Say the word “fusion” and the first thing that comes to mind is “Asian.” So try this fusion on for size: Czech/Serbian/Croatian/Hungarian, welded to Canadian ingredients and a Canuck sensibility.
Yet those are the very cuisines that are sharing plate space at Rakia Bar, a funky restaurant that opened last September in Toronto’s east end.
The first North American location of the Rakia Bar ‘chain’ that operates four locations (all in Serbia), the Toronto outpost straddles the worlds of bar/restaurant lounge with a thoroughly Bohemian charm.
A banquette, outfitted with a thick leather-esque pad strewn with throw cushions, stretches the length of a dining room whose bare-concrete floor, black ceiling and black-metal fixtures conjure industrial chic.
Filling one wall is an eye-catching etching of Nikola Tesla, Serbian-American inventor and pioneer of the alternating current supply system.
Appropriate for the winter months, the menu features hearty dishes whose fusion elements translate as “delicious.” For instance, a starter of Hungarian Fasirt, a flattened patty that’s tasty (though a tich dry), topped with sour cream and set atop a puree of eggplant and red pepper, all perched on a bun.
Main course brings a pork schnitzel, whose meat is thicker, pinker and juicier than the norm, and comes wrapped around melting sheep’s milk cheese. Bringing a touch of sweetness to the rich meat is a reduction of raspberry rakia and meat stock. Rakia, by the way, is a fruit brandy popular among the Balkan countries.
Rakia Bar stocks 40 types of the brandy, almost all imported from Serbia (with the exception of three that come from Oregon).
I try two, one made from Bartlett pears (bracingly strong and pure of flavour) and another, plum-based and scented with honey and macerated mint leaves (good depth and complexity).
Finishing off the evening is a selection of desserts made in-house under the supervision of one of the partner’s mothers. They include a dense apple walnut square and a moist, sophisticated marjolaine hazelnut cake.
This is a space that would be ideal for private events and corporate lunches. It can host 32 people for seated dining and 50 for standing cocktail.
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