After sunset, with candlelight casting interesting shadows in a monochromatic room, and the deep bass of a house dance track playing, Leslieville's TOMI-KRO certainly feels more like a lounge than a resto. Add to the mix arty-looking servers table hopping, and it feels like a night out even though we're here to eat.
Much like the decor, presentation is simple and elegant from small plate to main. We start with octopus ceviche ($12). Pink, slightly chewy slices resembling sushi ginger are drenched in a syrupy concoction along with bits of mango, and squirting cherry tomatoes.
Spunky sides (or tapas depending on one's hunger level) were lovely. Wasabi-flavoured panko potato cake ($6) with a dollop of sour cream was difficult to share.
Brussel sprouts ($6) appeared as slaw, with lively shards of asiago and pancetta that sang with its cruciferous perfume.
Shitake risotto with dashi ($8) was creamy, dense, and rife with umami.
Lobster balls ($11) were clearly the fave of the night, unanimously agreed upon due to a winning play of textures - crisp batter versus warm soft centre - despite its flaws. The featured lobster merely provided a bit of red and brininess, the avocado was a few days from ready, and the rice was overly mushy. Not to mention, the oil-sopped batter cried for a hotter deep-fryer.
Mains varied too. The duck ($23) was perfection - succulent flesh connected by a line of luxuriant fat to an edge of crisp skin. It rested atop custard-like yam mash and a sour cherry sauce. Its flawlessness made the beef tenderloin filet ($24) pale in comparison. The meat was tender, but despite the flavourful sounding accompaniments of gorgonzola, wasabi-infused potato mash, and carmelized onion ), it literally lacked a pinch of salt. Still, it was good enough to finish.
While not quite a dress-to-impress place, the vibe is intimidating enough ($3 for a cola) to warrant wanting to look good in this crowd. For chic cocktails and sensual tapas, Tomi-Kro, is a Saturday night alternative for the maturer palate.