We left in search of Canada’s best new restaurants thinking 2012 was the year of the dragon. After a month of eating across the country, we returned knowing it’s the year of Toronto. With a flurry of lease signings and exhaust-fan installations, the city’s dining scene is 
on fire.

For the most part, the nation’s current restaurateurs are independent-minded, balancing high-quality food against low overhead. Locales tend to be smaller, often just 40 seats, including bar stools. With settings spare and industrial (although lampshades are back, covering that ubiquitous filament lighting), shouting is the new talking. Fortunately, there’s a lot to shout about. These winning addresses offer highly individualistic visions of food, rooted in local ethics yet not bound by them. If the 2012 restaurant is the culinary equivalent of skinny jeans, the tight quarters just bring you that much closer to Canada’s best cooks.