David Castellan and his wife Cynthia Leung are as proud as new parents of the beautiful, 3,000-square-foot space that is the new King West location of Soma, their pioneering chocolate shop, which started out in the Distillery. While all raw ingredient work (from bean to bar) will still be done at the original location, here it’s all about turning the raw stuff into some of the most incredible truffles in town—all right under the gaze of their enamoured customers.
Leung, who holds a degree in architecture from Ryerson, designed the space and worked with twin woodworkers the Brothers Dressler on a few focal pieces. What was once a kitchen design studio is now a blend of sleek glass and steel and warm, rustic wood and stone. The gelato counter and window bar are fashioned from impressive slabs of Algonquin limestone, while overhead, custom lampshades created by Soma employee and ceramic artist Vivian Lee are perched. The Dresslers’ branch chandeliers, meanwhile, look like stylized chocolate antlers, and a 17-foot-long timber bench bridges the front and back rooms and makes a comfortable spot from which to watch the action in the truffle lab. Blond wood floor-to-ceiling shelves are loaded with everything Toronto chocolate addicts have come to love from Soma: imaginative truffles ($2), cookies ($6), single-origin bars and slabs ($5–$11), jars of premium baking cocoa ($3.50) and hot chocolate mix ($4.20) and outrageously creamy gelato and sorbetto ($4.55–$6.75).
Big windows look out onto King Street and all the office types speeding past. Castellan admits it’s a different scene here and not quite as easy to draw in the customers. “In the Distillery, no one walked past. If you were in the area, you were there because you wanted to go into the shops and experience the place,” he told us. “Here, people are just going about their day.” But with a new condo tower going up across the street, we doubt the lull will last too long.
If the sweets don’t lure customers, Castellan and Leung are hoping their new savoury menu, by chef Simon Blackwell, will. Blackwell and Castellan met almost 10 years ago at Canoe and have been working together since opening Soma in the Distillery. Blackwell’s savoury menu is still in the experimental stages, but expect simple Roman pizzas ($2.50 – $3.50)and sandwiches ($7.50)made from his breads, filled with local cheeses and charcuterie. For the morning and afternoon coffee and hot chocolate crowd, there will be pastries, such as Spanish ensaïmadas (price TBA)—yeasty spirals stuffed with sweet and savoury fillings. Still, this is Soma, and the main draw for most will remain the chocolate.