hamachi crudo had us swooning with every morsel.

Reflecting Park’s international background and culinary training, the menu is full of inventive pan-Asian dishes that marry Japanese flavours with Park’s signature Latin flair. The result is explosive flavour combinations and a unique concept that mirrors Toronto’s medley of multiculturalism. We recommend opting for the six course Chef’s Tasting Experience ($95 pp) to sample four dishes of your choice from the prix fixe menu along with an amuse bouche and a palate cleanser.

The sake options are plentiful, with the list sectioned by different flavour profiles, and normally we’d argue that there’s nothing better to pair with sushi, but the craft cocktails knock it out of the park (no pun intended).

Set on the 51st floor of the Manulife Centre, AP’s dramatic view will have your eyes bouncing back and forth between the beautiful dishes laid in front of you and the sweeping cityscape beyond the restaurant’s large windows. Inside the sultry space, the dim lighting, dark floral banquettes and marbled tables ooze romance while charming patterned parasols hang overhead.

The service is more casual and less refined than one might expect with a price tag this high, but AP’s impeccable flavours and mesmerizing ambiance more than make up for it.

aprestaurants.com

1. Quetzal

419 College St.

Not going to lie, we were a little apprehensive to try Quetzal, given its history (operators and partners leaving their own restaurant due to toxic working conditions is never a good sign). Five years later, however, this alluring College Street outpost has found its stride with chef Steven Molnar at the helm. Now, with a Michelin star (2022, 2023) and the Toronto Exceptional Cocktail Award (2023) under its belt, this upscale Mexican restaurant offers the city a night of dining unlike any other.

Once you pass through the brick-walled front, you're transported into a buzzy and inviting new world under the canopy of Quetzal's striking curved ceiling, designed to emulate the white tarps over outdoor Mexican markets — but make it modern art museum. Towards the back, the open-galley kitchen's wood-fire pit and grill spans a whopping 26 feet, providing both a challenge and an enticing kiss of char to vibrant dishes like a mouth-watering lamb barbacoa empanada and a whole grilled sea bream with salsa roja and cruda.

The cocktail menu is a fantastic place to start, with their wicked combination of mezcal and tequila, plus their house syrups and tonics. No Heather, It's Heather's Turn is a bright green concoction that's tart, refreshing and completely delicious. Though Mexican cuisine screams tequila and mezcal (and there's plenty of that, too), Quetzal pleasantly surprises in the wine department. The dossier-thick selection of sparkling, pink, skin contact and red offers diners options by the glass or bottle representing everywhere from Niagara to Chile. 

Best restaurants Toronto | A spread of dishes at Quetzal
Best restaurants Toronto | Primaverde cocktail at Quetzal

Service is swift, friendly and attentive. If you're not fussy, take the stress out of the guessing game and let your server bring you plates based on your mood. Then sit back, and prepare your taste buds for a fiesta. For a taste of the sea, the scallop ceviche with leche negra is inventive and delicious, while the dry-aged amberjack aguachile with pickled watermelon rind is a refreshing thrill, just like a night at Quetzal. 

The grilled Hokkaido scallops are sinfully satisfying gulps of herby, buttery goodness. Shoot them back and wait for your eyes to stop rolling around in your head before chasing them with any one of their colourful and confounding entradas. The head-spinning seasonal selection of Canadian produce and southern Mexican — think chanterelle mushrooms, pickled cactus, cheese, ramps — at times makes you wonder, "Where the heck am I?" before realizing after another outrageous bite that you don't actually care a jot.

quetzaltoronto.com

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