Reds Wine Tavern
Reds 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.
The 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.
New 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.
From 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.
From 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.
The 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.
For 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.
The 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.