416 504 9463 | $5-$16 “Tapas”
So to be completely honest, I didn’t know much about Wine Bar before deciding to go there. Upon further inspection, it was once a celebrated Jamie Kennedy restaurant and also home of Scott Vivian (now of Beast). Today, there’s very little buzz about the place, but it’s conveniently located near Union so I managed to convince 20 friends to come with me to sample the menu.
Photo Credit: blogTO
Wine Bar bills itself as a ‘tapas’ style restaurant with some serious variety. The menu really is all over the place with no consistent culinary theme, which did worry me initially. I also wasn’t pleased to hear they had a Summerlicious menu, so I abstained from those choices. Others at the table liked the good value though, so we ordered a mix of everything. It’s also worth noting that the dishes change, so you likely won’t be eating what we did.
I started with some mixed greens, apple, cheddar, grapes, spiced cashews, and mustard vinaigrette. This was actually pretty tasty overall. The cashew, grape, apple combo was dead-on. I’ll say the cheddar wasn’t very apparent, which was surprising given it was called an ‘apple and cheddar salad’.
Next up was a mixed platter of crostini/bread, prosciutto, chorizo, grainy mustard, pickles and pickled cauliflower. Again, the flavours were pretty satisfying. None of the ingredients wowed in particular, but they all worked.
Some friends of mine got the crab cake topped with some smoked salmon. This was probably my best bite. I’d never had a cake topped with salmon and I’d definitely do it again. Really appreciated the crab/salmon duo.
Next up was butter chicken poutine. I know, what the hell is this doing on the menu and why did you order it? I didn’t, but when there are 20 of you, someone’s going to take the plunge. Kudos to them though - it tasted good! Texturally, it was pretty soggy throughout, but I wasn’t complaining.
I believe the above steak dish was one of the Summerlicious options, and I think it showed. The presentation wasn’t very appealing, the leek underneath was served whole and stringy, and I heard a lot of people around the table say the word ‘Ziggy’s’ when they had the potato salad. As for the protein, the steak was prepared well with a sweet glaze that was met with mixed reviews around the table.
This was a pork shoulder with couscous from what I can remember. I think there was also an apple component here of some kind, just can’t remember if it was a glaze or what. I’ll say the portion size definitely wasn’t ‘tapas’ (could be a positive or negative), but from what I remember, it wasn’t bad. Quite tender, but fatty and didn’t get much flavour from it.
The beef cheek with root vegetables was the apple of my eye on the menu, but I’ll say I was kind of disappointed. While fork tender and melt-in-your-mouth, I found the cheek kind of bland and tasteless. Possibly under-seasoned? The potatoes and carrots around didn’t do much to that effect either.
We finished up with two desserts, the first was a strawberry creme brulee topped with berries and the other was an apple crumble.
The strawberry was quite sublte in the creme. I had trouble finding it, but others said it was there so I took their word for it. To be honest, I don’t have any memory of the crumble.
I know this is a wine bar so I feel obliged to make a quick amateur comment about it. The menu has a ton of choice by the bottle and decent amount by the glass with 3oz tasters available as well.
It is pricey though. I can’t remember if the wine menu in person matches the one online, but there’s only one glass under $10 which doesn’t make it very accessible for those looking for something simpler with their meal.
Service and Ambience
I like the design of the place. It’s dark and warm with a ton of seating around the bars on either side of the room. I was also really impressed that they managed to seat so many of us in the main dining area. The table they set up can seat 16 comfortably, but we managed to squeeze in a few more.
Photo Credit: DiningDateNight.com
From a service perspective, I have to really commend our server and the kitchen. We had 20 people all on separate bills, several of which arrived and ordered at different times. Everyone’s food came out shortly after ordering and there were barely any mistakes on the checks at the end of the night. Really impressive.
I was surprised by Wine Bar. The menu variety freaked me out a bit and I wasn’t a fan of the Summerlicious menu, but I did try some tasty things here. My hesitation with going to three stars is that none of the ‘mains’ were particularly strong and I didn’t have any ‘gotta order this again!’ moments. I might be back for a few bites if I’m in the area, but I wouldn’t put this among the better tapas in the city.
kiki’s BFF | Nothing else recent
Posted by: Jacob, Visited July 20, 2012