Mother Cocktail Bar
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Mother: think kombucha and foraging rather than nostalgic home cooking, more Mother Nature than Mother Goose.
Run by Massimo Zitti with the kitchen headed up by Chef Lionel Duke (both of BarChef), you can’t even order a Coke at this establishment.
Previously home to Nam, the lengthy, jungly interior is dimmed by slats over the front window.
Ever-changing bar snacks range from matchstick fries ($8) drizzled with sticky sweet organic Ontario honey and accompanied by a bee pollen aioli and floral chamomile dust, up to more hearty fare.
At Mother you’ll find plenty of dishes and drinks garnished with edible greens and flowers hand-foraged responsibly from Trinity Bellwoods and High Park with permission.
Scallops ($17) are cut thin sashimi-style and given a quick two minute cure, sandwiched between a celery root puree and slats of pickled white asparagus, both of which bring out the fresh, grassy elements in the seafood.
The dish is topped off with hand-foraged wood sorrel and common mallow, which bring a slight crunch and even a hint of spiciness. It’s then finished with a verjus made from pressed greens that adds a hit of moisture and warmth to the dish, almost calling to mind a deconstructed chowder.
Duck breast ($19) is a little chewy but overall fatty and indulgent, cut into fat slices. It’s been hung to cure for two weeks and cooked sous vide for two and a half hours then given a quick sear so the skin gets nice and crispy.
Pickled spruce accompanies, along with a few dots of egg yolk and spongy, delicate foraged hen of the woods mushroom that soaks up a warming, peppery stock made from the duck carcasses.
A Galangal and Lemongrass Pina Colada ($14) is from the “Yesterday” section of the menu. Lemongrass rum, coconut sorbet, galangal (essentially ginger), house pineapple juice, and a curry leaf goat milk blend are all buzzed together for a very complex drink with an incredibly smooth, thick texture.
Garnishes are as complicated as the beverage, a shard of coconut husk cradling melted chocolate, amaretti cookie and lilac buds from Trinity.
Mother Gibson ($16) from the “Today” section represents the extremely clean and minimal approach to cocktails here, made with Old Tom gin, grapeseed Gentian fortified wine, and a homemade smoked pickle element bringing a different kind of brininess than olives.
The Woodland Old Fashioned ($22.50) is made with American Rye, smoky Islay Single Malt Scotch, a sherry and port reduction, “woodland” bitters (think Christmas-y and spicy), lacto-fermented Ontario grapes and cedar.
The heavy, smoky flavour is further enhanced by setting an accompanying evergreen sprig ablaze, pine cones and all.
Mother also regularly hosts live music and even pop-up barber shops.