Sidecar is the newest addition to the Little Italy strip, having just opened in the spot formerly occupied by that weird Versace bar. Inside, the place looks like the product of a Gordon Ramsay restaurant makeover: warm raw brick, sleek curved bar, and buttery-beige ductwork, all glowing by candlelight. We're a little underdressed in parkas and army caps, but the host greets us warmly, unfazed by our obvious street cred.
Gordon Ramsay would approve of the spare menu (only 6 mains), the conscientious service, and the signature drink: a Tangerine Sidecar (cognac, Cointreau, lemon juice, and fresh-squeezed tangerine juice). Unlike a Ramsay makeover, nobody is being spatula-whipped in the open kitchen, which portends well.
First up: dense cornbread, uncannily uniform in texture and yellowness- oddly, there's no trace of browning on the crust. Served at room temperature, it's a little meh, crying out for a quick flip on the grill- charred edges would improve it. Though it's not perfect, it's still a given that even bland cornbread beats dinner rolls in an arm-wrestle, so we're off to a good start.
Grilled Organic Salmon with Honey-Mustard Glaze, Swiss Chard, and Butter Sauce ($16) makes a satisfying main. Though my fish is verrrry slightly overcooked, the honey-mustard glaze is sweet and flavourful, the edges of the fish are deliciously crisp, and the greens are perfectly toothsome. The butter sauce is particularly notable: intensely buttery in flavour without being at all greasy or heavy. My ladylike comportment struggles with my inner wench, who really wants to lick the plate.
The kitchen really gets it right with Braised Lamb Shank with White Beans. It's a perfect dish, generously sized and scrumptious- and a steal at $18. The lamb falls off the bone into sleek ribbons, and the beans, meltingly smooth, recline in their dreamy, buttery sauce. I steal so many forkfuls that my dinner date flashes me the Claire Huxtable eyebrow and wraps a brawny barrier of forearm across his plate.
We're grinning like dopes even before we're presented with complementary shot glasses of Royal Chocolate Mousse. Rich, silky, and not too sweet, with that slightly gritty texture of really nice chocolate, they're the perfect end to a delicious meal.
In its first weeks, Sidecar already has friendly, very attentive service, excellent food, and pleasant ambience- and it will only get better as it settles into itself. It's well worth checking out.