The McEwan Group’s Crispy Calamari Po-Boy
Celebrity chef and restauranteur, Mark McEwan, is known as Toronto’s culinary food guru with four restaurants, a catering company and specialty food stores operating under The McEwan Group empire – all putting out sensational cuisine. A fan favorite, the crispy calamari po-boy blew guests away with its Ace Bakery artisan charcoal bun, crispy fried calamari, lemon-caper aioli, lettuce, tomato, pickles and cilantro.
Little Sister Indonesian Food Bar’s Babi Guling
At Little Sister, Indonesian street food is the name of the game, putting out flavour-packed traditional Southeast-Asian snacks and dishes like soy and ginger-braised pork shoulder, Balinese-spiced chicken satay and prawn crackers with peanut sauce. This year, Little Sister came in swinging with their ‘babi guling‘ featuring Balinese-roasted pork, tomato sambal (a spicy relish), pickles, peanuts, pork crackling and iceberg lettuce – a perfectly balanced dish with spice, texture and richness.
Nota Bene’s Heritage Pork & Shrimp XO Sauce
Nota Bene is an upscale joint on Queen West with a casual vibe, but elevated dishes featuring Canadian cuisine with a flare. The menu is always bright and full of flavor, so it’s no surprise that Nota Bene put out some of the best dishes of the weekend: the Japchae noodle bowl with pork, shrimp, ‘XO sauce’, cilantro and ‘crunchy bits’ packed a punch with spice and richness emanating throughout. From the crispy bits to the XO sauce, Nota Bene set the bar high with such a perfectly crafted plate.
Carver’s Porchetta Pizza
Toronto’s fairly new sandwich joint, Carver, is known for slow-roasted meats and decadent toppings sandwiched between freshly baked bread. Crowned third place for having one of the best dishes this year, Carver took their slow-roasted pork shoulder to the next level with their porchetta pizza – fior di latte mozzarella, asparagus, fresh basil, truffle and a poached egg yolk. Although the dish was on the ‘dish’ side of the menu, it was well worth the price boasting beautiful fresh flavors and tender smoked meat.
Miku Toronto’s Aburi Oshi Sushi
Miku Toronto, the Vancouver-based sushi restaurant with all the hype, made its way to the harbourfront last year – and has surpassed all expectations with the creative menu, fresh fish and Asian flavors. One of the most talked about (and Instagrammed) dish of the weekend, Miku’s aburi oshi sushi, a pressed sushi without the nori, features two pieces of each: BC wild sockeye salmon with jalapeño and Miku sauce, and prawn with lime zest and ume sauce, all torched-to-order and served with a side of Japanese pickles. This one was beautifully presented, and didn’t miss the mark when it came to the flavor.
Los Colibris’s Churro Nest
Los Colibris, sister restaurant to El Caballito, is known for their upscale Mexican cuisine that has taken the city by storm from ceviche to traditional dishes inspired by Chef Elia Herrera’s Veracruz roots and family recipes. Word spread quickly about Los Colibris’ wild dessert: a churro ‘nest’ served with housemade dulce de leche – a South American caramel made with condensed milk – or vanilla bean hard ice-cream. The dish was brilliant, and although it had tough competition to fight against, still made its mark as one of the best dishes of the weekend.
Piano Piano’ Smoked True North Salmon
Piano Piano is new to Toronto’s culinary scene featuring a modern Canadian-Italian menu with dishes like marinated sardines, tenderloin carpaccio as well as the classics like veal parmesan and wood-fired pizzas – all executed perfectly using the finest ingredients. A simple but fresh dish featuring True North Salmon, the smoked true north salmon put out by Piano Piano was brilliant featuring capers, pickled onion, toast and crème fraiche – a light option that made perfect sense during the blistering of the weekend.
Kanpai Snack Bar’s O.G. Bao
Kanpai Snack Bar is known for their Taiwanese street food bursting with traditional Asian flavors – featuring dishes like Taiwanese fried chicken, sticky rice, and bao – and has created quite the buzz in Toronto. With only one night as a guest at Taste of Toronto, the buzz of Kanpai Snack Bar carried to the entire festival and guests lined up for hours to get their hands on what Kanpai was serving. The O.G. Bao, stuffed with slow-cooked five-spice pork, Taiwanese relish, pickled cabbage, teriyaki shoyu, cilantro and crushed peanuts was the perfect representation of the classic night market sammie, and although the line was long, it did not disappoint – the flavors were bright, the pork beautifully cooked, and the bao fluffy and soft.
Mamakas Taverna’s Lamb Kontosouvli
Mamakas is the popular Greek tavern on Ossington with an elegant space and upscale menu. The flavours at Mamakas are always spot on, highlighting the beauty of Mediterranean cuisine, and at Taste of Toronto, their colours shined: the lamb kontosouvli featured spit-roasted Ontario lamb with bulgur salad, tzatziki and oregano. The flavours from the spit carried through the perfectly cooked lamb, making for a balanced dish that would make any Greek proud.
Nota Bene’s Zucchini Carpaccio
Nota Bene stole our hearts with the zucchini carpaccio. Not just for veggie lovers, this brilliant mix of zucchini, truffle pecorino and toasted almonds packed so much flavour we had to give it a win. It surprised us in the best way, and as such, deserved to be included as one of the best dishes of the festival.