270 Adelaide St W, Toronto
In the heart of downtown Toronto you'd be hard pressed to find a sexy lounge with a decent menu to offer. And let's be honest, a menu is one thing, an actual edible tasty meal is another. Fear not, I've found the place that has it all. It's called Spice Safar. It's a lounge, restaurant, cafe, bakery and high-end boutique. And it not only promises a luxurious experience, it delivers.
Nevermind that it was by invitation that we "journeyed" to the new Spice Safar location at Adelaide and John. We were ready to shell out for the night out, but thanks to executive chef Matthew Sullivan and the friendly crew running the place that evening, we were treated to a couple of couture mixology drinks and a full out taste of everything on their menu!
At $15.95 for a fancy mixology drink, you may think that the price tag is quite hefty but the unique concoction with modified molecular ingredients is surely a million light years away from your standard cosmo or lychee martini.
So it was incredibly hard to choose from the drinks menu with all the ingredients being so different and intriguing. We finally decided upon the Lavender Sour (vodka, lavender tea, cane juice, ginger, egg white) and the Blue Hemingway (rum, fresh cane sour, mint, hose bitters & flaming absinthe).
Their absinthe is made in-house and just watching our drinks being made was enough entertainment for the night (not to mention the fire show we got later on!)
The Lavender Sour and Blue Hemingway was served on a wooden trays along with a glass of sparkling water and grapefruit mousse to cleanse the palate. The mousse was so light and airy; I'd be happy just having my palate cleansed. Forever.
Miguel Aranda, Spice Safar's mixologist who fares from the Big Apple was away that evening but his apprentice Florian expertly concocted our drinks; making my Lavender Sour sans the egg white (something they're still working on perfecting and I have to admit I was a little bit relieved). The Lavender Sour was lovely - bringing to mind all things Hawaiian; distinctly tropical and refreshing.
The Blue Hemingway was crisp. My sharp yet, I suppose, inferior mixology-taste buds detected it to be a cross between mojito and absinthe. It was a lot easier to drink and more enjoyable than the Absinthe House Frappe we had at the Old Absinthe House in New Orleans.
Next were the dishes, mainly tapas style fare, starting with the special of the day, the executive chef's version of bruschetta: polenta topped with cheese and garnished with pea sprouts and grated endive and sprinkled with a Spanish olive oil (imported weekly).
Next was the Chicken Satay, marinated in Malaysian chili lemongrass sauce and grilled. Finished with a soy chili coconut glaze. $8.95
So you're thinking, how hard is it to mess up chicken skewers, right? Well, to compare let me remind you of the half-cooked meat sticks at Elephant & Castle. At Spice Safar? Great presentation and tasty to boot!
Mini Burgers - 3 Dry aged ground top sirloin patties, served on in house made poppy seed buns, with a cherry tomato relish, smoked gouda cheese and a fresh thyme and truffle aioli. $11.95
I could have eaten just the buns alone; they were so good! Add in the Kobe beef and the relish...these mini sliders were little bundles of joy (I say little out of context for the portions were quite generous).
Next up: the dumplings, chicken with fresh ginger $8.95 - pan seared and finished with yuzu juice and soy sauce. Filled with market vegetables, sweet and Yukon gold potatoes and sesame seeds.
Just looking at the photograph now, I'm reminded of the succulency and texture of this dish. Loved it...wanted want more!
Tagine - braised lamb shank, market vegetables, sultana raisins, Safar-inspired Moroccan spices. Served with peach chutney and grilled flatbread $9.95
I am admittedly not a lamb eater, however after the first bite (and then subsequent irresistable bites) ascertain they did something right; not only was the meat tender, the gravy was savory. You lamb-fans will love this dish; it's undoubtedly fresh - this I know because it reminded me (I know, I'm constanty reminiscing of past meals) of the organic lamb I ate growing up in Africa.
At this point we were already stuffed, and then to finish off Matt & Jaclyn brought out a lovely cheese platter!
Cheese charcuterie plate (for 2) - local artisanal cheese, served with a roasted almond and pistachio paste, seasonal fresh fruit, dried figs, in house made sour dough bread and marinated vegetables $19.95
If memory serves me well, there was a blue cheese from Guelph, and pasturized cows milk from North Bay and BC topped with pears, blueberries, kiwis and figs. So, you know how blue cheese stinks? This blue cheese was something else - no offending smell and such a mild taste (I even forgot my lactose-intolerancy for a while).
The pistachio paste and olive tapanade were both amazing! There were three degrees of Spanish olive oils, beginning with mild to a more peppery blend. Soooo good. And that bread! MMM.
Later we were impressed by Flo's amazing fireshow and absinthe shots. Smooth...both the show and the shot.
We'd like to thank (l-r) executive chef Matt, Jaclyn, Florian and Riyad for showing us a great time and letting us take photographs to remember the experience!
Here's a little excerpt on Matt Sullivan from their Facebook page:
The executive chef responsible to introduce the SpiceSafar food experience to Toronto has recently returned from a culinary journey on the Old Continent. Matthew not only worked at high-end gastro-pubs in Glasgow, Scotland, but he had the privilege to work with the most influential chef in UK’s history, Heston Blumenthal in his 3-star Michelin landmark restaurant. The Fat Duck has been voted by most critics as one of the two best restaurants in the world and is on the leading edge of molecular gastronomy. This extraordinary experience alone has fully prepared Matthew for the task of leading the team introducing the SAFAR couture comfort food to our Toronto audience. His creative flair, first rated skills in food sciences and his great wine knowledge all make him the perfect guide to take us all on truly flavorful epicurean discoveries.
Spice Safar is an innovative, elegant and aesthetically pleasing space with a concept unique to Toronto's restaurant scene. Can't wait to go back!