RESTAURANT REVIEW | Little Sister Indonesian Food Bar | Midtown
When you add together the long line at the door and all the wonderful things I had been hearing about Little Sister at 2031 Yonge St and what you wind up with is a rather excited restaurant reviewer. It’s not every day that you get to enjoy Toronto’s only truly Indonesian cuisine.
The line was long, yes, but I’d wisely made a reservation which I recommend doing. We were whisked to our table immediately and the vibe in the place was not what I had expected in this otherwise conservative neighbourhood.
The staff without fail look as though they’d been poached from a Queen West or even Lesileville bar. Their knowledge and professionalism were exemplary and placed them exactly where they ought to be, and that was at my table!
The crowd was a mixed bag of well dressed 20 through 50 somethings and despite their wide age range, the mood in Little Sister was decidedly in sync. Everyone was having a good time. The music was definitely adding to the positive upbeat atmosphere. While loud enough to enjoy, not so loud you had to yell to be heard across the table. Off to a very good start!
When it was explained to us that although there are many Malaysian restaurants in the city, Little Sister is the only truly Indonesian food available. It was wisely suggested by our server that a tasting menu selected by staff might be a good way to sample a wider variety. What better way to travel than with locals!
Our first dish arrived in a surprisingly short time, followed bizarrely quickly by the next few within minutes of ordering, before our drinks had arrived… honestly, before our drinks could possibly be expected to have arrived. It was then that I noticed the bartender… who I would be willing to bet prefers the title mixologist… and with good reason… the man was an artist! And busy!
In an attempt at being civilized, we tried hard to wait for our cocktails before digging into the unbearably aromatic starters. A shrimp lettuce wrap with sambal (a hot sauce that comes in a variety of styles) and a satay ayam, chicken on a skewer in a peanut sauce, expected, but surprisingly meaty and moist. And finally three perfect Balinese shredded chicken tacos. Now I am not typically a fan of tacos… a natural disinclination toward trends likely… but I can state without a moment’s hesitation that these ones were unbelievably delicious!
We were well into round one of our gloriously fragrant and deliciously unusual Indonesian experience when our drinks arrived. We were far too gone in flavour heaven to possibly care that we’d had to wait a sort of weirdly long time for drinks. They were also sufficiently tasty to win our hearts over. The standout was far and away the Big Brother, a tequila concoction which included ginger, pomegranate syrup, sumac syrup, lemongrass and other elixirs of heady delectability which were combined with such a delicate hand, the lateness of their arrival was immediately excused.
The next plates to arrive were a blend of flavours incorporating sweet and sour, salty and spicy all at once. A tamarind braised pork, fried cauliflower salad, which was a very pleasant surprise, and the not-to-be-missed Nasi Goreng, an Indonesian fried rice. We finished off with a Javanese spiced braised beef and a shrimp coconut curry.
These are dishes using real Indonesian ingredients but presented with a modern twist. And while it was noted by owner Michael Van De Winkel that most Indonesian fare is served in bowls, they’ve tried for more creative serving vessels with excellent results.
Before heading into Little Sister one might be inclined to compare the cuisine to Indian or Thai, but that would be a mistake. The food they’re serving up is very much its own. Every flavour is independently clean and definable and yet the spice mixture which I am told is cooked for hours, provides a sophisticated layering of flavour.
This is hands down one of the most pleasant restaurant experiences I’ve had in a long time. The laid back mentality and the eclectic music come together with spectacular cuisine creating a memorable and much needed addition to the neighbourhood.
Little Sister Indonesian Food Bar, 2031 Yonge Street Toronto
The overall average rating was:
This is how they ranked:
Atmosphere – 4.5
Service – 3.75
Food Source – 2.75
Taste – 4.5
Cost – 3
Overall – 4 a very impressed and can’t wait to go back 4
Vibe – The place where you feel equally at home in tattoos as you might in pearls… why not try both!
Stacia Carlton is a culinary school graduate and food writer. Seeking out new food experiences is her passion. You can follow her weekly for recipes and more at www.bestillandeat.com