There is a plethora of choice on the Canadian restaurant scene, and literally hundreds of restaurants where you can eat like a star. Yet if I had to narrow my choices down to a top ten list that represents how strong our food scene is from coast to coast, I’d say these ten restaurants are calling me to the table right now. Not only do they represent the cuisine and vibe of their province, but also the strength of Canada’s cooking elite.

1. Mallard Cottage: In St-John’s, Newfoundland, the fancy restaurant is no doubt Raymonds, which I adore, but for more of a local feel, Mallard Cottage is the place to be. Chef Todd Perrin puts on one terrific brunch (with the world’s most gorgeous sweet table) as well as a superb dinner with dishes that range from modernized Newfoundland classics like cod sounds, to moose tartare with potato chips and hummus. Be sure to begin with a cocktail and book well in advance to enjoy a night in this wonderful restaurant located in one of the province’s oldest and most historic houses. And if you want to spend the night, they have a new hotel next door as well. mallardcottage.ca


2. Chez Saint-Pierre: Chef/owner Colombe St-Pierre is one of Canada’s most talented cooks who creates beautiful plates with many sea plants foraged by the shores of the Saint Lawrence, which just so happens to be in the backyard of her restaurant. A true artist who varies her menu with the seasons, St-Pierre is the daughter of a former lighthouse keeper and her ties to the region run deep. Everything from the snow crab to the lobster to the halibut at Chez Saint-Pierre is local and the cooking is always creative and artistic. This is an intimate restaurant, in a small village right on the Saint Lawrence, as famous for its beautiful sunsets and this truly unique chef. chezstpierre.ca


3. Initiale: At a time when restaurants are taking the casual road, this magnificent Quebec City institution maintains Michelin-star standards from the greeting at the door to the mignardises at the end of the meal. Owners, maître d’ Rolande Leclerc and chef Yvan Lebrun, have managed to keep their 40-seat restaurant chic and vibrant thanks to the solicitous service and spot-on menu featuring French cuisine made with the best local ingredients. A night at Initiale isn’t just dinner, it’s an experience. restaurantinitiale.com/le-restaurant.html


4. Laurie Raphaël: Chef Daniel Vézina recently renovated his famous Quebec City restaurant, making it smaller and more swish while maintaining the sense of fun and adventure one always expects at his restaurants (he has another fabulous Laurie Raphaël in Montreal). Vézina is a pioneer on the Quebec scene as well as a star on TV and radio. But that doesn’t stop him from cooking, or better yet, seeking out the best ingredients, making a night at his table a truly Québécois gourmet meal of the highest order. laurieraphael.com

The allure of Laurie Raphael.


5. Toqué!: Toqué! has been a favourite of Montrealers and one of Canada’s leading restaurants for close to 25 years now. But the beauty of this establishment is that it’s as relevant as ever thanks to chef Normand Laprise’s relentless quest for terrific ingredients and perfect cooking along with partner Christine Lamarche’s faultless dining room service. Despite Toqué!’s gastronomic cred, it remains a surprisingly fun place to have a spectacular and, more importantly, memorable meal. restaurant-toque.com/en

The tantalize of Toqué!


6. Joe Beef: You probably won’t be able to get a reservation any time soon at Montreal’s Joe Beef, as it has become the darling of international foodies drawn by the appeal of this unpretentious yet consistently excellent and interesting restaurant. Chefs David McMillan and Fred Morin along with partner Allison Cunningham, have gradually built a verging-on-cult status for their restaurants (you’ll have an easier time getting into their sister restaurant Liverpool House or reservation-free wine bar, Le Vin Papillon) thanks to a serious wine program and generous portions of excellent and primarily French food with an American classic or Italian pasta thrown in for good measure. The ambiance is pretty killer as well. joebeef.ca


7. Park: Sushi was looking a little passé there before chef Antonio Park showed up in Montreal and soon wowed everyone — especially famous hockey players like P.K. Subban — offering up new-style sushi and outrageously gorgeous sashimi platters. With his Argentinian/ Korean background, chef Park takes his cooking into all sorts of weird and wonderful directions. His omakase menu is a must for foodies eager for adventure. With fine wines and even finer desserts, a night at Park isn’t just about sushi, it’s an all-round gourmet experience (you’ll have to save up though, dinner here doesn’t come cheap). parkresto.com


8. Edulis: Opened in 2012 and now one of Toronto’s top tables, Edulis is renowned for its luxurious Canadian ingredients served in an unpretentious setting thanks to the warm and generous approach of owners Tobey Nemeth and Michael Caballo. There are two menus here, five courses at $65 and seven for $85, and the emphasis is on seafood and vegetables, but you’ll also Find plenty of fish as well as duck, chicken and milk-fed lamb. The gorgeous wine list is another draw at Edulis, where prices are more than reasonable considering the high-quality and the fact that you’re in one of the city’s most beloved and respected restaurants. edulisrestaurant.com


9. Bar Isabel: Owners Max Rimaldi and chef Grant van Gameren crushed Toronto’s early- to-bed restaurant reputation with this oh-so cool tapas bar/restaurant open to 2 a.m. nightly. When dining with a group a table is ideal, but if dining in a twosome or solo, head to the bar for a front row seat to all the action. Cocktails are a must here and the by-the-glass wine selection is excellent. barisabel.com


10. Vij’s: Since opening back in 1994, Vij’s has been one of Vancouver’s most beloved restaurants where diners are actually willing to forgo reservations and stand in line — sometimes for hours — to savour the modern Indian cuisine of Vikram Vij, Meeru Dhalwala and their crew of Indian ladies working their magic in the kitchen. The lamb popsicles are the Vij signature dish and the goat curry is a treat, but vegetarians are well served here too. Wine lovers will appreciate the sharp and affordable wine listfi lled with food-friendly bottles, many of them Canadian. Last year, Vij’s moved into a new, larger space yet waits for a table can still be in the two-hour range so plan to hang out in the lounge pre-dinner, where you can also enjoy complimentary snacks. Fun! vijs.ca

By Jenn Campbell

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