Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Bar Chiaki - In Toronto

Chiaki’s Bar, located on Steels and Woodbine, is one of my favourite joints, not only because I know the owner but also because I like the atmosphere. Besides, I am deeply intrigued by the Japanese culture.

But first the bar.
As I have been there a number of times, I am going to describe more the ambience than the details of what is offered. And the interior decoration is simple but rich. As with most East Asian restaurants, black colour plays a major role, with a couple sofas and setties in that colour. The countertop is also black granite. I find it very chic.
They do have a variety of alcohol – from wine and beer to the harder stuff such as whiskey. I usually go for a beer. I also like sake but I find the tradition of drinking out of small (very small) cups quite challenging for someone who drinks tea or coffee from a big mug (sorry, my coffee-loving Italian friends and green tea-loving Chinese and Japanese friends).
And it was Chiaki’s Bar that introduced me to another drink that has become one of my favourites: Shozu or Shochu. It is made from barley, sweet potatoes or rice, but unlike sake, is distilled. It is also stronger – at around 25%. It was during a visit in deep winter that I had asked for something stronger, and they suggested it. It came with warm water. Usually, I balk at the idea because adding water to alcohol is a strict no for my digestive system; it makes me feel nauseated.
But this turned out to be a different experience. Smooth and warm – ideal for winter.
There is always some bite at Chiaki’s – usually roasted nuts of different types. Time to time they will give us what they cook for themselves.
And if you take a break to the washroom, they will wait with a warm napkin when you come back.
One interesting facet of the bar experience is the interaction of the waitresses with the customers. They never say no when a customer offers to buy them a drink. In fact, they seem to like it very much. But they remain on their side of the counter and if you are seated in the couch, sometimes will kneel down and pour the drink in your cup (though I am not sure whether this act of kneeling depends on the social status. The Japanese are, after all, very tradition bound).
Even more intriguing is the amount of alcohol Japanese women can handle; And they do not seem to hesitate to mix drinks – beer, wine and the harder ones; they take everything in a stride, and still walk with a straight head.

Bar Chiaki has a website, though currently only the Japanese version is available. English site is under construction.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the review.

    Just curious, what's the clientele at that place? Looks intriguing, but the website gives me the impression that they cater primarily to Japanese customers. Did you get that impression?

    Also, do they carry 'honkaku' shochu?