I HEART Eastern Europe.
I had a taste of what the region has to offer when backpacking through Europe with stops in Budapest and Bratislava in the summer of 2006. Since moving to Toronto I’ve always wished there were more options showcasing the good stuff: we have Polish Cafe Polonez on Roncy, Croatian watering hole Hrvati Bar and Country Style Hungarian in the Annex. When I heard that a Serbian restaurant and bar had opened in the East End (just below your favorite Queen Margherita Pizza) I was excited to say the least.
Originating and quickly exploding onto the Belgrade scene over the space of a few short years, Rakia Bar has successfully expanded into Austria, Germany and now, it’s crossed the ocean and taken root in Toronto – a unique first for North America.
I arrived on a sunny Fall afternoon just before 1pm. I was rather pleased to know that I would be sipping on fruit centric spirits and eating dishes cooked in pork fat (such comfort on a cool Autumnal afternoon). I opened the door and was greeted by an massive bar top which runs the left side of the space and a dining room which features bench seating, plush pillows and comfy pink chairs.
The restaurants GM spent the duration of the meal chatting with me about his Hungarian roots and passion for Eastern European inspired food and drink. He started me off with two Rakia cocktails featuring plum and cherry brandy. While in Budapest I sampled a few similar fruit based brandies that I was double dared to shoot out of a glass, causing me to fall out of my chair. The cocktails both had their own unique character and were a sublime way to refresh my senses on a Wednesday afternoon.
The food I sampled was truly exceptional and while my eyes shot across the menu I couldn’t help but think what a perfect date spot this would be. The vibe is fantastic and I was advised a gypsy band plays on certain nights of the week! The residents of Leslieville will surely rejoice as Rakia also serves brunch on weekends! A welcome addition to a stretch of Queen Street East in need of a little action.
“Must Have’s” include the Gibanica and Duck Leg Paprikash, the perfect comfort food now that we are slipping into the cold winter months. If you are looking to visit in the evening be sure to warm up with a rakia tasting, the 40% fruit spirits will certainly have you blushing.
Toronto’s newest ode to Eastern Europe offers Toronto’s adventurous palates a new place to bring the party. After spending one cool afternoon sampling their innovative cocktails and signature dishes Rakia now sits on my Toronto Top Restaurant List.
Quincessential Quince Rakia
plum brandy, ginger, lemon juice, honey
cherry brandy, clove, cinnamon, cherry juice syrup
Scotch Duck Egg
caramelized peach, warm spinach salad
Hen of Woods Gibanica
mushrooms, farm fresh veg, brown butter hollandaise
venison, boar, lamb, sour cherry and onion preserve, whipped herb kaymak, lepinya
Duck Leg Paprikash
pan roasted duck breast, nokedli