The restaurant: Mahjong Bar (1276 Dundas St. West, Toronto, ON)
The occasion: The ELLE Canada holiday party.
The vibe: Speakeasy chic. Hidden behind a neon-lit bodega, the glowing red space near the Ossington strip is both stylish and nostalgic at the same time. You have to walk through a curtain and a keyhole doorway to enter cosy space—which was inspired by 1960s Hong Kong and a restaurant run by one of the co-owner’s family—adorned with retro decor and a gorgeous mural. The seating is on a raised platform, so bring your dancing shoes for the DJs who spin here on the weekends.
The food and drinks: Trust us: you’ll want to sample a bit of everything off of the bar’s expertly-made menu of Chinese small plates, which includes shrimp wontons, grilled lamb skewers and vegan sesame cold noodles. Be forewarned: many of the plates pack a little heat—but that won’t stop you from going back for seconds. We also started with bubbles and wine (obvi) before moving onto the top-notch cocktail menu. We tried the Lake Joe Spritz, a light and refreshing blend of plum wine, yuzu, prosecco and Topo Chico that, ideally, we’ll next be sipping on at the cottage over a summer long weekend. The Tame Impala is a Mahjong crowd favourite, with its spicy and smokey combo of tequila, ginger, lime and mezcal.
Image by: Mahjong Bar
The standout: We haven’t been able to stop thinking about the wok-fried eggplant served with preserved veggies and mantou bun. The savoury eggplant was so tasty that multiple eggplant agnostics on the ELLE team said it was the best they’d ever had (really). Pile some on atop the fluffy bun, and you’ve got a perfect bite.
We recommend it for: We can definitely see making Mahjong our standard post-work/chill-end-of-weekend hangout spot. But maybe not if you don’t feel like sharing food—you’ll be tempted to keep it all to yourself. Don’t forget to pick up some late-night snacks (we’re partial to Twizzlers) from the bodega on your way out.