At Casa Manila, named the best Filipino restaurant in blogTO.com's Best of Toronto, the scents of saffron, coconut milk, and tamarind slip among rustling walls of potted plants. Grass-thatched windows and bamboo shoots hint at the fistfuls of veggies that accent braised meats, grilled king fish, and stews. The dishes all display the exotic style of Filipino fare, which combines Malay, Spanish, Southeast Asian, and Chinese influences. Warm-hued lights, draped in fabric printed with frolicking animals, illuminate the plates, and imported Sarsi, a Filipino root beer, bubbles alongside them. On the patio, umbrellas shelter diners from the hot sun and the sight of clouds being born.
Executive Chef and owner Alberto Albanese mans the helm at Alberto’s Trattoria, taking taste buds through tours of central Italy with a menu of handmade pastas, gourmet pizzas, and premium cuts of steak. Escargot doused in garlic butter and brandy sauce begins meals on a luxurious note, akin to receiving a love letter on velvet paper. A wide assortment of entrees entice even finicky foodies and include the succulent back ribs right off the grill as well as the white wine-sautéed veal chaperoned, like a strip of adolescent bacon, by sliced prosciutto. Pasta lovers rejoice with 15 fresh options, including the hearty baked lasagna and the penne primavera in a house-made tomato sauce. Plush red chairs, chandelier lighting, and crisp white tablecloths evoke a traditional, upscale air, and diners can shimmy into a high, red chair at the bar to sample a before-dinner libation.
Inside the kitchens at Il Vagabondo, cooks whip up rosé sauce—a smooth and creamy pink gravy made from fresh-milked tomatoes—to splash onto robust servings of pasta. During dinner, marinated Angus steak medallions arrive at tables slathered in sautéed mushrooms and dry-marsala gravy, and at lunch, pizza pies or meatball sandwiches pair with crisp greens and fresh veggies from the salad bar.
Since 1964, the culinary teams at Golden Griddle Family Restaurants have diligently crafted a massive menu of homestyle classics. They fill three-egg omelettes with spinach and grilled mushrooms, incorporate fruity fillings into crepes, and whip up pancakes from one of three types of batter, including 10-grain. When lunch and dinner roll around, they shift their focus to hearty feasts of English-style fish and chips and slow-cooked pot roast smothered in beef gravy. Since it's free of trans fats, that gravy is part of Golden Griddle's health-conscious stock of ingredients, which also includes diet syrups and reduced-fat cream.
While their elders order off the main menu, kids ages 10 and under can select from their very own menu, which showcases meals such as spaghetti and grilled cheese. In addition, each child receives a complementary toy and crayons, which are perfect for entering Golden Griddle's colouring contest or for penning a newspaper op-ed in favour of outlawing broccoli.
Guests can expect to make tough choices at Shoom Shoom—even when it comes to appetizers. A selection of fresh and healthy housemade dips— including hummus, babaganoush, and roasted eggplant salad feature on the menu, buoying sautéed mushrooms and onions on creamy blended chickpea. Then there are the à la carte kebabs—seven options, including beef, salmon, and lamb—which offset entrees of seasoned rainbow trout, Moroccan-style cod, or grilled whole sea bass, all vying for the stomach's affection.
Of course, there's always the soup and salad bar to simplify things. Soup and signature salads adorn the salad bar, each prepped fresh for presentation daily. The selection accommodates vegetarians and dietary restrictions, and diners can pair their spice-dappled picks with sips of moroccan mint tea—a flavourful alternative to drinking hot water while chewing gum.
The Old World is alive and well at Europe Bar and Restaurant. Amid colorful landscape murals, breaded wiener schnitzel perches atop hand-embroidered tablecloths in an eatery that Jason Finestone of BlogTo describes as "a primal mecca of fried, stewed and spicy meat-centricity." Hungarian classics such as goulash and plump dumplings land on plates in heaping portions, though none so big as the dish known as the Wooden Plate. Finestone lauds the shareable dish for two or four as a “seven-item tower of tantalizing proportions.” To create it, chefs pile veal wiener schnitzel, pork chops, fried mushrooms, fried perogies, bacon, pork sausage, and fried potatoes onto a wooden board; the resulting tower is held in place by four knives that can cut through all seven layers or carve your date’s initials into each piece as a show of chivalry.