What does fine dining look like in Canada?

Canada is home to hundreds of excellent restaurants featuring delectable and creative cuisine, freshly-sourced local ingredients, and internationally-renowned chefs. Some of Canada’s most well-known chefs include Michael Smith, Lynn Crawford, and Rob Feenie, each of whom has seen success from television series, cookbooks, and restaurants across the country.

Canada is home to a variety of different cuisines. On the Atlantic coast, restaurants often feature fresh seafood like the infamous Canadian lobster. In Quebec, dishes are often inspired by French cuisine, and out West in Alberta, you’d be hard-pressed not to find beef on most menus. Since Canada is also home to immigrants from all over the world, local ingredients are often mixed with flavours from around the globe to create delightfully unique dishes.

Get the most out of your fine dining experience

Whether you’re splurging at one of these restaurants to celebrate an occasion or you’re a self-proclaimed foodie, you want to make sure you’re getting the most out of every dining experience.

Here are a few tips to help you out.

Ask the waiter for their recommendations

With high-quality food, you can expect service to match, so don’t be shy to ask the waiters for their opinion or ask questions about the menu.

Reserve a table in advance

Many fine dining restaurants are small and intimate, so spots fill up quickly. Avoid disappointment by calling to reserve with as much advance notice as possible.

Always dine with the right credit card

If you’re going to be dropping a few hundred dollars on dinner, then you should be making your money work for you. There are a few great choices for credit cards that are ideal for restaurants and dining out.

BMO eclipse Visa Infinite Privilege card

Apply for the BMO eclipse visa infinite

The new BMO Eclipse Visa Infinite Privilege* Card comes with a high annual fee ($499), but the rewards can be worth the initial price. You can earn five times the points on every dollar spent on dining*, so it’s possible to earn back on your fine dining experiences. The card also gives you access to the Visa Infinite Dining Series and the Visa Infinite Wine Country benefit*, granting you access to exclusive dining events with top chefs at restaurants across the country and complimentary tastings at select Canadian wineries.

Learn more about the BMO eclipse Visa Infinite Privilege* Card.

  • Terms and conditions apply

American Express Cobalt Card

Apply for the Amex Cobalt

If you’re looking for a more cost-effective option, check out the American Express Cobalt® Card. This card carries a $155.88 ($12.99 monthly fee) annual fee making it much more budget-friendly for those who prefer to pay monthly. You earn 5 points for every $1 spent at elible restaurants, bars, cafes, and on groceries, 3 points on eligible streaming subscriptions, 2 points on eligible transit, 1 point on everything else, and 1additional point on eligible hotel and car rental bookings via American Express Travel Online. There aren’t dining-specific perks like with the BMO eclipse Visa Infinite Privilege, but you’ll still have access to events and entertainment options with the Front of the Line program.

Learn more about the American Express Cobalt® Card.

Splurge on dessert

If fine dining is a once-a-year type of event for you, don’t hold back! You won’t blow your budget by indulging in dessert and a glass of wine or a cocktail.

The best fine dining experience from coast to coast

Every year, Canada’s 100 Best releases a list of their picks of the best restaurants in the country. The 2020 list included some veteran culinary titans and also a few newcomers to the scene. In 2020, Toronto and Montreal were home to half the restaurants on this list, so if you live in these cities or nearby, you’re spoiled for choice.

Here are some of the best restaurants in major Canadian cities and areas, according to Canada’s 100 Best.

The best fine dining in Toronto

Alo is currently ranked the number one restaurant in Canada, and with good reason. Their internationally-inspired menu blends together French, Japanese, and North American cuisine in dishes that include Malpeque oysters, stuffed pastas, and prime meats. The restaurant is also known for its three-hour long tasting menu, so be sure to clear your schedule and come hungry.

Another popular Toronto option is Giulietta, headed by Chefs Rob Rossi and David Minicucci. In case you couldn’t already tell, this is the best choice in the city for authentic and inspired Italian food, like their Pizza Giulietta, made with Sicilian pistachio, lardo di Modena, and smoked scamorza. The wildflower honey and pine nut tart are another customer favorite.

Husband-and-wife chef duo Michael Caballo and Tobey Nemeth run Edulis, an understated bistro with a loyal customer base. The Western European cuisine features the freshest in-season vegetables, seafood, wild mushrooms, and truffles.

For those who want to venture outside of Toronto, Langton Hall in Cambridge, Ontario is an excellent choice. Set in a picturesque country house hotel and spa, this restaurant led by Chef Jason Bangerter features ingredients fresh from their on-site garden.

The best fine dining in Montreal

The small yet humble Montreal staple, Joe Beef, comes in third overall on the list of best restaurants in Canada. While it may look like an understated eatery, this restaurant serves up some of the best food in Montreal. Their changing menu often includes favourites like lobster spaghetti, foie gras, and generous portions of shellfish.

Restaurant Toqué! sources the finest ingredients from around Quebec and brings them together in French and Asian cuisine with a Québécois twist in dishes like duck magret and razor clams. The best way to experience the menu here is with the seven-course tasting menu with selected wine pairings.

Montreal Plaza offers up quality food with a quirky presentation. Sashimi is draped and served over a plastic dinosaur, and the restaurant’s mood reflects this playful tone.

Another unique restaurant to visit is La Cabane Pied De Cochon. Run by Chef Martin Picard, you’ll find a traditional sugar shack fare with an Asian twist at this restaurant outside the city. Expect tons of maple syrup, lard, smoked meats, and more.

The best fine dining in Vancouver

Chef Jean-Christophe Poirier did his training at Montreal’s Toqué!, so it’s no surprise that his restaurant, St. Lawrence, brings Québécoise cuisine to the West Coast. You’ll find Oka cheese melted over pork chops, along with venison tourtière and maple mille-feuilles.

Located in Chinatown, Kissa Tanto is inspired by 1960s Tokyo jazz cafes and boasts a menu inspired by Japanese and Italian cuisine. The menu includes a seafood platter, pickled preserves like seaweed and kimchi, and extensive vegan options.

Hawksworth restaurant is the perfect spot for a chic meal in a stunning upscale interior. The menu features a slight Asian twist, with mouthwatering dishes such as sablefish with bok choy and yarrow meadows duck breast.

The best fine dining in Calgary

Despite the restaurant’s small size, Bar Von Der Fels still delivers on big flavour. The menu features a lot of seafood, like the customer-favourite Hasselback potatoes with fogo Island crab, as well as quality meats like lamb shoulder and charcoal-grilled pork toro.

Chef Darren MacLean, a contestant on Netflix’s The Final Table, heads Shokunin, a Calgary favourite. The menu displays the chef’s love of Japanese cuisine, featuring yakitori, eggplant and goat cheese tempura, bison tataki, and sake-infused cocktails.

If you’re after a bar atmosphere, head to Bridgette Bar, where you’ll find a wood and brick interior featuring a cozy fireplace. The menu contains a mix of hearty foods like pizza, pasta, wood oven-roasted meats, and vegetable dishes.

The best fine dining in Atlantic Canada

Raymond’s in St. John’s, Newfoundland features artwork, wines, and even dishware locally sourced from around the Atlantic provinces. The seven-course tasting menu regularly includes seasonal fresh seafood like snow crab as well as interesting meats such as moose.

If you’re in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Bar Kismet is the place to go for food that is equally stunning and delicious. With inspiration from French and Mediterranean cuisines, this restaurant features menu items like blackened octopus and raw scallops in a citrus dressing.

The Inn at Bay Fortune, located in Prince Edward Island, is led by renowned Canadian chef, Michael Smith and his wife, Chastity. The serene seaside inn is a beauty of its own, and the dining experience, Fireworks Fest, is second to none. Fireworks Fest is an interactive performance, lecture, and walking tour that includes cocktails and food; a popular attraction for hundreds of guests.

Bon appétit

Canada’s fine dining scene gets better every year. As menus are always updated to reflect what’s in season, don’t miss the chance to try new and exciting dishes and to show your support to Canadian chefs and restaurant staff that help make your dining experience exceptional.

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Montreal-born Alicia Schneider is a digital nomad that specializes in freelance content and travel writing. She has experience writing about financial topics such as invoicing and accounting as well as business technology and software. When she's not writing, she's exploring a new destination that most likely includes sun and a beach. You can see more of her work at aliciaschneider.com.

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