Behind a hazy pink bodega, through a thick grey plastic fringe is Mahjong Bar, a tropical Asian hideaway/getaway with delectable drinks and dishes awaiting you.
Dynamos Joshua LeBlanc (former co-owner of Track and Field Bar), Emily Blake, Kyle Wong (family resto Cosy Restaurant & Tavern in St. Catharines, est. 1964; his grandmother Suy Woo Wong still oversees the kitchen), and Andrew Perry (former GM of Home of the Brave) have created a completely unique setting and atmosphere that feels strangely familiar.
Compelling and evocative, you won’t be able to stay away. Especially once you’ve had the food and cocktails.
It’s easy to get a good cocktail in the city these days, but you’ve never had dranks like this.
Dreamed up by bartender Danny Tait and GM Andrew Perry, the cheeky list (it’s the first and only list you’ll see AF, Netflix, Louis Vuitton heels, Tame Impala and K-pop together), features Asian flavours (sake, soju, shiso, umeboshi, pandan, lemongrass, China China, for example) mix and mingle with evocative salty, sour and smoky notes. “Our palate tends to be sour, funky,” says Tait, who was “heavily influenced” by his time working at Momofuku, as well as traveling throughout Japan.
Love whisky? There’s a whole section just for you. And of course there’s a heap of beer (10 taps and bottles), cider and vino.
See you on the dance floor.
Food is currently available Wednesday to Sunday, so be sure to visit these days for the insanely addictive traditional Chinese food. Plans to expand to the rest of the week are in the works, so stay tuned.
The focused menu of small plates, created in collaboration with Soos Restaurant, includes wontons, noodles, greens and deep-fried half moons that you’ll no doubt double (or triple) up on.
Fixtures & Fittings
The former Portuguese sports bar got a transformation of epic proportions. Interior designers Jake Bonnetta and Terence Sheard of Grey North reimagined the 2,000 square-foot space, creating a ’60s Hong Kong film-like setting (a photo still from Wong Kar-wai’s In the Mood for Love hangs over the stairs down to the washrooms), complete with pink neon, pink marble bar top, gold mesh ceiling and screen, and swaths of green.
Local artist Gabriella Lo created a captivating custom 36-foot mural, while co-owner Blake found a variety of alluring (and very heavy) deco-influenced antiques, including the lacquer cabinet at back (now the DJ booth) and two 100-year-old cabinets from a department store in Stratford that serve as the back bar. The illuminated keyhole doorway isn’t just another design feature but an exact replica of Wong’s family restaurant.
Everyone involved believes in the importance of lighting, and those Chinese chairs? They were spotted on Netflix’s Ozarks.
They’ve created such a cohesive vintage look, you never feel like you’re in a new space, but one that’s been lived in for decades. Even the floor – which would have fit right in with the former sports bar – was redone by the team.
Call it a theme bar and you’ve missed the point entirely.
Off the Menu
Peach Panther ($13)
Salty and sour notes (salted watermelon, Soju, lemon and sugar) enliven the palate, while sherry rounds out the sassy sipper.
Tropic Thunder ($13)
Coconut soaked rum, pandan, lime and pineapple juices sound like the components of your typical tropical tipple, but the smooth mouth feel and vacation scent from coconut oil and fragrant aromatics courtesy of pandan, take it to another level.
Mahjong Pork Half Moon ($9)
These crispy crunchy delights come in a vegetarian version as well. Deep fried patties of pork, onion and ginger, served with a side of black vinegar, will be your new favourite late night addiction.
I get it. You’re not a fan. You remain unconvinced that you will ever like eggplant. That’s because you haven’t had like this: Chinese eggplant stewed to an evocative softness, nestled next to preserved veg, crispy pork, crunchy onions and hot peppers, served with two mantou buns.
Chengdu Wontons ($10)
Delicate packets of pork and shrimp get a heavy dose of Sichuan chili oil, finished with a pile of scallions and sliced hot peppers on top. The heat is exhilarating, though you’ll probably want a bunch of water on standby.
Braised Beef ($13)
Huge chunks of braised beef tucked in alongside rice noodles and greens with Sichuan chili oil, crispy onions, scallions and rings of hot pepper is a fabulous meal in a bowl. It also doubles as a great alcohol soaker-upper.
The space accommodates 96 guests for dinner, drinks, snacks, and a whole lotta dancing.
Menu By: Chef Trish Soo
Head Honchos: Joshua LeBlanc, Emily Blake, Kyle Wong, and Andrew Perry
FOH: Andrew Perry & Joshua LeBlanc
Map It: 1276 Dundas St. W. (near Dovercourt)
Visiting Hours: 5 pm to 2 am daily
Phone it in: No number. The bar doesn’t take reservations for parties of less than 12. To book a party, email email@example.com.
How Cool is This?! This is probably the first legit bar where you can buy condoms, vintage Penthouse magazines and Baby Foot (Google it; you’ll be simultaneously horrified and amazed). There’s also celebrity prayer candles by local online art and vintage shop @stuff4babes, Asian candies, and non-alcoholic beverage for sale. In the works: coffee to go and instant ramen station with fresh toppings!
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