Saviari is located in an odd area--very near to the Parkdale Arms , across from a Shopper's Drug Mart, and a long stone's throw from the club stretch of King West . Ask owner Linh Huynh, and she might claim it was intentional. She left a 9-5 position in marketing to devote her time to her tea business, which she'd managed on the side for some time. She'd organized tea tastings around town, and was constantly hearing requests for a dedicated venue. Tea shops in Toronto are an unremarkable bunch--and tea itself has something of a flannel-pyjamas-and-cat-in-lap reputation--so Linh decided to incorporate alcohol and entertainment. Thus, Saviari.
Inside, you'll find a small front room decorated in a chicly clean colour scheme of blacks, whites, and purples. One wall is lined in white couches, while the rest of the seating consists of high tables and chairs. A delicate purple flower tops each table. This is flanked by an even smaller, but admittedly plush, VIP room separated by a diaphanous white curtain.
There's a compact black-painted bar, a DJ booth and an ornate, black chrome chandelier. One of the bar's stranger accents is the pseudo-erotic photography on the walls--it's almost aggressively early '90s. Peering closely, I almost expect to glimpse Cindy Crawford tucked into a white bra.
Saviari operates under the simple mandate of tea, friends and soul--which translates into an event venue that serves artisanal "tisanes,"--or herbal teas--as well as tea-infused cocktails and tea-themed tapas-style dishes. The goal is to gather Toronto's urbanite cocktail consumers and offer up soul music, comedy, and even poetry.
On the surface, I'm Saviari's ideal customer. As a doe-eyed freshman, I fell head over heels for 7 West 's booze-infused teas in the dead of winter, but even so, I went into Saviari prepared to dislike it. King West was only very briefly ever my scene, and despite being on the outlaw fringes of Toronto's club district, Saviari retains some of the architectural and design touches of the area. That said, the teas are delectable.
It might be strange to focus on the virgin drinks at a bar, but their Hot Mama ($6), a sinus-clearing blend of ginger, lemon juice and sunglow crysanthemum tisane, is delicious. Saviari also serves boba milk tea, or bubble tea, and most of the teas are sourced from China. As for the cook? "My mother," Linh giggles.
Bottled beers (all $8) include Heineken, Sapporo, Mill St. Lemon Tea Ale, and Theresianer Vienna lager, while the wine list features two whites ($10), and two reds ($12).
You'll find traces of tea even in the food--I regretfully admit that the beef skewers ($10) with sweet mustard and red kimono blue tea left much to be desired, but the oahu coconut cake, with its mix of coconut milk, crunchy coconut shavings, and coconut island blue tea ($6), sounds promising. The signature cocktails range from the warm, earthy Wet 'n' Hairy (cognac, ginger, mint, brown sugar, and golden monkey blue tea) to the summery Tropical Storm (melon liqueur, blue curacao, pineapple juice, and strawberry blush green tea).
Linh is currently looking to host soul musicians, a comedy night on every third Thursday of the month, and she's even got her feelers out for an in-house poet. In time, Saviari might become something of an artistic hub, or at least a place to relax with friends over that oldest of beverages--tea.