8 restaurants pushing the envelope in Toronto

Dishes at Ration: Beverley, a lab-like contemporary Canadian spot steered by the seasons, in Queen West. | Credit: Ration: Beverley

Cosmopolitanism defines Canada’s largest city, and that global spirit extends to its creative dining scene. Toronto’s most innovative restaurants stand out for challenging the status quo, all while churning out indelible plates.

An Indian restaurant in Yorkville, loved for its bold flavors and palace-like interiors, is also known for its progressive kitchen structure. A trendy Middle Eastern spot, furnished with a stone mill from Jerusalem, was one of the establishments responsible for transforming a gritty pocket of Toronto. In Queen West, an experimental Canadian place, complete with a basement food lab, is steered by the seasons.

Each of these spots takes the road less traveled, paving new paths to sourcing, ingredient prep, and even operations. For a seat at some of Toronto’s most cutting-edge restaurants, book a table at one of these eight places now.

1 Kitchen Toronto (Entertainment District)

Roasted Chilean sea bass at 1 Kitchen Toronto. | Credit: 1 Kitchen Toronto

At home in the elegant and eco-friendly 1 Hotel Toronto, 1 Kitchen Toronto sets new standards for sustainable operations with its zero-waste, locally driven philosophy. Much of the restaurant’s produce comes from the hotel’s on-site garden, while other ingredients are sourced from within a 100-kilometer radius. The menu emphasizes diners’ health as much as the health of the planet, with a primarily vegetarian menu that includes cold-pressed juice cocktails. The restaurant’s other forward-thinking initiatives include a partnership with GreenPlanet, a company that specializes in converting kitchen oil into biofuel, and an on-site composter that transforms organic waste into soil. The restaurant’s greenery-filled interior plays up its connection to the earth’s wellness and includes wooden tables and artwork created from fallen trees.

Parallel (The Junction)

When it opened its doors in 2018, Parallel, a hip Middle Eastern restaurant, was one of the early pioneers that transformed an industrial strip of Geary Avenue into a food-and-drink hotspot. An on-site stone mill—imported from Jerusalem—inspired much of the restaurant’s inventive menu. Using sesame seeds sourced from Humera, Ethiopia, which are chosen for their sweet and nutty flavor, the restaurant produces its own sesame butter and other tahini-based products. This signature sesame butter makes its way into most dishes on the menu, from riffs on classic hummus and housemade shawarma-spiced chicken to a savory spin on the traditional pastry dessert, knafeh.

Miss Likklemores (King West)

Miss Likklemores stocks more than 100 kinds of rum, with an emphasis on Caribbean labels. | Credit: Paula Wilson

This pop-up turned permanent restaurant is blazing trails in more ways than one. Miss Likklemores playful menu gives the fine-dining spin to Caribbean fare. The plates are inspired by almost every region, from Trinidad’s macaroni pie to Jamaican jerk chicken. The nuff nuff slaw exemplifies Miss Likklemores dedication to uniquely nuanced flavors: its twenty-two ingredients include compressed pear, jicama, and papaya vinaigrette. Miss Likklemores also shines the spotlight on rum at a level rarely seen in Toronto restaurants, with more than 100 labels available. Naturally, the emphasis is on Caribbean labels, but the one-of-a-kind collection also includes unusual bottles from places such as Australia, India, and Peru.

Tachi – Assembly Chef’s Hall (Financial District)

Tachi, owned by the same team behind MICHELIN-starred Toronto spots Sushi Masaki Saito and Shoushin, is the city’s sole standing-only omakase joint. Inspired by a seatless Japanese dining tradition, the restaurant, set in Chef’s Hall (a sprawling food venue featuring 17 other restaurants), offers just eight standing counter “seats”. Here, diners are served an omakase menu at a breakneck speed, featuring 11 pieces of sushi and one hand roll—in less than 30 minutes. The result is an entertaining, one-of-a-kind meal, fueled by high-quality fish and precisely prepared nigiri.

Adrak Yorkville (Yorkville)

Adrak Yorkville’s bold, signature dishes are crafted by a kitchen with a progressive team structure. | Credit: Adrak Yorkville

This Indian restaurant makes a big impact with its palace-inspired interiors and bold, signature dishes, such as the raan-e-shaahi (slow-cooked lamb leg with house spices) and asparagus kofta. But it’s also shaking up conventions in the back-of-house with its progressive kitchen team structure. Rather than employing a single head chef to run the kitchen, Adrak’s cooks are divided into smaller teams that focus on specific sections. It’s a strategy that encourages each chef to master a particular station or cooking style. The experiment is paying off, with Adrak recently receiving recognition in Toronto’s first MICHELIN guide. It doesn’t hurt that most of the restaurant’s kitchen team also trained with MICHELIN-starred chef Vineet Bhatia.

Avling (Leslieville/Riverdale)

Seasonality and local sourcing inform not just the food but also the beers made at Avling, a cutting-edge restaurant and brewery in the city’s east end. Avling takes its name from the Norwegian word for “crop” – a fitting title, considering much of the bounty that fills diners’ plates and glasses comes from the restaurant’s own 4,000 square-foot rooftop farm. Chef Eva Chin transforms the produce into inventive Nordic dishes with Asian influences, such as chicken dumplings with dan dan vinaigrette and wild British Columbia side stripe shrimp toast. House-brewed beers change frequently, thanks to the brewery’s focus on in-season ingredients. Avling continues to push boundaries with ongoing sustainability efforts: The restaurant converts wastewater from its brewery into irrigation water for its farm crops.

Ration: Beverley (Queen West)

Dishes at Ration: Beverley are often prototyped in the restaurant’s basement testing facility. | Credit: Ration: Beverley

Experiments drive the menu at this lab-like contemporary Canadian spot. Creations range from meats aged with koji (soybeans or rice inoculated with a mold culture) to housemade vinegars. Chef Jef Edwards and team prototype dishes in a basement testing facility. Ration: Beverley also houses a vertical microgreen and herb garden during the winter. Seasonality steers both the ingredients and the way they’re prepared at this avant-garde restaurant. Menus highlight fresh, raw produce such as asparagus, picked fresh from a partner farm, during the growing season. In the winter, dishes incorporate preservation techniques, such as pickling and smoking. Ration also leads the charge when it comes to minimizing food waste; the kitchen and bar teams work closely together to use up one another’s extra ingredients.

Stock Bar (Midtown/Uptown)

This collab between powerhouse Italian restaurant group Terroni and butcher Cumbrae’s creatively combines multiple culinary concepts into a single venue. The setting is especially unique—Stock Bar occupies the two upper floors of Postal Station K, a historic Art Deco building dating back to the 1930s. A grocery store on the main floor highlights the best of the two brands, featuring a butcher specializing in ethically raised meats from Cumbrae’s as well as fresh pasta, hand-made gelato, and hard-to-find wine courtesy of Terroni. Almost all of the bistro-style dishes served at Stock Bar are prepared with items that can be bought in the grocery store; the restaurant serves as both an enjoyable stand-alone dining experience and a place to taste-test various ingredients for home cooking. The result is a truly special feast, evoking a meal on an Italian piazza.

Jessica Huras is a Toronto-based food and drink writer. Eat your way across the city (and beyond) with her on Instagram @waysofwanderers

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