Bar Poet (Toronto)

Shakespeare’s famous saying proclaims, “If music be the food of love, play on.”  It aptly reminds me of Bar Poet, a restaurant that blends top 40 tunes from past and present, an eclectic comfort food menu, and arcade games. And by the end, the 2-hour seating limit flies by and all we want to do stay longer.

The arancini ($15) was seriously good. Made with mushroom risotto, there’s an earthiness to the creamy rice ball that’s stronger than the cheese only versions. But add in sambal cream and chili oil and that hit of heat goes so well with the comforting starter.

Somehow, we ordered a lot of dishes incorporating chili. The NYC spicy rigatoni ($18.95), an item so highly recommended in Google reviews, was surprisingly plain: pasta tossed in a spicy rosé cream with a fine dusting of Parmigiano. While it was tasty, a few spoonsful were sufficient, I can’t imagine having an entire dish to myself.

Even the Dovercourt and Queen ‘sweet’ calamari ($19) had a zing. The menu describes the sauce as being tomato based (pomodoro aioli) but tasted like the spicy rigatoni. Regardless, it’s a flavourful dish as goat cheese, chives and pickled peppers mingles with the squid. Even though the ingredients do detract from the calamari’s crispiness.

Bar Poet is known for their pizzas (all $22). If you like pepperoni, you’ll love the Hot Rod, a pie covered with tiny pepperoni with hot honey creating a sweet, salty, and spicy bite. For me, it was a bit greasy and heavy, but likely wouldn’t bother a pepperoni aficionado.

I preferred Rob’s Favourite Pizza, which sounded like a hodgepodge of ingredients, but they work together so nicely. A white pizza made with alfredo bacon sauce, it combines pulled chicken, brie, kale, spinach, caramelized onion, hot honey, chili flakes, and Parmigiano. Despite all the spicy elements, the pizza was the least spicy of the dishes we ordered, likely the chili and hot honey calmed by the creamy ingredients. Rob knows how to create an interesting meaty pie.

The pizza crust stays dry on the bottom despite an ample number of toppings. While it doesn’t have the requisite crispiness I enjoy, there was a lovely chewy consistency and sour dough finish that makes it tasty even without dipping sauce. Additionally, I love the inclusiveness of Bar Poet’s pizza menu with pies available gluten-free as well as vegan.

Everyone raves about the tiramisu ($9). While it wasn’t terrible, it also wasn’t great. It incorporated too much cream (didn’t incorporate enough mascarpone) and not enough of the espresso ladyfingers. While the Skor bits adds a unique element, left in chunks it was too crunchy and would be better in powdered form.

We were intrigued by the peanut butter espresso martini ($19), which emits a faint aroma of peanut butter but none of the taste. A decent rendition of the drink, it’s really sugary given it’s mostly made with Tia Maria and no vodka. Ultimately, one is enough, and I was glad that I switched to their other cocktails like the white negroni ($19).

Amongst the foliage ceiling and twinkling lights, Bar Poet creates a unique environment. Somehow, amongst the blasting music and Skee ball machines, there’s a romantic aspect to makes you want to eat, drink, and play on.   

In a nutshell... 
  • Must order: pizza and arancini
  • Just skip: tiramisu

Overall mark - 8 out of 10

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 1090 Queen St West

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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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