Just Back From Toronto
Where to stay, eat and shop
WHERE TO STAY
The intimate 28-room Windsor Arms—a once venerable hotel that closed in 1991 and was resurrected in 1999 as a luxe, nurturing hideout—has sleek-but-soothing rooms decorated floor-by-floor in different color schemes (dark blue with dark wood on the second, pale green with light wood on the third, beige and gold with dark wood on the fourth). They feature what must be the best beds in town—Frette duvets and 300-count Egyptian cotton sheets handmade in Turkey. (In the gift shop: $345-$380 for the duvets, $600-$635 for a set of sheets.)
Rooms to get: 308 and 408, the 970-square-foot corner Toronto Suites for their open layout and generous supply of windows, and Windsor Suite 301 for its two fireplaces, including one in the bathroom. Other good features: a serious spa (with much-in-demand masseur, Sergei) and a 1920s-style pool, unusual for such a small hotel. $203-$1,379. 18 St. Thomas Street, Toronto M58 3E7; 877-999-2767, 416-971-9666; fax 416-921-9121; www.windsorarmshotel.com.
Hong Kong native and transplanted Torontonian Susur Lee returned to the city's food scene in triumph last July to open Susur after a three-year stint consulting in Singapore, where he experimented with East-West fusion cuisine—which wasn't always successful, by the way. It was obviously a productive step in his growth, though, because his combinations here are masterful. Among the most assured dishes from a recent dinner: pan-roasted foie gras and boneless barbecued quail with plum-onion stew; crisp nori-wrapped tuna with Thai basil and ginger served with a tempura of spinach custard; and plum tart with lemon confit and caramel sauce. His cooking technique is perfect, his use of Asian ingredients is deft and unforced, and he clearly doesn't take himself too seriously, given the decor of the room—stark and white, accessorized by a lineup of kitschy artifacts and inset squares of light that change the entire color scheme of the room—from fuchsia to tangerine to ice blue. To really test out Lee's talents, book early for the tasting menu, which can take up to four hours. $100; tasting menu approximately $80 per person. 601 King Street W., Toronto M5V 1M5; 416-603-2205.
In a town where most of the serious restaurants shut down on Sundays, there's one reliable exception: Opus . The setting is subdued and quiet, the wine list one of the city's most impressive. And the dishes are exquisitely prepared: wild mushroom sauté with fresh herbs, garlic, and yellow and red teardrop tomatoes; luscious rack of lamb with barley, chanterelles, and haricots verts. $85. 37 Prince Arthur Street, Toronto, MR5 1B2; 416-921-3105.
DINNER WORTH PLANNING IN ADVANCE
Chef Didier Leroy is chef-owner of The Fifth, a raffish, excellent French restaurant located in a warehouse, entered through an alley, up a freight elevator, and only open Thursday through Saturday. With at least three weeks' notice, he'll open up his modern town house (separate from the restaurant) for a dinner party—you can either join an existing dinner or arrange your own. It's also part cooking school, since guests are allowed to hang around the kitchen and ask questions. $80-$135 per person, depending on the menu (he has a special fondness for classical sauces and fish). $ 75 Markham Street, Suite 2, Toronto M6J 2G4; 416-603-6560; fax 416-603-8242.
Anyone can find the major retail names on Bloor or Yonge Streets, but Sarah Collins knows all of the specialty stores (the best furriers and custom jewelers, for example) and can either take customers shopping or arrange a selection of merchandise to be displayed in private. She's also great for emergency arrangements—nabbing a hairstylist or a tuxedo for a last-minute black-tie event. Approximately $50-$100 an hour, depending on services. 416-791-9020; email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Member of Fine Dining.
$ Establishment accepts no charge/credit cards or accepts cards other than the American Express Card.