Though Toronto favorite Valdez is now gone, it’s certainly not forgotten. Developing a loyal following thanks to its unbelievably delicious Latin American street food, many were sad to see it go. Thankfully, then, we have Baro, Chef Steven Gonzalez’s newest creation which has opened up just down the street, adding some heat to the city’s bustling entertainment district.
Sporting four floors over 4,000 square feet – one for the restaurant (which features an open kitchen and some rustic decor), another with a raw bar lounge, an all-season patio and a private event space – Baro is quite the establishment. Inspired by the aforementioned Valdez, just with a bit more of a modern spin, Gonzalez’s joint features the spirit of South America running through everything from its food and decor to its cocktails and vibe, making for an authentic, and memorable experience.
Earlier this week, we were lucky enough to stop by Baro for a quick preview of what they had to offer before Gonzalez swung the doors open to the general public. Over the course of several hours, we sampled various cocktails and dishes, with commentary from both Steven himself and several other staff members, explaining why this new King St. W spot is so special to them and what they hope to bring to the city with it. There’s a passion for both the food and culture coursing through Steven that only certain chefs have, and it ensures that everything in Baro is prepared and executed to perfection.
“As a Chef, I am always striving to break the barriers and elevate the experiences of food for all of my guests. At Baro, this is not only our goal but it is the very essence of every single dish I create,” Gonzalez says. “We promise to deliver a food experience that is fresh, seasonal, rich in Latin culture and always made from scratch.”
Starting off with some signature cocktails and Gonzalez’s famous – and to die for – guacamole, the reception quickly transitioned into a tasting dinner, where we got to dig into three items off the menu as well as a number of the restaurant’s specialty drinks.
Among the highlights of what we got to feast on were the Ceviche Nikkei, which blends Asian and Latin influences for a truly delicious little snack. Boasting himachi, ponzu, lime, tofu, edamame, lotus root, radish and nori, it was quite unlike any ceviche we’ve ever had, packing in a healthy kick on the way down and leaving behind a juice that Gonzalez suggests you drink up after – and we advise you to listen to him on that.
Elsewhere, we also got to dig into what’s destined to become a crowd favorite: the OG Duck Chaufa. Most resembling bibimbap, this fried rice dish is tossed at your table and placed inside a Chinese food carton as it’s served to you. Arriving with duck confit, rice, edamame, egg, papi kung fu, chile and tobiko, it’s a delicious mixture of several enticing flavors that come together to hit the sweet spot upon each and every bite.
In terms of beverages, bar manager Wes Galloway impressed us most with The Baro Sour – a signature drink which quite frankly, is one of the best cocktails we’ve ever had. With passionfruit, egg whites, guava, raspberry blossom honey and more, it’s a sweet and fun concoction, going down easy and leaving a sugary taste on our palette.
Also of note was the Iron Tyrant. While quite a bit stronger than The Baro Sour, it’s unique in that it features a Toasted Oak-infused ice cube, which takes up almost the entire glass. That’s because as you walk around with it, the ice melts and actually ages the drink the longer it sits in there, evolving your cocktail before your very eyes.
If there’s one thing that was made abundantly clear throughout the night, it’s that Toronto’s entertainment district just got a whole lot more exciting thanks to Baro. Valdez may be gone, but its spirit lives on through Gonzalez’s latest creation. The establishment has so much to offer the city and extends far beyond just a place to grab a bite to eat or a cocktail to sip on. There’s an unmistakable energy pulsing throughout the entire place. Throughout its staff, throughout its cuisine and throughout Steven – and it’s that energy which will no doubt turn Baro into one of Toronto’s hottest spots in the months to come. Mark our words.