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Barque Butcher Bar on Roncesvalles is part butcher shop, part bar, just doors away from its full-on restaurant Barque. Offering "BBQ all day and night," you can get your meat to go or stay and have dishes over drinks.
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Review: Barquing up the right tree

 
By Alan A. Vernon, reviewed on June 18, 2015

I actually love to reward restaurants for demonstrating creativity. But rarely do I get the opportunity to rave both about the awesomeness of the food and the cleverness of the design; usually the two are mutually exclusive. Barque Butcher Bar is one of those notable...

I actually love to reward restaurants for demonstrating creativity. But rarely do I get the opportunity to rave both about the awesomeness of the food and the cleverness of the design; usually the two are mutually exclusive. Barque Butcher Bar is one of those notable exceptions. Not only does it deliver on dinner, but during the day it operates as a neighbourhood butcher shop. Just watching the transformation from retail meatery to happening restaurant is a treat unto itself. Fold down a few counters, slip up a few custom-made mid-century modern chairs and, presto, you have a bona fide hipster bar serving some pretty great eats.

For years, co-owners David Neinstein (also exec chef) and Jonathan Persofsky waited patiently for the opportunity to expand beyond their successful Barque Smokehouse on Roncesvalles, hoping one day to offer a more adult dining experience. Butcher Bar is that place. Gone is the fun, family friendly, free tabletop popcorn from Barque's; in its place BBQ corn nuts ($3, first bowl free) and an internationally influenced menu of BBQ snacks for when you just want to leave the kids at home. Not only will you be blown away by most of the food, but the prices are ridiculously affordable. And what isn't made in house, comes from up the street at Barque.

Though an asparagus salad ($9) is a tad skimpy in the freshly grilled asparagus department, accompaniments like blood orange, sunflower seeds and arugula, and not one but two yogurt dressings make this one worthy of a serious shout out. A classic tartare is updated with in-house, cold-smoked venison ($13) with pickled mustard seeds and cornichon, hard boiled pickled eggs and toasted crostini. Even more imagination, especially for a butcher, is evident in a seared black cod ($10) on crispy, deep fried sushi rice topped with a lime foam. So beautiful to behold, you'll want to gaze at it lovingly for a moment before you devour it mercilessly.

A jerk fried cornish hen ($11) with baby baked biscuits sounds great on paper, but doesn't quite translate well in the execution. An armour of batter is just too leaden with an overpowering scent of clove, and there's barely any flesh within. I know chicken may have been the pedestrian choice, but in this case it might have been the better one. At least then I would have something to dip into that finger lickin' good herbed honey.

But united we are about a poutine potato waffle ($9) with smoked mushroom gravy, candied smoked bacon and Quebec cheese curds. I can't believe that with all that's going on it isn't even remotely salty, a miracle unto itself. The evening's true star, however, is the chorizo ribs (four for $12). Barque made its reputation on its smoked meats and Butcher Bar is no different. Thickly cut and full of meat, these ribs haven't a gram of fat on them. Its pimento paste and garlic flavour is not only addictive, it mimics the spice signature of an actual chorizo sausage. Served in a warm, small, cast iron pan, with tangy ribbons of pickled vegetables, this dish, though pricey for the portion, is worth every penny. One more rib would do it.

And just when I thought no one could outdo Hopgood's Foodliner's homemade chocolate bar. Though not wrapped in cutesy kraft paper and tied up with string like at HF, this Mars bar replica with dark chocolate, nougat and hazelnut ($6) made me happier than a fat kid in a candy store. Even a fresh baked apple cranberry pie du jour ($6) boasts a beautiful crust and a perfectly tangy filling. This is homemade with a capital H.

Chef Jo Castrinos, who you might know from Portland Variety, might want to take a look at refining the dishes ever so slightly, but as it stands this Butcher Bar has all the basics securely in place. I expect great things to keep coming out of this kitchen.

Reviews are meant to describe a dining out experience at a given period in time and are the personal opinion of the writer.
All meals are paid for, including all taxes and gratuities. All reservations are made under assumed names. Menu items, prices and individuals mentioned in this review may not be up to date. Dine.TO encourages its users to share their feedback.

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