Canada's best new restaurants - the contenders

October 25 2018

If ever there was a good way of looking out for evidence of the latest Canadian food trends, the opening of new restaurants is as reliable as it gets. 

Unless the establishment in question tries something unusual and fails - in which case that can safely be excluded from any list of trends - new restaurants will either focus on new types of cuisine or stick with traditional dishes. The latter would suggest that tried-and-trusted favourites remain in vogue, while new innovations - such as a growing number of vegetarian establishments - will indicate the emergence of popular new options. 

Lots of restaurants open all over the country each year, but some are sure to be better than others. Air Canada has taken on the task of trying to pinpoint the best of all. 

It produced a longlist this month of the 30 contenders for the title, which has been published on the Canada's Best New Restaurants website. What is immediately apparent is the sheer variety of cuisine on offer, suggesting there is plenty of room for both long-standing tradition and new tastes. 

That does not just apply to the kinds of foods Canadians have been eating for a long time. Indeed, this year's list focuses on culinary traditions that have been introduced from overseas, many of which are well established, and others less so. 

Managing director for brand at Air Canada Andy Shibata explained: "This year, we want to celebrate diversity in Canada's culinary culture and highlight chefs and restaurateurs with global backgrounds. Their achievements will be honoured and featured online and in Air Canada's enRoute onboard magazine."

For example, fans of Italian food may love Guilietta in Toronto, which appears willing to push the boat out with unorthodox dishes. The published image is of an octopus laced with what appears to be garlic butter and spinach, while its listing mentions the restaurant's braised goat dish. The Bread and Circus Trattoria in Calgary also brings some novelty, with squid ink pasta combined with octopus and prawn offering another superb pasta and seafood combo.

At the same time, more commonplace Italian dishes like pizza and tagliatelle still have their place, hence the listing of Elena in Montreal.

Sushi has been a more recent arrival, but is very popular and across town from Guilietta, Skippa has added a great new Japanese option to the Toronto dining scene. 

Those who fancy some street food-style Mexican dishes can try Cruz Tacos in Calgary, while Kiin in Toronto is a great Thai option and the Kanto 98 St Eatery in Edmonton is certainly different - anyone for banana ketchup? 

Not everything is geared solely to the cuisines of particular countries, however. For example, Bundok in Edmonton has a seasonal theme, suggesting diners can come back every few months just to enjoy the novelty of a much changed menu. Bar Kismet at Halifax in Nova Scotia continues the area's great seafood tradition. 

All this suggests that much of the new market is about offering plenty of international variety and some very innovative food sensations. 

The well-fed panel of experts will announce the final list of the top ten newcomers to the Canadian restaurant scene in November.