Travel Spotlight: Mike Cohen

TORONTO- You need not wonder why the City of Toronto’s tourism business continues to boom. Between Broadway musical productions, exciting attractions, wonderful dining options and a well earned title as Canada’s financial capital, our neighbour down Highway 401 is humming.

Tourism Toronto (www.seetorontonow.com) certainly considers Montreal an important market. Vanessa Somarrriba, the media relations manager for Canada and the USA recently came to Montreal for a few days to meet with journalists. She shared with me some interesting statistics: 2011 was another record year for tourism in Toronto as the number of hotel room nights sold surpassed nine million for the first time ever. Additionally, for the first time since 2006, Toronto has seen an increase in overnight visitors from the U.S., while emerging overseas markets continued to show growth.

We stayed at the Delta Chelsea (www.deltachelsea.com) for the first time. This is Canada’s largest hotel; and offers a variety of options in guestrooms and meeting space. Located in the heart of downtown Toronto at 33 Gerrard Street West, you happen to be only minutes from the city’s best shopping districts, notably the Toronto Eaton Centre, Yonge-Dundas Square, fantastic live theatre, vibrant nightlife and exciting attractions.

The hotel recently completed a $6 million renovation, including all hotel corridors, 270 guestrooms and the Market Garden There are an incredible 1,590 rooms in all at this facility, making it the largest hotel in the Canadian Commonwealth. There is a complimentary hotel shuttle, ideal for business travellers who need to get around the city during rush hour. Their health club gives you unlimited access to cardio and weight training equipment while enjoying a panoramic view of downtown Toronto. There are two pools here: one for adults-only and another which is part of the Family Fun Zone, featuring a 130 foot indoor ‘Corkscrew’ waterslide.

We had a spacious deluxe room, featuring modern and stylish residential furnishings, designer fabrics and black and white artwork. All rooms feature the Delta “Sanctuary Bed” with luxurious pillow top mattress, white striped bedding, plush duvet, designer cummerbund and accent pillow. There is a work desk, complimentary high-speed internet, an iron and ironing board, coffee/tea maker, bathrobe and hairdryer. I especially appreciated the excellent indoor parking lot, with unlimited in and out privileges.

For dinner one evening we were in the mood for steak and chose well in Bardi’s Steak House (www.bardis.com), located in the heart of downtown at 56 York Street near Front. This fine dining establishment began operating in 1966 and has been the recipient of the Wine Spectator Magazine Award Of Excellence since 1994.

Serving only certified Angus beef, steak cuts and sizes range from the classic filet mignon to the substantially sized Bardi’s special, an 18-to-20 ounce prime rib cut served with baked potato, French fries or rice. I chose the latter and it was spectacular. When I asked our waiter Chris, also the manager on duty, for some steak sauce he recommended I taste it first, “You won’t need it,” he warned. Well he was absolutely correct. A juicier steak I have not tasted in a long time. The filet mignon got rave reviews as well at our table. The actual menu includes a detailed explanation of each steak cut and a steak chart, describing the exact cooking process.

Besides the selection of salads, soups , appetizers (try the “wolfhead” cold smoked Atlantic salmon) and accompaniments, entrees also include golden scallops, rock lobster tails, Dover sole, Alaska king crab legs, surf and turf, fresh Atlantic salmon, chicken breast, back ribs, shish kebob and beef bourguignon. The restaurant seats 75 at the main level and 50 on the elegant second floor, which has an eye catching wine cellar. This is the pride and joy of owner Alex Manikas. For reservations call 416-366-9211

The Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) is currently presenting a major survey of masterworks by the most inventive and influential artist of the 20th century, Pablo Picasso. Canada’s Wonderland, home to the most exhilarating collection of rides and roller coasters in Canada, has introduced the country’s largest and fastest rollercoaster – Leviathan Last November EdgeWalk at the CN Tower was presented with the Guinness World Record for the “Highest External Walk on a Building.” Sky Zone is a new $1.4 million dollar facility which recently opened its doors in Mississauga.

Mike Cohen’s email address is info@mikecohen.ca. Follow his travels at www.sandboxworld.com/travel and on Twitter @mikecohen.ca

Bardi’s Steakhouse has consistently received Wine Spectator Magazine’s Award of Merit since 1994