97 Harbord St.

Rating: ****
Dinner & drinks for two: $55

Messis has been on Harbord Street 12 years. Here’s how they are faring:

Décor: The space has a definite ’90s tinge to it, but it is sleek and simple enough that it looks modern: Blonde wood, dim lights work and surprisingly, carpet.

Feel: The vibe is serene and sophisticated but not snobbish, which is a delight. Our server Ken has his patter down and anticipates our needs. We ease back into our seas with sighs of delight.

Menu: There’s a bit of everything — seafood, pasta, pizza, meat — and there are just about as many specials as there are regular items, which is wonderful and rare. The only drawback? It makes it hard to choose.

Dishes: The Seared Jumbo Scallops ($9) with coconut, mango, pineapple, red pepper slaw are plump and moist with just a whisper of coconut. The Oven-Roasted Marinated Atlantic Salmon ($18.75) is fine, but plain. The Barbequed Herb Marinated Half Cornish Hen ($17.95) however, is tender and juicy, with a deep, spicy glaze. The accompanying sautéed red peppers, cremini mushrooms, asparagus, spinach and corn in sesame vinaigrette is complex and enriching.

Conclusion: Built to last. Great food, service and atmosphere. Oh, and they have a pretty patio too.

Dining out
FRENCH TRIP La Palette flourished in Kensington Market for years, but only had 10 tables. Now they have made the move on up to 492 Queen St. W., where the new large, dramatic space has 16-foot ceilings and an open kitchen near the front. Will Bourgignon de Bison and Confit de Canard stay on the new menu?

PASSPORT TO JAPAN Celebrating their 10 year anniversary, Daio Japanese Restaurant (45 Carlton St.) is one of Toronto’s finest establishments. Rice paper walls, servers in kimonos and authentic and unusual ingredients transport you to Japan. Call 416-260-2116 for info and reservations.

In brief
JUST KNIVES Eugene Ong, a former chef himself, has just opened up the coolest Japanese knife shop. Knife (658 Queen St. W.) just got in a new shipment of Misono/Sakai Takayuki knives. Many of T.O.’s top chefs have already stopped by to shop. If you’re serious about cooking, you’ll want to get your knives here.

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