For a while, it’s seemed that Toronto’s food scene might forever outpace its beverage counterpart. Consumers care deeply about the origin and quality of their meals but continue to pass an evening ordering watered-down vodka sodas and horrible overly sweet concoctions served in martini glasses with names like The Jolly Rancher. (Note: there’s nothing wrong with a good vodka soda.) Fortunately, the city has enjoyed a recent upswing in cocktail culture. It’s becoming almost as easy to find innovative drinks as it is to find innovative food.
One of the people we have to thank for that is Moses McIntee. In the past five years, McIntee’s made his mixology mark on Toronto at such places as Nota Bene, Spoke Club, Ame and The Ritz-Carlton. It’s no surprise that the man got his start in the restaurant industry working in the kitchen: His attention to detail in pairing flavours is almost unparalleled, making a seat at his bar a destination for those in the know.
With the closing of the short-lived Bohemian Gastropub at Queen & Portland, McIntee found an opportunity, and location, to blend his own concept of artisanal food and drinks. Lucid Cocktail & Kitchen, opened last week, features a dizzying list of drinks (about 100) with an ingeniously simple menu that categorizes by spirit and whether they sport notes of sour, sweet, bitter or savoury. From classics like Negronis to pretty adventurous ideas like The Saffron Don and Kiss Me You Crazy Indian (tamarind and vodka, anyone?), variety really is the spice, here. Add to that the bevvy staples — wine and beer — and throw in some tableside “experience” cocktails (expect liquid nitrogen, other earmarks of molecular gastronomy, and some serious flair) and there is pretty much something for whatever one’s taste might be. Yes, that includes a good vodka soda.
Our amaro loschiavo — a blockbuster that marries the sweet smokiness of bourbon with bitter Italian liqueurs served as a perfect appetizer to….our appetizer. This is because Lucid promises to be every bit the haven for lovers of good food. Chef Rob Richardson (formerly at Boehmer and Paese) matches the passion and attention behind the bar in the kitchen, turning out a card of locally sourced, Mediterranean-inspired dishes until 2 a.m. The menu boasts gems like game tartar, fresh oysters, sirloin and short-rib burger, wood-oven pizza, cassoulet and the invitingly named Duck Duck Pig (which only further supports the space’s brasserie vibe). On our visit, the venison tartar and spice-rubbed steak accompanied by Brussels sprouts & toasted hazelnuts are definite winners.
Lining the walls of the otherwise warmly modern Lucid Cocktail & Kitchen are a few pieces with an art nouveau–feel — a nod to what is perceived as the “golden age” of mixology. A good call, because Lucid is definitely the next player in Toronto’s beverage renaissance. 571 Queen St. West, 416-361-6154
Image courtesy of RLHyde.