Nuna: The vibe
With barely a sign outside, the entranceway to Nuna on Queen Street West might be missable, but the flavourful Peruvian food certainly isn’t. Step into the buzzing weekend atmosphere, and slide into a banquette flanked by the exposed brick wall and undulating white wood ceiling. It’s a cozy and charming space, with a splash of intrigue from the arching wood.
Partners in love and life, Sergio Nazario and Jazmin Sansur own and operate the restaurant. Sansur can be seen bouncing around the dining room, ensuring that guests are having the best experience, while chef Nazario captains the kitchen.
Nuna means “soul” in Quechua, an indigenous language from Peru, and this restaurant has plenty of it. You can feel that real thought and care has been put into everything in this warm and inviting space. I would take anyone here — a date, my mom, my girlfriends — and feel confident that we would have a delicious meal and a great time.
Nuna: The menu
Born and raised in Lima, chef Nazario’s passion for Peruvian food shines through the menu. It’s not overly long, but includes more than enough to delight the palate. Peruvian classics share the stage with inventive dishes that incorporate the cuisine's flavours, like the gnocchi with braised short rib and Peruvian pesto.
We started with the fried tofu — crispy battered chunks drenched in a sweet and sour sauce that still makes my mouth water when I think about it. Next up: the Nuna ceviche. Delicate pieces of octopus and grouper dance in a zesty, spicy leche de tigre that I couldn’t get enough of. Crunchy canchitas give the dish a nice texture, and I was grateful for a hunk of sweet potato on the side that helped to cool my tingling palate.
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I can see how the rotisserie chicken could be an easy pleaser for those uninitiated to the world of bright Peruvian flavours — the chicken itself was a bit bland, but it was served with a delectable sauce drizzled on top, along with salad, crispy potatoes and a tasty aji verde dipping sauce on the side. The octopus and cauliflower purée was a real showstopper though. The tender, perfectly charred tentacles came with crispy cauliflower on the slurp-able purée.
For dessert, the Peruvian flan had just the right amount of sweetness and the perfect texture — firm but still smooth and creamy.
Nuna: The cocktails
Spain, Argentina and Portugal are represented on the wine list, which lets you order almost any serve in a 5 oz or 9 oz glass, or by the bottle. There are a few beers, too. The craft cocktails, however, are the real draw. They serve the classics and beautifully-crafted mocktails, but the signature cocktails and pisco cocktails are where the bar really shines.
The Grapefruit Fields is a booze-forward yet fruity blend of fernet, bourbon, passionfruit and grapefruit. The classic pisco sour is delicious, but the Toxic Swim, with pisco, cucumber, mint and egg white, was my favourite of the evening.
Dinner and drinks for two: around $125 before tax and tip
Nuna Kitchen & Bar, 1265 Queen St. W.; nunatoronto.com