Garnering the title of Best Wine Bar in Toronto from Now magazine, Fat Cat Wine Bar upholds its reputation with artful small plates and a carefully curated selection of wines. The bottle vault includes harvests from Europe, Australia, and America, all approved by wine-enthusiast owner Mathew Sutherland.
Outside on the sun-dappled patio, pots simmer with cheese fondue, beckoning slices of bread to succumb to a dripping, melty fate. Platters of escargot showcase accents of roasted mushrooms, leek, and speck, while the Fat Cat sausage is joined by a warm truffled potato salad. For dessert, apple cobbler arrives crowned with whipped cream, and Grand Marnier strawberries underscore the richness of a dense chocolate brownie. Fat Cat Wine Bar upholds modest elegance with wooden tables, a granite-top bar, and restroom signs recovered from the original court of Versailles.
Housed in the majestic shell of a former 19th-century billiards manufacturing plant, The Academy of Spherical Arts now serves up a varied menu of international fare. Start supper with an order of the light asparagus salad ($11), topped with toasted walnuts and goat cheese and drizzled with a lemon vinaigrette, before exacting revenge on the swamp ghosts haunting your dreams with an order of Cajun penne pasta ($23), bedecked with grilled chicken, crawfish, chorizo sausage, and peppers. Other elegant and eclectic entrees at the eatery include house-made duck ravioli ($20), a macadamia-crusted rainbow trout ($23) served on a potato-spinach-mayonnaise salad and cloaked in a coconut curry sauce, and a rack of lamb ($38) with a candied-garlic crust. Ante meridiem appetites can be appeased with weekend brunch, while early afternoon Argonauts of sustenance seas can land on lunch.
Lists of seasonally inspired cheeses, meats, and garnishes are printed in chalk on a board titled "Picnic Platters," tempting guests to design their own charcuterie spreads or delegate control to a knowledgeable staff member. PicNic Wine Bar has something for everyone, earning it a spot on Vacay's 2012 list of Canada's top 50 restaurants. Flare magazine also deemed the eatery a Toronto hot spot, saying, "the combinations are endless."
PicNic's widespread appeal is due to more than just their picnic platters. Guests can select from more than 30 wines by the glass, as well as from a handful of bottled and draught beers. Chefs also craft more elaborate small and large plates of citrus-glazed pork belly and mackerel fillets with garlic and paprika, served at long, communal tables that add sophistication to picnic-style dining.
Sheppard Wine Works puts the winemaking process in the hands of its customers. With a wide variety of RJ Spagnol juices and concentrates to choose from, visitors can create their favourite types of vino, whether it's a Californian cabernet or a Seville orange sangria. Once the varietal has been chosen, Sheppard Wine Works’ staff takes care of the nitty-gritty, fermenting concoctions for up to six weeks before bottling them, corking them, and teaching them to speak French. Clients may also customize the look of their resulting batch of bottles by choosing little details such as the foil colour and label image. For more experienced vintners, the shop also offers a selection of winemaking kits to use at home.
Many visitors to The Lobster Trap Restaurant find their dinner waiting for them just inside the door. A tank of live lobsters sits by the front desk, ready for selection by head chef Sathiya, who steams or broils them for grandiose dinners served with garlic bread. His fondness for the crustaceans is evident not only in the venue's name, but in a brief glance at the menu. There, you'll find lobster bisque, lobster rolls, lobster thermidor, and Caribbean lobster tail all arranged amid other seafood delicacies. Whole lobsters are priced according to their weight, and while most measure between one and four pounds, 15-pounders are available by request.
Lobster-less dishes, on the other hand, range from tender New York strip steaks to oysters on the half shell. The oysters—exclusively purchased from Rodney's Oyster House—are shucked onsite. Other dishes traverse continental boundaries, such as the Alaskan king crab legs and the New Zealand rack of lamb. The dining room's décor isn't married to a particular ocean, though. Its walls boast hanging nets and mounted ship steering wheels, an homage to all of the seas and cranky ship captains that supply its meals.