In fall of 2022, two popular Canadian cruise ports became the first destinations in the country to gain their own Michelin Guides to their culinary scenes. For the first time, famous Michelin stars ratings have been assigned to dozens of restaurants in both Toronto and Vancouver.
In highlighting the cities' long-established foodie credentials the new Michelin Guides remind cruise travelers to book pre- or post-cruise extensions in Vancouver for Pacific Coast/ Alaskan cruises or Toronto for Great Lakes cruises to really dig into the cities' famous cuisine.
In Toronto's first Michelin Guide, inspectors honored one two-Michelin-Star restaurant and 12 one-Michelin-Star restaurants. Toronto became the first Canadian city to be featured in the Michelin Guide.
“Toronto shows it’s deserving of being the first Michelin Guide selection ever in the Great White North,” said Gwendal Poullennec, International Director of the Michelin Guides. “The diversity of the selection reflects the cosmopolitan soul of this exciting city. With 27 cuisine types, from Japanese Kaiseki to Italian, Mexican or contemporary cuisine, there’s something to please every foodie here. Toronto already was a multicultural place where people meet to enjoy architecture, arts and nature, and now it becomes a world-class destination for gourmets too.”
The Michelin Guide inspectors also found 17 restaurants worthy of the Bib Gourmand designation, which recognizes great food at a great value. These are restaurants where one can have two courses and a glass of wine or dessert for less than $60 CAD.
Sushi Masaki Saito, led by Chef Masaki Saito, received two Michelin Stars. Here’s what the inspectors had to say about it:
Sushi Masaki Saito (Japanese/Sushi cuisine)
Only here will you find shirako boldly skewered and grilled over binchotan, and only here will you eat melting slabs of chutoro buried under a blizzard of white truffles. Fish comes exclusively from Japan, and for the nigiri, assistants are quick to bring him his prized rice from Niigata prefecture, warm and tinged with his special blend of vinegars, after every round. Laughter fills the air, thanks to Chef Masaki Saito and his jovial team, and for a few blissful hours, the world outside melts away.
Here are Toronto's one-Michelin-Star restaurants, with inspector notes from each (inspector comments in full on the Michelin Guide website and mobile app):
Aburi Hana (Japanese/Kaiseki cuisine)
Chef Ryusuke Nakagawa presents a modern take on the history-steeped Kyō-Kaiseki menu. His cooking is deeply personal and intricate but never overwrought. Each course outdoes the last. The maguro flower, a rose made from pieces of akami and chutoro, is stunning, and kurobuta kakuni, simmered pork belly over foie gras, is dazzling.
Everyone has a good time at Chef Patrick Kriss’s beloved Alo. The talented beverage team offers spot-on suggestions from the well-chosen wine list.The kitchen team seamlessly merges European and Asian sensibilities onto a single tasting menu with dishes like creamy Koshihikari risotto boosted with porcini emulsion or rack of lamb with Thai green curry.
Alobar Yorkville(French cuisine)
Seafood figures prominently, and, as one might expect from Chef Patrick Kriss and Chef de Cuisine Rebekah Bruce, product is first-rate and technique exemplary. From chilled lobster with lime aioli to rack of lamb with niçoise olive, the kitchen delivers a kind of refined approachability that suits all occasions. Desserts like mille-feuille with raspberry chantilly are show-stoppers.
Don Alfonso 1890 Toronto (Italian cuisine)
Chef Daniele Corona’s dishes echo the contemporary sophistication of the dining room. Eel gelato plated with a tangle of wild rose-scented tagliatelle, pulverized egg yolk and sturgeon caviar delivers a wonderful mix of flavors; tender and vibrant agnolotti are stuffed with Ontario lamb for a rich and meaty filling and doused in a decadent cheese sauce that packs a punch.
Edulis (Contemporary cuisine)
The pride and passion of the husband-and-wife owners and their staff is undeniably evident throughout this spot. Settle in for a set, multicourse menu inspired by the Mediterranean. The kitchen eschews fluff, focusing instead on creating harmonious (and delicious) dishes. Freshly carved Spanish ham, cheese and dessert are available as add-ons. The menu proudly hews to the season.
Enigma Yorkville (Contemporary cuisine)
Chef Quinton Bennett's resume is as varied and glittering as the tile mosaics that stretch across the ceiling of this Yorkville looker. Using molecular techniques, he puts his worldly view on the plate, playing on diverse textures and surprising combinations like brassicas with smoked foie gras and dehydrated parmesan or tuna with sheets of beetroot and fermented daikon.
Frilu (Contemporary cuisine; pumpkin patch soup pictured, top: credit Tony Lam)
There is a saying that we should dance like nobody’s watching. This adage feels true of Chef John-Vincent Troiano, who cooks to his own rhythm in Thornhill. Smoke, game and refined sauce-work figure prominently on what might be the only tasting menu for several kilometers. A tiny space packed with talent, the sparsely decorated nook leaves everything on the plate, with high-quality product from their own farm coupled with an intriguing Japanese element that feels natural.
Kaiseki Yu-zen Hashimoto (Japanese/Kaiseki cuisine)
Chef Masaki Hashimoto's traditional kaiseki eight-course menu showcases the seasons while celebrating Japanese ingredients. It's all about focus over flash with a refined intricate style and attention to detail that borders on reverence. Shii-zakana is a signature dish composed of fried soba noodle-wrapped shrimp, but it's the stunning radish crane that you'll remember.
Osteria Giulia (Italian cuisine)
It seems nearly impossible to have a bad time at Chef Rob Rossi’s Italian stunner. Many Italian menus can look the same, Rossi narrows in on the seafood-rich traditions of Liguria. A deep Italian wine list and an especially talented cocktail program round out an experience that is as accomplished as it is hospitable.
Quetzal (Mexican cuisine)
Almost everything on this tight menu passes through the kitchen’s 26-foot-long wood-burning grill that actively roars and smokes. At the end of the line is a single chef at the earthenware comal, who prepares tortillas from heirloom corn that is nixtmalized and ground in-house. Lamb barbacoa packed into griddled, blue masa tortillas and charred maitake mushrooms set in a crema poblana highlight the transformative magic of fire, while dry-aged amberjack aguachile flexes the kitchen’s delicate side.
Shoushin (Japanese/Sushi cuisine)
Jackie Lin leads the young team with care. The seasonal sushi omakase is especially delightful. Grilled cutlassfish, rarely seen on many menus, is served hot and flaky. Striped jackfish with a kiss of green onion is flavorful; golden eye snapper is nicely aged. From lean bluefin tuna with mountain yam and tart kohada to excellent baby seabream with lime, it's hit after hit.
Yukashi (Japanese/Kaiseki cuisine)
Chef Daisuke Izutsu has cooked for royals, dignitaries, and you, if you're one of the lucky 15 who has secured a seat at the intimate Yukashi. Firmly rooted in seasonality, this kaiseki-style menu is highly original and personal. The otsukuri, with slices of shima aji with yuzu zest, toro with pickled turnip and hay-smoked hamachi delicately arranged atop a white marble base, is a work of art.
In Vancouver's first Michelin Guide, eight restaurants earned one-Michelin-Star distinctions and 12 received Bib Gourmands.
Bib Gourmand designation recognizes great food at a great value. These are restaurants where one can have two courses and a glass of wine or dessert for less than $60 CAD. With seven cuisine types represented, there is no doubt that food lovers will have delightful discoveries among the Bib Gourmands in Vancouver.
The full selection of restaurants listed in Vancouver's first Michelin Guide, including Recommended eateries, totals 60 restaurants.
“Our teams of inspectors genuinely savored their dining experiences in Vancouver,” said Gwendal Poullennec, International Director of the MICHELIN Guides. “They were very impressed with the city’s gastronomic dynamism. The selection – from Stars to Bib Gourmands to the Recommended spots – are all appealing in their own authentic DNA, and very diverse offers. They all can be very proud of their entry in the MICHELIN Guide family, as we’re pleased to highlight them to our community of foodies and travelers.”
Here are the MICHELIN-Starred restaurants, with inspector notes from each (inspector comments in full on the MICHELIN Guide website and mobile app):
AnnaLena (Contemporary cuisine)
Don’t be fooled by AnnaLena’s unassuming atmosphere, as dining at Chef Mike Robbins’ restaurant is a polished experience from top to bottom. Beginningwith the graceful service and carrying through to the impeccably prepared dishes, this is a restaurant that aims to impress — sans the fuss.
Barbara (Contemporary cuisine)
Chef Patrick Hennessy spent time at many top spots, including Eleven Madison Park in New York, but he is clearly at home at Barbara. The kitchen feels like a stage, with guests perched at the L-shaped bar watching with bated breath as he performs culinary magic.
Burdock & Co(Contemporary cuisine)
This Mount Pleasant charmer straddles a corner of Main Street in an area rich with top spots, but Burdock & Co stands out with its rustic appeal and Chef Andrea Carlson’s farm-to-table cooking. The concise menu highlights the best of the season.
iDen & QuanJuDe Beijing Duck House (Chinese cuisine)
It has a pedigree that traces back to Beijing from 1864, but the latest outpost in Vancouver proves that QuanJuDe hasn’t lost any of its luster. It is best known for its superlatively crispy and juicy duck. Delicious as the signature fowl may be, there is plenty more from Chef Allen Ren: A bevy of other delicacies are on offer, including bird’s nest, sea cucumber and even a whole king crab if you’re up for a splurge.
Kissa Tanto (Japanese cuisine)
Inspired by the jazz cafes of 1960s Tokyo, Kissa Tanto seduces with a moody vibe complete with white mosaic floors, antique Japanese panels and steely colored walls loaded with artwork and photos. There is a definitive laid-back vibe here, but Chef Joël Watanabe’s ambitious kitchen pulls no punches with its mingling of Japanese and Italian cuisine.
Masayoshi (Japanese cuisine pictured above: credit: Leila Kwok)
Chef Masayoshi Baba brings Japan’s luxurious, jewel-box sushi counters to Vancouver with this eponymous restaurant. The best seats are always at the counter, and guests seated there are in for a treat as the chef ceremoniously crafts each course. Chef Baba lets British Columbia’s bounty guide this omakase, spotlighting locally sourced fish in his Edomae-style nigiri.
Published on Main (Contemporary cuisine)
Timing is everything, but Chef Gus Stieffenhofer-Brandson and his team have a preternatural ability for sensing when produce is at its peak. Whether showcasing it on the plate or pickling and preserving it (those jars even double as decor), they’re sourcing and foraging from local farms and forests. The contemporary fare bears the chef’s distinct imprimatur. This is food that is at once familiar and surprising.
St. Lawrence (French cuisine)
A hit ever since opening, this charming Québécois bistro shares a true sense of place — it’s even named for the region’s mighty river. Sit close enough to Chef/owner Jean-Christophe Poirier’s kitchen to experience the heady aromas of his rustic and hearty French-Canadian cooking.
By: Lynn Elmhirst Producer and Host, World's Greatest Cruises
Image credits as noted.
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