Miku Toronto, part of Isolish
10 Bay Street, unit 105 (647) 347-7347
dinner for two: $130 plus tax
While restaurants are not able to open their seating areas, none of us in Toronto are hard up for take-out or delivery dining options, and that includes high-end offerings from almost all cuisines. There will always be pizza and wings, but a new service called Isolish is teaming up with fine dining restaurants to offer 4-course meals for delivery. So you can still eat posh during lockdown, but in your own dining room.
Working with a variety of restaurants around the city, Isolish offers a unique one-off meal for delivery, with each restaurant offering their 4-course menu on a specific date. A portion of the proceeds goes to Daily Bread Food Bank, making the prospect of a fancy feast even more alluring.
On April 30th, the participating restaurant was Miku, and for $65 per person we got a marvelous 4-course meal comprised of beautifully-detailed dishes. Some of these are currently on Miku’s To-Go menu for anyone interested in trying them outside of the Isolish promotion.
Milestones Festival Hall
132 John Street
Brunch for two with all taxes, tip and coffee: $45
Regular readers will notice a dearth of references to mainstream chain restaurants on this site. When we started TasteTO, that wasn’t our intention – our aim was to cover anything and everything related to food, including the mid-range family-oriented chains, because we wanted to reflect how real people eat. Somehow the middle got lost between the two extremes of cool, high end places, and “hole-in-the-wall, best X ever” low end joints. And, well, because the middle more often than not ends up being mediocre. This isn’t always the case – I once had an outstanding steak at Jack Astor’s, and both Greg and I recall having had a passably decent meal at Milestones, which is how we ended up there on a recent Sunday morning when we had errands to run nearby.
The first thing we notice about the place is just how big everything is. The menus are huge and we joke to the server that she never needs to lift weights, she must get a workout just carrying around these huge books. The ceiling is high – meant to be soaring and impressive, no doubt, but then the light fixtures are also massive. The coffee cups, glasses, cutlery and plates – also huge, and I can’t help wondering what the psychology behind this is. Because places like this are designed with an intended “experience” in mind. Are we supposed to feel that everything is lush and grand? Or is there some psychology that is supposed to make us feel small and insignificant?
1532 Dundas Street West
Brunch for two with all taxes, tip and coffee: $32
Skinny jeans, plaid shirts, iPhones… when did crusty old Dundas West become the land of the hipster? Or is it because the area is still kind of crusty that the hipsters flock to it? In any case, throughout our entire meal at Henhouse, we are the oldest people there, save for a table with two girls and one of their mothers. This much hipster-ness could be overkill. The bright space is full of old 1950s tables and chairs (mis-matched, of course) and a fabulous selection of kitschy decor, including fun salt and pepper shakers, bunches of flowers on each table and mis-matched dishes. It could scream “look at us, we’re trying SO hard!” but it’s actually fun and comfortable (maybe because I can remember actually having those old tables with the chrome legs as real, non-ironic furniture).
In any case, we arrive just in time (10:30am on a Saturday), because by 11am, the place is packed and people are being turned away. Those of us with tables heave a sigh of relief and lift our bingo-themed coffee cups for another swig of non-ironic Joe ($2).
Merci Mon Ami
171 East Liberty Street, #107
Brunch for two with all taxes, tip and coffee: $40
As had been made evident on this site before, I am not a patio person, especially a streetside patio. But on a quiet Sunday morning, my bags loaded with goodies from the Liberty Village farmers market, I can’t help but be completely charmed by the front patio at Merci Mon Ami.
And charm is the operative word here. This Liberty Village sandwich shop does most of their business on weekdays, opening for breakfast and lunch and closing at 3pm to focus on catering. Inside, the space is elegantly decorated and seating is two long communal tables, but the patio is pretty iron chairs and tables, pots of flowers and a sunny view of the market tents.
The market plays a big role in Merci Mon Ami’s brunch menu, with many of their ingredients including maple syrup, produce, honey, meats and bread sourced from no further than across the parking lot.
Potential customers should know that the card is a short one – 4 mains and 3 baguette sandwiches are all priced at $13.50. There’s also a mixed green salad ($6.19) and sides in the form of croissants, bacon or yogurt and granola ($3.10 each).
The French toast and Croque Monsieur look appealing but we opt for the other two mains instead.
Sage West – Closed
924 College Street
Brunch for two with all taxes, tip and coffee: $30
Most people are probably more familiar with Sage Café on McCaul Street than they are with her sister restaurant Sage West. It’s one of those places you really want to like; it’s a pretty space that doubles as a lounge with live salsa bands and dancing in the evening; the staff is friendly and accommodating. The food… well the food is just mediocre.
We arrive to discover only one other table occupied, yet the extensive menu has many things crossed off. The chicken pot pie and the potato latkes are no longer on offer, and the chicken burrito handwritten onto the printed menu is also not available. Our server tells us the restaurant is in the process of changing the menu to reflect a move to more Latin-American fare (thus the salsa dancing), but the scratched out menu sheets are still kind of sloppy.
Café du Lac
2350 Lakeshore Boulevard West
Brunch for two with all taxes, tip and coffee: $30
If Toronto wasn’t already known as a brunch town, just wait until people really start feeling the recession pinch. Already considered much more economical and family-friendly than dinner at a high-end restaurant or a business lunch, brunch is poised to be the main weekly meal out for many families. No matter how tough times get – there’s still not many people who can be bothered to poach eggs at home.
This brunch popularity is already evident at Café du Lac, where families filled almost every table during our visit last week. Unfortunately with but one server for the entire room, the smooth relaxed brunch mood was a bit lost in the confusion.
Things start well enough and we’re set up with coffee and water while our order is taken. The menu is short and to the point, with a selection of crepes, omlettes, and bagels as well as French toast, and we select a couple of dishes and sides that we think will best represent the Quebecois theme.
25 Liberty Street
Brunch for two with all taxes, tip and coffee: $35
We joke here at TasteTO about the “Restaurant Makeover Death Watch”; the jinx that seems to occur to so many places that participate in this particular Food Network TV show. But the truth is that many restaurants that participate actually go on to do well; not necessarily because of the publicity or even the new décor or menu, but because the process is a rejuvenation of sorts.
Such is the case with The Liberty, the longstanding café in Liberty Village. Already a successful neighbourhood lunch and dinner spot, a revamp of their menu on the show was quickly discarded after the film crews left, and even the renovated décor was tweaked to suit their needs better than the designer was able to.