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Posted on January 8, 2012 by in Trinity Bellwoods

Bar Chef

3 stars

- barchef. The name still induces salivating of Pavlovian proportion in me and the likewise shuddering of my wallet.

My girlfriend and I decided a random Monday was cause for celebration and thus a trip to barchef. I say ‘we’ decided, but it was really more her call. Had it been up to me and my budget, we would have been throwing back bottles of 50 at Java Café across the street, where coincidentally enough I took my own mother the next day (still waiting for my Daughter of the Year award).

Upon entering I had to allow my pupils to dilate to cartoonish levels to see my way to a leather couch at which point our waitress appeared dramatically from a cloud of smoke to bring us the drink menu.

Drinks at barchef are more than just that, and a quick glance at the menu makes it obvious. They are delicious science experiments created with ingredients like elderflower, rasped cinnamon, bohemian absinthe, salted butter, and black truffle snow. You won’t find a rye and ginger or rum and coke here. Don’t even ask.

The menu is divided into four sections: punch bowls, sipping, sweet & sour, and molecular. Apparently there used to be something of a “recession menu” with $8 drinks, but I guess because our economy is doing so great these days (???) drinks now start around the $13 mark. This was how much my Four-Seven-Two put me back. Made with bullet bourbon, cola bitters, fresh lime, muddled mint and mint syrup, despite its differences it tasted akin to a Mojito, with a little extra oomph. I wish this came in a punch bowl and that it was socially acceptable enough for me to drink a whole one to myself from my lap and through a straw. As it was, I just made it last as long as possible.

My date went with the Tequila Sunset (the night owl counterpart to the Sunrise version) which was heavy on the cherry and tasted a bit too herbal and medicinal for my liking, but she disagreed. To be honest, after plonking down the better part of $20 for a single drink, saying you like it even if you don’t might be a self-preservation technique. It should also be mentioned for those partial to cherry that this particular drink is no longer on the menu but has been replaced by another more seasonal option, as is what happens at barchef.

The aforementioned smoky haze is owed to the molecular drink menu selections and the bartender’s zest for smoked hickory. That combined with the birch tree printed wallpaper made us feel not unlike we were camping, and it was nice until the smoke reached white rabbit proportions and we were choking on it. Methinks the $45 vanilla smoked Manhattan was a popular choice that night.

The stars I’ve given are attributed to the drinks themselves as I wasn’t a huge fan of the ambience. It was very sexy indeed with all the prerequisites of a trendy hotspot; black velvet curtains, plush leather couches, a giant block of ice astride the bar chipped at request, and lighting so dim it’s difficult to read the menus (note: holding them up to the tealight candles only helps until the menu starts to catch on fire…thank goodness the place is already smoky enough that my contribution went unnoticed), but I felt a tad underdressed and like I was missing a fedora or an ironic moustache.

Although sardonic me could find a lot to poke fun of at barchef such as the drinks listing ‘beach essence’ and ‘green olive air’ as their ingredients, what looks cliché on paper, is delicious in a glass, and I will return. I can no longer drink a plain old mixed drink in this city. Not even a good one. Damn you barchef.

– Rebecca

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