What chefs want to eat right now!

Hundreds of new restaurants have popped up in the city since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While indoor dining remains temporarily closed, plenty of restaurants are offering take-out, as well as “dine-in” options on their heated patios.

We recruited Toronto’s best chefs and asked them a simple question: what’s on your 2022 must-try list?

Atai Bistro – Takeout options available

Judge Massimo Capra: “I am intrigued by the Moroccan/French cuisine, and I noticed that they are breaking barriers in their flavour profile and ingredients. The menu looks interesting, and I am always looking for a new culinary experience.” 

POST CITY’S TAKE: At Atai Bistro, chef de cuisine Meaghan Foster is putting her own spin on traditional regional Moroccan recipes using French cooking techniques. The menu at the inviting Junction area restaurant emphasizes sharing-style meals, including beautiful mezze platters; savoury flatbreads, such as the Bresaola topped with fennel, harissa, ricotta, za’atar and pomegranate; and dips like hummus with Urfa chili oil. Cocktails also draw inspiration from the north African nation with the Aube Marocaine, for example, made with a blend of light bourbon, mint, spice syrup, Moroccan tea and Peychaud bitters. There’s also a brief list of French wines, local and international beers and, true to Morocco’s dining culture, plenty of loose leaf teaoptions. In addition to its dine-in menu, Atai Bistro also offers an extensive selection of house-made pantry items like a za’atar spice blend, chili oil and smoked almonds. 3047 Dundas St. W.

POST CITY’S TAKEOUT PICK: Smoked Eggplant Flatbread, $16

Crosley’s – Curbside pickup available

POST CITY’S TAKE: Run by internationally renowned chef and sommelier J. P. Adamo (co-owner of Bar Piquette), Crosley’s restaurant officially opened in January 2021. The changing menu of small share plates is simple and distinctly Canadian with a European-inspired twist. Chef Joachim (Joe) Hayward previously worked as the head chef at the now-closed Brothers Food & Wine in Yorkville, where he met fellow Crosley’s chef Myles Harrison. Their partnering with J.P. and Laura Adamo has the end result of a personalized approach to fine dining. The seasonal menu is rife with distinctly Canadian, nationally sourced items with an international twist, courtesy of tasting trips to London, Italy and Paris. Recent dishes have included Albacore tuna filet topped with caper berries, bone marrow croutons guindilla peppers, tomato and fresh rosemary, as well as the treviso radicchio salad mixed with grilled grapes, chestnuts and ricotta salata with a red wine vinegar dressing. In true Canadian fashion, less commonly seen meats have also made their way onto the menu, with dishes like the rabbit terrine and sweetbreads done with sun choke and onion soubise, pickled maitake mushrooms and roasted pearl onions glazed in chicken stock recently on offer. 214 Ossington Ave.

POST CITY’S TAKEOUT PICK: Menu changes daily, call ahead for takeout options.

Pai Uptown – Takeout and delivery options available

Image by: Michael Graydon & Nikole Herriott

Judge Craig Wong: “When you come across people as genuine and kind [as Jeff and Nuit] that produce such delicious food, it’s an honour to call them friends,” says Wong. “I love spicy flavours, and at Pai, they do it right, serving up authentic spicy Thai flavour.

POST CITY’S TAKE: With more than five successful restaurants under her belt, Pai Uptown is the latest culinary venture from Thai chef Nuit Regular and her husband and business partner, Jeff Regular. The original Pai restaurant, located at 18 Duncan St., is named after a small town in northern Thailand where Nuit and Jeff met. Pai Uptown is bold and bright and represents the culinary couple’s biggest restaurant to date, with a 12,000-square-foot space that is spread across two storeys. Despite the new neighbourhood, the menu at the midtown spot still features the unadulterated version of Thai cooking that Regular is known for. Expect to find a selection of delicious curries, like the gaeng kiaw wan (green curry), served with bamboo shoots, makrut lime leaves, basil leaves and coconut milk, and other Thai staples like chef Nuit’s famous pad Thai, cooked in her house-made tamarind–palm sugar sauce, and the khao soi (fresh egg noodles stirred into a thick, golden coconut curry). 2335 Yonge St.

POST CITY’S TAKEOUT PICK: Chef Nuit Pad Thai, $17.50

Yasu – Takeout options available

POST CITY’S TAKE: Earning its stripes as Canada’s first-ever omakase sushi bar, Yasu is a prix fixe Japanese restaurant that is committed to using only the finest, freshest fish that’s flown in from fish markets from around the world. Yasu takes pride in using simple, traditional cooking methods that draw out the natural umami (flavour) profile of each fish. On any given night, patrons seated at the sushi bar will find head chef and owner, Yasuhisa Ouchi, expertly slicing each piece of fish by hand before carefully balancing it atop a warm bed of rice. Yasu only offers one menu, which is done omakase style. Omakase is a Japanese tradition which can be loosely translated as “chef’s pick.” Using what’s freshest and most readily available, chef Ouchi, who was born in Osaka, Japan, and opened Yasu in 2014, creates a unique tasting menu that changes daily and features beautiful cuts of fish that can be enjoyed simply as sushi or sashimi or in rolls that are often garnished with edible flowers or other intricate ingredients. Previous menu items have included the toro roll (fatty tuna) anago (saltwater eel), sablefish and uni (sea urchin). 81 Harbord St.

POST CITY’S TAKEOUT PICK: Menu changes daily, call ahead for takeout options.

Afrobeat Kitchen – Takeout and delivery options available

Judge Suzanne Barr: “The flavours stand tall and intentional as they represent the power, tradition and essence of Nigerian cuisine. Afrobeat Kitchen is a movement that brings you to the table.”

POST CITY’S TAKE: Specializing in modern west African cuisine with a particular spotlight on Nigerian food, Afrobeat Kitchen is a Black-owned business and private catering project from chef Victor Uguweke. Although this tiny eatery is slightly hidden from view, as it’s located inside the Caravan Cafe & Tea House, the menu from this pop-up kitchen is anything but shy, featuring bold flavours and colourful ingredients known to traditional west African cuisine. Popular dishes include the party jollof, a mashup of sensationally spicy, smoky paella-style rice that’s slow cooked in a sofrito reduction with lemon grass, star anise and smoked crayfish. Plenty of light bites, like the kelewele tostones, featuring twice-cooked smashed plantains tossed in thyme and spices or the sticky suya chicken wings tossed in hot honey with yaaji spice (ginger peanut BBQ rub) also make for the perfect afternoon snack. 1165 Bloor St. W.

POST CITY’S TAKEOUT PICK: Party Jollof, $19

Antler

POST CITY’S TAKE: Drawing inspiration from his childhood spent in the Canadian wilderness, wild game hunter and chef Michael Hunter opened Antler Kitchen and Bar in 2015 with the goal of bringing forest-to-table dining to fruition. Focusing on ingredients that honour the age-old traditions of hunting, fishing and foraging, Hunter has designed a seasonal menu that celebrates the culinary delights of Canada year-round. Entrees shine a spotlight on plenty of Canadian game meat, seen in popular dishes like the game burger, made using a three-mix blend of freshly ground wild boar, bison and venison and garnished with pickle, tomato, lettuce and cheddar. As well there are more recent menu features like the bison filet mignon served with pommes boulangère (crispy sliced potatoes) crispy ox tongue, sauteed chanterelles from British Columbia and house-made jus. Plenty of fresh pastas are also available, including the pappardelle with braised rabbit, buttered leeks, verjus apricot preserve and Parmesan cheese, or the bison tenderloin ragout made from hand-cut pappardelle, chanterelles and spinach and finished with red wine, cream and Parmesan cheese. For lighter bites, there are such offerings as Antler’s nose-to-tail charcuterie boards. Antler’s cocktail program focuses on foraged cocktails made with aromatic ingredients like sprigs of fresh cedar, rhubarb bitters and edible florals. 1454 Dundas St. W., takeout and delivery options available.

POST CITY’S TAKEOUT PICK: Game Burger and Fries, $24

Osteria Giulia – Takeout options available

Judge Julie Marteleira: “I’m used to working in a large restaurant, so I usually tend to gravitate toward smaller and more intimate places when I go out. From what I’ve seen online, the dishes look classic, approachable but still very elegant.”

POST CITY’S TAKE: Osteria Giulia, owned by former Top Chef Canada contestant and chef Rob Rossi, brings coastal northern Italian fare (and flair) to Toronto’s Yorkville neighbourhood. Designed by Guido Costantino, Osteria’s interior is hyper minimalist, featuring natural wood and wicker dining chairs, pale hardwood floors and a modern wood-panelled bar that’s stocked with spirits from around the world. According to Rossi, the inspiration for the seasonal menu was to breathe new life into some classic Italian dishes but still keep them very simple and honest. The anchovy and whipped butter toast, for example, is a nod to traditional bruschetta and is topped with roasted garlic and crispy capers instead of diced tomatoes. Over at the bar, Iain Codona has created a cocktail program that aims to highlight the same fresh approach Rossi has taken with the food menu. The Messicano, for example, Osteria Giulia’s top seller, is a tequila-based cocktail that blends green Chartreuse, mint and basil cordial, a hint of lime juice and a refreshing piece of sliced cucumber. 134 Avenue Rd.

POST CITY’S TAKEOUT PICK: Risotto ai Funghi, $38

Ten – Takeout options available

POST CITY’S TAKE: Serving 10 people at a time from a 10- (or sometimes five-) course tasting menu, Ten is a vegetable-forward restaurant located in the heart of the Brockton village neighbourhood of Toronto. This Canadian restaurant, helmed by chef Julian Bentivegna, brings a progressive approach to fine vegetarian dining with a menu that is constantly changing, accounting for the seasonality and availability of ingredients. No matter what time of the year it is, though, Ten Restaurant will always be vegetable forward, with some fish options served. The space has an enviable esthetic with a white exposed brick wall behind the chef’s counter, which has just ten seats, and a mosaic mural of flowers on another wall. Ten Restaurant has achieved its goal of unpretentious fine dining that is both intensely creative and delicious while being sustainably sourced. Currently, Ten offers a tasting menu priced at $140 per person. Some of the dishes on offer include a roasted carrot crudo infused with flavours of orange and chestnut and the grilled rutabaga and romesco. Even the dessert menu is vegetable focused, with the introduction of unconventional sweet treats like the new beet and lime tart. 1132 College St.

POST CITY’S TAKEOUT PICK: Menu changes daily, call ahead for takeout options.

Little Sister Food Bar – Takeout and delivery options available

Judge Roger Mooking: “I grew up eating krupuk [a type of deep-fried prawn cracker] as a snack while waiting for the rest of the meal. It is not only a delicious treat, but a cherished memory, which I look forward to every time.”

POST CITY’S TAKE: Dutch-Indonesian fare can be quite hard to find in Toronto, and after opening its doors for the very first time back in 2014, owners Mike Van Den Winkel and Jennifer Gittens have also successfully opened a location on Portland Street. All of the dishes at Little Sister shine a light on cuisine that’s enjoyed on the Indonesian islands. The menu is expertly divided into satay skewers, snacks and sides, most of which can be eaten with one’s hands in street food style. The Sumatra spiced beef croquettes and the babi guling (a crispy Balinese pulled pork lettuce wrap), for example, are perfect for sharing, and larger traditional dishes, like the udang kari (a turmeric coconut shrimp curry), make for a hearty main. Although grilled meats, like chicken and beef, dominate the menu, Little Sister also has plenty of vegetarian options on offer as well, like the refreshing urab salad, done with green beans, Chinese broccoli, coconut sambal goreng and lime leaf. 2031 Yonge St.

POST CITY’S TAKEOUT PICK: Balinese Shredded Chicken Taco (x1), $6.50

Mamakas Taverna – Takeout and delivery options available

POST CITY’S TAKE: Founded in 2014 by owner and operator Thanos Tripi, Mamakas Taverna is a Mediterranean restaurant that serves up authentic Aegean cuisine with a modern twist. Using only the freshest available ingredients, the menu at Mamakas takes an elevated, rustic approach to Mediterranean cuisine using tried-and-true recipes passed down from generations gone by. Starters like the spanakopita, for example, use traditional ingredients like feta cheese and spinach wrapped in a spiral phyllo pastry, but the addition of honey on top gives this snack a sweet finish. House-made dips, like tzatziki, and other small plates like olives and keftedes (lamb meatballs), make for the perfect sharing plate, as do a selection of house salads, like the horiatiki, which features tomato, cucumber, red onion, olive tapenade and oregano. A selection of grilled meat and seafood can be ordered as entrees or plates. Popular dishes include the oktapódi (grilled octopus served with Santorini fava and caper leaves, the lavraki (whole grilled Mediterranean sea bass) and païdakiá (grilled Ontario lamb chops) done on an open flame. For dessert, don’t miss the traditional baklava topped with walnuts and pistachios and served with vanilla bean ice cream or the galatopita (semolina custard with mulled wine–poached pear, rose hazelnut nougat and raspberry rose salt). 80 Ossington Ave.

POST CITY’S TAKEOUT PICK: Keftedes (lamb meatballs), $18

Cà Phê Rang –Takeout options available

Judge Nuit Regular: “​​Jeff and I often go out for Vietnamese food, so I really want to try this new spot. Their beef and brisket pho looks so appetizing and comforting — it’ll be perfect to warm me up this winter!”

POST CITY’S TAKE: Located in Chinatown at the corner of Spadina Avenue and Richmond Street West, Cà Phê Rang is Toronto’s newest bánh mì restaurant. The humble Vietnamese eatery is a new collaboration between renowned chefs Matty Matheson, the familiar face behind smash burger spot Matty’s Patty’s Burger Club and Maker Pizza, and Rang Nguyen, former head chef at Le Sèlect Bistro. With winter weather in full swing, Cà Phê Rang is the go-to spot for warm pho soups and bánh mì sandwiches. Start by sipping a savoury bowl of beef and brisket pho garnished with crisp bean sprouts, diced green onions and red chilies. Next, bite into a slow-cooked beef brisket topped with fresh slices of cucumber and sprigs of parsley, and don’t forget to dunk it in one of the eatery’s many homemade sauces. Like any good snack bar, Cà Phê Rang also serves a small selection of sides, like bite-sized khai vi (spring rolls) that can be ordered in prawn or shiitake mushroom varieties, among others. 147 Spadina Ave.

POST CITY’S TAKEOUT PICK: Rare Beef and Brisket Pho, $17

White Lily Diner – Takeout options available

POST CITY’S TAKE: Combining a respect for local provenance with greasy spoon ambitions, the White Lily Diner has been serving up doughnuts, brunch and classic diner fare from its humble Riverside abode since 2016. Back in the summer of this year, owners Ben Denham and Ashley Lloyd purchased a 40-acre working farm in Uxbridge, Ont., and ever since, a great deal of the produce found on the menu at the diner comes from the newly christened White Lily Farms. The diner’s all-day menu features a great range of shareables, like the buttermilk biscuits or the pimento cheese and cracker spread, as well as a selection of refreshing salads, like the White Lily Farms salad, which features seasonal greens, radish, fermented onion, cucumber toasted hemp seed and a soft-boiled egg finished with a house dressing. The all-day menu also includes all-day breakfast with favourites like triple-stack buttermilk griddle cakes or the Southern breakfast (eggs, bacon, grits and gravy, fermented greens and a buttermilk biscuit) available any day of the week. Classic sandwiches, like the turkey bacon club, grilled cheese and pastrami on rye, make the White Lily Diner the perfect spot for breakfast, lunch, or anywhere in between. The White Lily Diner is currently offering its all-day menu as well as alcohol, fresh bread and provisions. 678 Queen St. E.

POST CITY’S TAKEOUT PICK: Smoked Turkey Club, $16


Thank you to our judges!

Romain Avril formerly Neruda
Suzanne Barr Wall of Chefs
Victor Barry Piano Piano
Mitch Bates Oji Seichi
Michael Bonacini O&B Restaurants
Stuart Cameron Azhar
Ryan Campbell Il Covo
Zane Caplansky Caplansky’s Deli
Massimo Capra Capra’s Kitchen
Haan Palcu-Chang SoSo Food Club
Kate Chomyshyn Fonda Balam
Anna Chen Alma
Craig Harding La Palma
Elia Herrera Colibri
Michael Hunter Antler
Ann Kim Donna’s
Zach Kolomeir Dreyfus
Didier Leroy Domaine Mamo
Curt Martin General Assembly
Rosa Marinuzzi 7 Numbers
Julie Marteleira Leña Restaurant
Laura Maxwell Drake Hotel
Roger Mooking Food Network Canada
Ryusuke Nakagawa Aburi Hana
David Neinstein Barque
Nadège Nourian Nadège Patisserie
Matthew Ravenscroft Gia
Nuit Regular Pai Uptown
Rob Rossi Giulietta
Elias Salazar Waska Peruvian Chicken
David Salt Drifter’s Solace
David Schwartz MIMI Chinese
Jordan Sclare Chotto Matte
Tricia Soo Soos
Rafaelle Ventrone Oretta
Craig Wong Patois
Janet Zuccarini Top Chef Canada

Article exclusive to Streets Of Toronto