The number one spot for best restaurant in Canada 2017, went to Alo of Toronto this year, and they were also recognized by the prestigious Relais and Chateaux. They have actually been receiving serious accolades almost from the beginning.
Unfortunately, it is also Toronto’s most difficult reservation to secure. This past October Chef Patrick Kriss of Alo, opened a more casual, fun and accessible restaurant called Aloette, located on the main floor of the same building as its sister restaurant at 163 Spadina Avenue.
This place is much easier to get into, although you may have to wait 30-45 minutes to do so. It is a French/American inspired diner. This is the kind of food you can eat on a daily basis, it is definitely more down to earth, yet you will be genuinely satisfied with the stellar cooking. There is an Aloette burger, served medium rare, that is excellent. Its served with Beaufort cheese and carmelized onions on a brioche potato bun, with a side of Russian dressing and a dill pickle, accompanied by a side of fries that are crispy and properly prepared. There are shakes, plus twists on classic dishes like the iceberg lettuce wedge with pepitas, avocado and parmesan cheese that is out of this world. Beef tartar served in lettuce leaves, or clams casino, does anyone remember them from their youth?
Oysters are on the menu and I was happy to see snails, something else I haven’t seen on a menu in Toronto for ages. Hamachi sashimi is prepared a little differently, with Granny Smith apples, pickled onion and chilis on top of a crisp taco. Other mains were organic salmon, Cornish hen, lamb shoulder and ribeye. There are a couple of sides, we went with the broccoli tossed in a fish sauce and chili, which was big enough to share. Actually, all of the dishes are pretty generous.
For dessert, there were two options, a lemon meringue pie that was too thick with pectin (or something similar), or a better option, the apple pie sundae, with layers of pie, vanilla ice cream and warm caramel sauce.
This neighbourhood bistro has been packed from day one, and with good reason, the place is cool looking, a narrow room, totally redone, with 14 seats at the bar and another 24 in booths. The bar top looked like it was a burnt orange leather or leatherette, the ceiling was curved with panels of fabric and there are lots of woods. The flooring is penny tile. They play LOUD music, with an interesting selection.
The service was over the top friendly, from the staff at the door, to the bar and restaurant. I remembered that Alo also had excellent service, but you would expect that in a fine dining establishment. It is so refreshing to see it in a much more casual space. Our water glasses were continually filled, and Chef Patrick checked and chatted with patrons, and kept an eye on everything. His chef de cuisine is Mathew Betsch, and he is doing a bang-up job in the kitchen. As far as the wine list, I would like to see some California wines and more wines offered by the glass. The cocktails and beers were in fine form. The food was reasonably priced for the exceptional quality, and they are smart to offer a lower price point. The restaurant does not take reservations but works on a first come first serve basis. You can come in ahead, put your name on a list and return later if you wish.
They are open Monday to Saturday, and open for lunch and dinner those days except for Saturday. Unfortunately, you can’t come with a large group as the booths hold up to four people comfortably. The place is cozy, the servers are engaged and the food is seriously delicious. Another winner for Toronto.