CLOSED: Hawker Bar (Toronto)

It’s a dinner I’ve anticipated for two years - finally I’ve dined at Toronto’s Hawker Bar! When it first opened in 2012, the enticing coverage on their flavourful Singaporean street food beckoned. Then the startling realization that they don’t accept reservations put a damper on my enthusiasm. So, when the restaurant expanded to a second floor and started taking reservations, the wait was over!

Grabbing a group of friends that like sharing, we made our way to Hawker Bar and I readied myself for the delights to begin … only to come to the same startling realization that the meal wasn’t going to be bliss.

It began well with a son-in-law egg ($7 for two), which is essentially a boiled egg that has its shell removed and then is deep fried. As learnt from Adventure Foodie, the dish is said to be used by a mother to remind their son-in-law, when he’s unkind to her daughter, that his family jewels can easily end up prepared like the egg if he doesn’t improve. 

Despite being warned to eat it in one bite (as the molten yolk may squirt out), the egg was cooked thoroughly and the promised gooeyness was a bust. The texture reminded me of silken egg tofu and was an interesting combination of sweet tangy sauce and crispy shallots; it’d be even better if it were warmer.

The chili school prawns ($9) had a decent flavour with sweet, savoury and spicy elements. There was a distinct ginger flavour and would be nice snack with a cold beer – with their small size and being deep fried, you can even eat the shell.

Like a creamier tom yum, the broth in the shrimp laksa ($14) had a lot of heat, but I also found the tamarind overpoweringly sour. Nonetheless, the thin egg noodles were springy and the accompanying tofu and eggplant worked well to soak up the soup. Although there aren’t any pictured, there were a number of shrimp at the bottom of the bowl.

The nasi goreng ($8) was disappointing, lacking the lovely aroma and heat you’d normally expect from this iconic fried rice. Indeed, there was garlic mixed into it, but it needed more along with a condiment other than soy sauce. Overall, it lacked flavour and was way too clumpy.

On the other hand, the Singapore noodles ($16) had an intense curry and spice mixture covering the vermicelli. Generally, I liked the flavours but because the sauce was so strong, the dish really needed something fresh to counterbalance it - the bean sprouts were a good start but green onions and bell pepper slivers may be even better. 

We resoundingly agreed the chili soy chicken wings ($11.95 for a pound) was the highlight of the evening. Hot, aromatic, garlicky and sweet, there was so much flavour on the meat you didn’t even need the dipping sauce. Being a smaller size, there were a sufficient amount for our table of five to each have two.  

Despite the “street-food” concept, Hawker Bar was attentive, taking care to switch our plates as they became messy. Although not the most warm, service was efficient with the dishes arriving at a well-timed pace. At long last, there are things worth the wait, but sometimes there are others that aren’t. 

Overall mark - 6 out of 10

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 164 Ossington Avenue

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Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!

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