A weekend in Toronto, point-form-style:
- Grand Electric: like a higher-end Grumman ’78 with slightly more complex tastes, slightly more attitude (with equal doses of friendliness and apathy) but strangely similar prices. Affordable fun if you can brave the hour-plus wait. Creamed corn and spicy chicken were standouts although I’d avoid the Cherizo Fundido. The hip hop was cranked past eleven however, and with Chuck Taylor’s and tats the de-rigeur dress code (which none of us obeyed) it might be an experience-once affair for most, but a good one.
- Rhino Bar & Grill: skip it. Sloppy food and slow service means you might want to find a better place to wait for your spot at Grand Electric, especially if the bar’s large terrace is full. On the flip side, the half-liter pints of Stiegl are hard to beat at $4.95, which is odd when the crowd at Ronnie’s Local 069 are willing to fork over $7 to be seen drinking the Austrian swill.
- The Bellevue: if you’re in Kensington market and need a watering hole where you can shoot the breeze, this is a good option. Nothing exceptional but sometimes you just want a place to sit and catch up.
- Insomnia: slow (but friendly) service was ignored when our food arrived. We’ve explored a fair number of brunch/breakfast places in T.Dot. We’d return to this one to try something else; fresh and well prepared saw home fries so scrumptious they gave the fantastic sweet potato-fries a run for their money. The omelette of the day was enlightened and the place was kid friendly. Hard to beat as long as you’re not in a rush. Oh and cinnamon in the diner-counter-coffee.
- Ronnie’s Local 069: I’m not cool enough to be in this place or, at the very least, my parents loved me enough to ensure I have no desire to visit ever again. The gruff service and overpriced beverages would be fine if only the crowd wasn’t so, well, harsh is what I’ll commit to in lieu of the expletives that come to mind.
- Ritz Carlton: we weren’t staying there, but wow, if you have money you can flush down the toilet, I’d do it in theirs. I suspect you might have to tip but they’ll even plunge with a smile when your Bordens get stuck.
- Asian Legend: I’m not quite sure which legend they’re referring to in the name. Legendary acceptable food at decent prices? Check. Legendary par-for-the-course modern decor? Check. Legendary prompt but not outstanding service? Check. Naming qualms aside, our trip to Asian Legend was to try the Xiao Long Bao. I contemplated breaking this out into a serious review but sadly, the scope of the Legend didn’t warrant it. The soup in the steamed pork buns was lacking; soup-filled steamed pork buns are all about the broth. Oh, don’t get me wrong; if you’ve craved the things and can’t take a trip to Ding Tai Fung’s up in Markham, the Taiwan Café in Boston or (best) Joe’s Shanghai in NYC, then this will do. But just barely. You don’t sit there, ordering basket after basket, wondering how you managed to pack down 24+ soup-filled buns and you don’t end up licking your lips because of all the gelatin and/or other mysterious congealing ingredients which provide a mystery not unlike the Caramilk bar. The shallot pancakes were also ho-hum. So while you could visit this establishment in search of the mysterious “soupy dumpling,” you’d be confused and disapointed with the experience, even if you didn’t know it until you’d been sat at joint serving the real deal.