Living in a big city, I think it’s a bad idea to have a favourite restaurant. While I am often asked about my favourite restaurant, I never seem to have a ready answer. Having a go to destination in Toronto might mean that I forgo the chance to try something new. Limiting my opportunities to discover something special is no way to live! Toronto has thousands of options. Many of the city’s chefs develop and care for new dishes daily. They aim to create unique flavour combinations that make people smile, and I am always a willing patron.
I don’t mean to imply that I never return to the same place twice. While revisiting restaurant goes against my inherent nature to discover new foods, I admit that several places in Toronto should be visited often. Adega, which specializes in seafood, Portuguese, and Mediterranean, is one such a place. In each of my three visits to the restaurant, I have left feeling fulfilled, and even a little loved. Its staff seems to relish what they do, which consistently enhances the dining experience, and the menu offers up new surprises every time.
When my grandmother recently visited Toronto shortly before her 90th birthday, we decided to treat her to the Adega experience. She enjoys seafood, and with Adega located steps from our place on Bay Street, we decided it was the perfect dinner stop for the last evening of her vacation. Its friendly, relaxed atmosphere is both elegant and informal, and I knew she would feel at ease dining there. The first time we discovered Adega, my parents had joined us and never forgot the experience. My Dad was particularly enamoured and throws it out as a possible dining spot every time he comes to town.
After experiencing a number of poor service experiences through the week at other establishments, I was anxious for the stellar service we had grown accustomed to at Adega. We were not disappointed. I entered first, with the Little Man at my side, and with no reservation, asked if they had room for 6. We were in luck, and our party was seated immediately.
The dining experience at the restaurant is hard not to love. Once seated, the server promptly deposits a fresh bread basket and bowl of black olives onto the table. These olives are hard to forget. When I hear Adega mentioned or walk by its doors, I invariable think of the complimentary olives that start every meal off perfectly. After polishing off about a dozen of them, the appetizer I ordered arrived, Salt Cod Quennelles, which look like jalapeno poppers but taste infinitely better. I was instantly reminded of my love for this restaurant.
For the mains, Yashy went with the Grilled Squid, which was tender and quite delicious (one of the best Squid dishes in Toronto according to Yashy who orders this dish whenever she sees it on a menu), while I opted for the Saffron Seafood Risotto. Filled with mussels, shrimp, squid, and fresh fish, the risotto is my favorite dish to date at Adega, and I have had some great ones. My grandmother, notoriously hard to please, was very happy with the Pan-Roasted Herb Crusted Salmon she ordered. I was quite thankful for this dish too, as it seemed to be the only fish dish she truly enjoyed on her trip. I even got to try a little myself and it was quite good.
The kids have been coming here since they were newborns (Yashy visits more frequently than I do!) and while Adega does not have a kids menu, we have been able to identify a few dishes that we knew the kids would enjoy and went with the salmon for them as well. When she was a toddler, we convinced our Little Monkey that she might like salmon, pink being her favorite color, and she has enjoyed it ever since. Getting salmon at a restaurant is a special treat for the kids. When cooked right, it’s a dish that both of our kids love.
We know we take Adega for granted. The restaurant is little more than 200 steps from our condo. Since we are eager to explore new areas when we go out to eat, both with the kids and without, we rarely consider places close to home. When we do, we usually opt for one of the many places in our neighbourhood we have yet to try. Thankfully, my parents visit often and enjoy both the flavours and the convenience of Adega. After we all visited Portugal together in 2015, the cuisine at Adega brings back fond memories of the trip.
Adega is a hidden gem in Toronto. Its Trip Advisor rating is usually in the top 100, which is impressive given that more than 6,500 restaurants populate the list. It also has great ratings on Yelp and Tomato, whose users are hard to please. Yet, I find that the restaurant is never overflowing with patrons and I have never witnessed a line near its doors. It is located on Elm Street, placing it amidst a number of the city’s top rated restaurants, including the famous steakhouse, Barbarians and well known Italian restaurant, Oro. Competition for patrons in the area is fierce, but Adega holds its own. Its chefs serve up the best Portuguese dishes I have eaten in Toronto, and our family will never stop going back.