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Monday, January 13, 2014

Urban Eats: Cafe Bar Pasta

Unless you’re a hipster, the food scene unfolding on Dundas West may not be on your radar. But the word is out with a slew of trendy restaurants opening in the neighbourhood – including the newest kid on the block, Cafe Bar Pasta.

Cafe Bar Pasta is a bit of everything – coffee shop by day, bar and trattoria by night. The restaurant started serving coffee, drinks, and homemade pasta as of last July, and has seen a steady stream of patrons through its doors since then.  


The space is minimalist and intimate, with just 16 wood tables and a modern industrial decor. Patrons can lounge over an espresso and magazine amidst white brick walls and fire engine red swirls. But it’s not the decor that charms me - it's the pasta-making machine, sparkling wine on tap, and  pasta drying room in the basement. Could this place get any cooler? 

A group of journalist and bloggers crowd into the kitchen to watch Chef Jay Scaife and Sous Chef Eddie Vargas get busy creating dishes. The Chefs toss ingredients, chop, flip food in pans, and lecture us about the art of pasta making. With all the smoke and sizzling, it feels like a high school science lab – except tomato and garlic wafts through the air instead of chemicals. I struggle to balance my notepad and camera as steaming hot entrees are passed to us for a taste.
Paired with a red wine, the Passata and Parmesan Meatballs ($8) are a bite-sized treat (above). Order this dish as an appetizer for the table...if you don’t mind sharing, that is.

Biting into the Rigatoni ($22), my appetite is roused by fresh homemade pasta sautéed in a light cream sauce (above). The niblets of sweet corn balance the savoury shredded duck and chanterelle mushrooms. Who would’ve thought that corn and pasta could whip my taste buds into a frenzy? 
It doesn’t get richer than a plate of Bucatini Amatriciana ($16): thick spaghetti noodles, hollow in the centre, topped with zesty tomato sauce and Parmesan cheese (above). The spicy flavour is deeply satisfying and makes my nose run a little. A warning to prospective diners: this sassy dish bites back.
I’m a little stunned when Chef Jay Scaife whips out a blowtorch to cook the Ravioli ($22). The ingredients are equally as impressive as the cooking technique: each pasta is stuffed with braised short rib and bone marrow, and then marinated in parsley, burnt orange, and white truffle oil. It’s an ambitious dish, but the taste doesn’t quite inspire like the others. Sometimes, less is more.
After a series of savoury dishes, I’m ready to feast on decadent desserts of Cheese Danish drizzled with chocolate sauce, white chocolate pumpkin cheesecake, and salted caramel chocolate truffles (above).

The Verdict:

Cafe Bar Pasta is a welcome addition to the Dundas West food scene. This is an ideal place to meet a friend for a coffee, a cocktail, or an entree (or two) in a relaxed environment. The wine on tap is a bonus, developed by Master Sommelier John Szabo. 

The Details: 

Cafe Bar Pasta 
1588 Dundas St. W
Toronto, ON
Tue - Wed: 6:00 pm - 10:30 pm
Thu - Sat: 6:00 pm - 12:00 am

-- Lisa Jackson is a freelance writer and blogs at Eat Drink Travel Magazine. Find her online @eatdrinktravels.


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