If you thought fine dining in Toronto was completely dead, you probably haven’t heard of Alo (@). This tasting-menu only restaurant is one of the toughest reservations to get in town these days.
Brought to us by Chef Patrick Kriss (previously at Spendido and Acadia) and General Manager Amanda Bradley (previously at George), Alo stole the hearts of food critics across the city, earning a perfect four stars from both Amy Pataki of The Star and the notoriously tough Chris Nuttall-Smith from the Globe and Mail. Alo was also on every ‘Best New Restaurant’ list in Toronto last year and most recently, was named the 7th best restaurant in Canada (Canada’s 100 Best Restaurants). Needless to say, there’s a ton of hype surrounding this restaurant.
The number two question I get asked (after ‘what’s your favourite restaurant’) is ‘where can I take my girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse for _________ (insert special occasion here)’? Honestly, it’s no easy task if you’re looking for fine dining. There are really only a handful of restaurants in the city that still do this. The past few years have been all about small trendy restaurants that serve small sharing plates in confined spaces where you’re elbow-to-elbow with fellow patrons and where they hustle you out the door before you can even finish the last sip of your cocktail.
Anyway, that’s enough of my rant. Bottom line, Alo is the answer. Whoever your dining companions are or whatever occasion you’re celebrating, you won’t be disappointed.
The restaurant is located on the third floor of the building on the southeast corner of Queen and Spadina. There’s no signage so you would never know that a restaurant was up there. The entrance is on Spadina, so look out for a door that will lead you to someone manning the elevator. Once the elevators open, you’ll walk into the bar area where you’ll meet the hostess. I’d love to come back to the bar one day which features a tempting list of house cocktails and bar bites.
The main dining room occupies the other half of the floor. I loved the décor which consists of blues, greys and brass fixtures. It’s certainly fine dining here but without all the pretentiousness (in both atmosphere and service).
In the dining room, they offer a five-course tasting menu for $90 where you can choose between two dishes per course. They also have six seats at the kitchen counter where you can enjoy an extended tasting menu for $110 per person. For Mike’s birthday, I was able to get us a seat at the counter, which, in my opinion, is the best seat in the house. You get a great view of the kitchen, watching them create these beautifully delicate dishes that are almost too pretty to eat.
Their tasting menus change regularly but here’s an idea of what you can expect for the extended tasting:
Lameque Oyster, Beef Tendon & Beef Tartare, Madai and Peau de Lait
Pain au Lait
BC Sea Urchin
Chocolate Cake, Parsnip, Milk Chocolate
Canelé and Pâte à Choux
This French tasting was flawless. There wasn’t a dish I didn’t enjoy. Even their simple pain au lait will make your eyes roll to the back of your head. The service was also impeccable and I loved the warm and inviting atmosphere. For a special night out, Alo checks all the boxes!
At a glance:
- French cuisine; tasting menu only (except in their bar where they offer small bites)
- 5-course tasting menu in the dining room ($90 at the time of visit) and an extended tasting menu at the kitchen counter ($110 at the time of visit); wine pairings available at an added cost
- Located on the southeast corner of Queen and Spadina (3rd floor); entrance on Spadina is unmarked
- Brought to us by Chef Patrick Kriss (previously from Splendido and Acadia) and General Manager Amanda Bradley (previously from George)
- Reservations are a must; I booked 2 months in advance and wasn’t even able to get a Friday or Saturday reservation
- Flawless meal, impeccable service, warm and inviting atmosphere
- Perfect for special occasions
Ratings (out of 5):
- Food: 5 stars
- Service: 5 stars
- Atmosphere: 5 stars