After a summer of intense and very anonymous deliberation, the Michelin Guide inspectors have issued their rulings: 12 Toronto eateries have been awarded a star, and Sushi Masaki Saito took home the night’s only two-star award in the first-ever Michelin Guide in Canada.
The Guide also highlights 17 Bib Gourmands – the best in affordable eats – and a “Recommended” section, totalling 74 establishments that serve 27 kinds of cuisine in Toronto. “It’s really a great beginning,” says Gwendal Poullennec, International Director of the Michelin Guide. “Just a beginning, because we feel there’s much more potential in the years to come. The Michelin Guide ignites positive innovation; it will definitely push the chefs and creative teams to raise the bar from one year to another.”
Photography, courtesy of Sushi Masaki Saito
Get ready to call for a reservation (but don’t be surprised if there’s a wait list): here’s the Michelin Guide to Toronto, and what the famous inspectors had to say.
Sushi Masaki Saito
Only here will you find shirako boldly skewered and grilled over binchotan, and only here will you eat melting slabs of chutoro buried under a blizzard of white truffles. Fish comes exclusively from Japan, and for the nigiri, assistants are quick to bring him his prized rice from Niigata prefecture, warm and tinged with his special blend of vinegars, after every round. Laughter fills the air, thanks to Chef Masaki Saito and his jovial team, and for a few blissful hours, the world outside melts away.
Chef Ryusuke Nakagawa presents a modern take on the history-steeped Kyō-Kaiseki menu. His cooking is deeply personal and intricate but never overwrought. Each course outdoes the last. The maguro flower, a rose made from pieces of akami and chutoro, is stunning, and kurobuta kakuni, simmered pork belly over foie gras, is dazzling.
Everyone has a good time at Chef Patrick Kriss’s beloved Alo. The talented beverage team offers spot-on suggestions from the well-chosen wine list. The kitchen team seamlessly merges European and Asian sensibilities onto a single tasting menu with dishes like creamy Koshihikari risotto boosted with porcini emulsion or rack of lamb with Thai green curry.
Seafood figures prominently, and, as one might expect from Chef Patrick Kriss and Chef de Cuisine Rebekah Bruce, product is first-rate and technique exemplary. From chilled lobster with lime aioli to rack of lamb with niçoise olive, the kitchen delivers a kind of refined approachability that suits all occasions. Desserts like mille-feuille with raspberry chantilly are show-stoppers.
Don Alfonso 1890 Toronto
Chef Daniele Corona’s dishes echo the contemporary sophistication of the dining room. Eel gelato plated with a tangle of wild rose-scented tagliatelle, pulverized egg yolk and sturgeon caviar delivers a wonderful mix of flavors; tender and vibrant agnolotti are stuffed with Ontario lamb for a rich and meaty filling and doused in a decadent cheese sauce that packs a punch.
The pride and passion of the husband-and-wife owners and their staff is undeniably evident throughout this spot. Settle in for a set, multicourse menu inspired by the Mediterranean. The kitchen eschews fluff, focusing instead on creating harmonious (and delicious) dishes. Freshly carved Spanish ham, cheese and dessert are available as add-ons. The menu proudly hews to the season.
Chef Quinton Bennett’s resume is as varied and glittering as the tile mosaics that stretch across the ceiling of this Yorkville looker. Using molecular techniques, he puts his worldly view on the plate, playing on diverse textures and surprising combinations like brassicas with smoked foie gras and dehydrated parmesan or tuna with sheets of beetroot and fermented daikon.
There is a saying that we should dance like nobody’s watching. This adage feels true of Chef John-Vincent Troiano, who cooks to his own rhythm in Thornhill. Smoke, game and refined sauce-work figure prominently on what might be the only tasting menu for several kilometers. A tiny space packed with talent, the sparsely decorated nook leaves everything on the plate, with high-quality product from their own farm coupled with an intriguing Japanese element that feels natural.
Kaiseki Yu-zen Hashimoto
Chef Masaki Hashimoto’s traditional kaiseki eight-course menu showcases the seasons while celebrating Japanese ingredients. It’s all about focus over flash with a refined intricate style and attention to detail that borders on reverence. Shii-zakana is a signature dish composed of fried soba noodle-wrapped shrimp, but it’s the stunning radish crane that you’ll remember.
It seems nearly impossible to have a bad time at Chef Rob Rossi’s Italian stunner. Many Italian menus can look the same, Rossi narrows in on the seafood-rich traditions of Liguria. A deep Italian wine list and an especially talented cocktail program round out an experience that is as accomplished as it is hospitable.
Almost everything on this tight menu passes through the kitchen’s 26-foot-long wood-burning grill that actively roars and smokes. At the end of the line is a single chef at the earthenware comal, who prepares tortillas from heirloom corn that is nixtmalized and ground in-house. Lamb barbacoa packed into griddled, blue masa tortillas and charred maitake mushrooms set in a crema poblana highlight the transformative magic of fire, while dry-aged amberjack aguachile flexes the kitchen’s delicate side.
Jackie Lin leads the young team with care. The seasonal sushi omakase is especially delightful. Grilled cutlassfish, rarely seen on many menus, is served hot and flaky. Striped jackfish with a kiss of green onion is flavorful; golden eye snapper is nicely aged. From lean bluefin tuna with mountain yam and tart kohada to excellent baby seabream with lime, it’s hit after hit.
Chef Daisuke Izutsu has cooked for royals, dignitaries, and you, if you’re one of the lucky 15 who has secured a seat at the intimate Yukashi. Firmly rooted in seasonality, this kaiseki-style menu is highly original and personal. The otsukuri, with slices of shima aji with yuzu zest, toro with pickled turnip and hay-smoked hamachi delicately arranged atop a white marble base, is a work of art.
Bravo to the winners – Vancouver, you’re up next.