Tuesday, April 19, 2011

416 Snack Bar

It only opened at the end of January, and the 416 Snack Bar will not be ignored. I've been hearing buzz about this place since before it opened, actually. They're not spin doctors, but with a playful Toronto inspired theme and an active (ancient) blog which leaked sneak peeks building up to the opening, 416 hit the ground running. With food inspired by Chinatown, the new meat revolution happening in Toronto, and even our street meat, I finally have gotten to try their offerings, with my friends Trevor and Jenn in tow. At a classy little spot just off Queen at 181 Bathurst, the food is served tapas-style in portions that only make for a few bites. It's a great way to encourage the clientele to try everything. We nearly did, only skipping out on two dinner items, and a dessert! Inside it's dark and intimate, lots of wood and an industrial barn vibe. I did find the staff a little difficult to begin with, when trying to figure out a table. There aren't a lot of seats, and they don't do reservations. If you get there at dinner peak, expect to sit at the bar or share a table with strangers. Make some friends! Throughout our stay they were attentive and friendly, but it's also just hard to forget people at the bar.
All food prices are tax included.

Just once before have I had oysters, and I was very lucky to get to eat them in P.E.I., caught fresh that morning. It's not much of a compass, especially since that was two years ago. I was excited to try these, just to jog my memory about what the big deal is. The plating was beautiful and playful, each oyster perched on a mound of sea salt. There was fresh dry horseradish, a lemon wedge, and a dish or Worchestire sauce. For this I think the sides were crucial, since they were as fresh and flavourful as possible, especially the horseradish. I do feel that the oysters were not perfectly fresh. Keep in mind I'm no expert. I still enjoyed them for the taste of wild water they carried. I think it would be easier to appreciate them during the heat of summer.

Microscopically thin slices of apple were served with a small stick of very, very tasty B.C. unpasteurised cow's milk cheese (I had taken the name down as Alpidon, from Coutigny, but I must have spelled everything wrong since I can't find that cheese online). The crackers cracker me up because they were a very simple variety. I like that, for all the pomp of the cheese board, the crackers were unassuming. The cheese was a firm, mild flavoured cheese with a salty bite, and strong flavour of rind. All this was served with a bright orange jelly that had a strong flavour of honey. It was a very satisfying combination.

The second time in as many weeks that I got to nibble on some gravlax! This time I was prepared with answers when my friendly woefully began to wonder about what such a thing could be- cured pacific salmon, in the case of 416. There isn't a lot I can say about this, since I didn't try it. Jenn had it, and was very impressed, debating for a while about ordering a second serving- remember, these servings are tiny! The latkes were crackling hot when they arrived and smelled very oniony.

Jenn and I both wound up trying the spanakopita. While I wouldn't think of it as Toronto0iconic, I do love a good spanakopita- or Greek spinach pie, by another common term for it. 416 serves it up with a few layers of filo and a small bit of filling for the heart. It was buttery and flaky, but lacked substance. Airy, really. I was impressed with the tzatziki sauce which had a lemony zest and heaps of garlic.

Do I ever love a hand rolls. There was so much going on in this guy. There was julienne carrot, what tasted like bamboo shoots, and a crispy tofu so flavourful that I thought it was meat. The rice was hot, sticky and brown- good, I like to pretend things are healthy! I suspect there was mushroom in the pile of filling, because there was a very shiitake flavour. I couldn't examine. With hand rolls, once you start you really can't stop!

Banh-mi is a sandwich which is a creation from French occupied Vietnam, when the Vietnamese got to experience baguette. Using stuffing from their own country, this incredible foodstuff was invented, and has travelled to Toronto (and the world!). This version had julienned carrot, daikon, possibly cilantro, red onion and cucumbers. What I found so interesting about it was that the pork had a noticeable cinnamon flavour. It was fatty (almost creamy) and succulent, and wasn't overpowered by the many vegetables heaped into this palm-sized nibble. the fattiness, probably from a pate inside, was not a turn off since the manageable portion made it guilt-free. This was also much, much fresher than what I've had from Chinatown (obviously). The heat and sizzle made this one of my favourites.

Pretty much what it sounds like. Depending on what the chefs feel like making 'fried thing' changes per visit. Today it was olives stuffed with pate, then battered and fried. We burned out tongues on the juices! There was five or six of them, piping hot with brine and hot fat from the pate. I really liked them as something to pop while we ordered other food. They were salty and the batter was crunchy. I couldn't help feeling that hot pate winds up tasting a little bit like hot dog - well, I'm a classy lady. 3$

NAPOLITANO pizza pocket, not a Neapolitan pizza pocket. was I secretly craving ice cream? Am I still? These are questions for our age. It was incredibly dense and cheesy, probably the most filling thing on the menu. The marinara sauce on the side was great for dipping, and the pocket had a flavour of onion in the cheese. 4$

My final favourite! While there are a lot of similarities to the banh-mi (many of the same stuffing, which makes it easy for them to assemble at the small bar-side grill station), this was just different enough to make it jump out at me. The bun was like a thick, steamed taco, with everything folded into it. It was chewy and denser than the fluffy baguette of the banh-mi. This meat may have been different as well. It was a sweet pork, very fatty again/

Another thing I didn't get to try! By the time Trevor ordered this I was not feeling the sweets, so wrapped up in savoury heaven had I become. The uptown cinnamon bun seemed to be a run of the mill cinnamon bun, though fresh. It looked a little self-conscious on its plate, but I'm sure it tasted good. The dough was heavy and packed with spices.

This comic might make me seem a bit cruel, but I really do think oysters and mussels taste completely different. I guess both are a bit gross if they're not perfectly fresh.
416 Snack Bar on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

  1. It's always a good day when you find a blog like your's...just came across it. It's lovely - food and drawings - doesn't get any better. And yes, seafood fresh and nothing less.