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Restaurants

Rakia Bar (Euclid Ave.)

Posted by Jen Hunter / Profiled on January 21, 2014 / review policy

Rakia Bar EuclidRakia Bar on Euclid opened early December in the former Hrvati space immediately north of Bloor (neighbouring Barrio Coreano and the Koreatown Kinton Ramen). It's the second Toronto outpost of what is actually an international brand.

Rakia BarFeaturing up to 36 different rakia (a fruit-based liquor, similar to eau-de-vie) on a good day, Rakia imports their own selections. The range of flavours and styles is impressive, with spirits based on diverse fruits such as quince, pear, plum and even juniper berries. Included in the price of each drink is a small bite to eat, be it cured meat and pickes, or a cheese-stuffed crescent roll. It's something of a culture shock to be treated in this manner in Toronto, but that approach is indicative of the experience at Rakia.

Rakia BarOwner Dusan Varga is incredibly enthusiastic about his native tipple and is keen to share the history and craft of rakia with anyone who is interested in learning. Compared to the raucous party atmosphere that can dominate at the Leslieville outpost, the Euclid spot is really quite civilized and peaceful, and serves as an ideal place to hang out at the bar and learn about a kind of booze you won't readily find on LCBO shelves (unless you really go hunting).

Rakia BarWhat is similar to the other spot, however, is the impressive food. The plates and platters are absolutely huge, and priced well below what you might expect elsewhere in the city. The Mezze Platter for Two ($16) is loaded with deli meats including paprika-spiced headcheese, pickled vegetables, mini corn bread, brie and mushroom pie, cheese, and Rakia's two signature spreads, amongst other things. Offered with the platter is an unleavened bread. It has a similar texture to an English crumpet, but is basted with beef stock for a savoury flavour.

Rakia BarThe bread and spreads also make an appearance with the Chevapi ($13), a stack of uncased sausage links made from veal, mutton and lamb. The spreads are a traditional red pepper and a kaymak - a milk fat paste. Diners are encouraged to slather the beefy bread with both spreads and wrap it around the sausage before sprinkling onion over the top. It's hearty winter fare.

Rakia BarThe Cabbage Roll ($12) is another exercise in delivering beyond necessity. The pork and beef is wrapped in a sauerkraut leaf for a sharper flavour and swims in truffled mash. Obviously that's not nearly enough food, and a gigantic smoked pork rib and an impossibly fat Hungarian sausage are chucked on top for good measure.

Rakia BarBy the time the Beef Ghoulash ($15) comes around, we're already stuffed, but indulge anyway. The oxtail and beef is amazingly tender from some serious slow cooking, and the pappardelle is made in-house. Those stuffed crescent rolls appear on the side for mopping up the sauce, and it's also topped with the pickled jalapenos that we enjoyed on the mezze platter.

Rakia BarThough it's closed on Mondays, Rakia Bar is open late other days of the week, and I can see the ghoulash standing in for poutine as a late-night craving to soak up too many drinks. Given how quickly the space was filling up when I left, it looks as though I'm not the only one with that idea.

Rakia BarPhotos by Jesse Milns

Discussion

11 Comments

joe / January 21, 2014 at 12:11 pm
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it sucks Hrvati closed. i liked that place. the food was good and unique. i wish i would have been able to go back one more time before it closed
burgertime replying to a comment from joe / January 21, 2014 at 12:26 pm
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I understand that the Hrvati owners are still involved, and that Rakia's burger is the same recipe.
Brandon / January 21, 2014 at 01:26 pm
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Moved out of that area back in Aug, so I had no idea Hrvati closed too. Damn shame. This place looks fantastic though.
Disappointed / January 21, 2014 at 07:49 pm
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Its unfortunate that the author neglected to mention that rakia is a popular Balkan, specifically Serbian, national drink. Dusan Vraga is doing great things in Belgrade/ North America.

The author should do her research better next time.
Artzila.com / January 21, 2014 at 10:23 pm
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This sounds like a great place! Can't wait to try it!
... / January 22, 2014 at 12:12 am
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Rakija is made in Croatia and Slovenija and other Balkan Countries too saying it is specifically Serbian is ridiculous...Oj Rakijo Ja volim tebe jako!!!
lol / January 22, 2014 at 08:00 am
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A Serbian wanting to talk about race and ethnicity? How original!
umm... / January 28, 2014 at 07:06 pm
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@Lol
Actually, they were talking about Rakia. But let us know how you really feel.
Also, I bet if you cry about it enough Murrica will just give you Rakia.
Stefan / February 15, 2014 at 11:42 am
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This actually looks better than Hrvati, just a cocktail-based reboot - sounds like there's also Croatian-Serbian mingling in the business which is heartwarming considering the evil that has transpired between the two countries.
Radovan / June 5, 2014 at 07:05 am
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Rakija is Serbian, fullstop. Croatians are catholic Serbians, end of.

And the restaurant still boasts the Chetnik "Sajkaca" as it's logo :) Eat me
Lola replying to a comment from Radovan / September 4, 2014 at 11:29 am
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@Radovan - You'd be hard-pressed to find any Croatian who agreed that they are just a Catholic Serbian. You're either ignorant of the last few hundred years' war and genocide between the two countries or you're extremely callous of this fact. No need for such disrespect toward an entire group of people who fought for their independence - to be considered their own people. Shame on you. And rakija is not solely a Serbian thing - all countries in the Balkans drink rajika though it sometimes goes by different names.

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