We came for meatless Monday but ended up eating horse. So it goes when faced with the meat-riddled menu at the new Bar Buca Eglinton, the younger sib to the Portland Street Italian snack bar. The glassed-in corner spot from chef-preneur Rob Gentile is a foodie-primed addition to the construction-addled strip.
A lacklustre introduction
We’re told to sit wherever we please as it’s all communal. Menus are plunked on the table, and we’re informed of the concept: “sharing.” The spiel is over. Fortunately, both of us are familiar with the style of menu, but an ounce of gregariousness from our seemingly rushed server would have been appreciated.
Armed with our $100, as always, the menu is given the thrice-over. Meat and seafood infuse every part of the list, though we opt to squeeze in a salad (for health!). A reasonable amount of food is checked off. Plus there’s money for drinks! The infusioni di Buca ($12) intrigue. Caroline goes artichoke (or carciofo); Karolyne opts for the bitter almond mandorla amara. Both delight, though the latter is the favourite.
The shareable feast arrives
The parade of dishes begins before the drinks hit the table — the tipples arrive separately, well after the fried curls of the trippa (honeycomb tripe) ($6) have been hoovered. We graze on bianchetti ($6), tiny mouthfuls of what feel like excitingly fishy shoestring fries. Slabs of house-made bread (fettunta) ($4) are rubbed in garlic and drizzled lightly with olive oil, and we work to sop up the remaining juices from the aforementioned salad ($12), which flaunts about eight segments of arancia rossa (blood orange), one agrodolce olive per slice and a rumour of fennel.
Bar Buca’s bianchetti ($6) (IMAGE: CHUCK ORTIZ)
The dishes delight our diners
The cavallo saltimbocca ($18) arrives ready to share, as expected in Bucatown. Sourced from a farm in Calgary, the horse is dressed simply with lemon and capers.
The steak is followed by sarde in saor ($16), a spear of sardines that tastes a day past its prime dolled up in puckery sea buckthorn berries; we like the concept, but the mouthfuls don’t hit the mark. Yet the Pugliese-style pizza — the lardo di colonata ($14) — is a redeemer of a dish, its puffy crust papered with slips of salumi and finished with pistachio crumbles and wildflower honey. Warm, salty, sweet, it’s everything. If our budget had allowed, another would have been ordered promptly. It’s one of the standouts from a meal-to-share that did well on the food but underwhelmed with the service.
Mandorla amara $12
Arancia rossa $12
Cavallo saltimbocca $18
Sarde in saor $16
Lardo di colonata $14
Bar Buca, 101 Eglinton Ave E #5, 416-599-2822