I booked my flight to Canada spontaneously longing for a city break after three years in rural Mauritius. Surprisingly, I didn’t suffer from jet lag, so I instantly embraced the fast and congestive feel of Toronto. The city’s mosaic of nifty boutiques, elegant bars, and urban parkland swept me off my feet. Toronto isn’t the type of city that goes all out to impress, but a local friend helped me speed up the discovery process. It’s a pleasure to share my insight into five outstanding Toronto restaurants.
Planta: Become what you eat
After nearly three hours of walking, from Chinatown to the Distillery District and all the way up on Bay Street, I needed a boost of energy. Camouflaged by construction work, Planta wasn’t easy to find. As a solo customer, I sat at the bar, next to the regulars, who were chatting with the bartender, creating a cosy atmosphere. The retro style high-ceiling and a sneak peek at other people’s dishes clued me in on how seriously Planta takes creative and attentive plating. I ordered the eggplant lasagna with smoked tofu and almond parmesan, and a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon. For dessert, I had the avocado lime cheesecake. Did I mention that the menu is plant-based without the use of any animal products?
Tip: If you don’t mind an incredibly busy, loud, and tight place, make a reservation before you show up.
Pizzeria Libretto: Hand gestures are welcomed
Every time I assume that I have found the best pizza place in the world, another pizza place pops up in my life. Pizzeria Libretto in Ossington, a truly local neighbourhood, brings to Toronto not only the fresh Italian flavours but also the Italian temperament. The staff is cheerful and sociable, the atmosphere hospitable, and the portions generous. I go in for mushroom and cheeses, so I didn’t scan all 15 pizzas on the menu before ordering the Funghi di Bosco. But what would an Italian meal be without the company of good wine? My local friend had given me no other option but the sparkling red, and I endorse her choice.
Tip: Since you are in my favourite area in Toronto, here’s a bonus for you. Bang Bang Ice Cream and Bellwoods Brewery, just a few steps away from Libretto. All three places together make for a complete (and filling) night out.
La Carnita: For the love of art, music, and food
La Carnita is two minutes away from TIFF, in the heart of Toronto’s Media & Entertainment District. This is an urban spot for the guacamole, jalepeños, lime, and cilantro enthusiasts. From our selection of tacos the cod and crispy cotija stole the show. While sipping our Rose Sangria (sorry Tequila lovers!)our eyes were having a feast of their own. The interior is designed with the contribution of some of Toronto’s best street artists such as Shingo Shimizu. In combination with the dim lighting and hip-hop and rap classics, La Carnita stimulates all your senses. Unless you prefer to not eat with your hands as we did.
Tip: Remember, you are in the Media & Entertainment District. Choose a seat by the window, as it’s very likely to witness a movie filming or spot a celebrity.
Saigon Lotus: The all-plant version of world-famous recipes
Okay, I must admit that Saigon Lotus wasn’t a recommendation by a Torontonian. It was a personal achievement to hit upon a locally backed up spot in one of the city’s busiest areas, between Chinatown and Little Italy. This restaurant has gone back to the roots of Vietnamese cuisine, free from European influences. From vegan pho soup and vegetable spring rolls to stir-fry vermicelli curries and imaginative salads, all dishes are the result of fresh and thoughtfully combined ingredients.
Tip: There’s something genuinely calm and invigorating about this place. So, let mindfulness and a healthy meal have a wholesome effect on your body and soul.
Trattoria Mercatto: The great escape
The Toronto Eaton Centre, which spreads over two city blocks and is home to 250 brand names, is the city’s number one shopping reference. In this maze of consumerism, on level 3, Trattoria Mercatto holds its quiet corner by the James Street entrance. This is a modern trattoria, which insists on the casual and friendly elements of the original concept and integrates the full-service and wine bar of a restaurant. The illusion of seclusion from the hustle and bustle of shopping frenzy is enhanced by the views to Trinity Square walkway, lined with trees.
Tip: Wine affects our perception and reaction time and exaggerates our emotions. So, do your shopping before Trattoria Mercatto, as you may find yourself going back home with iffy fashion items.
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