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Kavkaz; Shibui Robata Bar; County Cocktail and Snack Bar

Photo: County Cocktail and Snack Bar/Instagram

Following a food tip from a lawyer, Amy Pataki finds herself at Kavkaz, a "sleek" and "modern" Azerbaijani restaurant in North York that is "a case study in restraint" with "glorious" results. The menu, heavy on lamb, poultry, and fish – grilled over charcoal or flavoured with dried fruit, pomegranates, and sumac – is presented simply and naturally. An assortment of kebabs is rounded out by qutabi ("fried dough circles filled with ground lamb and barberries") and lavangi, an Azeri speciality that features "a Cornish hen with a heady pulp of walnuts, onion and… sour plums" from the chef/owner Eldar Asadullaev's hometown of Lankaran. Asadullaev makes a good case for eating Azerbaijani food "referencing Shirali Muslimov, an Azerbaijani shepherd he says lived until the age of 168 by eating an 'organic, old-style diet.'" Go now and live forever.

In the past few years, Toronto's Japanese food offerings have exploded in variety and quality but, for the most part, DineTO is not impressed. Lucky for them, Shibui Robata Bar has opened below Copacabana, "a subterranean jewel in Clubland…which is as close to authentic, fine dining modern Japanese that we shall ever likely be privileged to experience here." The reviewer gets ecstatic over executive chef Masaki Nakayama's fine ingredients and attention to detail found in salads tossed tableside, tuna tataki that is "nirvana-like," and a salmon hot pot that is "another to-die-for moment…before you even see the food." Big marks are handed out all around with a couple notable flaws: despite cooking with charcoal, there is a lack of smokiness in fish dishes, and the sauces overwhelm with "sickly" sweetness. Regardless, Shibui Robata Bar is on their "Top 10 of 2014," and which will, no doubt, include no other Japanese restaurants.

Steven Davey heads to Riverdale to try out Carlo Catallo's County Cocktail and Snack Bar, the latest in the County brand extension (one is in the works next to the Paradise Theatre in the Bloorcourt area) and finds a well-priced and diverse range of old and new favourites in a comfy 30-seater. From the signature County Burger ($15) to Chinese bao stuffed with braised beef cheeks and trumpet-mushroom marmalade ($4), and pulled-pork-shoulder tacos ($12), there is literally something for everyone.
· Kavkaz a welcome taste of Azerbaijan in North York [Toronto Star]
· Shibui Robata Bar [DineTO]
· Bounty at County [NOW]