What’s the vibe
Ossington may not be anywhere near the Mediterranean, but something tells us that no matter how bad Toronto's weather gets, Bar Koukla is always going to feel like a Grecian holiday in the middle of the city.
Mirrors framed by warmly lit copper fixtures hang over a long bar sprinkled with colourful specks and eager diners awaiting their next cocktail. On the opposite side, a 30’ rope installation drapes against the white-washed brick wall, paying homage to the craftsmanship and history of a Greek fishing village.
The busy efficiency radiating from the open kitchen mixed with jubilant conversations over licked-clean plates made us question if all this unrestrained energy was really happening on a weeknight. Turns out, it was.
What to drink
The extensive wine list of organic, biodynamic and natural selections was unlike anything we’ve seen before. Each bottle is imported from Greece and, with the exception of one Pet Nat, available by the glass. Our night, however, was all about the mixed drinks.
The Aegean Spritz, their remix of the internet famous Aperol spritz, with aegean citrus, sparkling wine and flowers, was our favourite. It was the ideal blend of not-too-sweet, not-too-bitter bubbly that tasted as good as it looked. The Tzatziki – the drink, not the dip, although we had lots of that too – was a close runner up with refreshing mint and cold-pressed cucumber.
For dessert we had the decadent Sumac Sour with Metaxa, a fruity Greek amber spirit that lines Koukla’s shelves, served in a gold rimmed coupe glass.
Each specialty cocktail is crafted with a minimum 2 oz. of alcohol, but they’re superbly balanced so you don’t get that burning, full-of-immediate-regret sensation. Our three cocktails – each (which felt more like six), went down smooth and quick, unlike our walk home.
What to eat
Koukla offers Athenian meze, translated to “a taste” or a bite, which are small plates of savoury snacks typically served as a complement to drinks. All fifteen sharing plates may be small, but they are by no means second rate.
If we had to eat only the oven baked Greek feta pie for the rest of our lives, we’d be quite happy with that. Once you sink your teeth into the flakey phyllo drizzled with honey and topped with juicy pomegranates you’ll find a salty, warm block of feta that won't let you look at grocery store cheese the same.
There were only five minutes left for the daily buck-a-shuck deal (4:30 - 6:30 p.m. with purchase of beverage). Thankfully, our last minute request was met with fresh east and west coast oysters from their raw bar – a rotating selection of local and imported seafood like sea urchin, jumbo shrimp and razor clams.
The seafood cravings continued with bites of light and crispy calamari, followed by the sea bream crudo (with chili for heat offset by sweet blood orange) which was like a dip in the Aegean sea for our tastebuds.
Finally, the succulent lamb ribs sous-vide for hours before grilled were pure, fall-off-the-bone bliss.
Dinner and drinks for two: around $100
88 Ossington Ave, (416) 901-7899; koukla.mamakas.ca