Rush Lane, Queen West's new cocktail-focused nightspot, opened this summer to no small amount of buzz. Featuring a team of multiple owner-bartenders, the place appears ready to make a real splash in what is already a sizeable pool of talent, and has invested heavily in equipping itself for the challenge of establishing itself as one of Toronto's top cocktail joints.
Upon entering, one might notice the window to a laboratory in the back containing tools like centrifuges and evaporators. Bartenders routinely test the pH balance of their citrus juice to ensure consistency. Clearly little is left to chance.
That said, it's equally likely that one might notice the gorgeously-lit 1970's-themed decor, or the fish tank in what looks like an elevated mini-VIP section overlooking the bar.
We tried the 'Not Your Average Joe' ($11), made with gin, cucumber-black pepper syrup, mint, and malolactic acid in place of citrus. It was bright and refreshing, and paired exceptionally well with the poached oysters ($10), served up on a bed of edible 'sand', and topped with compressed cucumber, salmon roe, and hollandaise.
Chris Scott ( Ursa , Acadia ) has been tasked with creating a range of bar snacks that impress as much as the drinks. Given his molecular background with spots such as LAB, it's not surprising to see some neat tricks and ideas working their way onto the plates.
A nod to the popular graffiti alley behind Queen Street (from which the bar takes its name) was found in the dessert on offer ($8), where milk sorbet, on a bed of cake crumbs, could be 'tagged' with sprayable flavours - aloe (green), pomegranate (red), and cotton candy (blue). Hopefully the interactive element doesn't discourage people from enjoying how tasty this was.
We also tried the molasses-glazed smoked turkey wing ($9), with puffed amaranth and fried kale. Sweet and smoky, it wasn't long before I forgot I was in a swanky nightspot, and had the whole thing in my hands to make sure nothing went to waste.
While Tiki culture is all the rage right now, Rush Lane's menu largely sidesteps much of that, with the exception of the Chai-Tai ($16), with Sailor Jerry, Grand Marnier, both pecan orgeat and chai-vanilla syrups, pineapple, and lime. This makes for a heady concoction that's topped off with a bowl of smouldering torched cardamom pods for dramatic, and aromatic, effect. Trader Vic would be proud.
The final drink we tried was the P.X. I Love You ($13): a much lighter, surprisingly creamy drink, comprising sherry, cachaรงa, umeshu , marmalade, and lemon.
I'm really impressed at what's on offer so far, but it seems that there's more in the works. Alongside beers on tap (Boneshaker, Blanche de Chambly, Okanagan Pale Ale) are taps to serve up to four draught cocktails, and a planned punch program that hopes to replace the tired convention of bottle service.
There's clearly a lot to like about Rush Lane, though I expect it may get seriously packed on the weekends. That said, the guys here seem to relish the challenge of providing to a bustling throng, and if the draught cocktails can help speed up service, it shouldn't be too much of a nightmare to get a quality cocktail even on the busiest of weekends.