Two of the more interesting meals I had in Toronto were at this Laotian/Thai restaurant and southern Italian.
The menu at Vanipha is truncated at lunch. The waiter interceded on our behalf and we were able to order Laotian specialties usually available only at dinner. Three of the four dishes we ordered were quite good, particularly a Laotian fish stew and green papaya salad, and an acceptable sticky rice w/mango. The food was as good as any Thai I've had in New York, but this is based on one meal with limited options. There are two other Vanipha's, I believe, one right near...
7 Numbers, on West Eglington. This trattoria is an extremely informal family-run place with blaring rock music -- everyone involved with the place has a sense of humor. The menu is written on posters on the wall, with appetizers, pastas, and entrees all on separate posters. The portions are relatively small, and you are encouraged to get one from each category. The prices are amazingly low. $8 Canadian (about $5 American) for osso bucco. $4.50 for most pastas.
I wish I could report that the meal was an unqualified triumph, but the food was all over the map. Mom was cooking, but the results seemed more like a home cook than a professional chef. The farfalle with aged mozarella was tasteless; the calamari appetizer delicious. The salad dressing was delicious, but poured with a trowel. My lamb shank was, well, not a lamb shank -- it was a lamb chop with adjoining meat -- sort of like one of those unidentifiable KFC chicken pieces.
Still, the place is great fun, and the owner/son sat with us and shmoozed for a half-hour, and he was charming. The wine list is wonderful, inexpensive wines designed to complement the humble food rather than wow.
I can totally understand why 7 Numbers is so popular, and I have a feeling the next meal will be better.
At the risk of perpetuating stereotypes, I was struck just how nice all the restauranteurs and service staff were at all the restaurants, humble and grand, that we visited. Toronto is a wonderful city, and I know we only scratched the surface of chow possibilities.
For me, the #1 memory is New York Subway, #2 my three hour stroll along Mackenzie Market and Spadina, and #3, the grouper and squid at Chiado.