Introducing: Rickshaw Bar, serving South Asian–inspired snacks and cocktails on Queen West
Name: Rickshaw Bar
Contact: 685 Queen St. West, 647-352-1227, rickshawbar.com, @RickshawBarTO
Neighbourhood: Queen West
Previously: Lot St.
Chef/owner: Noureen Feerasta (Momofuku Noodle Bar, Origin; staged at Chicago’s Alinea and Next: Modern Chinese)
The Food: The first-time restaurateur’s menu features small plates influenced by her background (Pakistani, Indian), the countries she grew up in (Pakistan, the United States and Canada) and where her father travelled for work (Thailand). The dishes are based on family recipes that have been refined and given a contemporary spin: scallop ceviche is tossed in lime-coconut milk and given some Gujarati flair with spiced puffed rice (a typical street snack); instead of a soft corn tortilla, the vegetarian taco features crispy vegetable pakoras on a palm-sized paratha. Many of the dish components are made from scratch, including the 30-ingredient curry paste in her Ismaili beef curry (a recipe that’s been in her family for four generations), and the crispy whole wheat noodle nest that tops the Khao Shay.
The Drinks: Draught and bottled beers, as well as a short selection of wine (including, appropriately, bottles from Napa Valley’s Rickshaw). Cocktails and fresh juices are all given South-Asian spins, like a rummy watermelon number with a hit of cilantro.
The Space: Although the casual, 40-seat restaurant has kept many design elements from its predecessor, Lot St., it’s been given a fresh coat of paint and more lighting.
The copper pipe light fixture, exposed brick and most of the woodwork were inherited from Lot St.
Chicken paratha tacos: chicken, mint, lime, cucumber and jalapeños on crispy paratha. $6 for two.
Vegetable paratha tacos: veggie fritters (potato, zucchini, onion) and an apple-fennel slaw on crispy paratha. $5 for two.
Scallop ceviche with coconut and lime, served on spiced puffed rice. $7 each or $12 for two.
The backbone of an Ismaili beef curry is the homemade paste that contains peanuts, cashews and curry leaves (plus 26 other ingredients). Feerasta takes seven hours to make it. $14.
Khao shay: similar to Khao Soi, but with a lighter, coconut-lime broth, braised beef, cilantro and crispy wheat noodles. Another family recipe, which comes by way of Feerasta’s grandfather’s Burmese sister-in-law. $13.
The crispy milk pastry was inspired by a treat Feerasta’s father would bring back from Thailand. It’s filled with condensed milk, cardamom, almonds and rose petals. $5.
Sigh of Relief: rum, watermelon, cilantro, mint. $12.