Introducing: Bar Neon, a new Bloordale watering hole with some ambitious grub

Introducing: Bar Neon, a new Bloordale watering hole with some ambitious grub

Jeff Garcia’s striking mural adorns one wall at Bar Neon (Image: Gizelle Lau)

When Bar Neon opened last month, it became Bloordale’s answer to the trend embodied by places like Grand Electric and 416 Snack Bar: hip, local watering holes not afraid to serve food with a little ambition. Behind Bar Neon is Niki Tsourounakis, who grew up around the restaurant business, near Montreal. She also owns Café Neon in just outside the Junction Triangle and Amphora Products, a company that imports organic Vlatos olive oil and fleur de sel from Crete—both of which, naturally, make a few appearances on the plates at Bar Neon.

The space, which Tsourounakis designed herself, is welcoming and unpretentious, with a mix of antique and modern touches. Like so many new restaurants, the original ceilings of the room were excavated and restored from under the drywall, and exposed brick is buffed and given pride of place. Unlike most new restaurants, Bar Neon also features a stunning mural by local artist Jeff Garcia, a friend of Tsourounakis, which helps warm up the space.

Bar Neon’s cocktail menu offers drinks at $10.50 each, including their signature: a bourbon negroni with Four Roses bourbon, sweet vermouth, Campari and West Indian orange bitters. The bar boasts a healthy selection of bourbon as well as Greek liqueurs like Metaxa, the requisite ouzo and traditional raki. On tap, there’s Beau’s and a couple Mill Street brews.

In the kitchen—with just two toaster ovens and a deep fryer—is chef Ivan Loubier, previously of Taboo in Muskoka and Didier. Loubier describes the menu as Canadian, with a dozen options that include marinated sardines on crostini ($10 for four pieces), salt cod croquettes ($9 for three pieces) and mini croque monsieurs ($10 for three pieces). Larger flatbread “tostas” ($14 each) are intended for sharing and include options like mushroom fricassee, salt-cured ham with black olives and arugula with duck confit, caramelized onion, potato and sage. Loubier also has a strong pastry background, and makes chocolate truffles (lavender on the night we visited) for $2 each. On Fridays and Saturdays starting at midnight, Loubier offers a late-night toonie bar, where small plates of oysters and other menu items are sold for $2 per plate. During the summer, the backyard patio will open up, offering outdoor seating as well as summer pig and lamb roasts. The yard is complete with a modified shipping container where they’ll serve drinks and shuck oysters.

Next up for Tsourounakis: a sit-down dinner menu at the café, where Loubier will be cooking.

Bar Neon, 1226 Bloor St. W., 647-748-6366, @Bar_Neon.