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Toronto’s Alo tops list of Canada’s top 100 restaurants

After the total domination of fine dining last year by Toronto and Montreal, smaller cities have taken a bite out of the popular metropolises.

On Canada’s 100 Best (https://canadas100best.com/)— the fourth annual list of the country’s finest dining establishments unveiled Tuesday night — the two major restaurant hubs slipped slightly, making room for smaller cities like St. John’s with Raymonds (7), Cambridge, Ont., with Langdon Hall (5), Edmonton with Biera (32), Calgary with Bar Van Der Fels (39), Halifax with the Bicycle Thief (56), Souris, PEI, with Fireworks Feast (83), and Saskatoon with Primal (86).

Toronto still shared much of the top 10 with Montreal, including the number one spot, awarded again to Alo’s Patrick Kriss, who also was named Best Chef, but Canada’s 100 Best magazine editor Jacob Richler says the new list marks a growing appreciation for restaurants all around the country.

“There is lots of change happening quickly and that’s a reflection of a really vibrant, vital national dining scene,” said magazine editor Jacob Richler.

Alo’s chef Patrick Kriss was awarded Outstanding Chef for the 2018 Canada's Best 100 restaurants list.

Alo’s chef Patrick Kriss was awarded Outstanding Chef for the 2018 Canada’s Best 100 restaurants list.   (Liam Mogan)

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Toronto lost six spots from last year, while Montreal lost five, taking their domination from 50 to 39 of the 100 restaurants. Ontario as a whole went from 31 spots to 24. Quebec secured the most with 27, one fewer than last year, while British Columbia gained two, earning 22 spots (18 for Vancouver alone) and leaving 27 for the rest of the country.

There were a slew of restaurants returning to the list after missing out last year, including Calgary’s River Cafe (28) and Winnipeg’s Segovia (46). There were 29 restaurants entirely new to the list, including 11 that had their grand openings in 2017, including Toronto’s La Banane (16), which was voted the year’s Best New Restaurant, and Vancouver’s St. Lawrence (20).

Richler credits the turnover in part to the expansion of the panel of judges, which this year shed 10 past voters and added 25, up from 82 to 97 industry experts.

“We’ve got better regional representation with our judges all across the country and that’s reflected in the list,” he said, while judges in the bigger cities are voting more and more for out-of-town restaurants. Each panelist submits a ranked list of their top 10 restaurants, including a minimum of three outside their home region.

While Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver are still the main three dining destinations, this year’s list featured a number of smaller cities boasting brand new restaurants good enough to land in the top 100. Richler believes a fine dining expansion around the country away from the biggest cities is sometimes due to chefs training in the top markets before returning home and opening their own restaurants.

“It’s self-pollinating talent,” said Richler, noting that he’s seen people pass through Raymonds in St. John’s, Newfoundland, who have since opened quality restaurants. The same has happened with talent in Calgary, Saskatoon and Ottawa.

“The more you have good restaurants, the more they multiply,” he said.

The Calcutta Cricket Club in Calgary is ranked number 68 on the Canada's 100 Best list 2018.

The Calcutta Cricket Club in Calgary is ranked number 68 on the Canada’s 100 Best list 2018.   (Canada’s 100 Best/Photos courtesy of Calcutta Cricket Club)

Halifax got two new eateries on the list with The Bicycle Thief (56) and Little Oak (96). Saskatoon nabbed three new restaurants with Primal (86), The Hollows (89), and Sticks and Stones at the bottom. Calgary secured five new restaurants, including Bar Van Der Fels (39), and the Indian restaurant Calcutta Cricket Club (68), which also won the Best Design award for its imaginative interiors by Maya Gohill, inspired by her own roots and featuring vibrant colours.

“We wanted to pay homage to the original Calcutta Cricket and Football Club,” said Gohill in an email to the Star, “but to do it in a way that combines the colourful, tropical nature of India. We also wanted to create an atmosphere similar to a 1960s social club you may have found in an old Bollywood movie.”

Despite the apparent influence of Instagram on the dining experience, which might suggest interior design has gained importance, Richler says it is simply always changing.

Designer Maya Gohill won the Best Design award for the colourful interiors in Calcutta Cricket.

Designer Maya Gohill won the Best Design award for the colourful interiors in Calcutta Cricket.   (Canada’s 100 Best/Photos courtesy of Calcutta Cricket Club)

“The paradigm is constantly shifting,” he said. “Sometimes they’re big and elaborate, then they’re lush. This one is small, quirky, has some great historical reference points, and is culturally valid to what they’re serving.”

What it’s serving, like 99 other restaurants, was good enough to make a mark on Canada’s 100 Best. Though Calgary is inching closer to the level of Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, with 11 restaurants on the list, it’s not quite there yet. The three big dining metropolises are still dominating with 57 of 100 restaurants. Any one of the three is poised to take a majority year after year.

But Richler isn’t entirely concerned with which restaurant lands where.

“I don’t really see a horse race,” he said. “What I see is a very exciting, fast improving national dining scene.”

Among other special award winners are celebrity chef Lynn Crawford with a Lifetime Achievement Award, Montreal’s Daniel Mongraw of Toqué! for Best Pastry Chef, and Ottawa’s Marc Lepine of Atelier for Most Innovative Chef.

See the full list of winners at canadas100best.com.

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Toronto Top 10

Alo (1) http://alorestaurant.com/ Star Review: https://www.thestar.com/life/food_wine/restaurants/2015/09/22/alos-tasting-menus-and-service-merit-4-stars-review.html

Buca Yorkville (4) http://buca.ca/yorkville.html Star Review: https://www.thestar.com/life/food_wine/restaurants/2014/12/26/buca_yorkville_serves_up_wellcrafted_octopus_pizza.html

Edulis (9) http://edulisrestaurant.com/ Star Review: https://www.thestar.com/life/food_wine/restaurants/2012/06/29/edulis_review.html

Dandylion (12) http://restaurantdandylion.com/ Star Review: https://www.thestar.com/life/food_wine/restaurants/2015/02/27/queen-wests-dandylion-a-dandy-dining-adventure.html

Canis (15) http://canisrestaurant.com/

La Banane (16) https://www.labanane.ca/

Canoe (18) https://www.canoerestaurant.com/

Bar Isabel (25) http://barisabel.com/ Star Review: https://www.thestar.com/life/food_wine/restaurants/2013/05/10/the_abcs_of_bar_isabels_grant_van_gamerens_new_little_italy_tapas_bar.html

Brothers (29) No Site. Star Review: https://www.thestar.com/life/food_wine/2017/01/18/yorkvilles-brothers-restaurant-feels-like-new-york-city-review.html

Scaramouche (36) http://www.scaramoucherestaurant.com/

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