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Toronto is now on Michelin’s starred map, alongside such cities as Paris, New York, Singapore, and Miami.
On Sept. 13, the enduring guide awarded stars to 13 restaurants across the city in its first foray into Canada.
Only one restaurant earned two stars: Sushi Masaki Saito, where the seasonally focused omakase meal goes for $680 (US$523) and features fish flown in daily from Japan, served fresh and aged. It’s run by chef Masaki Saito, who used to operate the counter at New York’s two-star Sushi Ginza Onodera.
“It’s a very, very important thing that Michelin has come to Canada,” says Saito. “For the first year, it doesn’t matter whether I receive one, two or three stars.” He laughs: “I will eventually get three, four and even five stars.”
A dozen restaurants received one star (designated as high-quality cooking). They include two restaurants from Patrick Kriss: the modern French tasting-menu spot Alo and the more casual Alobar Yorkville, whose menu runs from tuna tartare to confit duck pappardelle. It’s a notable overlap, especially in a city of 158 neighborhoods that boasts an exploding culinary scene.
Another one-star winner was Edulis, from husband-and-wife team Michael Caballo and Tobey Nemeth, who focus on Canadian ingredients and dishes and were also given an award for outstanding service. Osteria Giulia, which got a star for its inspired Italian cooking, also received Michelin’s Exceptional Cocktails Award.
The 122-year old guide additionally named 17 Bib Gourmand establishments (good food at a moderate price), which Michelin defines as places where two courses and a glass of wine or dessert go for less than $60. The spots include a range of cuisines, from SumiLicious Smoked Meat & Deli to Indian Street Food Co., the Middle Eastern and European Jewish joint Fat Pasha, and the Gaudi-esque Spanish tapas spot Bar Raval.
Monte Wan, co-owner of Bib Gourmand winner Favorites Thai BBQ, didn’t think Michelin’s list truly represented Toronto’s melty pot of cultures. “There was good diversity but I’d like to see more” he says.
Inspecting Toronto was no small task, given that it’s the fourth-largest city in North America by population. "Toronto is definitely a vast city,” said Michelin’s chief inspector for North America, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of his position. He said the focus was on the Toronto metro region; areas such as Markham and Richmond Hill—suburbs about 20 miles from the downtown hub but part of the Greater Toronto Area—were not included.
Toronto “is globally quite diverse, with flavors from every corner of the world,” says Gwendal Poullennec, the guide’s international director when asked how the city compares to Miami, Orlando, and Tampa, whose stars were announced in June. The trio of Florida cities got 15 stars in total, compared to Toronto’s 13.
Michelin is on a bit of a roll in North America. In 2021, the guide covered only four locations in North America—New York, Washington, Chicago, and California. Now, it’s up to seven, including Florida and Vancouver, whose awards are scheduled to be announced in the fall. The lists don’t necessarily come cheap: Visit Florida and local tourism agencies reportedly paid US$1.5 million for the guide to rate restaurants.
Michelin started working with Destination Toronto, Destination Ontario, and Destination Canada two years before the pandemic to assess the area, says Poullennec. Declining to comment on details of the partnership, he says it revolves around “promotional, marketing, and communication strategies.”
The benefits of working with Michelin are “clear, immediate, and have an enormous impact throughout the culinary community,” says Andrew Weir, executive vice president for Destination Toronto. He says the agency looked at places such as Thailand, Chicago, and Washington to see the benefits of having the guide cover the city.
"This is a multiyear initiative and partnership,” adds Weir.
Poullennec reiterates that the the guide and its inspectors enjoy “fierce” independence. “The tourism organizations and boards do not have a clue of the selections, and will get to know only during the announcement.”
A spokesperson for Destination Ontario similarly declines to reveal specifics of the partnership with Michelin: "Destination Ontario works with Michelin on marketing and promotional efforts only. The agreement enables collaborative work to promote the culinary offerings in the area."
Such local favorites as chef Ron McKinlay’s Canoe Restaurant and Bar, a contemporary Canadian restaurant that offers dishes highlighting the country’s diverse cuisines, received no stars. "Our inspectors visited Canoe numerous times and enjoyed it. It was included in the selection as a recommended restaurant, but overall it was agreed that it didn't quite reach the level of a star at this point,” the chief inspector says. “However, inspectors will continue to monitor the evolution for a possible promotion in future selections.”
A list of Toronto’s Michelin-starred restaurants follows.
- Sushi Masaki Saito
- Aburi Hana
- Alobar Yorkville
- Don Alfonso 1890 Toronto
- Enigma Yorkville
- Kaiseki Yu-zen Hashimoto
- Osteria Giulia
- The Ace
- Bar Raval
- Cerry St. Bar-B-Que
- Chica’s Chicken
- Enoteca Sociale
- Fat Pasha
- Favorites Thai
- Fonda Balam
- Grey Gardens
- Indian Street Food Company
- La Bartola
- Puerto Bravo
- SumiLicious Smoked Meat Deli