Top 50 Restaurants in Canada
Thank you, Canada, for voting for the best restaurants in the nation!
The public votes have been added to those of the Vacay.ca Judges Academy to determine the 2013 Top 50 Restaurants in Canada. You will find the Top 50 results below, followed by 11 videos that break down the selections in segments of five restaurants, along with a discussion about omissions and rising stars in the Canadian culinary scene. Runner-up restaurants 51-100 are listed lower down. You will also see tabs for the Public Voting rankings, the 2012 results, the judges’ bios and the Foodie of the Year Contest.
You can comment on your favourite restaurant by clicking on the balloon below its listing and typing in your thoughts.
Restaurants 1-5 are Discussed by Judges Adrian Brijbassi, Rebecca LeHeup, Renee Suen, John Placko
Who Didn’t Make the Cut and Why? Find Out Here
Numbers 6-10 Feature Favourites in Toronto and St. John’s
Restaurants 11-15 Include Outstanding Chefs!
People’s Choice Winner is in this Section — Restaurants 16-20!
Countdown of Numbers 21-25 Begins in Whistler, B.C.!
We Are Halfway There! Restaurants 26-30!
Restaurants Numbers 31-35 Will Delight!
Numbers 36-40 are Here!
Numbers 41-45 Announced!
The Countdown Begins: 46-50
NOTE: You may have to clear your computer’s cache to see updates on the tables within the tab below.
Runners-up: Numbers 51-100 are below!
51. Splendido, Toronto, Ontario Website: www.splendido.ca
Judge Renée Suen of Toronto Life says: Splendido has been a go-to institution for special occasions for the last 23 years for a reason — it is the epitome of polished refined dining without the pomp or pretense. Carlo Catallo’s fine-tuned, attentive and friendly service complements Victor Barry’s impressive cuisine. A la carte options delight and tantalize, but giving over to the chef’s skill for a (reasonably priced) carte blanche experience is a one-way ticket to culinary highs. Without hesitation, this is the Canadian restaurant most capable of earning a Michelin star (highlight dinner was a solid two-Michelin star performance), especially when given the chance to shine. Outstanding.
52. Le Crocodile, Vancouver, British Columbia Website: lecrocodilerestaurant.com
Judge Sophia Cheng of Heth PR says: Looking for authentic French cuisine? Look no further than one of Vancouver’s classics, Le Crocodile. Each dish is deftly prepared with rich flavour combinations and premier ingredients. Must tries include the sublime beef filet steak tartar, garlic sautéed frog’s legs, and roasted Fraser Valley Duck
53. Momofuku Noodle Bar, Toronto, Ontario Website: momofuku.com/toronto/noodle-bar-to/
Vacay.ca Managing Editor Adrian Brijbassi says: One of the best value places to dine in Toronto, Momofuku’s Noodle Bar is also one of the most interesting. David Chang’s cuisine is the closest thing Toronto has to what Vikram Vij and his wife, Meeru Dhalawal, produce in Vancouver. While Vij’s and Rangoli in Vancouver are known for their Indian fusion food, Chang’s Asian flavours are from Korea. The dishes — including Chang’s famous steamed buns — are as intriguing as they are delicious.
Read more about Momofuku on Vacay.ca
54. Murray Street Kitchen, Ottawa, Ontario Website: murraystreet.ca Judges Don and Jenn Chow of Foodie Prints say: Ottawa is home to at least a thousand farms. Farm-to-table may be an option in other cities. It isn’t here, especially after chef Steve Mitton opened Murray Street Kitchen. He exposed the city to its first charcuterie bar. Serving Canadian contemporary comfort with Austrian and German influences, Murray Street has a strong “local” ethic. The menu constantly changes to accommodate available meat and produce. Soul-satisfying plates are whimsically named, oftentimes after farmers. Think pork cretons; gnocchi in smoked lamb bolognese, and duck fat-poached beef short rib. If you want to taste the region, visit Murray Street. Even John Cattuci of Food Network Canada’s “You Gotta Eat Here” stopped by recently.
55. Wildebeest, Vancouver, British Columbia Website: www.wildebeest.ca
Judge Renée Suen of Toronto Life says: Fun, delicious and generous in food, drink and spirit. Despite being a new player in the mid-range, casual dining scene typified in Vancouver, it charges in confidently with cleanly executed plates and a well-curated cocktail list. Start with a simple-sounding but sensory-stimulating heirloom beet salad that’s roasted until tender or leathery rich, and punctuated by diced salted pears, creamy ricotta and crispy milk shards. Finish with a “cheesecake” made of loose cardamom-scented goat’s milk topped with quince sorbet and crumble. Grab a six-pack for the kitchen (it’s on the menu). But whatever you do, don’t miss the supple bourbon barrel-aged maple syrup-glazed pork jowl nor the comforting pool of long pepper-scented oats it sits in.
Read more about Wildebeest on Vacay.ca
56. Odile, Hull/Gatineau, Quebec Website: www.odile.ca
Judges Don and Jenn Chow of Foodie Prints say: If ever there was a hidden gem restaurant in the national capital region, it would be Chef Marysol Foucault’s 20-seater, Odile. Its tiny open kitchen serves sexy rustic food that is best described as country-side French-contemporary with a Quebecois spin: seared scallops with pressed pork belly; ballotine of duck stuffed with duck confit and nuts; and beef short-ribs with ancho and polenta. Its dinner service is intimate. There are line-ups out the door during weekend brunch. One of her more popular brunch items is a Dutch baby with maple syrup, pork belly, apples and aged cheddar. It was recently featured on season 2 of “You Gotta Eat Here” on Food Network Canada. Foucault and her team are particularly adept at making magic with pork, spinning large cuts into culinary gold like in-house porchetta.
57. Maison Publique, Montreal, Quebec Website: www.maisonpublique.com
Judge Paul Rogalski of Rouge says: Although I have never dined at his establishment, the best bite of the year would go to Derek Dammann of Maison Publique and his roasted lamb shoulder with mint hollandaise sauce.
Vacay.ca Managing Editor Adrian Brijbassi says: If you want to get in touch with your inner Flintstone, this is the place. So much meat it will fill any craving for brontosaurus steaks. Best of all, the food is so well seasoned you’ll want to come back for more.
Judge Renée Suen of Toronto Life says: Gluttony in excess, but a great reward if one steers clear from the stereotypical gut-busting staples and order the other well-balanced (but still gut-busting) menu items.
Judge Dustin Gilman of Food Guy Montreal says: One of the most pristine Japanese Izakaya’s in Montreal, Kazu always wows me. The incredible shrimp burger is at the top of my list of one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. Waiting in line only makes me hungrier, and adds to the experience. I love the friendly, energetic waitresses, and the exciting atmosphere. Kazu makes me happy all the time.
61. Eden at Rimrock Resort, Banff, Alberta Website: www.rimrockresort.com/dining.html
Prairie Regional Chair Jody Robbins of Vacay.ca says: Choosing an entrée is often fraught with indecision, but out west it’s hard to pass up fresh Nova Scotia Lobster (flown in three times a week). And just to remind you that you’re in the woods, it’s served with a mini campfire: Douglas fir and rosemary needles upon which the lobster was grilled are ablaze on the plate, producing a heavenly scent and major presentation points. Obviously, Alberta beef can’t be ignored by omnivores, so try Pura Vida Farm’s Angus Beef Trio, allowing you to sample choice cuts from one bovine end to the other. There’s cow tongue poached in duck fat, an oxtail spring roll and tenderloin rounding out the middle.
Read more Vacay.ca coverage about the Eden experience
62. Inn at Bay Fortune, Bay Fortune, Prince Edward Island Website: www.innatbayfortune.com
More Info: Chef Dominic Serio is continuing a tradition of outstanding mastery in this kitchen whose alumni include Michael Smith of Food Network Canada fame and Lot 30′s Gordon Bailey.
63. Laurie Raphaël, Quebec City, Quebec Website: www.laurieraphael.com/en Vacay.ca Managing Editor Adrian Brijbassi says: Gorgeous food in a gorgeous room in one of the most enchanting cities in North America. Laurie Raphael has been serving divine Quebec-focused cuisine for more than a decade. Diners can choose between set menus ($115 for 10 courses or $80 for five courses) and a tempting a-la-carte menu. Spring offerings include a hard-to-resist seafood cannelloni with lobster, shrimp and octopus ($47).
64. JaBistro, Toronto, Ontario Website: www.jabistro.com
More Info: The sashimi platter from chef Koji Tashiro will bathe your tongue with one rich flavour after another. This new sophisticated sushi restaurant fits in well in a neighbourhood that has recently added three Momofuku restaurants.
65. Richmond Station, Toronto, Ontario Website: richmondstation.ca
Vacay.ca Managing Editor Adrian Brijbassi says: Top Chef Canada winner Carl Heinrich’s new, affordable and friendly dining space is a welcome addition to the Eaton Centre area in downtown Toronto. The juicy sirloin burger, a popular item, is going to earn a lot of repeat business — if it hasn’t already at this restaurant that opened in the fall.
66. Le Canard Goulu, Quebec City, Quebec Website: www.canardgoulu.com/VilleBistro.htm
Quebec Regional Chair Marie Asselin of Food Nouveau says: This intimate restaurant, owned by a Muscovy duck farm located a half-hour out of Québec City, serves gastronomic cuisine created by chef Martin Guillemette, who previously worked both as a chef and a pastry chef at renowned Laurie-Raphaël. This experience explains his modern and colourful presentations and his versatility. While duck is always the common theme of the restaurant’s menu, it’s impossible to get bored — the chef adapts it to every season. In the winter, the dishes are long-stewed and comforting; in the summer, they’re inspired by food trucks. There is also the foie gras month in the spring, and the year culminates in June with the irresistible mix of lobster and duck. The constant creativity and quality of the food served at Canard Goulu makes it one of Quebec City’s best kept secrets.
67. Cafe Boulud, Toronto, Ontario Website: www.cafeboulud.com/toronto
More Info: With flavours from across the country and around the world, Daniel Boulud’s recently opened restaurant at the Four Seasons in Yorkville has brought another marquee name to Toronto’s luxury dining scene. Forager Tama Matsuoka has helped to add texture and flavours to the Cafe Boulud menu.
68. Playa Cabana, Toronto, Ontario Website: www.playacabana.ca
More Info: Mexican delights are what you get at this hot spot in Toronto with two locations. Favourites include a bucket of crab claws from Puerto Vallarta, a pound of shrimp made Cancun style and grilled octopus tacos. Nothing on the menu is over $20 except for a one-pound Cornish Hen served with Yucatan salsa and corn tortillas ($24). Hungry yet? We thought you would be.
69. Corso 32, Edmonton, Alberta Website: corso32.com
More Info: Italian cuisine with an emphasis on simple recipes that bring out the flavour of the ingredients. Highlights include a housemade cavatelli featuring pork and fennel sausage, and other luscious pasta dishes. With the recent closing of the Blue Pear, Corso 32 is Edmonton’s top choice for fine dining.
70. Cassis Bistro, Calgary, Alberta Website: www.thecassisbistro.ca
Judge Julie Van Rosendaal of Dinner with Julie says: Cassis is one of the best French restaurants in Calgary; a neighbourhood bistro that quickly earned a reputation for its quality ingredients and simple, clean menu, reflecting its decor. Flavours of the south of France are created using Alberta ingredients and classic French culinary techniques.
71. The Pear Tree, Burnaby, British Columbia Website: peartreerestaurant.net
Judge Renée Suen of Toronto Life says: Elegance meets contemporary Pacific Northwestern cuisine in this surprising find in unassuming Burnaby. The catch is that the restaurant isn’t a hidden gem, but a celebrated local institution for the past 15 years. Scott Jaeger’s cuisine may be grounded in classics but has an imaginative touch; the feel is sophisticated, refined without being stuffy or stodgy, enlightened and not gimmicky. Pear Tree’s intimate space and warm service complements the overall experience, catering to those celebrating a special occasion or looking for a nice evening out.
72. Bearfoot Bistro, Whistler, British Columbia Website: bearfootbistro.com
More Info: Chef Melissa Craig serves up tremendous cuisine from land and sea at this favourite in the outdoor sports haven of Whistler in the Coastal mountain range. Pastry chef Dominic Fortin’s desserts are another draw, as is the potential of seeing founder André Saint-Jacques perform a Champagne sabering. He holds the Guinness record for most bottles sabered in a minute.
73. Fable Kitchen, Vancouver, British Columbia Website: fablekitchen.ca
Judge Dan Clapson of DansGoodside.com says: The Vancouver restaurant market could best be described as a small tank with a lot of sharks. Luckily, Fable, which opened in May 2012, has been getting nothing but love from diners and critics alike and for good reason. Chef/owner and Top Chef Canada season two runner-up Trevor Bird takes the farm-to-table philosophy and makes it fun. Fable’s namesake eggs on the weekend brunch menu are one of the best things I’ve put in my mouth in Vancouver. Honestly, the restaurant’s decor, although relatively nice, is not going to win any awards, but why stare at the walls and light fixtures when you can sit at the kitchen bar and be entertained by Bird’s back-and-forth banter with chef de cuisine, fellow Top Chef Canada alumnus, Curtis Luk?
74. Willow on Wascana, Regina, Saskatchewan Website: www.willowonwascana.ca
Vacay.ca Managing Editor Adrian Brijbassi says: The Willow on Wascana is the best gourmet meal I didn’t expect, simply because I was unaware cuisine of this quality was available in Regina. Chef Tim Davies is doing many things right in his kitchen, including a sensational pork tenderloin and other comfort foods.
Read about Regina’s emerging culinary scene
75. Blue Water Cafe and Raw Bar, Vancouver, British Columbia Website: www.bluewatercafe.net
Vacay.ca Managing Editor Adrian Brijbassi says: An outstanding sushi bar complements grilled seafood selections that take advantage of the bounty of west-coast product available to Blue Water Cafe, a Yaletown favourite.
76. Maison Boulud, Montreal, Quebec Website: maisonboulud.com/montreal More Info: The flagship restaurant at the Ritz-Carlton Montreal, Maison Boulud is refined dining in one of the nation’s most outstanding hotels. Daniel Boulud’s extravagant cuisine is on display in this elegant room full of artistry and panache.
Read more about Maison Boulud in Vacay.ca
77. Prairie Harvest Cafe, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan Website: prairieharvestcafe.com
Judge Dan Clapson of DansGoodside.com: Every time I’m in Saskatoon, which is often, I make a point of eating at this stellar little spot. Obviously, it’s no easy feat to stay “local” in the heart of Saskatchewan, but Prairie Harvest Cafe is a little engine that could. Chef/owner Michael McKeown ensures his ingredients — for anything from the handmade perogies to their signature PH Lasagna (a must-try) — are always sourced close to home. The location is a tad obscure, as is the restaurant’s layout, but the mismatched tables and chairs and the eclectic art scattered across the walls add up to an unabashed level of rustic charm. Most definitely one of my favourite restaurant experiences of the past year.
78. Ristorante a Mano, Halifax, Nova Scotia Website: www.ristoranteamano.ca More Info: Lovely Italian cuisine in rustic ambience, Ristorante a Mano is a delight on the waterfront in Halifax.
79. Glas Wine Bar, Toronto, Ontario Website: glaswinebar.com
Vacay.ca reader Helen Fotinos says: Glas Wine Bar in Leslieville, owned and operated by charming and friendly chef Danny Pantano, is my latest favourite place for dinner and brunch. The food, which is original and always delicious, fills your stomach, and the cozy and relaxed atmosphere fills your heart and the tiny room with warmth and lots of smiles!
80. Newfound Sushi, Corner Brook, Newfoundland & Labrador Website: newfoundsushi.com
More Info: Opened in March 2012, this restaurant in Western Newfoundland is focused on providing sushi sourced only from the province’s seafood operations, including snow crab, cod, salmon and Arctic char. It also offers teriyaki options, grilled items, and bento box meals.
81. Hoi Tong Seafood, Richmond, British Columbia Contact: No website, telephone: 604-276-9229, address: #160-8191 Westminister Hwy.
Judge Lee Man of Vancouver Magazine says: Hoi Tong Chef Yuitong Leung is over 70 years old, a veteran of private dining rooms of Hong Kong, and cooks for the sheer love of making great food. His focus is on the hyper pure and clean flavours of Hong Kong-style cuisine, which seeks to enhance and elevate the natural flavours and sweetness of first-class ingredients. If not properly prepared – the results can be weak and watery. But when done properly – the flavours can be startling, the food tasting of itself, yet somehow more so. The techniques required are painstaking and demanding and chef Leung is happy to ply his craft in a beautifully small, yet fully formed restaurant, and for the benefit of a clientele that is equally demanding and appreciative of the final results.
82. The Grove, Toronto, Ontario Website: www.thegroveto.com
More Info: British flavours with an invigorated twist from talented chef Ben Heaton are what diners will find at this year-old restaurant in the trendy Ossington Avenue/Dundas Street West area of Toronto. Three-course menus are a reasonably priced $40 while seven courses run $70.
83. Chambar, Vancouver, British Columbia Website: www.chambar.com
Vacay.ca Managing Editor Adrian Brijbassi says: Rich Belgian flavours and an outstanding beer list make Chambar one of the most pleasing dining experiences in Vancouver.
84. Auberge du Pommier, Toronto, Ontario Website: www.oliverbonacini.com/auberge-du-pommier.aspx
More Info: Chef Marc St. Jacques won the 2013 Canadian Gold Medal Plates competition for his divine French-inspired cuisine that’s served in Toronto’s York Mills neighbourhood. Auberge du Pommier is one of Oliver & Bonacini’s outstanding restaurants.
85. Zambri’s, Victoria, British Columbia Website: www.zambris.ca
Judge Sarah Bancroft of Vitamin Daily says: What was once a strip-mall hole-in-the-wall is now a bona fide 200-seat contemporary Italian dining destination whose chef, Peter Zambri, is passionate about food, flavour, and cooking from the local larder. His vegetable-forward dishes are as delicious as the next, and his yellow tomato sauce is an exercise in simplicity and elegance. Yes, visitors to Vancouver will have to jump on a plane or ferry to dine there, but I for one would do it again in a heartbeat.
86. Cava, Toronto, Ontario Website: www.cavarestaurant.ca
More Info: Chef Chris McDonald serves delectable and authentic Spanish cuisine in north Toronto.
87. La Quercia, Vancouver, British Columbia Website: www.laquercia.com
Judge Lee Man of Vancouver Magazine says: Small jewel of a restaurant that belies its smartly casual setting with a Northern Italian menu of exceeding rustic sophistication and flawless execution. Vitello tonnato is lusciously soft, housemade pasta is ethereally buoyant on the palate, and bolito misto of exceeding refinement and clarity of flavours.
88. L’Initiale, Quebec City, Quebec Website: www.restaurantinitiale.com More Info: A Relais & Chateaux restaurant, L’Initiale features haute cuisine in a luxurious setting in gorgeous Quebec City. A delightful experience that showcases Quebecois cuisine.
89. Lot 30, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island Website: www.lot30restaurant.ca
Vacay.ca Managing Editor Adrian Brijbassi says: The Lot 30 menu changes daily, although you can expect lots of seafood choices and an excellent steak. It fits perfectly with the generation of modern restaurants that emphasizes flavours from natural, local ingredients rather than thick, heavy sauces. Not surprisingly, the succulent scallops were a highlight of a recent five-course tasting menu that also included baked scallops and a dessert trio with luscious Bailey’s ice cream and chocolate mousse. Just as impressive is the quality of service, which is decidedly big city in its professionalism. Read more about Charlottetown on Vacay.ca
90. Hotel Herman, Montreal, Quebec Website: www.hotelherman.com
Judge Mayssam Samaha of Will Travel for Food says: Hotel Herman is one of the most exciting restaurants on the Montreal food scene these days. Its cuisine is the perfect representation of what the current Montreal cuisine trend is all about: fresh, light with a focus on local and seasonal ingredients.
91. Sobo, Tofino, British Columbia Website: www.sobo.ca
Vacay.ca Managing Editor Adrian Brijbassi says: Who knew fish tacos could be addictive? Although with the number of hippies in Tofino, it shouldn’t be a surprise that they’d find a way. Made with halibut and topped with fresh fruit salsa and served in a corn tortilla, you’ll be hooked.
92. The Mad Platter Bistro, Spruce Grove, Alberta Website: www.themadplatterbistro.com
Judge Derryl Murphy says: A little place in a strip mall in an Edmonton suburb, the Mad Platter Bistro serves food that is wonderful and inventive. The menu changes monthly, and the service is excellent and friendly. Bonus: A great spice shop right there at the counter.
93. The Chanterelle Inn, Baddeck, Nova Scotia (Cape Breton) Website: www.chanterelleinn.com
Top 50 Restaurants in Canada Chair Janine MacLean says: Although the Chanterelle Inn has been open for more than a decade, this past year brought new interest with the hiring of chef Bryan Picard. The new executive chef, a native of New Brunswick, moved to Cape Breton looking for peace and simplicity and found owner Earlene Busch — who was not necessarily in search of a chef. However, Picard’s experience and his similar outlook on food and cooking made Busch want to bring him aboard. Having trained and worked in Montreal for years and being the winner of the Taste of Nova Scotia Cutting Edge Competition, Picard was more than ready to take the reins in the Chanterelle’s kitchen. Some examples of a menu that constantly changes, depending on what’s fresh and available, include lobster bisque with rouille and garlic crouton, Cape Breton lamb and feta perogies with sage brown butter, and bread pudding with Captain Morgan sauce (what else?). Read more Vacay.ca coverage of the Chanterelle Inn
94. Storm Mountain Lodge, Banff, Alberta Website: www.stormmountainlodge.com
Judge Barry O’Neill of Zed Financial says: Constructed in 1922 as one of eight Bungalow Camps built by Canadian Pacific Railway to promote tourism in the Rocky Mountains, Storm Mountain Lodge serves exquisite food in surroundings that will knock your socks off. In the majesty of the Canadian Rockies, the lodge offers a beautiful environment in the winter and summer with log cabins and stone fireplace. From a charcuterie plate so luscious you must take some back to your cabin after beginning to enjoy it by the lodge’s fire to bison burgers and beef tenderloin to hike for, everything about this place is perfection. See more Vacay.ca coverage, including amazing photos, of Storm Mountain Lodge
95. Treadwell Farm-to-Table, Port Dalhousie, Ontario Website: www.treadwellcuisine.com
More Info: Stephen Treadwell’s Niagara Region restaurant has been a pioneer in the local food movement since opening in 2006.
96. L’Orignal, Montreal, Quebec
Vacay.ca Managing Editor Adrian Brijbassi says: While it’s not the most celebrated restaurant in the city, L’Orignal is one of Montreal’s stars. Oysters, interesting selection of meats, boozy cocktails, a fun atmosphere and a late-night menu make it a standout.
97. Le Baccara, Gatineau, Quebec
More Info: Le Baccara is located at the Hilton Lac-Leamy Hotel, adjacent to the Casino Lac-Leamy. The restaurant is a CAA Five-Diamond Award winner.
98. Segovia Tapas Bar, Winnipeg, Manitoba
Vacay.ca reader Deborah Son says: I have had the chance to try a few of chef Adam Donnelly’s dishes and have never felt disappointed. Each plate of tapas overflows with fresh ingredients and a sexy mingling of flavours that delight the taste buds, leaving you only with the desire to steal another bite. One of my favourite dishes boasts Albacore tuna as the main attraction, with fried peanuts, mint aioli, radish, and Serrano peppers ($12). The fish tasted so fresh and just seemed to melt in my mouth as I took my first bite. Other standouts include savoury braised short ribs with fingerling potatoes as well as lemon mascarpone-filled dates with roasted pistachios and sweet maple syrup.
99. ZenKitchen, Ottawa, Ontario
Judges Jen and Don Chow of Foodie Prints say: Since opening in spring 2010, ZenKitchen has made a name for itself for its vegan and vegetarian fare. A two-time silver medallist at the regional Gold Medal Plates culinary competition, chef Caroline Ishii’s exquisite meatless and dairy-free dishes often draw in the omnivore crowd. Innovative and flavourful with intricate plating, the vegan food is surprisingly satisfying. From the Thai-inspired lemongrass curry to handcut ravioli stuffed with tempeh-caramelized onion, smoky tomato sauce, pickled eggplant and nut parmesan to pecan-crusted seitan, there’s something for everyone. For the adventurous diner, try the chef’s tasting menu. ZenKitchen’s award-winning wine list also features some of Ontario’s top wines and beers from Ottawa’s finest craft breweries, including Kichesippi, Broadhead Brewing Co., and Beau’s.
1. Vij’s, Vancouver, British Columbia
Website: www.vijs.ca. Phone: 604-736-6664. Cuisine: Indian.
Price range: $24-$28.50 for main courses.
Steve Dolinsky says: “Seriously, can anyone in North America even come close to offering the nuance and complexity of Indian food like Vikram Vij? He does it in one of the most laid-back dining rooms, despite the seriousness with which he approaches regional Indian food, while constantly checking in on guests — even serving snacks to those waiting outside. I have literally re-routed my flights to have enough layover time in Vancouver so I could make the pilgrimage.”
Read Vacay.ca’s report on Vij’s and more coverage of the Top 50 Restaurants List
You must order: Wine-marinated Lamb Popsicles ($28.50).
2. Langdon Hall, Cambridge, Ontario
Website: www.langdonhall.ca. Phone: 519-740-2100. Cuisine: Canadian.
Price range: $34-$49 for main courses.
Adrian Brijbassi says: “Jonathan Gushue demonstrates that Canadian cuisine exists — and it wouldn’t look out of place at the head of an international table of dishes.”
See the video and read more of the Vacay.ca report on Langdon Hall
You must order: White-tailed Ontario Deer with Chestnuts, Smoked Venison Bacon, Anjou Pear and more ($49).
3. Joe Beef, Montreal, Quebec
Website: www.joebeef.ca. Phone: 514-935-6504. Cuisine: Steak & Seafood.
Price range: $31-$50 for main courses.
Steve Dolinsky says: “One of the great things about the new wave of talent in the food industry has been the emergence of ‘fuck you’ restaurants. I mean that in a good way. They’re the places where you dine at the chef’s whim. There are no substitutions; you don’t get the dressing on the side; the eggs are already jellied and the offal is already poached. If you don’t like it, too bad, because there’s a line of people waiting to get in who are eager to explore the menus, jam-packed with bold flavours. Joe Beef is a little like this.” Click to read more.
You must order: Whatever is the special that night
4. The Black Hoof, Toronto, Ontario
Website: www.theblackhoof.com. Phone: 416-551-8854. Cuisine: Charcuterie.
Price range: Share plates, $8-$25
Renée Suen says: “Once a culinary mecca for the offal bits, ‘The Hoof’ as it’s so affectionately called, has soared to new heights now that chef de cuisine Brandon Olsen is at its helm. Although the focus is still on the nasty bits (and they still don’t take reservations), brilliant numbers like Blood Custard and Foie & Nutella have become new signatures beside the standard Tongue on Brioche that its ex-executive chef (Grant van Gameren) made famous.”
You must order: Foie & Nutella ($25).
5. Atelier, Ottawa, Ontario — PEOPLE’S CHOICE WINNER 2012!
Website: www.atelierrestaurant.ca. Phone: 613-321-3537. Cuisine: Avant Garde Fine Dining.
Price range: Set price for tasting menu: $95.
Vacay.ca Reader Melanie Jadore says: “What a great idea — a top 50 list for Canadian restaurants! If I only get one vote, I have to vote for Atelier in Ottawa, the best meal of my life.”
You must order: The tasting menu, of course! It’s constantly changing.
See the video and read the Vacay.ca report on Atelier
6. Les 400 Coups, Montreal, Quebec
Website: www.les400coups.ca. Phone: 514-985-0400. Cuisine: Contemporary French.
Price range: Up to $30 for main courses.
Gizelle Lau says: “From start to finish, Les 400 Coups in Montreal takes you through a journey that teases your senses with sophisticated techniques and concepts that translate into beautifully crafted, artful dishes in flavour and appearance. Using top-quality produce and playful textures to traditional profiles, you’ll find concepts like Beef Tartare with Mustard Ice Cream or Mackerel served with spaghetti made from squash. Although it’s less than two years old, if the inspiration that’s fuelling Les 400 Coups is as determined as it seems on the plate, then we’ll see this Vieux-Montreal restaurant soar into the same space as greats like one of its biggest inspirations: Eleven Madison Park.”
See the video and read the Vacay.ca report on Les 400 Coups
You must order: Beef Tartare with Mustard Ice Cream ($15).
7. L’Abattoir, Vancouver, British Columbia
Website: www.labattoir.ca. Phone: 604-568-1701. Cuisine: West Coast.
Price range: Small plates, $13-$29.
Renée Suen says: “Solid. From a good cocktail list to an even better savoury menu that’s tight and simply very, very good. Throw in an order of the pan-fried veal sweetbreads on toast and the meal becomes stellar.”
Read Vacay.ca’s report on L’Abattoir
You must order: Warm Steelhead and Potato Salad ($15) — and a few cocktails.
8. Canoe, Toronto, Ontario
Website: www.oliverbonacini.com/Canoe.aspx. Phone: 416-364-0054. Cuisine: Canadian.
Price range: $39-$49 for main courses.
Paul Brans says: “I really believe that without Canoe the whole idea of ‘Canadiana’ cuisine would not exist — at least not to the same extent or with the same amount of popularity. It has been a leader in championing local food and what Canadian cuisine truly has to offer.”
You must order: Aged Bone-in Ontario Beef Tenderloin ($49).
9. Rouge, Calgary, Alberta
Website: www.rougecalgary.com. Phone: 403-531-2767. Cuisine: French.
Price range: $36-$84 for main courses.
Diana Ng says: “It is hard to imagine the high level of fine dining and perfection from the unassuming and aged exterior of this restaurant converted from a house built in 1891, but chef Paul Rogalski and his team churn out creative dishes with impeccable ingredients from local suppliers and their on-site garden.”
See the video and read the Vacay.ca report on Rouge
You must order: AAA Alberta Beef Chateaubriand, Bone Marrow and Foie Gras Spring Roll, Potato Rösti ($84 for Two).
10. Duke of Duckworth, St. John’s, Newfoundland & Labrador
Website: www.dukeofduckworth.com. Phone: 709-739-6344. Cuisine: Pub Grub.
Price range: $7.99-$14.99.
Cailin O’Neil says: “The Duke of Duckworth has recently exploded in popularity due to its spotlight on the CBC series ‘Republic of Doyle.’ But dedicated patrons will tell you it’s long been the best pub in downtown St. John’s AND it has the town’s best fish and chips with their not-so-secret ingredient dressing!”
Read the Vacay.ca report on the Duke of Duckworth
You must order: The fish & chips. The fish & chips. Everyone: The fish & chips! ($10.99 and up).
11. Sushi Kaji, Toronto, Ontario
Website: www.sushikaji.com. Phone: 416-252-2166. Cuisine: Japanese.
Price range: $100-$120 for tasting menus (no a la carte).
Gizelle Lau says: “Incredible sushi and omakase menu – Kaji opens your eyes to what true Japanese sushi/food can be when there’s the care, attention, detail and passion.”
You must order: With only two choices, you may as well spend the extra $20 and get the Takumi omakase menu for $120.
12. Araxi, Whistler, British Columbia
Website: www.araxi.com. Phone: 604-932-4540. Cuisine: West Coast/Canadian.
Price range: $22.50-$45 for main courses.
You must order: Wild Alaskan Scallops ($34.50).
13. Tempest, Wolfville, Nova Scotia
Website: www.tempest.ca. Phone: 902-542 0588. Cuisine: Italian.
Price range: $12.95-$24.95 for main courses.
Janine MacLean says: “Wolfville may be one of Nova Scotia’s best kept secrets — and so is this restaurant. I have never had a meal here I haven’t absolutely loved.”
You must order: Roasted Nova Scotia Sea Bass ($24.95).
14. Splendido, Toronto, Ontario
Website: www.splendido.ca. Phone: 416-929-7788. Cuisine: Contemporary French and Italian.
Diana Ng says: “As soon as you step into this contemporary fine-dining institution, you are warmly greeted by smiling and helpful staff. The globally inspired menu is expertly executed, like the Roasted Lamb Rack, shoulder and merguez with Niagara eggplant, preserved lemon, yogurt and arugula.”
Price range: $39-$45 for main courses; $125 for tasting menu.
You must order: Roasted Rack of Lamb ($45)
15. Bearfoot Bistro, Whistler, British Columbia
Website: www.bearfootbistro.com. Phone: 604-932-3433. Cuisine: West Coast.
Price range: Three-course menu, $49; tasting menu, $98.
Barry O’Neill says: “World class. The chef’s five-course tasting menu is a pleasure to your palate.”
You must order: Vancouver Island Black Cod (part of set menu or $10 supplement to add).
16. Bao Bei, Vancouver, British Columbia
Website: www.bao-bei.ca. Phone: 604-688-0876. Cuisine: Chinese fusion.
Price range: Small plates, $6-$20.
You must order: Kick Ass House Fried Rice (price changes daily, but roughly $14).
17. West, Vancouver, British Columbia
Website: www.westrestaurant.com. Phone: 604-738-8938. Cuisine: West Coast.
Price range: $29-$55 for main courses; $58 and up for tasting menus.
You must order: Haida Gwaii Smoked Sablefish ($36).
18. Guu Izakaya, Toronto, Ontario
Website: guu-izakaya.com/toronto. Phone: 416-977-0999. Cuisine: Japanese.
Price range: $1.50-$9.80 per item.
You must order: Salmon Tataki ($6.80).
19. Ruby WatchCo, Toronto, Ontario
Website: www.rubywatchco.ca. Phone: 416-465-0100. Cuisine: Canadian/Comfort Food.
Price range: Menu changes daily; expect to pay in the range of $49 for a four-course meal.
Steve Dolinksy says: “Local celeb chef Lynn Crawford (formerly of The Four Seasons) has returned home after stints in NYC, and has created a comfy restaurant where everything is served family-style. Her passion for local farmers is made evident on every menu.” Click to read more
You must order: Whatever they’re serving that night!
20. Basho, St. John’s, Newfoundland & Labrador
Website: No website. Phone: 709-576-4600. Cuisine: Japanese.
Price range: $26-$32 for entrées.
Candice Walsh says: “Japanese restaurant, plus other food options. Best dining experience I’ve had in St. John’s.”
You must order: Nigiri and Sushi Roll Assortment ($26).
21. Hawskworth, Vancouver, British Columbia
Website: www.hawksworthrestaurant.com. Phone: 604-673-7000. Cuisine: Contemporary Canadian.
Price range: $26-$38 for entrées.
Renée Suen says: “Refined and welcomed return to fine dining. Good for those seeking elegance, but somewhat safe.”
You must order: 48-hour Beef Shortrib ($16).
22. Yew, Vancouver, British Columbia
Website: www.yewrestaurant.com. Phone: 604-692-4939. Cuisine: Mostly Seafood.
Price range: $24-$45 for main courses.
Katie Marti says: “This is a high-end, fine-dining experience that doesn’t take itself too seriously thanks to special promotions like Wine Down Sundays, where every bottle of wine is 50% off all day.”
You must order: Lobster poutine ($17).
23. Ensemble, Vancouver, British Columbia — CLOSED IN AUGUST 2012
Website: www.ensemblerestaurant.com. Phone: 604-569-1770. Cuisine: French Contemporary.
Price range: Small plates ranging from $8-$19
Adrian Brijbassi says: “Dale MacKay was named Top Chef Canada for many reasons, all of them on display at this terrific neighbourhood restaurant in the West End.”
Click here to read more of the Vacay.ca report on Ensemble
You must order: Potato Gnocchi ($12) and Black Cod with Thai broth ($18).
24. Salmon n’ Bannock, Vancouver, British Columbia
Website: www.salmonandbannock.net. Phone: 604.568.8971. Cuisine: First Nations
Price range: $10-$24.
Kathleen Kenna says: “No one prepares or serves wild salmon like their all-First Nations staff. Or wild game. Or wild berries. The inventiveness of the menu here is matched by the intimacy of dining amid original First Nations art. There is no other place on the West Coast where you can nibble on candied or smoked salmon under a Haida canoe. This is the only aboriginal restaurant in Vancouver, and the only one I know in Canada that boasts sustainable and local produce in a fine-dining setting. Salmon n’ Bannock also serves Saskatoon berry cider and wines from Nk’Mip Cellars, Canada’s first winery owned and operated by aboriginals.”
You must order: The Salmon and Bannock, duh ($16).
25. Salmon House on the Hill, West Vancouver, British Columbia
Website: www.salmonhouse.com. Phone: 604-926-3212. Cuisine: Seafood.
Price range: $23-$45 for main courses.
Barry O’Neill says: “Famous alder-grilled salmon and spectacular views.”
You must order: Steamed Whole Dungeness Crab ($45).
26. Cabane a Sucre (Martin Picard), Montreal, Quebec
Phone: No phone; email reservations only: email@example.com.
Cuisine: Sugar shack cuisine with maple syrup produced on site.
Price range: Set prices based on menu (seasonal; usually around $50 per person)
You must order: Triple Pork, Maple Meille Feuille (menu and prices change often)
27. Pointe Restaurant at the Wickaninnish Inn, Tofino, British Columbia
Website: www.wickinn.com/restaurant.html. Phone: 250-725-3100. Cuisine: Pacific Northwest.
Price range: $32-$39 for entrées.
Adrian Brijbassi says: “This magical place overlooking the Pacific not only has one of the best settings for a restaurant in the world, it delivers as classy a dining experience as you’ll find anywhere in Canada.”
You must order: Dungeness Crab (market price).
28. Scaramouche, Toronto, Ontario
Website: www.scaramoucherestaurant.com. Phone: 416-961-8011. Cuisine: French.
Price range: $36-$47 for entrées.
You must order: Rack of Lamb ($46) and Coconut Cream Pie ($13).
29. Mono Cliffs Inn, Mono, Ontario
Website: www.monocliffsinn.ca. Phone: 519-941-5109. Cuisine: Country-style fine dining.
Price range: $26-$60 per person.
Barry O’Neill says: “Finest in country dining; great variety of food; shrimp linguine is to die for.”
Read the Vacay.ca report on the Mono Cliffs Inn
You must order: Shrimp Linguine ($14).
30. Lighthouse Picnics, Ferryland, Newfoundland & Labrador
Website: www.lighthousepicnics.ca. Phone: 709-363-7456. Cuisine: Casual Picnic-Style.
Price range: About $20 per picnic lunch.
Candice Walsh says: “Outdoor dining experience with a picnic basket. Best lemonade ever created.”
You must order: Seafood Club Sandwich, fresh lemonade.
31. Buca, Toronto, Ontario
Website: www.buca.ca. Phone: 416-865-1600. Cuisine: Italian.
Price range: $15-$25 for entrées.
Diana Ng says: “There is no shortage of Italian restaurants in Toronto, but Buca stands out from the crowd with its proficient use of seasonal ingredients to create simple and light dishes. Pizza is thin and crispy, so much so that servers cut them with scissors.”
You must order: Artisanal Pizza (prices range).
32. Rotisserie Romados, Montreal, Quebec
Website: No website. Phone: 514-849-1803. Cuisine: Portuguese Chicken and Pastries.
Price range: $1 Pastries to $10 Chicken Combo Plates.
Jodi Ettenberg says: “A Portuguese roast chicken restaurant on a busy corner of Montreal’s Plateau area, guaranteed to give you the best chicken you’ve had in years. Whenever I return to Montreal, I go here first. It’s fantastic.”
You must order: The half chicken combo plate (spicy, $10) and natas (Portuguese egg tart, $2).
33. Chambar, Vancouver, British Columbia
Website: www.chambar.com. Phone: 604-879-7119. Cuisine: Modern French.
Price range: $22-$33 for entrées.
You must order: Moules Frites ($22).
34. Murray Street, Ottawa, Ontario
Website: www.murraystreet.ca. Phone: 613-562-7244. Cuisine: Charcuterie and more.
Price range: $10-$80 (for a whole pig head).
Jodi Ettenberg says: “Ottawa meat fans rejoice: this is a restaurant to call your own. Great roasted meats, perfectly cooked vegetables, strong drinks … and the poutine was also one of the best I’ve ever had. As a Montrealer, I’m sad to report it was outside Quebec!”
You must order: Spaetzle Poutine ($11) and “Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes” ($24).
35. Java Jack’s, Rocky Harbour, Newfoundland & Labrador
Website: javajacksnl.wordpress.com. Phone: 709-458-3004. Cuisine: East Coast Organic
Price range: $16.95-$24.95 for entrées.
Candice Walsh says: “Most ingredients grown in their organic garden. Amazing prices, best $9 fishcakes in the world!”
You must order: Said Fishcakes served with relish ($7.95)
36. Toque, Montreal, Quebec
Website: www.restaurant-toque.com. Phone: 514-499-2084. Cuisine: French.
Price range: $42-$48 for main courses.
You must order: Duck Magret ($48).
37. Acadia, Toronto Ontario
Website: www.acadiarestaurant.com. Phone: 416-792-6002. Cuisine: Southern.
Price range: $15-$24 for main courses.
Renée Suen says: “Innovative, meticulous and modern. Chef Matt Blondin mixes low country cuisine with Acadian ingredients (more from the Canadian side of the equation), all matched by scrumptious cocktails and casual southern hospitality.”
You must order: Cornbread with Sweet Potato and Bourbon Butter ($8).
38. Au Pied de Cochon, Montreal, Quebec
Website: www.restaurantaupieddecochon.ca. Phone: 514-281-1114. Cuisine: Quebecois.
Price range: $20-$45.
Renée Suen says: “Gluttony in excess, but a great reward if one steers clear from the stereotypical gut-busting staples and order the other well-balanced (but still gut-busting) menu items.”
You must order: Foie Gras Hamburger ($36).
39. Biff’s Bistro, Toronto, Ontario
Website: www.oliverbonacini.com/Biffs-Bistro.aspx. Phone:416-860-0086. Cuisine: Modern French.
Price range: $9-$32 for Les Entrees; $21-$36 for Bistro Specialties.
You must order: Beef Bourguignon ($26).
40. Le Champlain at Fairmont Chateau Frontenac, Quebec City, Quebec
Website: www.fairmont.com/frontenac/GuestServices/Restaurants/LeChamplain.htm. Phone: 866-540-4460. Cuisine: French.
Price range: $39-$43 for main courses.
Barry O’Neill says: “Le Champlain features French and continental gastronomy in an intimate atmosphere of old-world charm and hospitable service, best Caesar Salad made at your table which is a show in itself.”
You must order: Rack of Lamb ($49).
41. Sobo, Tofino, British Columbia
Website: www.sobo.ca. Phone: 250-725-2341. Cuisine: Seafood.
Price range: $29-$33 for main courses.
Adrian Brijbassi says: “Who knew fish tacos could be addictive? Although with the number of hippies in Tofino, it shouldn’t be a surprise that they’d find a way.”
You must order: Those Killer Fish Tacos ($6.50).
42. Blue Water Café and Raw Bar, Vancouver, British Columbia
Website: www.bluewatercafe.net. Phone: 604-688-8078. Cuisine: Seafood and Sushi.
Price range: $29.50-$43.50.
You must order: Sashimi Platter ($34).
43. Le Bremner, Montreal, Quebec
Website: crownsalts.com/lebremner. Phone: 514-544-0446. Cuisine: Seafood & Steak.
Price range: $12-$28 (mostly share plates).
You must order: Raw scallop and foie gras torchon ($28).
Read the Vacay.ca report on Le Bremner
44. Origin, Toronto, Ontario
Website: www.origintoronto.com. Phone: 416-603-8009. Cuisine: Tapas, with flavours from around the world.
Price range: Share plates, $6-$79 (for a 32-ounce rib-eye steak).
Diana Ng says: “Showcasing ingredients with minimal manipulation while creating outstanding and unforgettable dishes is easier said than done, but Origin blows the goal out of the water. The selection from the mozzarella bar, namely the Bufala mozzarella with confit tomatoes, basil and preserved lemon, is the perfect example.”
You must order: Tostones with Guacamole ($8).
45. Wine Bar, Toronto, Ontario
Website: www.9church.com. Phone:416-504-9463. Cuisine: Tapas.
Barry O’Neill says: “Great tapas, changes daily from the finest local and naturally raised food produced by Ontario farmers.”
Price range: Average price of the tapas dishes comes in around $13.
You must order: Cheddar and Apple Salad ($8) — if it’s on the menu that day.
46. Rim Rock Café, Whistler, British Columbia
Website: www.rimrockwhistler.com. Phone: 877-932-5589. Cuisine: West Coast.
Price range: $28-$46.
You must order: Ahi Tuna ($38).
47. Heron’s West Coast Kitchen at the Fairmont Waterfront, Vancouver, British Columbia
Telephone: 866-540-4509/504-691-1991. Cuisine: West Coast.
Price range: $26-$39 for main courses.
You must order: Spot Prawn Ravioli ($35).
48. Pic Nic Wine Bar, Toronto, Ontario
Website: www.picnicwinebar.com. Phone: 647-435-5298. Cuisine: Charcuterie and French.
Price range: $14-$23.
You must order: Charcuterie Plate ($22).
49. Inn at Bay Fortune, Bay Fortune, Prince Edward Island
Website: www.innatbayfortune.com. Phone: 902-687-3745 or 888-687-3745. Cuisine: Contemporary Creative Canadian.
Price range: $50 a la carte for three courses, also a five-course tasting menu $70 per person, Chef’s Table, a room within the kitchen, available to one party each evening seven courses $85, 10 courses $110, and 12 courses $125.
You must order: Grilled Lobster Straight From Fortune Harbour (part of set menus).
50. L’Orignal, Montreal, Quebec
Website: www.restaurantlorignal.com. Phone:514-303-0479. Cuisine: Canadian, with a twist of different cultures.
Price range: $27-$38 for main courses
Adrian Brijbassi says: “While it’s not the most celebrated restaurant in the city, L’Orignal is one of Montreal’s stars. Oysters, interesting selection of meats, boozy cocktails, a fun atmosphere and a late-night menu make it a standout.”
Read more from the Vacay.ca report on L’Orignal
You must order: Lamb Mini Burgers ($9).
John Placko – Culinary Director, Modern Culinary Academy, Mississauga
Julie Van Rosendaal – Dinner with Julie blogger, Calgary-based food columnist
How the Voting Works
The members of the Vacay.ca Judging Academy can nominate between 5-10 restaurants. They must have dined at the restaurant at least once since January 1, 2011 and cannot be a current employee or owner of any restaurant they nominate. The judges’ selections and the public votes will be used to determine the Top 50 Restaurants in Canada in 2013. Votes from the Vacay.ca Judging Academy will comprise roughly 75% of the final results. The public vote will comprise roughly 25% of the final results.
The 2013 Top 50 Restaurants in Canada List will include a second annual People’s Choice winner (won last year by Ottawa’s Atelier).
How the Top 50 Restaurants in Canada Originated
Vacay.ca felt that the food industry in Canada deserves to be spotlighted and celebrated. Our editorial staff decided a Top 50 Restaurants List was long overdue and we enlisted several of the most respected food writers in North America to help us establish the inaugural list. The judges run the gamut of food writers, chefs and food aficionados, allowing us to have a range of cuisines and budget choices available. Because Vacay.ca is a travel site, it was important to include judges who specialize in value dining as well as gourmet culinary experiences. Our top 50 list is a mix of cuisines, price ranges, regions and experiences, but what each one of the restaurants on our list has in common is excellence. This is proof that Canada’s dining scene is diverse and dynamic, and full of wonderful food choices and talented chefs that we can be proud of.
Public Vote Standings
Public Vote: Top 50 Restaurants in Canada
Mono Cliffs Inn
Mono Centre, Ontario
Q Haute Cuisine
Saint John Ale House
Saint John, New Brunswick
Vancouver, British Columbia
Foodie of the Year
VACAY.CA IS GIVING AWAY A TRIP + DINNER!
Thousands of Canadians voted in the Vacay.ca 2013 Foodie of the Year Contest, which features a Grand Prize of Dinner for Two at the restaurant of the winner’s choice, round-trip airfare to the closest major airport to that restaurant’s destination city and a luxury hotel stay! See our Contests page for details!
The winners will be announced on May 23, 2013. The finalists are:
Congrats to all three!
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