Nuit Social on West Queen West is perfectly positioned to attract the area's overflowing nightlife - and, better still, the kitchen stays open right until midnight. It's not the kind of place for a traditional three-course dinner, though it's easy enough to nosh and nibble your way to fullness.
Populated mostly by two-tops and the occasional four-seater, the intimate 30-seat room is perfectly suited as a date night destination. Overhauled since its former life as Happy Child , the focal point of the room is the colourful stained-glass bar that cast a romantic glow across the space. Uncomfortable school house chairs, while cute are my only grievance -- everything else, from the menu to attentive service invites guests to cozy in and stay a while.
The concept from owner Tino Bianchi is centred around build-your-own boards which makes for an infinitely customizable experience. Selections include an always evolving, carefully curated list of cured meats and artisanal cheeses, sold one ($4.50), three ($12) or five ($17) selections at a time.
Salty, briny, jewel-toned olives can be ordered one variety at a time for $3, three for $6, or five for $9 - otherwise you can leave to chance the varied accompaniments like fruits, chutneys, mustards and crostini that decorate each board.
Other than the collection of meats and cheeses, the menu from chef John Rosal (formerly of Modus ) offers well seasoned fried nibbles like crisp cornmeal dusted calamari ($14), fried artichokes ($11) and saffron-scented arancini ($14) studded with spicy Italian sausage.
After an array of salty snacks, a dainty plate of sweet scallops ($14) is a welcome contrast. Glazed in brown butter, halved scallops are set over a silky corn purĂŠe and garnished with honey mushrooms and sweet corn kernels.
The eclectic wine list features 20 thoughtfully selected labels which, like the food, favours small or family-run producers. You can order 3oz or 5oz pours, as well as by the bottle or half bottle; I like that the 3oz glasses start at $4 and encourage a similar sampling approach as the rest of the menu.
Cocktails are pricier - almost prohibitively so, should you want to savour a few. The list is focused on the classics ($12-$15), with a handful of signature drinks meant to satisfy seasonal cravings. Costs aside, the Blue Botanist ($14), featuring gin and elderflower liqueur muddled with blueberries, lemon and frothy egg whites, is undeniably tasty. Friendlier on my wallet are 16oz beers, like Kensington Augusta Ale or Beau's Lug Tread, offered for $5.
Open every day except Tuesday from 5pm, Nuit Social obligingly takes reservations. Expect the spot to expand with a 20-seat backyard patio in time for next spring.
Photos by Morris Lum.