What’s the vibe
Peruvian dining has long simmered under the radar but this vibrant cuisine, marked by its Latin, Japanese and Spanish influence, is finally getting its time in the spotlight. The latest upscale spot to open in the city is Mira Restaurant. And because hunting for hidden bars and restaurants has become something of a pastime in Toronto, the eatery is tucked into a lane off of King West – the same strip where you’ll find the ping pong lounge Spin. The intrigue continues as the entrance is located at the end of another smaller alley decorated with lanterns, behind an unmarked door.
Once inside, you’re welcomed by a slick interior with pops of modern art (we’re partial to the neon llama leading to the washrooms). It’s all somewhat inspired by the restaurant’s namesake, dubbed after Lima’s artsy Miramar district. You can choose a seat near the entrance if you’re eager to get a glimpse of the action in chef Stuart Cameron’s kitchen, but we preferred the buzzier vibe of the main floor. When the weather (and city licensing) gods cooperate, a small patio will open catering towards happy-hour crowds.
What to drink
Glass jugs of pisco – Peru’s national spirit – are displayed on bookended niches surrounding the bar. They’re infusing with fruit and herbs that’ll eventually be used in Mira’s signature pisco cocktails – five variations of the Pisco sour. The restaurant has partnered with local Niagara distillery Dillon’s to develop their own house pisco – a nice merging of international tradition with local makers.
Suckers for social media will appreciate the attention to details at Mira’s bar, like the restaurant’s name emblazoned on each foam-topped pisco sour and edible flowers that decorate many of its house cocktails, like Ms. Fitz – an effervescent and punchy combination of gin, absinthe and prosecco. Not forgetting Peru’s Japanese heritage (the country’s president from 1990 to 2000 is the son of Japanese immigrants), there’s an entire menu dedicated to sake here with five varieties of the fermented rice wine on offer, along with a plum wine.
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What to eat
Shareable dishes dominate, so you best get friendly with your dining mates. Since dishes are named in Spanish, Mira’s food menu might look intimidating at first glance but you’ll recognize a few familiar items upon further inspection with Peruvian inflections. Take the Tartare de Carne, for example – steak tartare spiced with aji rocoto pepper served with crisp-fried slices of mini purple potato (fun fact: there are nearly 4,000 varieties of potato native to Peru) in place of bread.
Ceviche is definitely an item to hit here, and if you’re indecisive like us, go for the Ceviche Trio which gives you tastes of the Mira, Altamar and Nikkei Atun ceviches served on ice. Our favourite was the Altamar which packs some decent heat thanks to the addition of ají amarillo peppers. For more traditional, but still very shareable mains, the Arroz con Langosta is a paella-like lobster rice dish with a ton of umami flavour. But we were most impressed by the Cerdo – suckling pig that has been pulled apart and recompressed into a perfect rectangle with a layer of crisp fried skin on top. The most artistic dishes on the menu are saved for last. Amor Con Coco is a beautiful and rich display of Peruvian chocolate in the form of mousse, a rope-like cracker and a dense fudgy bar. For a lighter option, go for the Cachangas Peruanas – a thin fried pastry topped with dollops of fruity sorbet.
Dinner and drinks for two: about $150
420A Wellington Street W, 647-951-3331, mirarestaurant.com