T+L Reports: Oh, Canada!
The SARS scare may have temporarily kept tourists away from Toronto, but now the comeback of the Canadian city known as Hollywood North is in full swing. Here, the current hits. WHERE TO STAY Right on the border of King Street West, the entertainment district, is Hôtel Le Germain (30 Mercer St.; 866/345-9501 or 416/345-9500; www.germaintoronto.com; doubles from $188), le best of the boutique hotels. Its 122 rooms are sizable and stylishly appointed: linens by Frette, photographs of tulips courtesy of local artist James Lahey. • The multimillion-dollar renovation of the Drake Hotel (1150 Queen St. West; 416/531-5042; www.thedrakehotel.com; doubles from $89) is the talk of the town's fashionistas. Besides the restaurant and yoga studio, the smoky bar scene is a must-see. • Business travelers may prefer the more conservative 88-room SoHo Metropolitan Hotel (318 Wellington St. West; 416/599-8800; www.metropolitan.com/soho; doubles from $206), where the marble bathroom floors are heated and breakfast-on-the-go is presented at the first-floor Sen5es Bakery. WHERE TO EAT Le Germain's Luce (416/599-5823; dinner for two $128) is an Italian trattoria with rustic dishes such as Ravioli two ways, with espresso-chestnut and pumpkin-orange filling. • For sashimi, head to Blowfish Restaurant & Sake Bar (668 King St. West; 416/860-0606; dinner for two $60), a sushi den where Sofia Coppola was recently spotted. • Jamie Kennedy, the Rocco DiSpirito of Toronto, prepares his specialties, Yukon fries and flatbread, in an open-air kitchen at Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar (9 Church St.; 416/362-5586; dinner for two $29). • In response to Daniel Boulud's infamous (and pricey) burger at DB Bistro Moderne in New York, Bymark (66 Wellington St. West; 416/777-1144; dinner for two $113) has created its own, topped with melted Brie, grilled porcini mushrooms, and fresh black truffle shavings, for $26. • Brassaii (461 King St. West; 416/598-4730; dinner for two $62) serves upscale comfort food such as beef short ribs and wok-fried omelettes in a loft setting. WHERE TO SHOP The Barneys-like department store Holt Renfrew (50 Bloor St. West; 416/922-2333) recently received a face-lift: the old-school design has been replaced by colorful lucite. A white-walled café occupies the top floor. AFTER DARK Ultra-trendy Lobby (192 Bloor St. West; 416/929-7169) was inspired by, yes, a hotel lobby. Thanks to a mirrored VIP champagne room, you won't be in any hurry to check out.
—James Patrick Herman
Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar
The renovated luxury restaurant incorporates a dimly lit wine cellar with exposed beams, a casual café, fine dining area, chic bar, and lounge space, as well as an events room for private bookings. Brassaii‘s celebrated executive chef, Bruce Woods, presents keenly conceived Mediterranean fare like sablefish with sweet parsnips, baby spinach, beets, and saffron sauce. Jordan Bushell, award winning mixologist, crafts the ‘Not Your Average Joe” drinks like a cucumber-flavored Tom Collins. From morning to late night, seven days a week, the eclectic venue in the King West district of downtown Toronto caters to the VIP crowd.
Blowfish Restaurant & Sake Bar
Located in the super-trendy King West neighborhood, Blowfish occupies a former red brick Bank of Toronto building (which explains the high ceilings). The long, narrow space's minimalist design incorporates cool, red and blue LEDs, and limited seating is available at the sleek bar. Blowfish's menu fuses traditional Japanese fare with classical French and pan-Asian touches. In additional to sushi and sashimi, you’ll find barbequed salmon, sea bass or black cod, and free bowls of edamame. The restaurant transforms into a lively lounge around 11 p.m., when the Toronto bar crowd lingers more for the DJ tunes and saketinis than the food.
The west end nabe the Drake (as it's colloquially known), exists in, is called Parkdale. Gentrification has cleaned up the area and the building that used to be a flophouse on a gritty stretch that was for many years, largely forgotten until Jeff Stober stepped in and revitalized the beautiful building. He refashioned the stretch into a funky hub where creatives, dreamers and yes, partiers, gather with gleeful abandon. On the main floor a bar and dining room where smaller, live acts play. Downstairs, a more raucous party atmosphere for musicians and entertainers while upstairs, in the patio lounge, the party continues al fresco. Floral wall paper, train shelving and sock dollies crafted by a local artist decorate the hotel's nineteen rooms that range from 'crash pads' to more spacious digs. But take heed, this is a partying kind of hub, so if you're after deep zzz's and otherworldly quiet, think again.
SoHo Metropolitan Hotel
An original Dave Chihuly sculpture, comprised of 80 hand-blown glass discs, is suspended over the entrance of this 15-story glass-and-chrome hotel in the downtown area. Popular with visiting celebrities (past guests include Madonna, Gwyneth Paltrow, and 50 Cent), the SoHo Metropolitan has 91 guestrooms featuring Italian Frette linens, walk-in closets, floor-to-ceiling windows that open, and electronically controlled drapes and Do Not Disturb signs. The most notable in-room feature, however, is the spacious bathroom with heated floors, a deep soaking tub, and Molton Brown bath products. The hotel also offers an Asian-inspired restaurant and bar called Luckee by local (and international) celebrity chef Susur Lee.
Hôtel Le Germain Toronto
Situated in the entertainment district, Hôtel Le Germain is housed in a converted red-brick warehouse with a stainless-steel and glass façade. Inside, the lobby features two-story glass walls, a double-sided fireplace, and photographs by Toronto-based artist James Lahey. There’s also a library and a complimentary state-of-the-art cappuccino bar. Elevators painted with wispy clouds lead to the 122 guest rooms, each designed with high ceilings, warm wood accents, blooming tulips, and a glass-enclosed shower that looks out onto the room (with optional privacy blinds). The hotel offers a complimentary breakfast buffet as well as local, seasonal and organic dining at Victor Restaurant and Lounge.