From the Editor

The judges have eaten—a lot—and now they have pronounced: 2016 was a year of change.

This started at the top where, after its two-year reign, Montreal’s landmark restaurant Toqué! was nudged into second place by Toronto’s relatively new fine-dining hot spot Alo. 

Congratulations must be extended to chef Patrick Kriss, his front-of-house manager and business partner Amanda Bradley, and the rest of their winning team.

Together they have convinced a city that had all but turned its back on fine dining that the indulgence is after all an easily justified expenditure—as long as the experience is just so.

And the execution at Alo is delightfully close to flawless. Alo serves beautifully conceived dishes, but above all, the discipline and consistency of the kitchen is dazzling, and quite exceptional. It’s also a sexy room, and a great experience all around.

Whenever a great restaurant like this comes along, anywhere, my advice is to remember what a delicate, fragile balance it is. Some such places endure (say, Toqué!) but most come and go all too quickly (like Rob Feenie’s Lumière, and the Didier Leroy and Marc Thuet days at The Fifth). When you hear that something is great and firing on all cylinders, do not take chances: get there as soon as you can.

So if you haven’t yet been you should book Alo now. You will need to be patient. The waiting list is three months long.

Fortunately, there are a lot of other great restaurants to try on our list, which has changed dramatically from last year. More than a third of the restaurants included in the 2017 top 100 (35 of them, to be precise) did not appear on our list in 2016. And 15 of the restaurants featured in our 2017 top 50 are altogether new to it.

Of those, I want to single out our best new restaurant of 2017, Kissa Tanto. This second restaurant from Tannis Ling and chef Joël Watanabe (already well-known in Vancouver for their groovy Chinese brasserie, Bao Bei) represents Canada’s first look at the unlikely but popular Japanese trend of Japanese-Italian fusion. Their take on this three-decade-old trend is fresh, stylish and unique. You must check it out.

Kissa TantoKissa Tanto

I would also like to give a nod to the venerable Montreal bistro L’Express, a place that in the eighties my parents frequented so regularly that the restaurant used to send us Christmas cards fronted with group photographs of their staff. It was there that as a kid I learned to love os à moelle with sel gris, and steak tartare frites. So I was a bit alarmed to hear last year that new chef Jean-François Vachon had done the previously unthinkable and not just changed the menu but actually added some non-francophile dishes, like tataki de thon. And what do you know? L’Express is riding into its 38th year on our top 50 list for the first time. I look forward to returning soon.

L'ExpressL'Express

As a final note, and as our ever-growing panel of expert judges already knows from the expanded questionnaire on their last round of ballots, Canada’s 100 Best Restaurants will soon list and rank the country’s best bars. Watch for it on canadas100best.com. If you register there to receive our digital newsletter, you will not risk missing it.

Jacob Richler

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