Toronto's BarChef, as the name implies, equates the skill and invention of the people behind the bar with the city's top gastronomic innovators. These aren't just bartenders, these are bar-chefs, using fresh ingredients and complex recipes to create drinks you'll remember. The bar is co-owned by Brent Vander Veen and Frankie Solarik, the latter of whom is well-known in Canada as a pioneer of a progressive and contemporary approach to cocktails a mixologist not afraid to use frozen carbon dioxide and blowtorches when creating his concoctions. Based in the space that used to house the Opal Jazz Lounge, BarChef is a stylish venue, with the apothecary-like bar very much the focus of the room. The counter is lined with fresh herbs and fruits, bottled infusions and tinctures, and countless other tools of the trade. And the sound of bartenders hand chipping ice spheres and pouring clinking drinks into antique glasses is accompanied by a nostalgic soundtrack of music, ranging from jazz to some more recent, but carefully selected, sounds. The cocktail menu is divided into Punchbowls, Sweet and Sour, Sipping and Molecular, and knowledgeable staff will happily guide you through the sometimes rather startling choices. Their Martini Threes Ways is a masterful molecular exercise and their list of ingredients includes tobacco-infused bourbon, lavender foam, and gin and tonic 'air' (though, admittedly, not in the same drink). There's also small menu of bar snacks to keep you fortified as you make your way through the cocktails. You'll soon see why this place has been repeatedly cited as one of the most innovative bars in the world.
What they peers say
"In the windy city that is Toronto the highly charismatic Frankie runs Barchef. This dark and moodily lit bar has a mildly gothic atmosphere. This mood is amplified when you order one of Frankie’s signature smoked Manhattans, which arrives under a theatrical glass bell jar filled with oak chip smoke. However this is not just theatricality as the delicate smoke flavour enhances this classic drink in a most miraculous way." Nick Strangeway of Strange Hill