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The Menu: Toronto (March 18, 2004)

book review
by Sheila Swerling-Puritt

Jeremy Ferguson, The Menu: Toronto (Ten Speed Press, 376 pages, 2004, $23.95)

If Brillat-Savarin, who once said "Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are," had ever met award-winning Toronto travel and food writer Jeremy Ferguson, they would have had a jolly time. Ferguson has just published The Menu: Toronto, a compilation of 175 Toronto restaurant reviews with sample menus to indicate styles and prices. Quite dissimilar to the Zagat Guide, which compiles the input of hundreds of diners to arrive at its list of restaurants, it's a personal sort of book based on standards defined at the outset.

Ferguson has eaten at each of the restaurants in his book, and obviously likes them. He provides a brief but insightful appraisal of each, new restaurants, old restaurants, swank restaurants, ethnic restaurants (where else will you find an eatery serving up 58 varieties of Chinese rice porridge?). Yes, it's a book for foodies like Ferguson himself: "She [his wife] reminds me of the time I mistook a sign reading 'Bonnes Fetes' for 'Pommes Frites,'" he writes. "At such moments, we both know I am lost forever."

The book lists the restaurants alphabetically, which makes searching for Ferguson's finds an easy job. Let's see, how long will it take to go from Agora to Zucca? I bought two copies, keeping one in my car and the other by my home telephone.

If the book has a shortcoming, it's the usual: The restaurant business is such a volatile one that by the time I bought my copies, restaurants such as Rouge and Steakfrites had already closed and were looking for new incarnations. Also, it would have been impossible to list every restaurant in Toronto. But The Menu: Toronto brings an idiosyncratic and entertaining voice to the Toronto dining scene and may send the reader in unexpected directions.

 

 

 

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