May 6, 2023
After Niagara Falls, our spring break journey progressed to Toronto! We had a whole itinerary lined up of museums, galleries, shopping, dining, and more museums. Did we stick to the itinerary? Nope! But we definitely got our steps in. Here’s what we did!
Once we were about 10 minutes outside of the city, traffic really got awful. It was also raining so we crept in the last 45 minutes or so. We were headed to another Marriott (Downtown CF Eaton Centre) because we had free nights to burn via our Bonvoy membership. It’s was a pretty convenient location on Bay Street, right across the street from Nathan Phillips Square with the infamous Toronto sign. It’s also close to shopping and subways, and a short drive to the lake or neighboring attractions. The hotel itself is nice with a decent restaurant where we had our breakfasts. The beds were not as comfortable as in Niagara falls, nor the views as breathtaking, but we didn’t spend much time there anyway.
Our first meal in Toronto was grab dinner at Cafe Landwer. This spot offered an easy, inexpensive menu somewhat unique to the city. Turns out there are locations in Los Angeles and Massachusetts, but the menu was broad and had something we would each enjoy. A slightly rainy 10-minute walk later and we were at the University Avenue location ready to be seated amidst a restaurant full of Torontonians.
The following day was my birthday, so we upped our dining game a bit, taking inspiration from restaurants that made several “best of Toronto” dining lists. Our first stop was lunch at Sassafraz in Yorkville, and what a delight this was both for the palate and in the decor. Light and bright with a French-Canadian menu, Gregg and I had our first filets of Canadian Atlantic salmon, and wow. They both were perfectly cooked and seasoned with a delicious crispy skin. Mine paired with an arugula and heirloom carrot salad with almonds and dried figs, accompanied by a heavenly blood orange and za’atar labneh hugging the side of the plate. Gregg’s dish was served with chilled soba noodles in a ginger ponzu dressing with pickled enoki. We both ate every bite! Oh, and Georgia had french fries and bread. She was happy.
For dinner, it was Canoe, which was truly special, and ranks eighth on a list of Canada’s top 100 restaurants. We did not do the landmark CN Tower, but were able to get a similar experience at this restaurant! Canoe sits high above the city on the 54th floor of TD Bank Tower, just a handful of blocks from the CN Tower. So, with breathtaking views of Lake Ontario and the city from the dining room floor, we had an unforgettably elevated meal (both literally and figuratively)!
The menu here at Canoe is focused on the Canadian landscape and each dish is artfully presented to take the diner into a culinary experience. As a lover of french onion soup, I started with their version, which included a parmesan custard and caramelized onion, drizzled with laurel oil. The soup was served in an actual onion!
On to our mains! I ordered the wild pacific halibut, accompanied by Albuféra sauce (a french sauce made of chicken broth, saffron, and butter), roasted onion soubise, and pickled vermouth. It also came with a salted halibut-pomme purée topped with chicken fat crumb. Gregg had the spring pea risone (a pasta dish) with pickled chanterelles, whipped feta, charred romaine, and ricotta salata. And, one of the best things was, despite being a pretty fancy establishment, the staff were welcoming and gracious to Georgia. There is no “kids menu” but they offered to prepare some of the basics (mac and cheese, pastas, etc.), so she was super happy with a bowl of plain buttered orzo.
Canoe’s sommelier for the evening, James Cranfield (super knowledgeable and amiable, btw!), helped us select a really fantastic Chablis from J. Moreau & Fils. This wine was the perfect pairing to our meals: dry, light, minerality, with complex flavors of almond, peach and yellow fruits.
On our second day, we explored the Yorkville neighborhood of the city (where Sassafraz was located). This area is cool. It has a mix of architectural styles, boutique and high end shopping, and lots of dining options. There are a ton of public parking garages available, and then you just walk around. We checked out the Holt Renfrew Centre shopping mall, Eataly (for ice cream after lunch), and the LCBO wine and liquor store (which is the government’s Liquor Control Board of Ontario) to bring back some Canadian spirit!