WAbar is a hidden gem occupying an unassuming storefront on Isabella at Yonge that dubs itself an Asian sports bar. Owners Gen Shimanuki, Jonathon Ho and Michael Buenaventura are a trio of friends with a decade of party-promoting experience who claim that this is the bar they've always wanted to bring to Toronto.
Stepping inside, I sense that I've entered a pimped-out man cave/rec room. The tiny, 30-seat bar is painted black and dimly lit with glowing coloured lights, while six big screen TVs keep sports streaming at every angle. In the back there are beer pong tables and an SNES set-up for Mario Kart and Street Fighter tournaments.
I visit on a Thursday evening to find a clientele of late twenty/early thirty somethings who are jovial but not at all rowdy. Pitchers ($20.35) and pints ($7.96) of Sapporo are the main draw tonight, but the menu offers a varied selection of cocktails, sakes and sojus.
Also noteworthy and unusual is that almost every type of rail liquor imaginable is available by the bottle: whisky, tequila, vodka, sold 750ml at a time ranging from $110 to $550. It confirms my suspicions that this place is primed for parties and geared towards large groups (who can reserve half the room at a time) and heavy drinkers. I'm told that DJs spin on weekends and that impromptu dance parties have been known to break out.
There's food, too. The menu features reasonably-priced Japanese and Korean-inspired pub fare like fried wings, grilled meats, sushi platters and tatakis. WAdogs ($7.75), otherwise known as JapaDogs are available in a half dozen izakaya-esque variations, topped with things like takoyaki (octopus balls), BBQ beef or tempura shrimp.
Also popular, are Kimchi Fries ($7) loaded with chunks of braised beef, spicy cabbage, mayo and green onions. The fries are a little pale and not so crisp, but the dish is redeemed by the spicy, meaty, saucy mess of toppings.
This mash-up of a sports bar, izakaya and games room emits a house party vibe and excels at offering a little something for everyone. Should I ever agree to watch a game in a bar (this would be totally out of character), I can only hope it's this bar. While sports aren't really my thing, I'm kind of awesome at Mario Kart... and sake bombs.