Introducing: Hawker Bar, Toronto’s first spot for Singapore-style street food
Hawker Bar joins the likes of The Saint and Bellwoods Brewery on the strip as the new kids on the Ossington block. Run by a pack of longtime friends—Casimir Alyea, Andrew Mistry and brothers Nicholas and Frederic Laliberté, who are also behind Poutini’s—the joint offers up a first for the city: Singaporean street grub.
After a trip to Australia and Southeast Asia, where the Laliberté brothers found themselves chowing down on street food from Singapore, they assumed they’d find it somewhere in Toronto when they got back at home. Much to their surprise, they could not. When chef pal Alec Martin heard them reminiscing about the stuff, he let it be known he could make a mean laksa—the rest was history. Squeezed in beside I Deal Coffee, the narrow space features cherry red walls and sundry wooden accents: an ash floor; a bar built from white oak and tree stump stools from the Ottawa Valley. Seating only 25, the vibe is casual, with many folks popping in to grab take-out. The menu is scrawled on bits of cardboard, with sharing encouraged and prices maxing out at $12.
Apps include “son-in-law” eggs, which are meant to be popped into the mouth whole; soft-boiled and then fried, the spheres are served with prik nam pla and house-made chili jam and garnished with fried shallots ($6). The focus of the menu is laksa, which falls somewhere between curry and pho, and is available in chicken, vegetarian or vegan versions. While steaming bowls of the stuff are churned out of the kitchen at a rapid-fire pace, creating the paste itself is quite time-consuming. A medley of galangal, turmeric, shallots, garlic, ginger and lemongrass is tossed into a food processor, then cooked down and blended with veg stock and coconut milk. The dish is then finalized with the addition of rice noodles, tofu puffs, snow peas, red pepper, eggplant, and—to top it off—a soft-boiled deep-fried egg ($9 for a small, $12 for a large). The short dessert menu includes banana fritters with house-made red bean ice cream ($4); the fritters’ vibrant green colour is thanks to the addition of pandan essence). While Hawker has already garnered plenty of, um, gawkers peering in through the front window, resistance from some neighbours has left the place sans liquor license. The owners hope to rectify this soon, but until then, diners will just have to resign themselves to a mocktail or two.
Hawker Bar, 164 Ossington Ave., 647-343-4698, hawkerbar.ca