Just Opened: Cinq 01

Just Opened: Cinq 01

Parked on College Street: Cinq 01 contains elements from Toufik Sarwa's childhood (Photo by Karon Liu)

Lounge king Toufik Sarwa, owner of Amber, is branching out of Yorkville with the opening of a quaint bistro called Cinq 01 in Little Italy.

“When I set out at Amber, I thought I’d devote 10 years of my life to it. I had offers to be partners in other projects, but I turned them down,” Sarwa says. But last September, four months before his one-decade anniversary at Amber, the space formerly occupied by Arthur’s became available and Sarwa snatched it up. “It was just perfect timing; everything fell into place.”

The place is now a rustic but contemporary French bistro that is part art gallery and part stroll down memory lane (remnants of Sarwa’s childhood are everywhere). Designed by Hamid Samad and Sara Parisotto of Commute Home (they also had a hand in Colborne Lane, Nyood and Terroni Adelaide), the restaurant features a giant cut-out of a ’60s Citroën DS, Sarwa’s family car when he was a kid, and part of an Air France cargo crate, the same airline that brought Sarwa to Canada many years ago.

Compared to Amber, Cinq 01 places a stronger emphasis on the menu. It was concocted by Jo Castrinos (previously of Splendido) and features traditional French items (moules frites, croque-monsieur) along with some whimsical North American fare, like mac-and-cheese with duck ($17) and foie gras hot dogs ($22). The wine list was designed by sommelier Jamie Drummond (formerly of the Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar), and there is a selection of cocktails ($15) with literary monikers: the Hemingway involves coconut rum, strawberries, mint and lime; the Fleurs du Mal, vodka, Pernod and black pepper.

Though it is a departure in many ways, Cinq 01 is not a sign that Sarwa is abandoning the place that put him on a first-name basis with Toronto’s social elite. “I don’t know if I could let go of Amber. It’s just not something I’m considering right now,” he says. “But Amber is a little bit more grown up now, and I can leave her alone once or twice a week.”

Cinq 01, 501 College St. (at Palmerston Blvd.), 416-964-1555.