The Best Canadian Restaurants for Your Next Business Dinner

Six places to impress a colleague or client, from Canada’s Best New Restaurants 2019 writer Nancy Matsumoto.

Sunnyside up egg, squash and coriander, Arvi

Arvi

The casual vibe at this industrial-meets-mid-century-modern Limoilou space – abetted by Bob Marley on the sound system and the T-shirt-and-apron-clad staff – disguises a classically trained, seriously creative chef. French-born Julien Masia has positioned his open kitchen like a thrust stage surrounded by tables on three sides. Guests can watch each player juggle roles, morphing from chef to sommelier to server with ease. Here’s Masia searing juicy veal rib-eye tataki-style (grilled outside, blue on the inside), there he is bringing it to your table bathed in a tart Spanish-sherry vinaigrette along with grilled baby romaine and a velvety sauce of two-year-old cheddar. He might pair it with a spicy-edged La Cantina 2017 Oka Valley pinot, a worthy match for the dish’s veal-jus vinaigrette. Be prepared to prepay for dinner when you reserve one of two tasting menus (one vegetarian, one for meat eaters, both spectacular), leaving only drinks and sides to cover after you’ve dined.
519, 3e Avenue, Quebec City, 581-742-4202, restaurantarvi.ca

Grilled sweetbread, Monarque

Monarque

If bedazzling the client is the mission at hand, look no further than this sprawling Victoria Square space, where chef Richard Bastien is serving up nouvelle Québécoise cuisine in three sumptuously appointed rooms. The long marble bar, fan-patterned tile floors, flattering Simon Johns light fixtures and buttery leather banquettes make every guest feel like they’re starring in their own movie. Crispy and creamy sweetbreads hide amid a welter of Middle Eastern-spiced purple carrots, all resting on a mound of labneh and laced with a bright-orange chermoula sauce. Charcoal-grilled lobster is suitably opulent with ricotta gnocchi, fresh peas and lobster-butter hollandaise. The monumental wine list – a whole section of which is dedicated to vin orange – will not leave you high and dry.
406, Rue Saint-Jacques, Montreal, 514-875-3896, restaurantmonarque.ca

Beef celtuce, Pastel

Photo: Mickael A. Bandassak

Pastel

Elegance and a sense of play animate the experience at this airy, brick-clad Old Montreal space from the duo who made Fantôme a hit, chef Jason Morris and front-of-house presence Kabir Kapoor. Choose from three different tasting menus, with optional wine or zero-proof pairings that skew natural and biodynamic (and even include the occasional bottle of sake!), but with a light, non-dogmatic hand. We loved the beef shoulder grilled like steak, wrapped in a mousseline of trumpet mushrooms, which sat like best friends next to a meaty short-rib-stuffed morel. To get in the spirit, wear pastel colours – you’ll fit right in with the fresh decor.
124, Rue McGill, Montreal, 514-395-9015, restopastel.com

Baked oysters with smoked eel and parmesan, Dreyfus

Photo: Graydon Herriott

Dreyfus

You’ll know your business mate better after dinner in this tiny Gallic bistro on Harbord, but it will also have been worth it just to dig into some of chef Zach Kolomeir’s impressively dialled-in food. A Montreal transplant late of Joe Beef sister restaurant Liverpool House, he brings with him la belle province’s best sort of soigné culinary sensibility, which shows up in everything from cold rolls of shoulder ham stuffed with remoulade-dressed celery root and fennel to deep-fried squash blossoms stuffed with pork and lobster – delicious down to their tender stems. Ask Zach’s partner Carmelina what she’s got open and is pouring tonight. Whether it’s a La Stoppa Trebbiolo red from Emilia-Romagna or a Celler Credo Miranius from Penedès, Spain, you won’t be disappointed.
96 Harbord St., Toronto, 416-323-1385, instagram.com/dreyfustoronto

Fishsticks and peas with dipping sauce, Le Swan

Photo: Jenna Wakani

Le Swan

For the client itching to get out of the confines of Bay Street, head to Queen West to check out one of the latest offerings from serial restaurant impresario Jen Agg. She took a favourite family diner, kept the retro wooden booths and revolving counter stools, but upgraded the decor with delicate, pink-rose-strewn walls, arch-necked ceramic swans and a 1950s- and ’60s-era soundtrack. On the menu, you’ll find diner classics like tuna melts and pork chop with applesauce on one side, and on the other French bistro classics, including a bright and creamy smoked-trout rillette (served on a soft blini and dotted with caviar) and sole meunière. There’s a late-night fondue menu, and to drink, a well-curated list of cocktails and domestic and (mostly) Old World wines.
892 Queen St. W., Toronto, 416-536-4440, leswan.ca

Grilled cold smoked pork chop, polenta, carrots, salsa verde, pork rinds, Hearth

Photo: Chad Reynolds

Hearth

In a tiny, residential-area strip mall, a 10-minute drive from downtown Saskatoon, chef-owners Beth Rogers and Thayne Robstad are throwing down refined takes on prairie comfort food in a homey, plant-strewn room. A crisp-skinned, juicily tender steelhead trout fillet rests on a bed of julienned potatoes, showered with slivers of mint and marinated mustard seeds. The meaty chanterelles and morels that the chefs like to forage play starring roles in a rotating cast of dishes, and the beautiful vintage china plates and county-fair-prize-worthy housemade pies channel the most talented and tasteful of prairie grandmas.

2404 Melrose Ave., Saskatoon, 306-664-6677, hearth.restaurant