Bite Bar is located somewhere at the intersection of Hello Kitty and Sex and the City — in other words, it is the girliest establishment ever to grace Toronto (actual intersection: Bay St. and Dundas St. W). Case in point, owner Nisha Amin is planning to serve vodka martinis garnished with teensy cupcakes.
And she knows what she's talking about when it comes to cupcakes. The adorable creations melt in your mouth, and the icing is smooth, creamy and made of whipped unicorn laughter. Or buttercream, if you'd rather. The velvety treats come in flavours like Cookies 'n Cream, featuring cookie crumbs and cream cheese icing, and Have a Mint!, a chocolate cake topped with vanilla mint buttercream icing and a tiny chocolate chip.
Then there's the signature cupcake, Just Bite It!, which is a vanilla cake stuffed with raspberry puree and finished with raspberry vodka vanilla buttercream icing. Um, hi? Can I eat this every day?
The answer is probably yes. Each cupcake has only about 100 calories. Amin claims they're delicious enough that one bite will do, and that you won't crave for further cupcakes. This is a bald-faced lie. You will eat more than one.
These cupcakes are legit, but they're on the higher end of reasonably-priced: $1 per cupcake, $5.50 for 6 and $10.50 for 12. But given that Amin's recipes use natural ingredients, like real lemon, coffee and peanut butter, the prices are justified. I think I consumed about eight of them. Embarrassing, yes. But true.
The shop, which is located in Adrian Wu's old boutique at 57 Elm St., is undeniably precious. But it might be a little too cutesy for some. Kind of like cheerleaders who squeal over your outfit and laugh a lot and talk about hairbrushes. You can't quite hate them, but maybe if they weren't quite so pretty... The sweetness can be overbearing, from the hot pink branding to the names of the desserts to the fact that Amin refers to Sundays as "no biting days" because the shop is closed.
I tell a friend that I'm visiting this place the night before I drop by. Her brow furrows and she asks, "Aren't cupcakes over?" But the answer is no, as far as I'm concerned. Cupcakes are classic, like denim.
Bite Bar's menu also includes marshmallow bars, mini cheesecakes, and herbal teas. And by the end of the month, Amin will have added a bar. She'll specialize in dessert-themed cocktails featuring whipped cream-flavoured, caramel-flavoured, and fruit-flavoured vodka. Those who find options like these a little sickly sweet can feel free to order a classic cocktail.
"If people really want what they're used to, that's fine. We can make it. But you can get a vodka anywhere. We want to do something unique."
Despite the many martini options, the feel doesn't quite translate to sophistication. It is fun, though, and Amin is tapping into a niche market. The whole concept for Bite Bar was inspired by a conversation painfully familiar to most women (and their dining companions): "Oh, no, it's okay. I don't really feel like dessert. Just a little bite of yours..."
Amin says once she hit her thirties, more of her friends were expressing that kind of restraint. So she fled the corporate world to pursue desserts as a full-time career, and Bite Bar was born.
Bite Bar's hours are subject to change because Amin is still getting a sense of the neighbourhood. But for now, they're open from 11:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., Monday to Friday, and 1p.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday, with seating for about 20. Hours will be extended at the end of March for the martini crowd.
Photos by Brian Chambers