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Restaurants

Reds Wine Tavern

Posted by Liora Ipsum / Reviewed on October 22, 2012 / review policy

Reds Wine TavernReds Wine Tavern, a place known for power lunches and after work drinks in the core of Toronto's Financial District, has totally has reinvented itself after a month-long closure. Every aspect has been refreshed, from the name (it was formerly called Reds Bistro and Wine Bar) to the decor to the menu.

Gone are the white linens. Instead, fun touches like the shuffleboard table make it clear that this is now a place where you can loosen your tie a little. Tables conveniently outfitted with pencils and notepads encourage diners to jot down say, a new sauv blanc discovery, or more realistically, a phone number.

Reds Wine TavernThe expansive tavern, designed by McMillan Design covers two floors, with the first floor featuring; impressive walls of wine bottles, a vibrant bar area and communal tables made from live edge walnut slabs. Upstairs, the dining room, has space enough for events, as well as, private rooms for parties of 12 to 14, and a U-shaped chef's table lit by whimisical wine-themed light fixtures.

Reds Wine TavernNew to the kitchen is, Executive Chef Ryan Gallagher, formerly of Ruby Watchco and a past contestant on Top Chef Canada. Longtime patrons can rest assured that old favourites like the generous, Tavern Cheese and Butcher Board ($28.99) remain. But, Gallagher has also added his own spin to the menu with the addition of sharing plates, mussels and more interestingly a fresh fish program focused on sourcing the best possible east coast seafood from 100-year-old Boston company, Foley Fish.

Reds Wine TavernFrom the Sharables menu, I try the lightly fried, Black Bean Calamari ($10.95) served with a spicy mustard and the Ham Hock Tater Tots ($9.95) served with chive sour cream and house made ketchup. Both are fun foods and when our server readily suggests wine pairings (from the 77 wines available by the glass) it makes for a really fun, accessible way to discover new wines.

Reds Wine TavernFrom the daily fish menu, I try the New Bedford Scallops ($27.95) and am impressed with their perfect sear and accompanying side of buttery zucchini ribbons, braised onions and a spicy tomato nage.

Reds Wine TavernThe improbably tender Lamb Shank Tagine ($25.95) distinguishes itself with a sweet and sour, apricot tomato chutney, fennel and mint salad and fluffy couscous flavoured with citrus and almond.

Reds Wine TavernFor dessert, the Carrot Cake ($7.95) is dressed up with molasses icing, coconut cream and a nutty dacquoise garnish. The Grasshopper Parfait ($7.95) sees dark chocolate and peppermint mousse layered in a canning jar with a side of chocolate crisps. They are both incredibly rich and at this point, I'm admittedly too full to appreciate either.

Of course, the bar program is also a serious focus here and features more than 300 bottles of wine, which Sommelier, Jasmine Black (and a fleet of well-trained staff) is on hand to encourage pairings.

Reds Wine TavernThe cocktail list offers new takes on old classics. For instance, the Maple Bacon Bourbon Manhattan ($10.50) combines a house infused bacon Bulleit Bourbon, sweet vermouth, Ontario maple syrup and preserved cherries. Also worthy of mention; are the five varieties of caesars, each accompanied by an amuse bouche like the deconstructed guacamole that accompanies the Michelada ($12.50), a Mexican take that spikes Tabasco infused tomato-clam juice with Dos Equis Lager and Tromba Blanco Tequila.

I can't personally attest to what Reds Wine Tavern was like pre-reno, but I like what's happening there now. The new casual vibe is clearly appreciated by the afterwork crowd and at six o'clock, mid week, this place is a hotbed of bustling cinq-a-sept activity.

Reds Wine Tavern

Discussion

16 Comments

Ryan / October 22, 2012 at 02:11 pm
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Thanks for including the prices. Even for the area, they are high. $28 for four scallops is pushing it.
mezimeen / October 22, 2012 at 03:31 pm
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Next best of list:
"The Best Places to go with an Expense Account"
Sean / October 22, 2012 at 04:20 pm
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I can only afford a meal across the street at Tim Horton's. Think I'll enjoy my meal even better over there.
Laura / October 22, 2012 at 08:10 pm
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I tried those scallops and they were worth every penny!! Yum.
And the carrot cake is to die for!
J B / October 22, 2012 at 11:34 pm
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Pretty good article, definitely going to check this place out. But, and I'm saying this to be helpful, Ms. Ipsum, please check out a guide to punctuation. There are a bunch of unnecessary commas in here and it makes your writing harder to read than it would be otherwise.
natasha / October 23, 2012 at 10:35 am
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The tuna poké is one of the most interesting and fresh tasting dishes i have had in a ling time.
Lucy / October 24, 2012 at 08:47 am
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I want to hear more about the decor. As important as the food is (and it is VERY important), I like to know and appreciate more about the space that will be receiving my visual attention for two+ hours. From the pictures and description shown here and on the website, the tables look very unique and ecclectic. It is so refreshing to see a decor immersed in an assortment of materials rather than the monogomous themes other establishments have been boring patrons with for years. Of course SIR Corp. has had plenty of practice in the unfailingly popular Jack Astor's brand - so really I shouldn't be surprised if they nailed it here too. When I pay $28 for scallops I don't feel like I am just buying the food, but the whole experience! Besides something tells me Live Edge Walnut Slab tables don't come cheap. Can't wait to try this one. Cheers!
HP / October 25, 2012 at 12:05 am
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The decor is really warm and lovely- unique and interesting too. My meal was incredible - worth every penny. The thing I like about the menu is its variety in price points and selection- if you want a main for around $16, you have several good options in various categories. We started with the cheese and butcher board, which was seriously outstanding. Nice portions, melt in your mouth prosciutto and calabrese sausage with my favorite cheeses. Then I had the sea bass which was so fresh, and my partner had the burger which was really juicy with a yummy brioche bun. The fries were excellent too. Service was bang on. Loved the small touches like the expanding moist towelettes at the end. Can't wait to go back and try the lobster rolls!
MDM&KB / November 5, 2012 at 10:29 pm
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This place is so far from a "white linen" atmosphere. We found it to be incredibly polished, yet warm and cozy. It's the small things like the eclectic furniture, industrial lighting, wood finishes and twinkling glassware. And the food was yum, yum, YUMs. There is a nice range of lower priced appys that are filling and delicious. Next time I go I want to try the sliders. I've also heard the burger is amazing. I loved how the downstairs felt a little more energized with a bar crowd and the upstairs was a little more private - perfect for a date night!
imafan / November 10, 2012 at 02:51 pm
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I had the pleasure of visiting the newly revamped Red's Wine Tavern a couple weeks ago alongside my girlfriend. I had been before, but it was many years ago and I remember my experience being very different.

They've done an incredible job of changing up the space. Long gone are the days of the white table cloths that gave the restaurant a conservative fine dining feel. The decor is now very eclectic and overall the restaurant has a very warm and welcoming vibe to it, both upstairs and down.

The food itself was very appetizing. We started off sharing the Sauvignon Blanc Braised mussels (18.50) which came with slices of delicious garlic buttered baguette. We also split the RWT Caesar (10.25), which just may have been the best caesar salad I've ever had in this city.

For our mains I had the Swordfish Special (Market Price), which I believe was the catch of the day, so needless to say it was incredibly fresh.

The lady had the Pork Chop Entree (24.95) which she found tasty, but nothing write home about.

We drank one of the Malbecs (I forget which one), but with so much on the wine list I can't imagine somebody not finding something to suit their taste.

Overall it was a great experience and I look forward to my next visit. There were many things on the "shareables" portion of the menu that I didn't get a chance to try!
Anna / November 11, 2012 at 05:18 pm
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I went for dinner at Reds on Friday night. I was immediately struck by the vibrant bar scene, warm atmosphere, and modern sophistication. We had dinner in the upstairs dining area where it was a bit quieter. From service, to quality of the food, to originality and deliciousness, the whole evening was great. Prices were reasonable. I would definitely return, and definitely recommend it.
G / June 28, 2013 at 12:29 pm
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My husband and I went to Red's for our anniversary, and it was WONDERFUL! When I made the reservation I mentioned it was our anniversary and when we got there, they not only seated us at a lovely private table with a nice view, but they immediately brought us two complementary glasses of an absolutely delicious champagne. We had intended on staying for apps and drinks only but our server was so helpful, and so nice, and our food was so delicious (that, and the champagne!) that we ended up staying for dinner and dessert. Our server kept the wine coming, bringing wines that paired beautifully with each thing we ordered (without us asking, which was fine by us, and avoided the awkward "so what do you recommend?" question each and every time we ordered something). In the end, with two apps (which we both shared--delicious!!!), two entrees, one dessert shared between us, and 6 glasses of wine (between the 2 of us), we ended up spending around $145. It was a pricy meal, but I'd say absolutely worth every bite and sip. We thoroughly enjoyed our experience! We'll definitely go back. ...when our wallets have recovered a little ;)
San Antonio / August 6, 2013 at 03:05 pm
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Does blog TO ever write an objective review of any restaurant? I can't remember the last time I read something on this site that wasn't a sparkling review. I'm not sure I trust your reviewers/writers.
So, my review: Like most Sircorp restaurants, the food was average, the service was uninspired, and the prices steep. For the same price, there are plenty of restaurants that won't make you queasy. Also, I recommend wearing earplugs - not only is the music too loud, but it has to be the most dated, terrible music selection I ever heard in a restaurant. Who selects the music here? The owner's grandfather? Our last visit (which will be our last) featured the following gems: upon our arrival, we waited at least 15 minutes before we were greeted, the first three wines we ordered they did not have. My colleague asked to speak with the sommelier who was not there. Another manager tried to help, but was woefully ignorant about the list, and didn't seem to know what wines they carried or were out of, the 'tavern time' menu we were forced to order from was thin and made me think they were trying to sell almost-expired food. This was further confirmed when we both felt quite ill after the ceviche. In spite of the unfinished portions on our plates, we weren't asked how anything was, and no one there seemed to have the forethought to inquire as to way we hadn't eaten our food. Needless to say,I don't think I'll be returning.
Joe Blow / August 15, 2013 at 03:21 am
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Service sucks at all Sircorp properties because Sircorp has always engaged in ageist and sexist hiring practices. That basically means cute girls under 25. As professional bartender in his late 30s I gave up trying to get work with them long ago. I'm have my WSET 3 and ISG 1 certs - going full sommelier soon - and have forgotten more about food, drink, and good service than most people will ever know. And yet, whenever I've tried to land work with companies like Sircorp, Khabouth's Ink, O&B, I've always been told I have too much "experience".

On several occasions I've had managers come right out and say they weren't hiring guys or I was too old - and know a lot of other guys in the same boat - and the unwritten rule for hiring is, hire girls under 25 where possible. I've had girlfriends - who are incredible waitresses - get the the same treatment in their 30's too. I'll bet dollars to donuts if you did an audit of the hiring practices of those companies that 99% of their workforce since their inception has been 25 or under.

So, like so many places in this city, there are plenty of amazing servers and bartenders....they're just not getting work because the city is also rife with bad management and ownership who value a cute bimbo with a good rack over providing good service. And so long as Torontonians keep rewarding these shitty companies nothing will change.
Travis M. / December 11, 2013 at 12:40 am
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I recently visited Reds tonight and was beyond disappointed. I've been hearing about them from my colleagues and decided to give it a chance. I arrived to a crowded downstairs area, looked busy but still managed to find a table in the back. Our waiter took no time to bring us menus and waters. He quickly took out order and all was well. 10mins pass and both my colleague and I had not received our drinks. He assured us that they were on there way. 5mins after his visit to our table our drinks finally arrived. During that time I went to the rest room and passed by the area where the drinks were coming up. I could see the waiter waiting for our drinks so it could have been a backed up bar or something. Later on our drinks continued taking long periods of time to reach us. I kept a look out at the bar to see when they would come up. I noticed a dark haired woman not in a uniform grabbing drinks from the bar area and brought it up to the waiters attention. He informed me it was the manager of the restaurant not a random person. I found this shocking truthfully as nothing about her demeanour screamed restaurant manager. She looked less than trilled to be there and there was a noticeable change in not only my waiter's behaviour but the other waitresses in the lounge area as well. By this point I'd had enough and didn't even bother ordering another round. I picked up her card at the front and I plan to contact a district or regionally sir corp manager about this. She displayed less then welcoming and hospitable behaviour and it reflects on her staff. Just wanted to know if any other patrons had a similar experience with their management team.
Klara / August 20, 2014 at 08:23 pm
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@Travis M: I am surprised why you are criticizing the look of the manager to begin with. What should a manager look like anyway in your opinion? Maybe she was annoyed by the lack of performance of the staff and had rolled up her sleeves, pushing the waiters and waitresses to grab people's drink and not delay it. You are making up a story about her based on your perception of the situation. Please consider that you may be wrong!

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