Bar Buca comes for a pedigree that has gained the attention of the likes of Jamie Oliver among others. So far, so good for the offspring. It has escaped the mercurial grasp of the Globe and Mail’s Chris Nuttall-Smith as well as gaining praise from seasoned critic Joanne Kates (who I’m convinced is Carmen Sandiego) who recently called it the best thing to open in a year.
In one sense it’s following the lead of the snack bar swing which has taken Toronto by storm. In another it ups the ante by offerings goods all day including a coffee and breakfast bar as early as 7 am. The quiet exterior on Portland hides a deceivingly large area with high ceilings, seating which includes wooden high tables, an open kitchen and a coffee/booze bar right inside the entrance. In the morning, each table is equipped with sugar as well as a sugar/espresso paste in a jar which offers an extra kick to the morning coffee. Speaking of which, there are couple of dozen espresso/latte combinations to choose from. After careful deliberation I opted for a Latte Canadese latte style ($5.50). The foundation was maple and brown butter. Although the size would barely compete with a Starbucks tall, the flavour was far superior. Not for everybody, it was a bit like drinking melted fudge but the bitterness of the coffee bean balanced it to a degree.
The breakfast menu features everything from savory egg dishes to sweet pastries. Sensing my indecision, the waiter (yes, I may have forgotten to mention you sit down and they take your coffee order at the table) recommended pane and ricotta; fresh ciabatta bread lathered with fresh ricotta cheese and topped with pear marmalade (honey was an option as well) for $3.50. There was no shortage of fresh cheese. The bread was fresh and the marmalade added the contrast of sweet and clove.
Chef Rob Gentile has not only jumped on the snack food bandwagon, he’s added horsepower and a fresh coat of paint. The deviation from dinner only hours provides the opportunity to snack on an array of goods anytime of day. A smart breakfast menu with both sweet and savory items which fills the huge gap between greasy spoons and coffee shop pastries is sheer genius. The diversity and quality of caffeinated options rivals any other coffeehouse in the area. I have every intention of indulging on cicchettis, spuntinis and schiacciatas sometime soon but thankfully I have 15 hours a day and 7 days a week to do so.