It’s been a spiced and steamy February in Toronto's restaurant scene so far, with several helpings of hearty happenings. A taste:
• With the looming closure of Bistro 990, Toronto is poised to lose another of its culinary institutions. For years after Bistro 990 opened in 1986, this trendsetter enjoyed a reputation as a see-and-be-seen Yorkville must-visit, where serious partiers gathered, particularly in and around TIFF. Among its list of regulars find Garth Drabinsky, Jeanne Beker and Conrad Black, but the guest list expanded often to accommodate both Hollywood luminaries and their ardent stargazers. Bistro 990 has been sold to make way for a 400-unit condo complex.
• The Fairmont Royal York has signed Collin Thornton to its executive chef post. Fresh from the same position at The Fairmont Orchid, located on the somewhat more exotic than TO Kohala Coast in Hawaii, Thornton will oversee a team of more than 100 culinary professionals in the largest hotel kitchen in Canada. A Hamilton, Ont., native, Thornton draws from traditions that marry classical applications with island-sprung contemporary techniques.
• The much-vaunted Zagat Survey has cast its esteemed gaze downwards and taken in the lowly burger in its most recent sweep, as evidenced by the inclusion of The Burger’s Priest in its recent list of Toronto’s best eateries. Immediately following fellow upscale spotholders Scaramouche and the Chiado/Senhor Antonio Tapas and Wine Bar, find The Burger’s Priest and its signature “classic American cheeseburger” on the list’s third spot. This quirky shop started life as a four-stool takeout joint in an East Queen hole and opened a second location, in North Toronto, earlier this year.
• United Bakers Dairy Restaurant, Toronto’s oldest family restaurant, will turn 100 in 2012. United Bakers was started in 1912 near Dundas and Bay Streets by the current owners’ Polish grandparents. From the start, the place has embraced Orthodox roots, serving only dairy and pareve (neutral) foods, like fish, fruit and vegetables. Because Jewish dietary laws forbid combining milk and flesh, no meat has ever been served at United. The restaurant is renowned for its veggie soups, including hot and cold borscht. “We probably knew your grandparents,” United’s menu announces, “and we’d like to know you, and your children, too.” United has undertaken a “100 years of stories” project to celebrate its centennial. Contribute your own at www.unitedbakers.ca/testimonials.html.