48 Hours in Toronto
Sommeliers lead the way to hip wine and dine spots
The past five years have seen several of Toronto’s top chefs scale back their operations, with many critics lamenting the death of fine dining. Some refer to this as a reactionary or recessionary period.
They suggest the proliferation of charcuterie and Italian home cooking on Hogtown menus is a prime example of a gastronomic holding pattern. But there has been an explosion of kitchen and front-of-house talent.
Chefs, managers, bartenders and sommeliers who have been mentored by the shining stars of yore are now breaking out on their own, opening exciting hole-in-the-wall or pop-up operations in hitherto-unexplored neighbourhoods. One is spoiled for choice when it comes to the myriad good restaurants in the city.
But finding establishments where proprietors pay as much attention to their wines as they do the food, decor and service is much more challenging. That’s why it pays to follow Toronto’s kinetic, adventurous and talented sommeliers in order to gain a bead on the best spots for wine while visiting. Their individual personalities and palates will make or break an establishment’s wine program.
Places to Seek Out
1434 Dundas St. W., Tel: 647-345-7005
Tuesday to Saturday: 5 p.m. – 3 a.m.
Mercurial sommelier Christopher Sealy (formerly of Mercatto, Union, Terroni’s Bar Centrale) and Giuseppe Anile (Bar Italia, Marquee Video) play the most gracious of hosts at this cozy, unfussy West End spot. Expect a low-key, informed crowd enjoying the eclectic and ever-changing wine selections alongside artisanal cheese and salumi. The small side patio on Gladstone Avenue will be quite the hot spot for wine lovers this summer.
169 Niagara St., Tel: 416-703-4222
Wednesday to Saturday: 5 – 11 p.m.; Sunday: 12 p.m. – 4 p.m.
Tobey Nemeth (formerly of Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar) and Michael Caballo (Niagara Street Café) have finally returned to their beloved Toronto after several years cooking in Italy, Spain, Vancouver and Panama. With Edulis, housed in the old home of the much-adored Niagara Street Café, they offer a menu of locally foraged and sourced foods such as heritage chickens baked in hay (carved tableside!), St. Canut milk-fed piglets and more. Edulis has become the food and wine insiders’ favourite hangout. Expect to spot well-known winemakers and chefs hiding in this restaurant’s romantic shadowy corners.
1288 Dundas St. W., Tel: 416-534-1200
Nightly: 5 – 11 p.m.
The food at the Libretto Group’s Enoteca shines under the stewardship of executive chef Grant Van Gameren (formerly of Black Hoof), but you can’t overlook the expertly managed wine selection. Consulting sommelier Peter Boyd (Scaramouche), a much-admired seasoned trooper of the city scene, has created a well-honed wine list of considerable depth and complexity. Look for esoteric Italian bottles with a smattering of crisp Ontario deliciousness.
Written by Jamie Drummond