Best GTA Restaurants

Cava at Yonge & St. Clair #WorldInMyCity ~Andorra

**Cava has closed and is relocating to a new location in downtown Toronto.**

Andorra is a tiny little country nestled between France and Spain in the Pyrenees mountains. Escudella is often referred to as Andorra's national dish. We wanted to eat traditional escudella for the Andorra stop, and while it wasn't readily available on any Toronto restaurant menus, we found a few spots that were willing to put their chefs to the test and put it on their Saturday evening menu. Typically eaten in winter, this dish is a big meaty hearty stew that will make meat-lovers very happy. We found the perfect place to make us escudella... Cava at Yonge and St. Clair. A restaurant that proudly invites diners to "Just Let Us Cook For You" is exactly what we needed. And you should definitely let Cava cook for you... look at what came to the table leading up to the main star of the dinner...

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Escudella means bowl and it is traditionally cooked up for family gatherings like a Christmas feast. It's a huge stew prepared as a one-pot winter meal, with a variety of vegetables and a selection of different meats such as veal, meatballs, chicken, pig snout/trotters, and delicious butifarra sausage which is a very juicy pork sausage that is an important part of Catalan cuisine. Even though it was a beautiful mild April evening, we were very happy to see this steaming hot stew arrive at the table. It was perfect.

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It was served with lovely vegetables that were a crisp and fresh complement to all that hot, juicy, delicious meat.

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It never fails to amaze me how even after eating an enormous amount of savoury hearty food, you can still have room for something sweet, like churros con chocolate.

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Thanks Andorra... you inspired a wonderfully creative meal and thank you Cava for doing the research into the dish and making it for us. Cava is located at 1560 Yonge Street near St. Clair, and it has the loveliest patio I can't wait to return to this summer. It was incredible! Rosie :)

Dragon Legend | Markham

Bian Lian or face changing is an ancient Chinese dramatic art. The masks are brightly painted and represent characters from Sichuan opera. Each colour represents a different character and the faces are highly differentiated. The performer wears an elaborate and vivid traditional costume moving quickly to fast paced music alternating movement with poses. With a swipe of the fan or a movement of their head their entire face changes before the eyes of an astonished audience. The secret of the face change has been passed down from one generation to the next within families. Traditionally only males were permitted to learn Bian Lian, the theory being that women do not stay within the family and would marry out passing the secret to another family. It is truly something to behold and is part of the rich cultural experience a guest at Dragon Legend can expect. Performances take place every Wednesday evening starting at 6:45 p.m.

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Oyaji Sushi | Richmond Hill

Tucked in a little strip mall on Yonge Street in Richmond Hill is Oyaji Sushi. The family who runs this Korean Japanese restaurant has been in the biz for awhile and it shows. The fish is fresh and packed with flavour. The complimentary starters arrived quickly and were hot and tasty; the tempura broth soup with noodles was a table favourite and the miso soup was delicious. Presentation was also quite lovely.

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Federick Restaurant | Markham

Welcome to Federick in Markham. This is where me and my work peeps eat lunch when we are in a happy mood and want to take our joy to the next level. Jordan is waiting patiently for our usual order of mixed vegetables, Hakka noodles, Manchurian fried rice and General Tso beef and chicken.

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I am continually impressed by the patience of my friends who wait calmly for the food photo shoot to take place before we can dig in. Well sometimes the spoons do get in there first. This amazing food photography in this post is courtesy of my co-host Mike.

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Federick's serves Hakka Chinese cuisine, which is a blend of Indian and Chinese cooking styles and seasonings. This Markham location is the second Federick Restaurant in the GTA; the first location in Scarborough is credited with bringing Hakka food to Toronto. It is well known for their pakoras, a popular Indian fried snack of meat or vegatable. Federick's in Markham is located at 160 New Delhi Drive, in the Costco plaza. Lots of parking. Rosie :)

Ding Tai Fung | Markham

We wrapped up Chopstick Walk 2015 with Shanghai-style dim sum at Ding Tai Fung on Highway 7. Located in the busy and huge First Markham Place strip mall, this restaurant is popular for its xiaolongbao (steamed buns prepared in bamboo steaming baskets.) The chefs make everything fresh to order. It's very cool to watch them do their dim sum thing behind a glass wall.

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The Shanghai wontons in spicy sauce was our fave dish. The spicy beef tenderloin was also a stand-out selection.

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The Shanghai-style minced pork buns are pan-fried with sesame seeds, giving what can be a blank doughy dish a lovely little punch of flavour. The pork and shrimp dumplings were also filling and tasty. Shanghai dumplings differ from Cantonese ones in that they are bigger and soupier.

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Ding Tai Fung is a very popular spot in a very busy mall so leave lots of time for parking. Rosie :)

Akasaka Japanese Restaurant | Richmond Hill

If you love watching highly skilled chefs creatively prepare delicious food as much as you love eating it, then you have to try the teppanyaki experience. Teppanyaki is a style of Japanese cuisine that uses an hot iron griddle to prepare meat, fish and vegetables. The meal is cooked in the center of a table with diners surrounding the chef. Akasaka Steak House is located at 280 West Beaver Creek, minutes from the 404. Its humble exterior does not hint at the comfortable and traditional interior, the excellent service and the truly scrumptious food.

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Menu items include traditional Japanese fare such as sushi and teppanyaki. The range of choice in proteins for Teppanyaki is quite extensive and they offer many combinations for the economically inclined. For example on the Teppanyaki menu you build your own by selecting from a very large list of seafood or meats. For a mere $9 you can make it a combo adding Miso Soup, salad and ice cream for dessert. Or, you can choose from a combo menu where proteins such as scallops, chicken and steak are combined in smaller amounts for those who like to sample. The sushi list is two full pages long and covers all the favourites plus some new to us.

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We all ordered teppanyaki combos - selecting filet mignon, crab legs, chicken, scallops and sirloin. The food was expertly and entertainingly prepared by Jason who demonstrated a masterful control of spatulas. He was able to balance a spinning egg on either side alternating sides without dropping it. He then prepared an egg and challenged us to stay still with our mouths open while from across the cook top he expertly lobbed it in our mouths. While we were squirming he just coolly took aim and hit the mark. It had us giggling. His teasing, confident manner was such a delight and the service from other wait staff was unobtrusive allowing us to enjoy the cooking show and yet still carry on our conversation. Plates were quietly removed, tea refilled and service items appeared as needed.

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The portions were so large that we could barely finish it. The chicken was moist and coated (not drowned) in teriyaki sauce. The crab was steamed to melt in your mouth status and served in a butter sauce in an open shell resolving the hardest challenge of crab - getting it out of the shell.The scallops were perfectly browned but still moist and both steaks were to order. The miso soup was rich and satisfying. The salad pleasantly crispy and the vegetables perfectly cooked to an el dente state. The rice was exceptional and the ginger ice cream was a delightful finish. Three very large meals and gallons of tea later...$114.

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This restaurant is a gem and although located facing Highway 7 at the corner of West Beaver Creek it may not stand out in the mall where it is located. But it is truly worth seeking out. Rosie :)

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