I love boutique hotels. I love the small scale and the immediate ease of walking through the front doors and soon after, into their nearest lounge. I love the juxtaposition of Eight Wine Bar at the Cosmopolitan Hotel, just kitty corner to the Meridien King Edward Hotel, and discreetly included on Colborne Street, one of the shortest, packed-with-resto-bar lanes in Toronto.
With sky high ceilings, it looks like Eight will be a large bar-resto hangout, but looks are deceiving. This room is ultra
modern, done up in red, black and white; slick but not too impersonal. Flat screen TV's over the bar play old black and white films while black clad staff greet us warmly.
We get our pick of tables on this quiet evening and that suits me just fine, having been turned away by several jammed restaurants and bars.
The wine list is arranged with care, highlighting Niagara wines, so I begin with an off-dry VQA Cattail Riesling and a Washington Hills GewÃƒÂ¼rztraminer, VQA Niagara, to accompany my Duck Confit Samosas ($10). The wines come in 3 or 5 ounce pours which I love so I can experiment with tasting and food pairing, especially nice with my wine loving guest.
We opt for the small plates to share, starting with grilled calamari ($12) which is stuffed with a creamy mix of goat cheese and lentils. It seems a little unorthodox, no matter how beautiful it looks, because the richness takes away from the fresh, light calamari flavour, but it does succeed in terms of visual beauty and the curiosity factor.
Black Truffle Gnocchi ($12) is a smallish shareable bowl, but luscious and creamy with that telltale heady scent of the black fungi. Roasted Duck Breast ($12) comes next, with a delicious ragout of Yukon Gold spuds and blueberry gastrique that's quite surprising. Rare slices are fanned over the ragout and we agree that the ragout and the gastrique make this dish sing. I step out of the suggested pairing of a pinot noir to a glass Sangiovese. Our server passes the wine test with this suggestion. I love when that happens...
Atmosphere. Sleek, yet intimate
Wheelchair Access: Yes
Surprise, Surprise: Wine tasting flights on the menu. Well priced shareable dishes.
FIVE STARS: (Extraordinary) A one-of-a-kind, world-class experience.
FOUR STARS: (Excellent) Superior. Memorable, high-quality menus and/or savvy service.
THREE STARS: (Good) Solid places that beckon with generally appealing cooking.
TWO STAR: (Fair) Just OK. A place not worth rushing back to. But, it might have something worth recommending.
ONE STAR: (Poor) Below-average restaurant.
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