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5 of Toronto’s best new restaurants

5 of Toronto’s best new restaurants

by Niamh Shields 08 September 2017

The tone of a city’s culinary scene can be judged by the pace of restaurant openings. In which case, Toronto is red hot. Niamh Shields visits the Canadian city to seek out the best new spots.


Toronto is a city that keeps pulling me back. I have been three times now and each time, despite wanting to return to places that I have loved on previous visits, I am drawn to new and exciting restaurant launches. There are so many to discover each time.

If you have never been, Toronto is a city that pulsates. It is bright and energetic, its tall shiny glass buildings tower over slinky trams and older buildings that have survived the test of time. Torontonians are busy and they have things to do, but they know how to eat, and they do that very well. They know good food because they have a lot of it, and standards are very high. Chefs I spoke to as I travelled Canada on my recent trip all referred to Toronto when I asked them where the most exciting food scene is right now.

The restaurant scene tells Toronto's story. Bright and exciting, it is rich with an admirably integrated immigrant culture, established and new. Torontonians form queues outside the best of the restaurants there, at evenings and for weekend brunch. I gathered recommendations from Canadian chefs and food writers and did my own internet sleuthing – by the time I got to Toronto I had a very long list. Visiting on the month of Canada's 150th birthday, I was excited to see how the city had evolved. It was very tough to choose where to eat.

Indigenous Canadian restaurants were top of my list. There are over 1.4 million indigenous Canadians in Canada, many of which live in the north, however twenty-two percent of the indigenous population lives in Ontario (figures from 2011), of which ten percent are in Toronto. In recent years they have made their mark on the dining scene there, opening some of the most interesting places that I ate in.

1. Pow Wow Cafe

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Kensington Market is the first stop for many visitors to Toronto. Not a market as we know it, it is more a multicultural neighbourhood packed with restaurants, cafes and shops. There are many good eats here, notably on this visit Pow Wow Cafe. Chef Shawn Adler is serving up ‘Indian’ tacos – Ojibway-style frybread topped with indulgent comfort foods like beef chilli and jerk chicken on top. The bread is deep-fried to order and then cut on top into deep ridged squares so that whatever is served on top takes hold. I loved it. Popular for weekend brunch, Pow Wow Café is small so you may need to wait – but it is worth it.

Kensington Market, 213 Augusta Ave, Toronto, M5T 2L4. facebook.com/CafePowWow

2. Kū-kŭm

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Kū-kŭm had only been open a week when I visited. Chef Joseph Shawana was raised on the Wiikwemkoong Unceded Reserve on Manitoulin Island on Lake Huron and his background and upbringing inform the menu and restaurant. Kū-kŭm is a fine dining establishment with à la carte and tasting menus focused around serving indigenous foods (think wild meats, seal and foraged ingredients like berries and pine) using contemporary techniques.

I loved the roasted elk crusted with juniper and spruce tips, served with turnip and Jerusalem artichokes. The fresh preserve plate with pickled cattail hearts, fiddleheads, milkweed pods and warm bannock was lovely too, and a superb introduction to indigenous ingredients. The entire drinks list, including wines, is Canadian; on my visit the wines were all from Ontario, which is even more interesting. The space and service are both charming, and there is gorgeous artwork on the walls by local indigenous artist Chief Ladybird.

581 Mt Pleasant Rd, Toronto, M4S 2M5. kukum-kitchen.com

3. Rickshaw Bar

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Rickshaw Bar serves street food from South and South East Asia. This isn't just any street food joint, of which there are many; Rickshaw Bar is a heartfelt and delicious expression of the childhood of chef Noureen Feerasta, originally from Lahore in Pakistan. The unassuming but gorgeous Ismaili beef curry is a day’s work from a secret family recipe. The scallop ceviche is also deservedly popular with leche de tigre, kumquat, lime and taro chips. I couldn't resist trying the paratha taco either, a fun fusion twist.

685 Queen St W, Toronto, M6J 1E6. rickshawbar.com

4. Fat Pasha

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A Torontonian food writer friend heartily recommended Fat Pasha for brunch, and so I took myself along. Fat Pasha (from Toronto food scene darling Anthony Rose) serves up very good Middle Eastern food, specifically Jewish food with Ashkenazi and Sephardic flavours. Favourites like shakshuka, falafel, reuben and lox with eggs are available as you would expect. I got a selection of salatim (a course made up of cold dishes in Israeli cuisine): muhammara (a dip with peppers, walnuts and breadcrumbs) and garlic fried tomatoes. I also tried the excellent shikshukit hummus with tahini, chickpeas, ground lamb and amba (a mango pickle). Very enjoyable and it looks like it would also be fun for a few drinks.

414 Dupont St, Toronto, M5R 1V9. fatpasha.com

5. Kiin

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Kiin was my last stop, and I almost didn't go as I was running out of time. That would have been a huge mistake. It had just opened and was very popular with long queues already. Inside, chef Nuit is serving authentic regional Thai food in a bright and gorgeous contemporary room. I know Thai food well and I was surprised and excited to discover the standard of Thai food being served here. The grilled pork jowl with tamarind was one of the best things that I ate on this trip (and this was my tenth restaurant in Toronto alone), with deep flavours and brightness to it. The ‘Chor Ladda’ with jasmine rice, peanut, onion, pickled radish, and coconut sugar ‘flower’ dumplings were a treat just to look at and a joy to eat. The cocktails deserve a look too – I had a terrific Thai take on the colada, a much overlooked drink. This is their second restaurant, the original being Pai, which based on my experiences here would be well worth checking out also.

326 Adelaide St W, Toronto, M5V 1R3. kiintoronto.com

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