Little Sister Indonesian Food Bar, a new Indonesian food restaurant on Yonge Street, just north of Davisville, has been open to the public for three weeks. Torontonicity was invited to the media tasting to taste their wares and experience the restaurant after it has been open for a little while and ironed out any kinks.
Lovely Shannon Shinn, the publicist for the event, greeted me warmly at the door. The immediate ambience is warm and inviting, with soft lighting and mirrors in addition to the distressed wood. Menus are unique, made from corrugated cardboard to keep the atmosphere casual. The co-owner/chef, Michael Van Den Winkel, informed me that he had asked the designer to give the restaurant a grunge chic look.
Off the Bat:
This is an adult special place that could turn into a “your place” restaurant. There are no TVs to distract your date. They offer no delivery, which makes it a distinctive place to dine out. The dishes are not customized to reduce the heat for children’s palates. Since dishes take time to prepare, meals are consistent.
Jeremy, the handsome bartender, mixes up a storm with his signature drinks. He was originally employed at the established “Quince Bistro” up the street, but was invited to join the team at the more intime Little Sister and jumped at the opportunity. He was hired six weeks prior to the opening and helped varnish floors and get the restaurant ready. You can feel that the staff has an investment in the success of this place and it shows. They have an easy camaraderie and really make patrons feel welcome.
I asked if Jeremy had created the drink himself, but he said he liked to focus on the serving element so Little Sister hired a mixologist to concoct some Indonesian-flavoured drinks to accompany the food.
Michael came to chat with me as his wife, Jenn, was doing throughout the evening. It was a nice touch for the owners to get to know their patrons. Even though it was a media event, I got the impression this may be a regular thing they do. Little Sister Food Bar is the only exclusively Indonesian restaurant in Toronto. Michael is Dutch and hails from Amsterdam. His background as a chef is from working in the navy there. On the naval ships, every Wednesday was deemed Indonesian food night, so he really enjoyed the challenge and excitement of creating new dishes for the crew. He said that Indonesian dishes take about sixteen hours to make because sauces need to be cooked very slowly to infuse the flavours with all the peppery, spicy goodness.
The Beef Croquette was delicious. A tasty shell of breadcrumbs breaks open in your mouth to reveal a soft, spicy ragout of beef and spices. Michael calls it Dutch junk food 🙂
The Rendang taco was fiery and a little messy.
Babi Panggang is a delicious pork belly served atop of a crispy cracker. The pork is seared on both sides rendering the middle meat velvety moist.
Pangsit is a crispy wonton. Make sure you completely envelope the wonton in the zesty sauce. This was one of my favourites. Delicious.
Satay Ayam is one of the skewers on the menu. It was okay, but not as exciting as the other dishes.
Samur java spicy beef is somewhat lacklustre compared to other dishes. It was tasty though.
Usang kari is a shrimp infused with coconut on a bed of basmati rice. The server said it was her favourite. I can see why.
Sambal Daging is a delicious tamarind braised pork served on top of spicy glass noodles with crispy shallots.
Satay Babi is a pork skewer served on top of coleslaw with a spicy peanut sauce.
The Shrimp Lettuce Wrap is the spiciest dish on the menu, which is deceiving because it’s served chilled. The spiciness seemed more of a chili pepper tabasco sort rather than the more complex peppers used in the other dishes. My mouth was humming for about a minute or two after.
I enjoyed the Little Brother cocktail with the Balinese Shredded Chicken Taco. The peppery drink has a Mount Gay rum base, which gives it the sweet and spicy combination. It complements the peppery taste of the food. The added sprig of mint jauntily added to the glass as a garnish adds panache.
Ubud Hangout was very spicy, but that could be due to the red chili that was been sitting in my glass for a good while! I prefer the Little Brother cocktail because I like rum, but this one is quite refreshing for summer with the Tanqueray gin base. The spiral of cuke adds a hint of freshness.
Beaus beer hoppy was slightly bitter. The Pilsner/lager makes it a niche beer. It has a slightly bitter mouthfeel and a honey aftertaste.