Skin + Bones Wine Bar
Skin + Bones quietly opened late last year on Queen East. Co-owners Harry Wareham and Daniel Clarke (Pizza Libretto, Enoteca Sociale) have brought on Matthew Sullivan (Boxed pop-up dinners) to helm the kitchen and oversee a menu that's developed specifically to highlight the large wine list that is central to the new restaurant's concept.
The cavernous interior is sparsely flourished with deep colours and large scale prints. The dining room takes advantage of raw brick walls and steel, high-beamed ceilings that add an industrial edge. The only warmth is added by the notably convivial service that includes a coat check at the hostess station (traditionalists will swoon) and a knowledgeable staff confident in pairing recommendations thanks to ongoing training sessions with sommelier Michelle Ratzlaff and consulting sommelier Peter Boyd (Scaramouche).
To accompany a light or sparkling wine, I'm told that the Crispy Chicken Tails ($8) are the starter of choice. Here, only the most flavourful bits are cured, confited and then deep-fried golden to order. Salted with burnt grapefruit salt and served alongside a chili buttermilk dressed potato salad, it's one of several comforting and indulgent small plates on a snack menu that also tempts with East Coast Oysters ($2 each) and Charcuterie Board ($11).
The appetizer menu takes a decidedly lighter and more refreshing approach with selections like the Rhode Island Marinated Squid Noodles ($14), which arrives on a bed of dressed greens, studded with tart apple and salty olives, then garnished with chicharrones and fried shallots.
The Beef Cheek Bourguignon ($23) interpretes this seasonal French classic with slow-and-low-cooked beef cheek that's braised overnight until impossibly tender (my knife sat untouched). The accompanying melange consists of roasted Jerusalem artichokes, house-cured lardons, and rich and smoky red wine and beef stock reduction.
To finish, the Sticky Toffee Pudding ($6) is an interesting (though not exactly improved) take on a personal favourite. The texture is less pudding and more bread-like, so the dense cake doesn't soak in the bone marrow caramel sauce as expected. Though it's still very tasty, I might next time opt to see if the Brioche Donuts ($6) are more successful.
Skin + Bones is fine addition to Leslieville's thriving dining scene and fans of Enoteca Sociale will appreciate its service style and ambition. Open week round from 5pm, the wine bar closes at 11pm from Sunday to Thursday, but stays open until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.
Photos by Morris Lum