CHAMPCAR/CART: Kika's Guide to Toronto dining.

Are you ready for dinner? Well, with its large immigrant population, Toronto prides itself on the diversity of its cuisine. The city has more than four thousand eating establishments offering a spectacular range of foods from all over the...

Are you ready for dinner? Well, with its large immigrant population, Toronto prides itself on the diversity of its cuisine. The city has more than four thousand eating establishments offering a spectacular range of foods from all over the world and is one of Canada's few cities where you can eat high-quality food of almost any ethnic origin. One cautionary note is that many restaurants are closed on Sundays, telephone ahead before you start a major excursion.
Ciao, :-) Kika

Auberge du Pommier ***1/2 Zagat - The Best-French Cuisine
4150 Yonge St., 222-2220
Chef: Paul Benallick.
Auberge du Pommier offers enchanting French country dining...in the city.
Joanne Kates, Restaurant Reviewer for the Globe & Mail recently wrote "Auberge du Pommier is an ineffably beautiful restaurant, made a decade ago from the remains of two 1860's woodcutters' cottages brought back to life with a keen esthetic and an eye for romance. We love its looks. Every time we go there, a different extravagance of flowers greets us at the door-sometimes tulips, sometimes hydrangeas, always seasonal. Everything speaks of a French country restaurant: the fat wooden beams, the stucco, the French-style windows, the stone arches, the wood burning fireplaces, the terra cotta tiles and above all, the ultra smooth service."The space exudes French country charm--cosy with fires in winter, spilling out onto a canvas-covered terrace when nights are warm. The menu leans to classic French tastes in nouvelle North American presentation, edible towers on oversized plates. A plum tomato, hollowed out, gets stuffed with garlicky goat cheese, then baked with chopped tomato, eggplant and artichoke on the side ($13). A daily special of grilled halibut ($28), wonderfully moist and flavourful on a bed of steamed spinach, disappoints only in its few accompanying gnocchi. The sleeper on the dessert card-arguably the sleeper dessert in all Toronto-is what the restaurant calls its Israeli couscous pudding ($9), not oversweet, spiced something like a rice pudding, but to most rice puddings as lightning is to a lightning bug. A long but not daunting wine list, most bottles north of $50; eight choices by the glass.

La Bruschetta **1/2
1317 St Clair Ave W, 416-656-8622
Italian, Soups, Grill, Pasta, Veal, Seafood Dining
Style Casual Dining, Family-friendly
Chef: Benito Piantoni. Average Price $21-$30 . Here's MY FAVORITE ITALIAN and I already called for reservations.
Star sightings are common in Toronto, but at La Bruschetta they're almost an everyday event. The entryway is covered from floor to ceiling with plates decorated by celebs , race car drivers (Emerson Fittipaldi is there!). It's a surprise then to find the kitchenlike dining room, unrelieved in its homeliness but for vases of fresh-cut flowers. Owner Benito Piantoni, who charms patrons with tales of Italy and Hollywood gossip, provides local color. The menu lists a dozen pastas, with cream sauces ranging from brandy to Gorgonzola. Mouth-watering main courses include veal medallions simply presented in white-wine sauce with garlic and mushrooms. After a rich meal, you'll welcome the delicate lemon ice for dessert. A family-run restaurant with a friendly and relaxed atmosphere. Given 3-stars (Excellent) by Toronto Life in 1999. Wines list is short, though rather long on price (only one bottle under $30). An impressive variety of grappas.

Avalon ****
270 Adelaide St. W., 979-9918.
Chef: Chris McDonald.
Average Price $170.00
Bisque walls provide background for paintings that suit so well they might have been colour co-ordinated. Seating is comfortable, table linens crisp, the staff proficient and attentive. Supplemented by a seven-course gastronomic menu ($80 per person; $120 with glasses of suggested wines), the list of dishes is broad enough to please all. The main course offers the homey charm of herb-roasted chicken with mashed potatoes, haricots verts and mushroom jus; and grilled extra-large dry-aged rib steak with garlic potato skins, fresh horseradish and a mélange of vegetables. Dessert might be malted-milk chocolate praline with a wing of dark chocolate rising from its icing. The wine list is stunning; cognac, eaux de vie and grappa can round off the evening.

Bellini's Ristorante
http://www.bellinisristorante.com/ 101 Yorkville Ave, 416-929-9111
Northern-Italian, Pasta, Seafood, Veal, Chicken, Duck, Osso-Buco Dining Style Fine Dining, Upscale-Casual Dining, Romantic
Average Price $50+
From the street, it's a few steps down to this comfortable, flower-filled, romantic spot. Never mind the hopelessly out-of-date decor--the whole scene is retro-romantic, complemented by pampering service.The beef carpaccio and the warm, herb-crusted goat cheese and grilled eggplant are excellent. Try the Provimi veal osso buco with garlic mushroom risotto, or the special Bellini chicken with roasted artichokes, wild mushrooms, and baked polenta. Service pampers, and a friendly host greets you at the door A warm, cozy, and soft lit dining room. "Retro-romantic complemented by pampering service." New York style. Private dining rooms available. Given 2.5-stars (inventiveness/balance+) by Toronto Life in 1999. Runner up for "Most Romantic" in Where Magazine's Most Memorable Meal 1999. Open for dinner on Sundays. Menu Sampler Vodka cured Atlantic Salmon; Ravioli stuffed with mushrooms; Provimi Veal Osso Bucco; Grilled Atlantic Salmon; Roasted rack of lamb; Grilled jumbo shrimp; Angel Hair Pasta with Grilled Chicken Breast.

Bistro 990 +
990 Bay St , 416-921-9990
French, Steak, Seafood, Chicken, Rack-Lamb, Duck, VealHeart, Dining Style Cafe/Bistro, Fine Dining, Romantic, Take Out, Martini Bar, Wine Bar
Average Price $50+
Known as a Hollywood star hot spot. Enjoy country French dining in a warm, inviting straight from France bistro setting in a century old house with an inviting summer terrace. Stenciled faux stone walls, upholstered chairs and tiled floors add to the ambiance. Closed Sundays. Given 2.5-stars (inventiveness/balance+) by Toronto Life in 1999. Menu Sampler Curried Tiger Shrimp on a Sesame Crusted Rice Cake in a Citrus Beurre Blanc; Rack of Lamb au jus stuffed with Camembert and Roast Garlic; Medallions of Veal Tenderloin wtih Oyster Mushrooms in a Madeira flavoured jus; Filet Mignon with a Stilton and Port jus.

Courthouse Market Grille
57 Adelaide St. E..416-214-9379 .
International - Expensive
This hangout for the suited set boasts gargantuan fluted columns, sky-high ceilings, swinging chandeliers, and miles of marble. Pretty good for an 1850 building that used to be a jail. Financial District types lap it up, along with the generous martinis. The menu features grilled and rotisserie meats of excellent quality, though daring palates will not be pleased by timid seasoning. Appetizers are uniformly fine, with simple but well-executed numbers like steamed Prince Edward Island mussels in creamy white wine sauce. There are some impressive vintages on the wine list, though most of the prices are equally grand. Main courses C$13-$30. Open: Mon-Fri 11:30am-10:30pm. Reservations recommended.

Fred's Not Here Smokehouse And Grill
321 King St W, 416-971-9155
Canadian, Eclectic, Steak, Pasta, Chicken, Seafood, Lamb, Duck, Game, Dessert
Upscale-Fine, Cafe/Bistro Average Price $31-$40.
Located in Toronto's entertainment district, it's a warm, intimate and formal bistro-style setting with a feast for the eyes and a feast for the palate with fusion cuisine and friendly service. Fine dining in a casual setting. Open for lunch Monday to Friday and dinner daily. Menu Sampler: Rack of lamb in Creole mustard crust; Grilled marinated salmon; NY State foie gras with burgundy poached pear and port vinaigrette.

North 44° ****
2537 Yonge St., 416-487=4897
Chef: Mark McEwan.
What gives it the edge? Flawless, unobtrusive service. A wine list with important collections of French and U.S. reds and whites, some producers in depth, regional Italians. Re-tweaked by Yabu Pushelberg, the room presents serious glamour. A controlled imagination absorbs notions from the Mediterranean, the tropics, a little from Asia, some Americana, balancing busy combinations with admirable clarity. Pastas and pizzas recall the old Cal-Ital canon; seafood is more adventurous. Pan-fried oysters are crusted with cornmeal and ground nuts, served with silken wilted greens, creamy smoked-corn sauce, pepper relish. Desserts play quiet games with the classics.

Sarkis ****
67 Richmond St. E.,416- 214-1337.
Chef: Greg Couillard.
The menu represents Chef's best work to date, a tour de force of intense, exuberant, unexpected flavours and slyly juxtaposed textures. Juicy butterflied prawns bathe in a rich coconut-curry spiced cream, its discreet heat cooled by ripe Japanese pears, cactus pears, shredded mango and papaya. A garlicky tandoori marinade becomes a delicate crust for wonderful baked salmon, the fish seeming to melt in the mouth; a sweet-tart cream of coconut and lime is not too obtrusive. Desserts seem relatively subdued after such exceptional fireworks. Owner Sarkis Tossounian has assembled a list of splendid wines, most from California, few costing less than $40. Well-chosen digestifs prompt one to linger in the serene little room, dim lighting muting a red-orange-yellow colour scheme.

Agora ***1/2
Art Gallery of Ontario,
317 Dundas St. W., 416-979-6612
Chef: Anne Yarymowich.
Sheer size and airiness of space, the abundance of glass and cathedral stillness renders the AGO's Agora a sanctuary for food and thoughtful conversation. Menus change with exhibitions. Fixture dishes include Atlantic salmon, duck confit, braised lamb shank with rosemary. A "Still life" starter ($9) of poached pear with grilled figs, Stilton cheese and crisply baked pancetta in a fig and port coulis emerges a perfection. The kitchen falters on mains: a splendid hunk of sea bass ($17) towers over bland red-pepper purée and leathery crepes stuffed not with zesty caponata, but plain eggplant mash. Dessert, a variation of tarte tatin with caramel ice cream, soothes the sweet tooth. A dozen well-chosen wines by the glass, a blessing at lunch. Tuesday to Friday, lunch only; Saturday and Sunday, brunch only.

Sotto Sotto ++
116-A Avenue Rd., 416/962-0011.
Another driver's favorite. A coal cellar in a turn-of-the-century home was dug out, its stone walls and floor polished, and a restaurant created in what has become a dining oasis for locals and international jet-setters alike. The menu gives a tantalizing tug to the taste buds. Of the 14 pasta dishes, appetizer or main-course size, orecchiette (tiny, disk-shape pasta) with a toss of prosciutto, mushrooms, black olives, and fresh tomatoes is a symphony of textures. Gnocchi are made daily. Cornish hen is marinated, pressed, and grilled to juicy brownness; swordfish and fresh fish of the day are beautifully done on the grill. Lots of nooks and corners and flickering candles cast uneven shadows in these charming, cavelike rooms. AE, DC, MC, V. No lunch.

Canoe ***1/2
Toronto Dominion Bank Tower,
66 Wellington St. W., ,416-364-0054.
Chef: Anthony Walsh.
At this spectacular 54th-floor venue, casually clad tourists, visiting starlets and Toronto's own rub shoulders. Given 3.5-stars (excellent+) by Toronto Life in the 1999 and 2000 Guides. Given "Top for Business" for Toronto's best restaurants in 'Gourmet' magazine's "America's Top Tables for 1999". Runner up for "Best Ambience", "Best International", "Best Fine Dining" and "Best Overall" in Where Magazine's Most Memorable Meal 1999. The nightfall view of the islands is awe-inspiring. Only about a third of wines actually held show up on a list especially strong in non-European bottles. Menu Sampler : Herb stuffed Breast of Ontario Pheasant on hand thrown Spaetzle with Maple Poached Dates, Cremini Mushrooms and a Newfie Screech Jus; Grilled Veal Grilled Atlantic Sea Bass with baked Butternut Squash, Peameal Bacon & a Ginger enriched Vegetable Jus; Roast Hind of Wild Yukon Caribou with a Forest Mushroom, Celeriac & Bannock Crusted Cobbler, sauteed Spinach & a Partridge Berry Jus; Prairie Grain Crusted Rack of Lamb with Potato & Parsnip Pie, Green Beans & a sweet baked Garlic Jus.

Centro ***1/2
2472 Yonge St.,416-483-2211.
Chef: Marc Thuet.
Grand, even exhilarating, whether the focus be the royal blue of a soaring ceiling, the great flower-stem lights arcing upward, or a $500 bottle of California cab. A series of glass-fronted cabinets dotted round the room moves the fabulous wine list closer to the customer. Food critics have consistently rated Centro as one of Toronto's top dining experiences over the past 10 years. There's a deliberate focus on meats and innards, working foie gras, duck and beef into the lists of starters ($9.55-$20.95; caviars, $75-$145) and mains ($21.95-$42.95); there's also a little pasta corner. This is cooking of quiet serenity and long-practised expertise, with just a few forays into exotica. Game may be represented by a caribou chop with spätzle, juniper berry oil and a cloudberry sauce. Fabulous desserts ($8.95-$15.95), judging by a caramelized pear tartlet supporting a triangle of milk chocolate fondant and a scoop of nut-laden pecan ice cream.

Chiaro's
Le Royal Meridian King Edward Hotel
37 King St E, 416-863-4126 .
Fine dining with flair in a cozy size room with a giant reputation. A Formal, elegant and stunning venue with a meticulous kitchen and presentation to match. Enjoy a memorable evening at the Chef's Table where you will be served from an 8-course menu at a specially placed table (parties of 8-10 only). Included in the 1998 and 1999 Guide to Distinguished Restaurants of North America (DiRoNA). Given 3-stars (Excellent) by Toronto Life in 1999. Voted "Best Service" and "Best Overall" in Where Magazines Most Memorable Meal Awards for 1999 and Runner Up for "Most Romantic", "Best Ambience", "Best Food" and "Best Fine Dining". Constantly voted Toronto's #1 restaurant for food, and a host of other awards including Wine Spectator Award for one of the world's best wine lists. Open for dinner Monday to Saturday. Closed Sundays. Menu Sampler:Roasted Quail with Apricot and Parsley Couscous; Pan-Seared Foie Gras with Rhubarb Sauce; Organic New York Steak; Oven-Baked Sweetbreads; East-Coast Lobster with Citrus Honey Sauce.

Far Niente Napa Grill
187 Bay St
Commerce Court Station), 416-214-9922
American, Continental, Pasta, Seafood, Grill, Steak, Heart wise
Upscale-Casual, Romantic . A hangout favored by the suited set, this restaurant offers fine cuisine in a casual setting. The setting is intended to invoke sunnier climes, with an earthy palette, mounds of greenery, walls of wine racks, and simple wooden tables and chairs. The kitchen uses plenty of garden-fresh ingredients and a light touch. Many menu staples--including tuna steak, teriyaki chicken, and even a Caesar salad--are designated as "living well" dishes, which have reduced fat, cholesterol, and calories. Almost every dish is available in small and whole portions. You might try Sonoma salad of tomato, goat cheese, and avocado; a pumpkin ravioli with cranberries and pecans in an apple cider butter sauce; or New Zealand lamb chops with rosemary-garlic mashed potatoes and veggie ragout. Steaks are a specialty, with filet mignon and New York strip loin available in 6-to 14-ounce cuts. Downstairs is Soul of the Vine, a wine bar that looks as if it was built in the middle of a wine cellar. It has its own menu, which features mainly appetizers and pasta. The room can get loud and smoky, so serious eaters should stay upstairs. A warm glow, airy and comfortable setting with cedar planks, and lots of surrounding greenery and an extensive collection of North American artwork. Unpretentious and relaxed. Californian grill cuisine. A 10,000 bottle cellar. Seasonally changing menu. Given 2-stars (inventiveness/balance) by Toronto Life in 1999. Runner up for "Best International" and "Best Overall" in Where Magazine's Most Memorable Meal 1999. Open Sundays. Menu Sampler: Herb-Seared Atlantic Salmon, mashed potatoes, cherry tomatoes, sugar snap peas and lemon beurre blanc, Pacific Salmon marinated in teriyaki, ginger and mustard seed; Grilled Muscovy Duck Breast and classic duck leg confit, sundried cranberries, wild mushroom bread pudding; Charred Vegetable Kebab with radicchio, goat cheese, zucchini, portobello mushrooms, onion, tomato, saffron rice.

Millie's Bistro ***
1980 Avenue Rd., 419-481-1247.
Chef: Gary Hoyer.
A splendacious Mediterranean restaurant with a menu that sweeps round from southern France and Italy to Spain and Morocco and points east. Both appetizers ($4-$9) and main courses ($12-$22) can be grouped on handsome, hand-painted ceramic platters for sharing. Four vegetarian mains include a memorable tagine of seven vegetables in intricately spiced charmoula saucing with featherlight couscous. Blissful sweets, including coconut-cream flan with fresh fruit. Un-self-conscious winespeak annotates the globe-trotting list; over 30 vintages (only one VQA), plus two bubblies; 10 by the glass. Half the prices remain in the lower atmosphere ($25-$35).

Scaramouche *** 1/2
1 Benvenuto Pl.,419-961-8011.
Chef: Keith Froggett.
Included in the 1998 and 1999 Guide to Distinguished Restaurants of North America (DiRoNA). Given 3.5-stars (Excellent+) by Toronto Life in the 1999 and 2000 Guides. Ranked #3 and "Top for Romance" for Toronto's best restaurants in 'Gourmet' magazine's "America's Top Tables for 1999". Runner up for "Most Romantic" in Where Magazine's Most Memorable Meal 1999. Open for dinner Monday through Saturday. Menu Sampler Roasted Rack of Lamb; Warm Salad of Char Grilled Lamb Tenderloin; Crisp Breast of Chicken Chicken; Fresh Arctic Char; Grilled Rowe Farm Filet Mignon. Steadfast, substantial, much loved by customers who appreciate attention to detail, the smart, angular room retains its place as an establishment favourite. The menu is studded with oysters, foie gras, caviar and other high-end treats, but equally rich in invention. One of its signature dishes is grilled smoked salmon, a light, moist fillet on a crisp-surfaced pancake of rösti potatoes; echoing the delicate sweetness of the flesh are soft white onion rings, diced apple, and wonderful golden and white beets, delicious with a creamy horseradish and white-wine sauce. For dessert, marsala petit pot de crème-think fab zabaglione turned into custard with three kinds of biscuit. No duds mar a broad, interesting wine list, strongest in Burgundy, Alsace, California with 17 by the glass. Tempting selections of sherries and spirits.

La Fenice *** +
319 King St W, 416-585-2377
Chef: Luigi Orgera.
Italian, Mediterranean, Seafood, Pasta, Risotto, Chicken, Rack-lamb, Heart wise,
Understated decor of terracotta tiles, marble tables, stylish artwork and classical music. Enjoy fine, traditional Italian cuisine, seasonal recipes and fresh fish grilled Mediterranean style. Great variety of pastas both imported and homemade. Included in the 1998 and 1999 Guide to Distinguished Restaurants of North America (DiRoNA). Given 3-stars (Excellent) by Toronto Life in 1999. Smooth service and accomplished, conservative cuisine are just the pre-theatre ticket for a smart crowd in this long, angular room. Of the treats on the menu, grilled shrimp in their shells are a must, full of flavour, juicy and tender; carpaccio is just as good. Four risottos add weight to a long list of pastas, most of them available in appetizer size. Fettuccine, for instance, is a safe and sound choice, tossed with an unctuous cream sauce flavoured with flecks of leek, dill and marinated salmon. Whole fish can be inspected tableside before the chosen is carefully grilled. Veal scaloppine, pounded, floured and lightly braised, is tender enough beneath a heap of wonderful sliced oyster mushrooms, barely cooked through. Desserts merit serious consideration, as does a noble list of reds from Piedmont and Tuscany backed up by a decent international chorus line.

Filet of Sole * 1/2 + LOCATION: 11 Duncan St., 598-3256. Chef: Wayne La. Decorated in Entertainment District brick 'n' beams, with a bar-restaurant (Whistling Oyster Seafood Cafe) below and a dance club-restaurant (Cha Cha Cha) overhead, Filet of Sole feels less like a serious seafood restaurant than a pit stop in theatre- and singles-land. Simpler is always better in such places, as a grilled swordfish steak special ($20.99) confirms, bringing along crowd-pleasing spinach-ricotta gnocchi in lighter tomato sauce, though a bland fillet of whitefish ($12.99) reveals only why whitefish is usually smoked. No blandness problem in the caesar salad ($6.89) however; fish specialists not being timid about anchovies. About 30 Ontario whites are listed on its card.

Bistro 990 ** 12 990 Bay St., 921-9990.
Chef: Ricardo Roque.
The room exudes Gallic charm over a full crowd of big spenders and assorted stars: vaulted ceilings, whimsical line drawings, leafy plants. The menu is comfy and unpretentious. Gallic rarities include bouillabaisse, rabbit fricassee, flank steak with Roquefort sauce. Sweets are the weakest link. Too few bordeaux in a long list. Pleasant, attentive service.

Marche Movenpick Restaurants -
BCE Place Address 42 Yonge St (Yonge and Front St), 416-863-0108
Eclectic, Sandwiches, Italian, Bakery, Breakfast Food, International, Seafood, Pasta, Pizza, Steak, Chops, Chicken, Sausage
Casual Dining, Family-friendly . Self-service restaurant with an old-world market square ambiance. 13 market stations offering everything from salads to Italian panini sandwiches. Something for everyone. No reservations-sitting on first come basis. Entrance at Yonge and Front. Given 1 -star (good-recommendable as a meal out) by Toronto Life in 1999. Runner up for "Best Family Restaurant" in Where Magazine's Most Memorable Meal 1999.

Prego Della Piazza (Black & Blue)
150 Bloor St W, 416-920-9900
Italian, Pasta, Pizza, Seafood, Chicken, Steak, Pork
Fine Dining, Cigar Lounge, Wine Bar .
A bright, sophisticated, friendly, beautifully modern Italian eatery. Has both a formal dining room and a more casual bistro on the side. See-and-be-seen at this pulsating midtown scene. Included in the 1998 and 1999 Guide to Distinguished Restaurants of North America (DiRoNA). Closed Sundays. Given 3.5-stars (excellent+) by Toronto Life in 1999 and 3-stars (excellent) in the 2000 Guide. The newer Black & Blue next door is stunning in design, taste, and cigar selection. Then there is the third room next door called the Enoteca della Piazza, a design award-winning wine bar with a list of several hundred labels. Menu Sampler:Roast Garlic Gnocchi with Fresh Peas, Pancetta and Yellow Tomato; Pizza Bianca with Sweet Onion, Potato and Rosemary; Filet of Halibut with an Oriental Vinaigrette; Pork Tenderloin with Oven Dried Tomato and Grilled Red Onion; Prego Signature Steak Tartare with Frites.

Truffles (Four Seasons Hotel Toronto)
21 Avenue Rd, 416-928-7331
International, Seafood, Pasta, Lamb, Veal, Game, Heart wise, Dessert .
Fine Dining, Romantic .
Through the impressive wrought-iron gates of Truffles, pale wood walls glow in the reflected soft light of handcrafted candelabra. This restaurant, one of the finest in Canada, has won the hearts of discerning gastronomes with dishes like giant sea scallops wrapped in maple-cured bacon, seared and served with crisp baby spinach. Dover sole becomes a provocative swirl of design textured with lobster and accessorized with baby vegetables. Leave room for esoteric desserts. Reservations essential. Airy, grandly sophisticated design and lavish setting to compliment the equally chic cuisine. Included in the 1998 and 1999 Guide to Distinguished Restaurants of North America (DiRoNA). Given 3.5-stars (Excellent+) by Toronto Life in 1999. Ranked #5 for Toronto's best restaurants in 'Gourmet' magazine's "America's Top Tables for 1999". Runner up for "Best Ambience", "Best Fine Dining" and "Best Overall" in Where Magazine's Most Memorable Meal 1999.Open for dinner Monday to Saturday. Menu Sampler:Crispy Bass Fillet; Baby Lamb Rack in a Lemon Thyme Jus; Brace of Quail with Berry Chutney.

Wayne Gretzky's Restaurant
99 Blue Jays Way, 416-979-7825
Steak, Continental, Eclectic, Grill, Californian, Pizza, Chops, Ribs Dining
Style Casual Dining, Family-friendly, Sports Bar, Take Out .
A dynamic Broadway-style diner, bar and rooftop patio decorated with hockey artifacts galore. Runner up for "Best Restaurant Bar" in Where Magazine's Most Memorable Meal 1999. Great accommodations for disabled.

IL FORNELLO Location:
55 Eglinton Ave. E, 416-486-2130
Pizza aficionados especially love the thin-crust pie, baked in a wood-burning oven. Orchestrate your own medley from more than 100 traditional and exotic toppings that include braised onion, capicolla(spicy Italian sausage), pancetta, provolone, and calamari. Where else can you get fresh basil leaves, prosciutto, chevre goat cheese?? Pastas, veal dishes, and salads are available, too. Menu Sampler: Grilled Seafood Salad; Fettuccine with Smoked Salmon, Fresh Dill and Snow Peas in a White Wine Cream Sauce; Chicken Stuffed with Spinach and Asiago; Spring Lamb Chops Grilled in a Red Wine Rosemary Sauce; Provimi Veal Cutlet Sauteed in a Mushroom Cream Sauce.

Ematai,
30 St Patrick St., 416-340-0472.
Dinner for two with tax, tip and sake:
My Japanese pals usually suggest Ematai. They know raw fish like I know a grilled cheese sandwich, and they swear by the sushi and sashimi prepared here by chef/owner Yuji Takano. Reserve a day or two in advance, for something special: Lobster sashimi, for example, or the Chef's "omakase," a seven-course surprise tasting menu. Tonight, we're in luck. The tatami room at the rear is available. We slip off our shoes, climb a few stairs up, and sit around the table on straw mats, letting our feet dangle comfortably into the well below. Japanese green tea is brought at once and poured into pottery glasses, and tiny bowls of vinegared salad -- today bean sprouts and shredded carrot with vinegar and sesame dressing -- are provided to nibble while we study the menu, Japanese cuisine is full of surprises, first for the eye, then for the palate. Konchi Tsuboyaki, shiitake mushroom and conch meat soup comes in a lovely coral conch shell with a natural spout, firmly set in a bowl of rock salt. Pour the fragrant, clear soup from the shell into a little cup and drink, then eat the nubbins of conch and mushroom with chopsticks. An appetizer called Shiitake Butter is a wonderful array of large mushrooms sauteed in a flavourful sauce. Seaweed salad, which we keep thinking is so healthy for us, is a colourful array of curly greens and reds with a sweetish dressing. It all makes us feel like virtuous eaters. Particularly when we read that the life expectancy in Japan is among the highest in the world. Diet must count for something. Chef Takano is a traditional chef -- he believes in serving the freshest foods available each day -- and works without a long-term plan. Here, you will not find Japanese fusion, or new Asia trans-ethnic cuisine. He does, however, bow slightly to the local dairy industry with a tuna/cheese roll, by deep frying tuna and cheese together and rolling it up. (I've not been tempted to order that as yet.)

Barberian's Steak House +
7 Elm St. 416-597-0335
Steak, Seafood, Capon, Rack-Lamb, Lobster. Average Price $50+
An old-style steak house with wood bar and panelling and burgundy toned accents. Late dinner menu (after 10pm) includes such pleasures as: Cheese Fondue; Beef Fondue Bourguignonne; Baked Alaska; Grand Marnier Souffle and Crepes Suzette. Given 3-stars (Excellent) by Toronto Life in 1999. Runner up for "Best Service" and "Best Overall" in Where Magazine's Most Memorable Meal 1999. Open for dinner Sundays. Menu Sampler: Marinated Grilled Peppers; Roaste Prime Rib of Beef; Filet Mignon wrapped in Bacon; Chateaubriand for Two; Grilled Atlantic Salmon Steak; Lemon Grilled Free Range Capon.

Indian Motorcycle Café and Lounge +
Indian Motorcycle Café and Lounge is also a dance club, pool hall and nest of relatively covert boy-meets-girl or boy-hopes-to-meet-girl activity. Even the washrooms oblige--a thin partition between the men's and ladies' gives the traffic an Ally McBeal-ish twist. In the bar area, pods of couches discourage mingling, which is probably why most people hang around the perimeter or take to the tiny fenced-in dance floor, shaking their booty to funk, R and '80s and '90s soul. The owners of the booty? Mostly 30-ish, mostly in black, mostly the upscale downtown office crowd. Best decor feature? Black and white archival shots of the elegant Indian motorcycle, first manufactured in 1901. Lone Star Cafe +
295 Enfield Pl
Mississauga, ON, 905-848-4044
Tex-Mex, Mexican, Steak, Burgers, Chicken, Sandwiches, Ribs, Seafood, Pasta
Casual Dining, Family-friendly, Bar/Pub, Take Out
Texas style eating in a casual, fun, lively and rustic setting. Be sure to visit the People's Review on this restaurant. Menu Sampler: The Texas Club Sandwich with Mesquite Grilled Chicken; Fajitas Enchiladas; Smoked Long Pork Ribs; Blackened or Mesquite Grilled Louisiana Catfish; Big Bubba's Centrecut 15oz New Yorker Steak; Mesquite Grilled Chicken and Rib Platter. .

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Chris McDonald , Emerson Fittipaldi