Sara

This latest restaurant from the Food Dudes group (they also run Rasa, Omaw and Blondie’s Pizza) has a split personality. The slim Victorian just off the King West clubs–and–loft condos strip looks like a spa, everything pale, undulating and candlelit, the air spritzed with a signature scent. The staff, in white runners, tight white dress shirts and pale pink aprons, could be mistaken for perky beauticians. But the wellness vibe ends at the menu, which is very good but not exactly health-forward. It’s party food, meant to pair with cocktails: addictive sticks of compressed grated potato, slow-cooked in schmaltz, deep-fried and topped with Japanese-style mayo, house-made kimchee and wiggling bonito flakes (pictured below); crab-and-scallop dumplings coated in hollandaise and a dusting of panko; and, to cut through the richness, a handful of greens options like a slaw of snap peas, shio kombu, salted pickled plums and Asian pear. The mixed drinks, as at Rasa, are top-notch, even if they’re goofily organized into four categories: Spring, Floral, Summer, Spice. In my early visits, the strangest moment came at dessert, when our server offered us a “sharing spoon,” which is a single long wooden implement, custom made for the restaurant, with spoon heads on either end. Somehow, awkwardly, you’re meant to feed dessert across the table to your date—any couple who can survive that can survive anything.

Sara, 98 Portland St., 416-985-5721, sara.restaurant

The “french fries” here are grated russet potatoes confited in duck fat, topped with kimchee, Kewpie aioli and bonito flakes
Executive chef Davin Shearer, chef de cuisine Mary Dinh and sous-chef Graham Gibb
The “party sandwich” is chocolate cake layered with tahini ice cream and dressed with cashew brittle, dark chocolate and miso caramel
Inside Sara’s spa-like dining room
Tables at Sara come with built-in pockets for stashing cell phones during dinner