In a year that saw an unprecedented number of high-calibre new restaurant openings, Air Canada and presenting partner American Express recently revealed their list of Canada's Best New Restaurants Top 10 list, with Quebec City's ARVI taking the number-one spot.
ARVI gives new meaning to dinner and a show. Guests can watch three chefs cook, plate and serve Michelin Star-worthy food tableside in an intimate industrial-meets-mid-century-modern setting. In second place is Vancouver's Como Taperia, a boisterous tapas restaurant run by three Spanish-cuisine aficionados. This year's third-place winner is Donna's, a Toronto neighbourhood favourite where impressively pedigreed chefs meet granny chic vibes.
The Canada's Best New Restaurants annual list is created through a panel of leading industry experts from across the country who recommend notable restaurant openings and share insider tips. Armed with this culinary intelligence, an anonymous food critic embarks on an eating marathon, making reservations under a pseudonym. The margin for error is slim to none: restaurants got one chance to make a winning impression on her.
"Air Canada is proud to champion Canada's innovative food and drink scene for the 18th year running," said Andy Shibata, Managing Director, Brand, Air Canada, in a media release. "By celebrating the diverse culinary creativity on display across Canada, we are sharing unique experiences with both Canadians and an international audience while helping them to explore the country."
"Our partnership with Air Canada and Canada's Best New Restaurants is in its fifth year, and we're incredibly excited to share the list of top restaurants across the country," said David Barnes, VP of Advertising and Communications, American Express Canada. "Our Cardmembers rely on us to provide them with elevated access to the best experiences, especially when it comes to Canada's restaurant and culinary scene."
From restaurants creating mindful environments and positive work-life balance to a new crop of plant-forward tasting menus to nostalgic desserts, this year's best new eateries channel local, sustainable ingredients with new creativity.
Here is the complete list of Air Canada's Best New Restaurants 2019:
ARVI (Quebec City): French chef Julien Masia serves up an immersive dinner-theatre experience in this Limoilou boîte. From fresh Gaspesian lobster, lovage and rhubarb to tataki-style veal rib-eye bathed in a two-year-old cheddar sauce with seared baby romaine to the five-course showstopping vegetarian tasting menu, every dish deserves a standing ovation.
Como Taperia (Vancouver): Crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside croquettes and mounds of imported Bonilla potato chips washed down with playful cocktails from the menu's G&T section are go-tos at this jumping Spain-centric watering hole. Start with rows of glistening fish from the conservas menu and stay for the soundtrack.
Donna's (Toronto): This laid-back local favourite (think vintage teapots and houseplants) dishes out food that is anything but casual. Cue blushing slices of roast pork topped with shaved endive and tarragon and sprat-oil aioli, and the whole oven-baked sole bathed in a harissa- and chili-reddened butter sauce.
Pluvio restaurant + rooms (Ucluelet): Glowing Douglas-fir tables made from the same tree, rock candles and rustic earthenware set the tone in this west-coast dining room. Thanks to the chef's Wickaninnish Inn pedigree, expect to see local ingredients elevated in dishes like fermented strawberries paired with miso-glazed foie gras and shortbread.
Nowhere * a restaurant (Victoria): Mind-boggling food is coming out of Nowhere, a spot hidden inside an urban mini-mall's courtyard. The menu is all about sustainable seafood and plant-forward dishes from rockfish with morels, sea asparagus and green garlic to eggplant- and cheese-stuffed mezzaluna pasta to a swoon-worthy pork ragù.
Dreyfus (Toronto): Two Joe Beef expats have put their stamp on Harbord Village with Canada's best new French bistro. There's the packed, handsome dining room, tightly edited selection of small-producer wines, escargot oozing with garlic, white wine and clam liquor, and dishes that pay homage to the chef's Jewish roots.
Wayfarer Oyster House (Whitehorse): Yukon fever abounds in this casual northern dining room (picture octopus coat hooks and an oyster-shell chandelier), where seared scallops with ginger-scallion jam, enoki mushrooms and pickled chard stems are paired with a low-alcohol mint and cucumber kombucha cocktail.
Pastel (Montreal): From the tablecloths to the walls to the chairs to the dessert, splashes of pastel are carried throughout this new, globally inspired eatery. Housemade breads arrive with a vivid fern-green-coloured cylinder of butter, and the lime-sherbet green bucatini is spiked with chlorophyll extracted from leafy greens.
Dispatch (St. Catharines): Fizzy fermented, funky cocktails made with upcycled ingredients meet dishes made with explosively bright North African and Middle Eastern flavours in this zero-waste kitchen. In addition to the Aussie chef being environmentally conscious and community-minded, his food is also completely addictive.
Ten (Toronto): A 10-course tasting menu for only 10 people scores a 10 out of 10 for two young Toronto-based chefs. Don't miss the seared fiddleheads, pumpkin seeds and sautéed ramps on a pillow of brioche cream, or the Ontario white beans, mushrooms and buckwheat, slow-cooked cassoulet style.