For me, the equation for a perfect date includes good food, good drinks and good conversation. A date is about spending time with another person, be it getting to know each other for the first time, getting a break from the kids or re-connecting after a busy week at work. To facilitate this, my pick for the Best Date Night restaurants in Toronto offer great food, an air of privacy and no ear-drum breaking music. I’m old, I don’t love yelling across the table all night.

1. Kwan Dim Sum

Rating/Price: 5.0 $$
Why? Elevated dim sum, lovely service, elegant interior, dishes perfect for sharing
Must Order: Shrimp Dumplings, Rice Roll
Good For? First dates, midtown location, refined Chinese food

2. La Carnita

Rating/Price: 4.5 $$
Why? Well priced, delicious tacos, cozy seating
Must Order: In Cod We Trust, Dessert
Good For? Casual date, dinner before another activity

3. The Good Son

Rating/Price: 5.0 $$$
Why? Intimate dining area, great tasting menu, good cocktails
Must Order: Charcuterie and Cheese Board, Seasonal Cocktails
Good For? Special occasions, trying to impress, foodies

4. Koyoi

Rating/Price: 4.5 $$
Why? Good food, located downtown, hidden gem
Must Order: Sashimi Salad, Beef Tataki
Good For? Casual date, pitchers of beer

5. Oyster Boy

Rating/Price: 4.5 $$$
Why? Fresh oysters, intimate seating, amazing pasta
Must Order: Oysters, Papperdelle Pasta
Good For? Seafood lovers, special occasions

6. Pizzeria Libretto

Rating/Price: 4.5 $$
Why? Delicious pizzas, also available for take away
Must Order: Duck Confit Pizza, Calamari
Good For? Casual date, pizza lovers

7. Sake Bar Kushi

Rating/Price: 4.5 $$$
Why? Intimate booths, traditional izakaya decor, many menu choices, perfect for sharing
Must Order: Ebi Mayo, Yakitori
Good For? Izakaya experience without the yelling, midtown location

8. Pai Northern Kitchen

Rating/Price: 4.0 $$
Why? Takes reservations, best Thai food in the city
Must Order: Squash Fritters, Papaya Salad
Good For? Casual date, dinner before going out

9. Bestellen

Rating/Price: 4.5 $$$
Why? Intimate seating, good wine list, wonderful service, great steak without breaking the bank
Must Order: Dry Aged Steak
Good For? Foodies, special occasions

Honourable Mentions:

Still TBE (To be Eaten):

Did I miss your favourite restaurant? Let me know in the comments. Last Updated: 10/02/2015  


Somehow, whenever I plan a meal out with friends, our head count always spirals up and up until we’re in the double digits. I always find it challenging to find a restaurant in Toronto that can seat more than 8 people, takes reservations and doesn’t force a set menu on us. With a large group, in addition to being comfortably seated, budget and service is key. Sometimes bills need to be split, food is shared, there’s couples, everyone arrives at a different time and everyone has a different budget. The restaurants listed below have all been great at handling a large table of hungry, fussy diners at a reasonable price point.

1. Zakkushi

Rating/Price: 5.0 / $$$
Why? Tapas style menu, great for sharing, loud, boisterous atmosphere
Must Order: P-toro & kawa skewers
Good For? Beer drinkers, carnivores, large, loud groups

2. Patria

Rating/Price: 4.0 / $$$
Why? Downtown location, beautiful sophisticated space, authentic Spanish cuisine
Must Order: Jambon Serrano, Paella
Good For? Special events, celebrations, excuse to dress up

3. DaiLo

Rating/Price: 4.0 / $$$
Why? Sick Asian food, great decor, upstairs bar LoPan
Must Order: Big Mac Bao, Fried Giggi Trout
Good For? Celebrations, late night cocktails, foodies

4. Song Cook's Authentic Korean Restaurant

Rating/Price: 5.0 / $
Why? Authentic Korean cuisine, low price, plenty of seating
Must Order: JaJangMyun, Jokbal, TangSuYuk
Good For? Casual gathering, 905'ers, groups of >8, budget friendly

5. Thoroughbred

Rating/Price: 4.0 / $$$
Why? Menu that's great for sharing, downtown location, great wine selection
Must Order: Kung Pao Cauliflower, Chicken Liver Mousse
Good For? Foodies, celebrations, group of 8-10, cocktails

6. Han Ba Tang

Rating/Price: 4.5 $$
Why? Infused soju, great menu for sharing, attentive service
Must Order: Soju flight, Kimchi Fries, Spicy Seafood Stew
Good For? Soju, avoiding downtown, fusion cuisine

7. Bent Restaurant

Rating/Price: 4.5 / $$$
Why? Large space, great outdoor patio, upbeat atmosphere
Must Order: Singaporean Style Slaw, Tong Yuen
Good For? Groups of 8-12, cocktails, boisturous crowd, birthdays

8. El Catrin Destileria

Rating/Price: 4.0 $$$
Why? Giant outdoor patio, multiple private dining areas, plenty of tequila
Must Order: Tuna Ceviche, Bucket of Shrimp
Good For? Large groups, private events, celebrations, special occasion

Honourable Mentions:

Still TBE (To be Eaten):

  • Kingyo Izakaya
  • Carbon Bar
  • Copacabana
  • Colette Grand Cafe

Did I miss your favourite restaurant? Let me know in the comments.

Last Updated: 04/28/2015


Since I learned how to write, I’ve had a journal. When the Internet came around, my pen and paper moved to the digital medium. One fact remained constant, I’m terrible with consistency. Over the past decade, I’ve had livejournal accounts, lots of blogs, fansites and they’ve all fallen into the pit of “never updated” or “yearly updates only”. With that history, I’ve been pretty good with xiaoEats over the past two years.

I’m often asked, how do I stay motivated with posting and the truth is, it’s still fun. Regardless of the blog, I would still eat, and still take pictures of my food. With the blog, I get to share awesome food with others and hopefully help them find new food experiences, the same reason I read blogs. While my motivation for blogging hasn’t waned, there are blogger problems that I struggle with.

Blogger Problems I struggle with (and how I try to overcome them):

Problem: Content, content, content – Some weeks, I’m overwhelmed with reviews backed up from months ago, other weeks I’m looking for any excuse to eat out. My preference is a middle ground, having enough content (5-8 reviews) for the next 3-4 weeks, during which I find build a steady queue. After food events or a vacation though, I always find myself backlogged.


  1. I like to pace out my backlog, I draft the posts and then schedule them to be published when my local content is low. A content manager (ie. a simple Excel sheet or To Do List) works wonders.
  2. Other sources of content. One of the main reasons I started “Xiao Cooks” was to broaden my content scope, along with this oft neglected blog section and my Best Eats lists.

Winter/Summer Licious – A great event that always leaves me with a backlog of posts

Problem: Keeping it fresh – Speaking of backlogs, one of my biggest challenges is keeping my memory of a dining experience fresh in my goldfish brain. 


  1. Taking copious notes during the meal or immediately after. I find voice notes on my phone super helpful and always carry a thin notebook with an attached pen.
  2. If notes would ruin the atmosphere of a meal (ie. scribbling in the middle of a romantic date), I rely on the better memories of family and friends.

It took me 6 months to publish all the posts from my two week vacation in Maui

Problem: Writing style – My passion is creative writing, fiction, which I haven’t had the time to practice over the past two years. Blogging is a whole different style of writing, more journal writing and exposition than narrative. Restaurant reviews especially can be a dry read. I’m trying to convey facts to my readers, while being concise and descriptive at the same time. I don’t want to just state my opinion, I want to show my readers why I have that opinion and what drove it. When it comes to service, if nothing’s out of the ordinary, I struggle with using the same stale sentences and descriptors. There’s also the matter of effort. Honestly, at times I’ll spent hours writing and editing a review, other times I’m just trying to churn out a post.


  1. Reading professional food critics, reading recipes, watching food TV and learning from all of these sources how to describe food. I’m always learning.
  2. Writing a draft, leaving it and then coming back to edit. Like any piece of writing, I can spend hours changing and re-writing a single sentence. The most efficient method of writing for me is not to dwell on one line, get all the words out and then come back to the post with fresh eyes. Sometimes I’ll remember an additional detail, or have thought of a better metaphor, all improvements that come with time for the post to stew.
  3. Always edit/re-read a post. It should be before the post is published, but even after, I try to re-read my writing to catch grammar mistakes or awkward sentences. I often rope The Fiance or friends into the editor role.


On May 30th, I got married! Check out our hashtag #xiaoandstephen for pictures of the big day.


What this means for xiaoEats, is that I’ll be away from blogging for the next 5 weeks. Here on out, all posts have been scheduled and written ahead of time.

The hubby and I will be travelling around Asia for the next 5 weeks, eating and celebrating with our families. If you’d like to come along (there will be lots of food), follow me on Twitter or Instagram

We’ll be hitting up 7 countries:

  • Suzhou / Shanghai
  • Hong Kong
  • Bali
  • Vietnam
  • Cambodia
  • Laos
  • Thailand

Squirrel FishXiao Long Bao!