Aria (Toronto)

Location: Toronto, Canada
Address: 25 York Street
Website: http://ariaristorante.ca/
Type of Meal: Dinner


Aria is located in Maple Leaf Square a bustling area filled with people and lights connecting to Union Station and the Air Canada Centre.  Conversely, the restaurant is a tranquil environment with soaring ceilings, spectacular light fixtures, dim lighting and hushed conversations. For me, it’s not the venue you’d visit for a quick bite before a game or concert; but, if you’re not pressed for time and money also isn’t a concern than the restaurant certainly offers a better chance at scoring a table than the rowdy Real Sports.

During Winterlicious, Aria was offering a 3-course menu for $45 - the perfect opportunity to try this relatively expensive restaurant. Unfortunately, the dishes offered are not part of their regular menu, so if something sounds delicious you will not find it during a regular visit. However, the meal did provide an indication that their chef puts together hearty dishes which although are simple, ties together flavours quite nicely. 

The seared scallops had a beautiful crust as you’d expect. Done a touch on the rarer side it was barely cooked throughout and quite tender. Sitting on a bed of cauliflower puree, which was smooth and creamy (anything but healthy), it worked as a nice sauce to spread onto the scallops.


At first, I was a bit hesitant to order this appetizer on account of the raisins, pine nuts and capers described on the menu. Fruit and nuts with seafood seem like a bad combination and capers only really go well when done in moderation. I was pleasantly surprised with the finished dish; each of the elements weren’t overpowering and actually worked pretty well with the scallops. The raisins had been soaked and not overly sweet, the pine nuts also just a slight bite to it, while the capers must have been mixed into one of the purees as there wasn’t one in sight.

While the braised veal cheek didn’t have the most impressive plating, the meat itself was absolutely delicious. Having been braised for hours it fell apart with a simple poke of the fork and simply melted in your mouth. Soft stewed chestnuts added a nice earthiness to the beef with some sweetness from the pumpkin and potato mash. For my taste, the mash was a tad too sweet as I tend to like more savoury dishes but it wasn’t a deal breaker.


With the green chard leaves topping the veal cheek, I managed to find a piece that hadn’t wilted in the sauce and realized the chard was roasted beforehand.  This roasted piece added such a nice contrast to the meat that I wish more of them had lasted… perhaps scattering some of them around the plate rather than directly on the meat could accomplish this?

Lastly, I ended with the bonet chocolate dessert from Piemonte (a region in Italy), following our waiter’s recommendation. The dome is a mix between a chocolate mousse and panna cotta texture and sits on a disc of chocolate cake. Sitting in a pool of butterscotch caramel with a scope of amaretto gelato beside it, the dessert was rich and decadent. Thankfully, not overly sweet dark chocolate was used for the bonet, which paired nicely with the sweet caramel sauce.


The passion fruit panna cotta also interested me as it had pop rocks in it – who doesn’t like these little candies? Luckily for me, my friend ordered it and generously offered me a taste. Boy it was good! A nice smooth base and then ever so slightly the pop rocks activate, causing a pause while you just hold the dessert in your mouth and let the tingling feeling erupt. The coconut macaroon cookie on top was soft, chewy and not too sugary; for a person who doesn’t like dried coconut I found the macaroon quite tasty.  Alas, this dessert was the better one in my opinion – inventive, fresh and surprising. What a great way to end the meal.


Service was professional and attentive, with wine and water glasses filled discretely without interrupting conversations.  The only inconvenience happened when I had to visit the toilet and found they were located outside in the office building which required pass card access. With no hostess at the podium, I had to interrupt a waiter who accompanied me to the door to swipe me in. For such an upscale restaurant, they should have seriously considered making their own toilets to avoid such a hassle for their guests.

Overall, I was satisfied with my meal at Aria and surprised with the poor rating they’ve been receiving on Urbanspoon. Most visitors complain about the portion sizes (yes a bit on the smaller side), cost (indeed during non-Winterlicious periods is expensive) and overuse of salt (didn’t bother me a bit). So, I heed the warning once again – if you’re looking for a meal before a game or concert this isn’t the optimal venue. But, if you’re seeking a quiet serene environment to really focus on your guests and conversations, Aria is perfect for that. Of course, if their pricing is what’s stopping you from visiting, then there’s always Summerlicious in July!

Is Winterlicious worth it?

As a special feature to the Winterlicious blogs, I will attempt to calculate the savings being offered (based on my meal selection).

Winterlicious - $45

Regular menu - $61 - scallops* ($14), veal cheek* ($35) and bonet* ($12)

Savings - $16 or 26%

* All the items aren't on their regular menu; prices based on the calamari fritti, braised bison and other desserts

Overall mark - 7.5 out of 10

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Gastro World's Grading System
  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!

Aria on Urbanspoon