Hawker Bar (164 Ossington Ave.)

Nibbles: [rating=3]

At first glance, Hawker Bar doesn’t strike you as any different from other new restaurants that have popped up in Toronto in the last few years. The Toronto restaurant scene’s obsession with small tight eating quarters is both amusing and annoying. Its fun because the entire dining experience is enjoyed with the bustle of other happy gorgers, you’re so close you can hear all their muffled conversations as well as how many times they chew their food! I find that amusing. My dinner dates, usually not so much. They often prefer, “quiter” spots. The annoying part is the crowded space, the strategic maneuvering of your body parts between Hawker Bar’s tree stump looking stools just to squeeze from your table to the ladies room.

Cramped spaces aside, Hawker Bar is inspired by hawker centres found in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore in particular. These food stands offer mouth watering, inexpensive street foods made best in these beautiful South East Asian countries. If you can’t travel half way around the world in the next little while…check out Hawker Bar and their offerings.

Upon sitting down in small, not-so-comfortable tree stumps, ginger tea and ice water were offered by our server. I loved the special touch with the ginger tea especially when I discovered it was brewed from fresh ginger root as opposed to from a tea bag. I love ginger tea! I make my own with lots of strong ginger flavor, cinnamon sticks and sweet goji berries. Give it a try and I promise you’ll love it!

I wasted no time to order from the small hand written cardboard menu consisting of no more than 8 items. I started with their curry pork satay appetizer served with peanut sauce and pickled cucumbers at $6 a serving. It was average. Nothing special. The pork was slightly overdone and the peanut sauce needed more umppphhhhh!

Our next app, the Son-in-Law eggs made up the lack of pizzaz in the pork satay. These little soft boiled gems were fried and nestled on top of thick chili jam. Its a one biter, but be careful to let the eggs cool for a minute, the creamy yolk is hot as it burst open in your mouth! The savory sweetness and spice from the tomato and tamarind paste along with dark molasses in the chili jam rounded off the dish beautifully. I couldn’t resist salivating for another order…

Our final app was the Singaporean chicken wings. What I suspect to be a soy based marinade created charred crispy skin full of exotic spices. Served alongside more soy and chilies, I was a happy camper and just getting started for more!

As good as the wings were, nothing touched the show stopper of the night! The Hawker Bar chili crab! Its two fried soft shell crabs served on top of a red chili curry sauce. The aromatic perfume of ginger, lemon grass, soy, fish sauce, coconut milk added to the beautiful texture of the delicate crabs. A shredded young coconut salad with dragon fruit added a wonderful cooling effect on the palate. At $24 a pop, I could’ve had two! One of the best curry dishes in a long time!