Toronto dining options run gamut from sublime to submarines

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Good restaurants are as easy to find in Toronto as hockey fans. A sampling of the citys best dining spots, running the gamut from big bucks to box lunch, follows:

" Truffles: The Four Seasons Toronto features one of the most deservedly praised restaurants in town. Its accolades include a five-diamond rating from CAA/AAA and a designation by Gourmet magazine as the No. 1 restaurant in Toronto.

Choosing at random from the menu, for example, an evening at Truffles could get off to a flying start with seared foie gras with stuffed Medjool dates, followed by a truffle-seared baby chicken with black salsify and Marcona almonds and sealing the deal with a Tahitian vanilla creme brulee with rhubarb and candied ginger.

" The Epic: Situated just off the busy lobby of the Fairmont Royal York, the hotels premier dining room -- one among many at the big hotel -- is at once posh and welcoming, dominated by a large, open kitchen that hums with practiced activity of sous chefs doing their thing.

A typical dinner might feature five-spice marinated quail breast as an appetizer, seared Atlantic salmon or duo of Alberta beef tenderloin and Nova Scotia lobster tortellini for the main course. Theres a variety of artfully done-up desserts.

" Lee Garden: Dont be put off by the plastic table covers and the pedestrian decor. This popular hole in the wall, located at 331 Spadina Ave. in the heart of Torontos Chinatown, features a Cantonese menu noted for its fresh seafood at remarkably inexpensive prices. Dont miss the shrimp and scrambled egg combination.

" Lai Wah Heen: This pan-Asian gem is located, unlikely enough, in the boutique Metropolitan Hotel, but dont think it is for guests alone. Smart Torontonians have been dining at Lai Wah Heen for years -- and no wonder.

Great food in a classy setting is the restaurants winning recipe. Take an order of fried rice, for example. Nothing special there; that is, until the chef adds slivers of ginger to the mix and turns the commonplace Chinese dish into a delicacy.

" The Sandwich Box: This place is easy to find: Just go to the junction of Howard and Queen Street West and follow the line of people into the shopping arcade. There, the Sandwich Box makes an art of making a grilled sandwich. Fillings include spreads, meats, veggies and cheeses. Customers have nine types of bread and three topping sauces from which to choose. All this for $5.48 Canadian ($4.75).

" Fresh: If two outlets make a chain, this is a chain. As its name suggests, the food here is made fresh, with no hidden dairy products, processed sweeteners or preservatives. Burgers, for example, are made from high-protein almond, grain and tofu. Drinks range from smoothies and teas to wheatgrass shakes and immune elixirs.

To contact reporter Joe Rosen, send e-mail to [email protected].

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