Matahari Bar & Grill
39 Baldwin St.
Dinner & drinks for two: $55
Modern decor might seem out of place on Baldwin Street, but I think it’s a refreshing change.
Matahari Bar & Grill is clean sleek and peaceful, like a spa. Aqua banquettes line white walls with sayings imparted in big font, such as “Good things are being said about you,” and “Wise men learn from fools, than fools from the wise.”
It doesn’t disclose the cuisine in the least â€” you’d never know Malay, Chinese, Peranakan (Nyonya) and Indian food are served here.We begin with the Matahari Platter for Two ($20), which is phenomenal. Fresh flavours abound via the Spring Roll (filled with julienne jicama and shrimp), Achar Achar (pickled cucumber, carrot with pineapple, cabbage, green beans in a spicy marinade) and the soft and moist Satays (chicken, beef). Fried Shrimp Wontons and Keropok (homemade shrimp crackers) satiate our wintery craving for scrumptious deep fried food. Red Chili Chicken ($15) bestows a sweet heat and coalesces with red onions, tomatoes and snow peas. The Casbah Cashew Prawn ($18) has great texture â€“ shrimp fraternizes with split button mushrooms and fiery sundried chili peppers, comprising a truly sexy dish. I can’t say what we ate was particularly Peranakan, but it was delicious.
Trane Studio (964 Bathurst St.) â€” Toronto’s only African-Canadian owned jazz bar â€” has a new menu, courtesy of Former Four Seasons Sous Chef Eglon Walker. Southern American and Caribbean flavours combine in dishes such as Trane Ja Style Pepper Shrimps that is served with Plantain Chips. Go to www.tranestudio.com or call 416-913-8197 for info.
As long as you don’t mind the casual atmosphere â€” picnic benches crammed into a small space â€” you’re going to love Tacos El Asador (690 Bloor St. W.). Tantalizing burritos, enchiladas, nachos and more are made to order. Some of the dishes are El Salvadorian, not Mexican but still tasty. Call 416-538-9747 for hours and info.