Subject: Re: Toronto restaurants

Not sure if you qualify as a 'visitor', but I'd make different recommendations for visitors (who tend to want things they can't get at home) or locals (who generally value food much higher than ambience).

In Toronto, for a visitor, I'd recommend Susur (genuinely original food) Lai Wah Heen (very sophisticated Cantonese food) or Hashimoto (the epitome of 'slow food'). None are cheap. But each is unique.

Susur is one-of-a-kind - but his food isn't wine friendly. His tasting menu ($110 + tax) is the best bet - let him create what he wants.

Lai Wah Heen is most famous for its Dim Sum. But it only slightly resembles any dim sum you've had before (e.g. emu and ostrich choices). But the evening menu has more options (and higher prices) - the dim sum is mainly offered at lunch.

As you asked about Hashimoto - you MUST reserve ahead and specify your price option ($50, $100 or $70 - not sure about the last one). There are no menus or wine lists. You can specify allergies but that's it. The food is around 9 courses served over 3-4 hours. All persons in the group must have the same menu. Each menu is totally different - i.e. the $100 isn't the $50 with extra courses - they are totally different ingredients.

I'd recommend it for 2 or 4 people - you could get 6 at one of the tables (only) but the experience is totally calming. I've heard it described as akin to a tea ceremony, and that seems to make sense. The emphasis is on fish - but the English spoken is sometimes difficult to understand, so I wasn't always sure what the ingredients were! It is DEFINITELY NOT sushi. It's Japanese. One of our courses was sashimi - but none sushi.

This is where you go to escape and ponder the calming things in life. Yes, it's worth it, but forget about a 'business dinner' or 'party'. Think zen!

There are several sakes available and one wine (Canadian). The entire experience is like a relaxing massage of the alimentary canal (actually that doesn't look too relaxing in print - but I hope you grasp the intent).

Now, for Torontonians - there's so much ethnic that I don't know where to start. Pick a cuisine first.

You can't go wrong (except for the cost).

Alan Gardner