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Weekend eating: May 12-13 via NOW Toronto

May 12, 2012
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Dinner out on Saturday, going for brunch on Sunday


Gusto 101

101 Portland, at Adelaide W, 416-504-9669, Forget Grand Electric and Yours Truly. Downtown’s current resto du jour is this boisterous Italian trat in a converted chop shop within spitting distance of the Spoke Club. Don’t let the knobs and desperate singles put you off one of the best rooftop decks in town. But unless you book a table for either noon or 6 pm – the only times they take reservations – expect to wait in line. For hours. Best: to start, house-made ricotta with house-baked baguette; wood-grilled octopus over haricots verts in a citrusy basil vinaigrette mined with tapenade; massive main-sized arugula salads dressed with baby plum tomatoes, avocado and sliced rare steak; classic summer spaghetti tossed with Manila clams; at brunch, thin-crusted pizzas topped with San Marzano sauce, local mozzarella, Pingue speck and a runny egg; to finish, cioccolatto pudding splashed with fruity olive oil and sea salt. Complete dinners for $40 per person (lunches/brunches $30), including tax, tip and a glass of house vino. Average main $18/$14. Open for dinner Saturday 5 pm to close. Reservations accepted for 6 pm seating only. Licensed. Access: barrier-free, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN Patio

M & B Yummy

1263 Queen W, at Brock, 416-516-2798, Zeni Ashine’s modest Parkdale café may not look like much from the street, but its barred storefront hides Toronto’s only vegetarian Ethiopian eatery. Once inside, find a quirky ethno-centric room where the welcome is warm, the lighting low and the platters-for-two on injera flatbread range from gently spiced to incendiary. Best: all-day breakfasts like smoky fava bean foul topped with raw onion, tomato and chilies; shiro fit-fit, a porridge of olive-oil-soaked injera flatbread laced with caramelized onion and jalapeño that’s said to cure hangovers; massive veggie combos served on injera piled with faux “meat,” curried cabbage, beans with carrots, collard greens and lentil dahl. Complete meals for $20 per person, including tax, tip and an organic lager. Average main $9. Open for dinner Saturday 5 to 11 pm. Reservations accepted. Licensed. Access: two steps at door, three steps to washrooms. Rating: NNN

critic's pick Queen Margherita Pizza

1402 Queen E, at Vancouver, 416-466-6555, They’re already calling John Chetti and Rocco Mazzaserro’s east-side pizzeria the Libretto of Leslieville, and deservedly so. Both adhere to the Vera Pizza Napoletana standard of exceptionally thin crusts made from imported stone-ground Caputo Tipo 00 flour topped with sauce made from San Marzano tomatoes and fresh, locally sourced fior di latte cheese, all cooked in a wood-burning oven. Same stylishly loud scene, but – unlike Libretto – these guys take reservations. You’ll need one! Best: superbly blistered pies like the Napoletano topped with oven-dried black olives, cherry tomatoes, capers and anchovies; the Giovanni with arugula and paper-thin prosciutto di Parma; the Mezza Luna, half basil-embellished Margherita, half folded-over calzone stuffed with fresh ricotta; from the rotating $25 three-course prix fixe, house-made ricotta gnocchi and smoked pancetta in a rose sauce lashed with Gorgonzola; bone marrow bruschetta; to finish, classic tiramisu and retro chocolate lava cake with vanilla ice cream. Complete dinners for $45 per person including tax, tip and a glass of vino. Open for dinner Saturday 5 pm to midnight. Licensed. Access: five steps at door, another 11 to dining room, washrooms on same floor. Rating: NNNN


Bi Bim Bap

950 Eglinton W, at Rostrevor, 416-787-7423, Though you can find bibimbap at Seoul food restaurants all over town, Sam Lee and Janet Yun’s casual Korean cantina is the only one exclusively dedicated to this multi-culti rice casserole. And while Seoul food isn’t generally very veggie-friendly, this often innovative kitchen has much for even vegans to enjoy. Optional brown rice, too! Best: seven different versions all told, the traditional a bowl of short-grain white rice garnished with seared sirloin, a garden’s worth of veggies both raw and slightly cooked – wilted spinach, shredded carrot, salted cucumber and zucchini, pickled burdock, daikon and Korean radish, dried seaweed and sweet potato stems – and a runny fried sunny-side-up egg; as above only minus the egg plus miso-marinated char-grilled kalbi ribs or sliced portobello mushrooms; the Seed bibimbap with black sesame, sunflower, pumpkin and poppy seeds and more grilled portobello and pickled veg over mirin-marinated brown rice, all doused with house-made red pepper gochujang hot sauce; to start, super-crunchy peppers, apple, carrot and faux crab in yellow wasabi vinaigrette. Complete meals for $18 per person, including tax, tip and a mug of barley tea. Average main $11. Open Sunday 11 am to 8 pm. Licensed. Access: barrier-free, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN Patio


807 Gerrard E, at Logan, 416-792-9043, No longer the Logan Grill, Brittany Peglar and Colin Reed’s east-side brunch spot is a godsend for south Riverdale even if the renovated white-on-white interior looks like they ran out of money halfway through the job. Laid-back during the week, the former diner causes lineups every Saturday and Sunday. Best: from a constantly evolving menu, starters like halved baby heirloom tomatoes dressed with fresh burrata, basil pesto and Maldon sea salt; basic mains like steak ’n’ eggs sided with crispy bacon, onion and fried-potato hash; chunky chicken salad sandwiches with fresh arugula, grainy mustard and Sriracha on baguette; free-range omelettes du jour with sides of Sausage Partners links; first-rate baked goods like ex-Drake pastry chef Peglar’s sugar-crusted raspberry and blackberry scones, Soma chocolate chip cookies and local sour cherry muffins; to drink, house-made strawberry lemonade. Complete brunches for $25 per person, including tax, tip and a coffee. Average main $12. Open for brunch Sunday 9:30 am to 4 pm. Unlicensed. Rating: NNN

critic's pick Keriwa Café

1690 Queen W, at Roncesvalles, 416-533-2552, Now that the Hoof Café’s suckling pig eggs Benny and bone-marrow beignets are a thing of distant memory, our vote for Hogtown’s most creative brunch goes to owner/chef Aaron Joseph Bear Robe’s innovative midday weekend nosh. Best: to start, a basket of pastry chef Nis’ku Closs’s baked goods – flaky petite croissants, carrot-cake muffins, perfect crumbly blueberry scones, buttery shortbread and a ginger snap or two; mains like new potato ’n’ onion hash with sliced picnic ham, baked runny eggs, Kozlick’s Triple Crunch mustard and funky adobo sauce: seared fatty pork belly confit over sautéed wild mushrooms, shallots and leek sided with organic greens and house-baked Red Fife toast spread with house-made butter; cinammon-bun bread pudding duck leg confit in bullberry sauce dolloped with crème fraîche and tossed with pea shoots. Open for brunch Sunday 10 am to 3 pm. Reservations accepted. Licensed. Access: barrier-free, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNNNN


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