Upstairs, Downstairs

I’ve been a fan of the Toronto restaurant Far Niente for years. Located in the heart of the Financial District, it’s changed a lot over the past decade, morphing from a fairly casual California-winery-style open dining space with simple wooden tables and chairs into a sleek and expensive restaurant with leather banquettes and sultry lighting. The food has been excellent throughout, and when I was re-reviewing it recently, I found that the staff and the kitchen were considerate and informed about the gluten-free diet.

Still, it was a pleasant surprise to learn that a new, moderately priced restaurant had recently opened in Far Niente’s basement, where there used to be a bar. The restaurant, Four, was one of my favorite finds on my latest visit to Toronto. Four advertises itself as having a “balanced approach to guilt-free dining,” and while I’m forever skeptical about health food, it turns out that good-for-you can mean delicious. Every dish on the menu is less than 650 calories. That’s not such a feat with a starter salad like the beet-and-pear with goat cheese, but it’s pretty impressive with main courses like the delicious ocean trout with beluga lentils and sherry-mustard-dressed greens.

Four isn’t such a health-oriented place that they neglect the cocktail list: it’s particularly lengthy (locals still come here just to schmooze around the bar), and the pernod-chambord-raspberry cocktail is lovely. Service at Four is friendly and helpful, and the staff is well-versed in the gluten-free diet. At lunch, they offer sandwiches on gluten-free bread, and at both lunch and dinner there are pasta dishes made with buckwheat noodles (there’s also a spelt fusilli as another option for those allergic to wheat, though it’s not celiac-safe).

My dining companion, a friend who doesn’t have celiac disease, was just as thrilled with Four as I was. We’re both planning to go back soon… I just need to wait for my next visit to Toronto.

Far Niente [address] 187 Bay St. (at Wellington St.), Toronto, Ontario, Canada [tel] 416-214-9922 [web] www.farnientegrill.com

Four [address] 187 Bay St. (lower level) [tel] 416-368-1444 [web] www.fourtoronto.com

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