Best of Toronto: Hotel restaurants

In collaboration with Experience the second golden age for hotel restaurants in Toronto. 

Not so long ago, decent Toronto restaurants were either steakhouses or based in a major hotel. The 1990s and early 2000s saw this distinction reverse and many hotel restaurants barely managed to go beyond a continental breakfast. As it so often does, the pendulum has swung in the other direction and Toronto’s hotel restaurants are having a second golden age. Here are the seven best options.

Table-side includes dessert at Cafe Boulud. Here a warm chocolate sauce is used to melt the half-dome shell to reveal sweet pastries hidden inside. (Image: David Ort)

1. Cafe Boulud

Aside from the decor (which is best forgotten) the original Cafe Boulud in Toronto was quite good. The food was well-prepared and the service was smooth. But it wasn’t Boulud-level excellent. Sensing this distance from perfection, the superstar French chef took a more hands-on role and remade the restaurant in time for TIFF 2015.

The food now is classic bistro with a luxurious twist. There’s plenty of personal Boulud touches (the beignet de calamar include deft Southeast Asian flavours) and nods to Toronto (the quenelle de brochette is made with Ontario-sourced pike.) In short, the rethink worked and Cafe Boulud is in a class by itself.

Cafe Boulud in the Four Seasons, 60 Yorkville Ave., 416-963-6000

With options like a burger and onion rings, the menu at Daisho extends into the casual. (IMAGE: SURESH DOSS)


2. Momofuku

Three separate restaurants, really, the Momofuku complex attached to the Shangri-La has something for everyone. Noodle Bar is an opportunity for a living lesson in the recent history of restaurant food — in the time before David Chang, ramen and pork buns were relegated to specialized outposts in neighbourhoods with recent immigrants from Japan and Korea, respectively. He made them ubiquitous.

With two set-menu options ($95 and $150), Shoto offers one of the most elegant and superbly executed dining experiences in Toronto.

Daisho sits between the two, both physically and in terms of price point. The long menu has plenty of bright spots from favourite small plates like the crispy chicken buns to the Perth Pork, roasted, bone-in pork chop and large format options like a whole-table $290 beef brisket meal including steamed buns and all the accoutrements.

Momofuku Toronto, 190 University Ave., 647-253-6225


Downtown, the Ritz-Carlton has one of the more traditionally luxurious restaurants. TOCA’s menu — a collaboration with Oliver Glowig, the much lauded, Rome-based chef — leans to classic Italian meat, seafood and pasta dishes. Theatre and a four-course chef’s tasting menu ($95) stretch the range of experiences offered. The private dining room and chef’s table in the kitchen add to the possibilities for high-end dining settings.

TOCA in the Ritz-Carlton Toronto, 181 Wellington St. W., 416-572-8008

4. ONE

When Mark McEwan opened ONE a decade ago it was at the leading edge of this trend back toward luxurious hotel restaurants. Over those ten years it has settled comfortably into its home in Yorkville’s Hazelton Hotel. Darby Piquette took over as chef du cuisine about a year ago and has brought an updated style to the menu at ONE.

Favourite dishes include the luxe miso black cod through to the Hazelton burger.

ONE Restaurant in the Hazelton Hotel, 116 Yorkville Ave., 416-961-9600

The Drake’s menu includes seafood options like their pickerel salad. (IMAGE: KAROLYNE ELLACOTT)


5. The Drake

Culture, food, design, even retail — that’s a short summary of the directions from which the Drake has flipped the traditional hotel equation and attracted Torontonians to Queen West for everything other than sleeping. (But take note: Their crash pad rooms are an excellent stay-cation option.)

As well as one of the best views of the evolving Queen West strip, the Lounge restaurant has a long list of accomplishments to boast about. The burger is one of the ten best in the city; they have subtly, but sensibly folded a maki section into the dinner menu; and were one of the first restaurants to understand Toronto’s current obsession with brunch.

The Drake Hotel’s Lounge, 1150 Queen St. W., 416-531-5042

Luckee is Susur Lee’s first Toronto foray into dim sum. (IMAGE: CJ BAEK)


6. Luckee

A Susur Lee restaurant serving dim sum is, pretty much, Toronto dining in a nutshell. Luckee has been open for a year and a half in the downtown Soho Metropolitan. Both the Luckee shrimp cheung fun and the crispy taro & turnip cake are highlights. Stop by for a weekend lunch to get the whole-nine-yards experience including rolling cart service.

Luckee, 328 Wellington St. W., 416-935-0400

7. Courtyard Cafe

If not quite frozen in time, the Courtyard Cafe does at least offer a view into the history of Toronto eating. We’re talking strawberries dipped in chocolate, smoked salmon, eggs Benedict to order, crab legs and creme brûlée. They even have a pianist playing softly from a second floor perch.

Courtyard Cafe at the Windsor Arms, 18 St. Thomas St., 416-971-9666

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