Monday, June 16, 2008

Your ISIT guide to Toronto cuisine

For the benefit of ISIT attendees, here are some good places to eat in Toronto. This is not a comprehensive list, but for each place I'm listing, either I have eaten there personally or I'm relaying recommendations from others.

For your reference, I'm also giving maps with directions from the conference site. (The directions are given with driving in mind, so you might find more direct walking routes.)

This list is organized as follows: we begin with assorted restaurants close to the conference venue, then various interesting neighborhoods roughly in order of distance from the conference venue, and we end with some options for high-end cuisine.

Cost estimates, where given, are in Canadian dollars. Roughly speaking, $1 Canadian = $1 US = 0.65 Euro.

A note on tipping for foreign visitors: In Canada, a tip of 15% is expected at any restaurant with table service. Not giving a tip would be considered an insult.

Assorted Restaurants Close to the Conference Venue

General, by type

Best Burrito Anyplace: Try Burrito Boyz, 218 Adelaide St. W., and it will change the way you think about burritos. Try the halibut -- seriously. There are a couple of tables, but it's better to take your order to go. (Suggestion for a sunny day: take your burrito and sit in the grassy courtyard at Metro Hall, two blocks south on King Street.)
Vegan cuisine: Fressen , 478 Queen St. W., is a great vegan restaurant -- and I'm saying this as a committed carnivore.
Crepes: Cafe Crepe, 246 Queen St. W., has good sweet and savoury crepes, to eat in or take out, plus great coffee.
Burgers: Try Hero Burger, 79 Yonge St. (several other locations), for a nouveau-fast-food place making tasty burgers.
Pizza: Amato Pizza, 238 Queen St. W. (several other locations), makes a good slice. For an excellent "traditional" pizza restaurant, try Terroni, 57 Adelaide St. E. (a couple of other locations), but be prepared to pay $30-50 per person.
Italian and Local: Try Il Fornello, 214 King St. W. (several other locations). Famous for devoting part of its menu to an "all-Ontario" selection of local foods.
Defies categorization: The Queen Mother Cafe, 208 Queen St. W., refers to its cuisine as "pan-global", which is not what you might think from its name. Also great desserts.
Asian fusion: East, 240 Queen St. W., is famous for its excellent Pad Thai and spring rolls. (Another location close to the conference venue, under the name Spring Rolls, at 40 Dundas St. W.)
Korean/Japanese: Try HoSu, 254 Queen St. W.
Steak house: There's a local franchise of the good Ruth's Chris Steak House close to the conference venue. This will set you back around $100 for dinner.
American cuisine: Baton Rouge, 218 Yonge St. (access from the street or inside the Eaton Centre) has good burgers, steaks, and other Americana (note, in spite of the name there is not much Cajun cuisine on the menu). Also try: the Pickle Barrel, 312 Yonge St., for a wide-ranging, deli-style menu; and the City Grill, located at the north end of the Eaton Center, for a relaxing drink after a day of talks.
Something completely different: Gandhi Roti, 554 Queen St. W., makes the best roti in the city. Don't know what roti is? All the more reason to go -- get the butter chicken, and take your order to go.


If you're craving something to kick-start your morning, other than the conference coffee and pastries, there are a number of nice options within a short walk of the conference site:

The Senator, 249 Victoria St. -- a lovely old diner that makes great blueberry pancakes.
Fran's, 210 Victoria St. -- a newer place made up to look like an old diner (their original location, from 1940, is no longer operating). Pretty good, but I prefer the Senator.
Le Petit Dejeuner, 191 King St. E. (not open for breakfast Wed-Fri) -- Small space with big flavors, and worth the walk. Excellent crepes and omelettes.
B Espresso Bar, 111 Queen St. E. -- If all you want is coffee and a pastry, try this place, in the style of a modern Italian espresso bar. Great, great coffee.

Nearby restaurant clusters and food courts

Note, these have been less extensively tested by our crack team of restaurant experts.

Eaton Centre food court: A fairly large food court (including some healthy options) is found at the basement level of the Eaton Centre, at the corner of Queen St. W. and Yonge Street.
Financial Core food court: A better food court is found in the basement of the Toronto-Dominion Centre, at the southwest corner of Bay St. and King St. W. (for bonus points, try to find your way there without going outside, using the labyrinth PATH system; warning, you might disappear into a sea of corporate Canada and never be seen again).
Elm Street: Several upscale restaurants along a strip along Elm from Bay Street to Yonge Street.
John Street: A strip of decent restaurants, mostly chains, in the "entertainment district", on John from Richmond to Adelaide (plus a Hooters -- you've been warned).

For a truly Torontonian experience, try a hot dog (affectionately known as "street meat") from one of the ubiquitous sidewalk vendors. They're cheap, tasty, and city licensed.

Baldwin (Neighborhood)

Not too far from the conference site (a pleasant 15 minute walk), Baldwin Street features a short block of small, quirky, mostly inexpensive restaurants.

Eating Garden, 43 Baldwin St. -- A good Chinese restaurant that takes large groups. Voted "best place for a lunch meeting with Frank" by Frank Kschischang's graduate students.
Kon-Nichi-Wa, 31 Baldwin St. -- Not your average sushi place, this Japanese restaurant serves great don and udon dishes.
John's Italian Caffe, 27 Baldwin St. -- Good pasta and panini, with a nice patio.
Yung Sing Pastry Shop, 22 Baldwin St. -- If you're trying to stretch your per diem, and are looking for cheap, tasty food, this place has fed generations of poor University of Toronto students with its famous meat-filled steamed buns.
Kuni Sushi Ya, 20 Baldwin St. -- All you can eat sushi for dinner, enough said. (Note, all you can eat is not available at lunch.)
Vegetarian Haven, 17 Baldwin St. -- Pretty much as the name suggests, and carnivores also think it's delicious.
Matahari Grill, 39 Baldwin St. -- Malaysian cuisine.
Bodega, 30 Baldwin St. -- the most upscale restaurant on the Baldwin strip is a lovely French bistro. Expect to pay $30 per person at lunch, $50-70 at dinner.

Chinatown (Neighborhood)

A short walk from the conference site, Toronto's spectacular Chinatown is found largely along Spadnia Avenue from Queen Street to Dundas Street, and is packed with great Chinese and Vietnamese restaurants.

Lee Garden, 331 Spadina Ave. -- A good place for contemporary Chinese cuisine.
Pho Hung, 350 Spadina Ave. -- Great and cheap Vietnamese noodle soup, as well as other traditional Vietnamese cuisine. Note, this restaurant accepts payment in cash only.
Rol San, 323 Spadina Ave. -- Good dim sum. Must arrive before 11.30 on weekends or be prepared to wait to be seated.
Asian Legend, 418 Dundas St. W. -- Good for Shanghainese food.
Sichuan Garden, 359 Spadina Ave. -- Authentic Sichuan (i.e. spicy) cuisine. Not for the faint of heart.

Kensington Market (Neighborhood)

About a 20 minute walk from the conference venue, but definitely worth a look, is the hip and historical Kensington Market. See here and here for more information on this distinctive neighborhood. (Note, several new restaurants have recently opened here, but I'm reporting only the places I have tried.)

Supermarket, 268 Augusta Ave. -- A hip Asian fusion "tapas" place. Reservations recommended.
Rice Bar, 319 Augusta Ave. -- A tasty noodle place, good for lunch or dinner.
Moonbean Cafe, 30 St. Andrew St. -- An excellent place to take in the bohemian Market lifestyle -- the coffee is great, and so are the light snacks and desserts.

Bloor West "Sushi District" + Little Korea (Neighborhood)

If you're looking for inexpensive (but good) sushi, this is the place for you: a half dozen sushi restaurants on Bloor Street West, all within a few blocks of each other. (Subway access via Spadina or Bathurst stations.)

I have eaten at three of these places, and each is good:

Sushi on Bloor, 515 Bloor St. W.
New Generation Sushi, 493 Bloor St. W.
Tokyo Sushi, 362 Bloor St. W.

If you're in that neighborhood but not in the mood for sushi, Serra, 378 Bloor St. W., is a good and not-too-expensive Italian restaurant; while Dooney's Cafe, 511 Bloor St. W., is a decent bistro.

Another bonus in the neighborhood: walk a few steps west on Bloor Street, past Bathurst Street, to find Toronto's "Little Korea" neighborhood; several restaurants offer traditional Korean barbeque. I particularly recommend Korean Village, 628 Bloor St. W. (After eating there, have walnut cakes for dessert at Hodo Kwaja, 656 Bloor St. W.)

Not on Bloor Street West: If you're in the mood for inventive and upscale sushi, and don't mind paying $70-100 per person for it, try Hiro Sushi, 171 King St. E. The omakase (customized tasting menu) is recommended.

Greektown (Neighborhood)

A nice neighborhood of Greek (and other) restaurants can be found on Danforth Avenue, east of the Don River (subway access via Broadview, Chester, Pape, or Donlands stations -- check the map links).

Astoria Shish Kebob House, 390 Danforth Ave. -- Greek, great grilled meats and calamari, enormous portions.
Megas, 402 Danforth Ave. -- Greek cuisine.
Seven Numbers Danforth, 307 Danforth Ave. (another location on Eglinton). A good, traditional Italian restaurant. So named because companies in Ontario are assigned a seven-digit number if they can't think of a name.
Sakawaya, 867 Danforth Ave. -- T.J.'s favorite Japanese restaurant, with cheap and pretty good sushi and sashimi.
Caffe Demetre, 400 Danforth Ave. (several other locations) -- Serves ice cream, sundaes and coffee.
Embrujo Flamenco Tapas Restaurant, 97 Danforth Ave. -- Spanish restaurant.

India Bazaar (Neighborhood)

The India Bazaar is a neighborhood far from downtown, but worth checking out, on Gerard Street just west of Coxwell. I ate there once, but I can't remember what the place was called -- I only remember that it was great and the neighborhood was really interesting. (Streetcar access via the 506 line.)

Not in the India Bazaar: if you're looking for good Indian food closer to downtown, try The Host, 14 Prince Arthur Ave. Best naan in the city, but a little pricey -- $30 per person, $50 with drinks. (Subway access via St. George station.)

High end cuisine

Toronto has many options for those who enjoy high-end culinary artistry. As you might imagine, such creative cuisine does not come cheap: you should expect to pay $100-150 per person (or more) at any of the following restaurants. In spite of the expense, these restaurants are very popular, and reservations are generally mandatory.

George, 111 Queen St. E. -- Chef Lorenzo Loseto dishes out impeccably executed cuisine in an attractive room on the east side of downtown.
Colborne Lane, 45 Colborne St. -- Chef Claudio Aprile is a student of "molecular gastronomy," and is the most creative of Toronto's current field of chefs.
Thuet, 609 King St. W. -- Chef Marc Thuet's restaurant is an upscale French bistro with a strong Canadian influence.
Scaramouche, 1 Benvenuto Place -- Chef Keith Froggett serves fine cuisine in a room with a beautiful and panoramic view of downtown Toronto. (Ask to be seated in the dining room, rather than the pasta bar.)
C5, 100 Queen's Park -- Take in spectacular architecture, great city views, and modern cuisine at this restaurant in the Royal Ontario Museum.
Lai Wah Heen, 108 Chestnut St. -- Chef Ken Tam serves up the most recent trends in Chinese cuisine.

The weather on Mars

At the site of the Phoenix lander, anyway: Sunny, with a high of -26 C. [CSA via EC Weather Office]

The weather station on Phoenix was designed and built by a Canadian team led by York University researchers. Story here.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Paper in TWireless

See my recent paper in IEEE Transactions on Wireless Communications:

A. W. Eckford, J. P. K. Chu, and R. S. Adve, “Low complexity and fractional coded cooperation for wireless networks,” IEEE Trans. Wireless Commun., vol. 7, no. 5, pp. 1917-1929, May 2008. (PDF)

We consider demodulate-and-forward as a low-complexity cooperation technique, and develop a low-complexity "fractional" cooperation scheme, in which every node contributes as much as it can -- possibly not its full resources.