While nothing will beat the reassuring comfort of a drop-in neighbourhood bistro, there’s a new order of Canadian restaurants on the menu; ones that rightfully require reservations made well in advance. You could be slightly wary of this, if they weren’t so hands-down, deliciously worth it. Read on, get your calendars out and get planning…
Raymonds, St. John’s, NFLD
This is East Coast fine-dining at its best. Just-caught seafood, wild game and local produce, as well as an irreverent approach to elevated cuisine, make Raymonds’ tables hard to get (plan a month ahead to be safe). Menus change based on what’s fresh and in season, and we love the flexibility of either three-, five- or seven-course tasting options.
Langdon Hall, Cambridge, ON
Langdon Hall is destination dining (read: diners not staying at the exquisite Relais & Chateaux hotel book weeks in advance to experience the award-winning cuisine). And its extensive kitchen garden, access to local farms and freshly foraged ingredients are just some of the reasons why. Executive Chef Jason Bangerter expertly combines a commitment to seasonality and locality with his passion for intense flavour and superlative plating. Really, these dishes are almost too pretty to eat (almost!).
St. Lawrence, Vancouver, BC
This award-winning hotspot is fully booked up to a month in advance but, if the food gods are on your side, you could snag a last-minute spot at the two-person standing bar with a view to the bustling open kitchen. The space is simple and rustic, and Chef JC Poirier serves up trad French fare with Quebecois flair. This Salmon and Scallop Pithivier has become their drool-worthy signature.
Deer + Almond, Winnipeg, MB
If you want to savour Chef/owner Mandel Hitzer’s best-selling Portobello Risotto with Kewpie Mayo, Raw Macadamia and Manchego on a Friday night, best to call a month in advance. This innovative resto, in the city’s historic Exchange District, offers an eclectic menu of dishes to share – though you may want to keep the Peanut Butter Semifreddo with Flourless Chocolate Cake and Sea Salt all to yourself.
While visiting, here are 10 Tasty Souvenirs to Bring Home From Winnipeg
Bearfoot Bistro, Whistler, BC
The food (octopus carpaccio, Quebec foie gras, smoked Arctic char) and ceremony (hello Champagne sabering!) are the draw at this resort restaurant. Given the tourist traffic, Bearfoot is built to accommodate, however a table on a prime night in high-season winter must be booked at least two weeks in advance. In fact, the holiday season is almost full, so call now if December is in your sights.
Alo, Toronto, ON
Bookings are serious here, offered in two-month windows that are released the first Tuesday of every other month. And they go fast. The Relais & Chateaux resto, run by Chef Patrick Kriss, plates up contemporary French dishes. The multi-course tasting menus are blind and seasonal and the service sincerely warm – think fine dining in the most hospitable setting. No reservation? Try your luck in the à la carte Alo barroom where a few walk-ins are usually available.
Read on to discover the 10 Coolest Hidden Restaurants and Bars in Toronto
Kissa Tanto, Vancouver, BC
The epitome of cosmopolitan influences, Kissa Tanto is set in the city’s Chinatown, influenced by Japanese flavours and guided by Italian warmth. A week or two’s notice works for weeknights, but prime-time Saturdays should be planned about a month in advance. We can’t get enough of their daily Whole Fried Fish with Daikon Soy Dipping Sauce.
Brothers, Toronto, ON
You might be able to snag a spot at this long narrow space above the Bay St. subway station, but why take a chance? An 8pm dinner seating in spring and summer usually takes two to four weeks to secure. Expect friendly, yet very informed service and an always changing menu that showcases quality ingredients in their purest form. We swooned at the colourfully delicious Crudo Trout.
Rossmount Inn, St. Andrew’s, NB
The Inn’s highly acclaimed restaurant attracts locals and tourists alike. And those who’ve experienced it keep coming back for more, calling ahead two to three months in advance to secure a table. Everything is super fresh, always in season and à la carte and tasting menus are available. They get variety in their offerings too, from Quinoa-and-Hemp-Heart Burgers to Butter-Poached Naked Lobster.
Mamakas Taverna, Toronto, ON
Want to celebrate a Saturday summer eve sipping Retsina, nibbling House-Made Pita and savouring a whole grilled fish with Santorini Capers? Then get ready to book six weeks in advance. That’s the average wait time for this fab Greek eatery on the city’s Ossington Strip. We love sitting at the bar, and can never resist ending a meal with a scoop of their Milk & Honey Ice Cream. Total bliss.
Wolf in the Fog, Tofino, BC
Seasonal couldn’t get any more local here. Inspired by the coastline, ocean and forests of Tofino, Chef Nicholas Nutting is provenance-fanatical in the best possible way: salmon is just-caught by local fishermen, herbs are freshly foraged and meals are artfully plated on mismatched china plates. This is fine dining with a healthy dose of comfort food – oh, those Sour Cream and Horseradish Perogies with Island Beets and Fried Onions. Call four weeks ahead for prime-time reservations.
Merrill House, Picton, ON
Refined Burgundian dining isn’t the norm in this tiny Prince Edward County town, which is probably why the Merrill House’s basement resto is pretty much full every night. The international wine lists are extensive, with a special one reserved for local pours, and the food is old-school excellence. Don’t miss the Beef Tartare or Oeuf en Meurette, a soft-boiled egg swimming in red wine sauce dotted with lardons. Bonus: stay overnight and enjoy a full breakfast on the house.