Michelin Starred restaurants in Toronto your take

Wouldn’t be right to take a restaurant off the Bib list because the owner doesn’t like Michelin. But it is ironic, or something like that.

Service - this is where I’m very confused about 1 vs 2 star in Toronto. My days of “star hunting” are in the past, but I assumed Toronto had zero 3*. NOT because of the quality of the food, I’ve had meals at Alo and the former Splendido, that exceeded some of the 3 stars I’ve had in NYC and France, but the perfection required at 3*s is a bit of a “show”…and the inspectors will judge ever little thing including where the bathrooms are.

The 1*s I’ve dined at in North America and Europe were rather inconsistent and I’m fine with that (YMMV). However, Alo’s service is outstanding; is there a restaurant better in the GTA service wise? I’m stunned they didn’t receive 2 - my guess…they got hit on their food for whatever reason.

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It would be interesting to see more transparency. LOL.

I still haven’t been to Alo. I’ve been to Alobar and Aloette. I like Alobar.

I scrolled through the Bibs and half are places that I consider to be hyped (maybe a little over-hyped), with amateurish service.

I prefer the Dr John, Elvis Ahmed or Charles Yu lists myself.

I did have a nice meal at Enoteca Sociale on Sat. Food was very good and certainly what I would consider Toronto Bib level. Service was amateurish-friendly-quirky-goofy- server -getting-a-little-too-close-to -me-for-comfort- service. I would go back but to be honest, the server getting into my personal space made me uncomfortable. I had a similar experience at Union (another place I consider Toronto Bib level, but it doesn’t seem to be on the list) last weekend.

I suspect the light-hearted / over-friendly service is a way to try to get (better) tips from dudes?

Don Alfonso does have service- but the one time I went, the server played a bill boosting trick on my DC, bringing him an $80 glass of wine, when my friend had been told it was roughly the same price point as a $~250 bottle he and my other DC had shared. Don Alfonso seemed to have too many servers and bussers lurking.

I don’t think I’ve been anywhere in Toronto with formal service since that Don Alfonso meal, the year it opened.

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One of the things about a Michelin guide in your home city is that you/we have probably all formed opinions on the restaurants already (whether you’ve been there or not, directly or indirectly).

I’m not sure it’ll move the needle too much for folks on this forum but more for visitors to the city.

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Good point.

An overall impression.

Can’t argue much with the ‘stars’ – maybe quibble over how many but that’s a detail.

But I’m ‘perplexed’ by the Bibs – supposedly more affordable.

Included are both R&D and Grey Gardens which are (oversimplifying) $20 appetisers and $40 mains. This seems to be stretching ‘affordable’ or ‘reasonable’ quite a bit. At that price point there are a number of places that seem ‘just as qualified’. It’s not clear (to me) why those are identified – don’t want to get into specifics as that’s not my point – just what the category indicates.

Of course, I have my favourites (and will be happy to discuss specifics along the way) but, quoting from Michelin itself:

“What Bib restaurants do have in common is their simpler style of cooking, which is recognisable, easy-to-eat and often something you feel you could attempt to replicate at home. A Bib restaurant will also leave you with a sense of satisfaction, at having eaten so well at such a reasonable price.”

Did they meet their own definition?

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ALO was listed at #2 and it has only 1*

No, you have to realize that the judges are of a different caliber. If you look at the judges for Toronto Life, Canada’s Best, enRoute, etc… you’ll see there are quite a few “taste makers” on the list and even critics with limited experience with a wide variety of cuisines (judging from their published reviews).

I do wonder how they come up with a list of restaurants to send their inspectors to though.

Yeah, I’m not sure the food royality liked what Grant did with the previous chefs at Quetzal. Like you said, it’s a pity. But did you notice Fonda Balam (ex-Quetzal) got a Bib?

True in a way that one tends to have favorites when one resides in the city. A few star ratings can surprise you. I recall when Michelin handed out the stars in SF bay area for the first time I was surprised by some (Bushi-Tei now defunct) as had been to a few of them (some didn’t warrant a repeat even) though it was unanimous for the 3 Star (French Laundry etc). The important thing is that the number of stars have grown from 28 in 2007 to the peak of 62 in 2019 (now 54) as now some folks will gear their places to get them. Some will become a part of the checklist for the visitors from out of town. Either way its a start

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As for all the starred and non-starred restaurants (74 of them) that are mentioned in the guide

Anyone know if the restaurants listed in the guide are the only restaurants they sent inspectors to?

But I’m ‘perplexed’ by the Bibs

Yeah, I was more interested in the Bibs than the list myself as I’ve eaten at most of the higher end places in town that I want to (except two on that list which I will not mention as I still want a reservation). Of note to me was Cherry St BBQ. The only one time I went there I thought they were so-so. I’d put Beach Hill much higher on the list but they do have a consistency problems. Sometimes the brisket is way too dry and sometimes they over-salt. I will probably have to revisit Cherry.

Also Konjiki which was on Tokyo’s Bib for a few years was not listed. I’m really happy for Sumilicious though as that’s where I go when I want my Montreal-style smoked meat fix (and it’s less salty). I thought Chica’s was really really tasty (see my Nashville hot chicken review).

Here are the Bibs to complete @elvisahmed’s list:

  • The Ace (Canadian)
  • Alma (Modern Hakka Chinese)
  • Bar Raval (Spanish)
  • Campechano (Mexican)
  • Cherry St. Bar-B-Que (American Barbecue)
  • Chica’s Chicken (Fried Chicken)
  • Enoteca Sociale (Italian)
  • Fat Pasha (European Jewish)
  • Favorites Thai BBQ (Thai)
  • Fonda Balam (Mexican)
  • Grey Gardens (Wine Bar)
  • Indian Street Food Company (Indian)
  • La Bartola (Mexican)
  • Puerto Bravo (Mexican)
  • R&D (Canadian-Chinese)
  • SumiLicious (Montreal Deli)
  • Wynona (Italian)
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From what I can see, the Bib list doesn’t quite fit their definition, which I have also seen for other cities. I tend to see their Bib list as simply the next tier below 1*. So in that sense, I agree with including places like Grey Gardens and Wynona. I think the description for the Bib list also allows them to include more casual places, which is a good thing for any restaurants that are included.

In terms of the higher number of stars, it seems those only get attained with places that have that “wow” factor of presentation and service. The food can sometimes be more interesting and tastier at a 1* but the service and presentation (of a specific type) seems to differentiate the 2* and 3* ratings.

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According to Gwendal Poullennec (the international director of Michelin guide), the “5 criteria” they use for rating includes:

  • Quality of the products
  • Mastery of cooking techniques
  • Harmony and balance of flavour, the taste
  • The personality of the chef and the team as expressed on the plate
  • Consistency both overtime and throughout the menu as a whole

Gwendal also mentioned what’s in the Michelin Service Award … which went to Edulis
-Diversity of job in dining industry
-Staff attention to detail and ability to anticipate guest need
-Unforgettable dining experience

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Bibs have been the most consistent recommendations for me. Anything starred I used to cross reference with the former CH boards (which is the reason why I went to San Sebastian in 2008!)

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I haven’t been Shoushin yet but friends who have similar taste in Sushi (apart from their fondness for Aburi style) went to Shaoushin and didn’t enjoy it at all. We enjoyed our sushi at Yasu (another omission IMO and Kibo Secret in its heydays of pandemic start). Also amiss is Kaji!

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Straying a bit off topic but I found my experiences at Jugemu my most memorable. Tashiro-san’s personality really came through with his sushi and while you could say the same about Shoushin and Jackie, you could say that subjectively my personality and Tashiro-san’s resonated more. They are/were sufficiently different establishments so the comparison isn’t really easy to make other than from a high level view of a customer and level of enjoyment.

And the jokes begin. :joy: (Jerk King sadly does not have a star, and is not one of the Bibs)

Further to the 5 main criteria (which excludes service) quoted by cakumadesu, Michelin also says: “Restaurant inspectors do not look at interior decor, table setting or service quality in awarding stars”.

So, unless Michelin is bending its own rules, service should not be a factor in awarding stars.

I get the opposite. Me and my sushi aficionado friends have been to Yasu twice (the 2nd time because we wanted to give them a 2nd chance) and both times were kind of meh, good but far from great. At the end of the day, taste preference can be personal, but on Yasu, we agree with the Michelin judges.


Interesting. Service may not be part of the formal criteria. However I have a difficult time believing that the quality of service would not influence a Michelin judge’s experience and ultimate opinion, even if it is not part of the formal criteria.