IDORU (331 Roncesvalles, at Grenadier, 416-531-2557). Complete tapas-style meal for $40 per person, including all taxes, tip and a glass of wine. Open Tuesday to Saturday noon to 2 am, Sunday and Monday 6 pm to midnight. Licensed. Access: barrier-free, washrooms in basement. Rating: NN
Taking its name from former OCAD student William Gibson's sci-fi novel, just-launched lounge Idoru is an outpost of sophistication on a strip synonymous with perogy. If this swellegant boîte were located on College or Church, say, its birth would likely go unnoticed, but out here on Roncey, Idoru is a big deal.
It's a positively delicious space, a former knick-knackery that's been transformed into a cheap-chic version of Lobby. Boxy off-white sofas flank the large glass storefront, dark oak planking on the floor matches that of the long bar, and down one beige-on-beige wall, a slippery, too-narrow banquette faces bare wood-topped tables set with linen napkins and stemware.
Out back, there's a beautiful heated garden terrace that doubles as a year-round smoking section. Refreshingly, instead of an interminable Buddha Bar comp - surely, the Gipsy Kings of the 21st century - Manchester miserabilist Morrissey croons in the background.
Billing itself as a wine bar, Idoru offers a short list of consignment wines that are only marked up an average of 10 bucks per bottle and are all available by the glass. Commendable stuff. But because the kitchen consists of a small prep area at one end of the wet bar, most of the short tapas card of what first-time restaurateur Aaron Hallum calls "a Mediterranean-influenced menu of small plates" seems merely assembled.
Some of it's quite good, though. Five slender slices of fatty pink duck breast work wonderfully, squiggled with tart lingonberry sauce beside its tiny attending tangle of arugula and endive in grainy mustard dressing ($9). It would make a splendid starter at any high-end boîte if the portion were twice the size. Chunky crosscuts of meaty merguez sausage ($8) - six pieces, tops - come piled with lovely truffle-oiled wild 'shrooms and a spoonful or so of avocado salad coated with grainy mustard, but the serving is similarly minuscule. Sure, they're tapas, but why do I suddenly have the urge to order pizza five minutes after I've left the joint?
Idoru should be applauded for even existing. But it will need more than the Roncesvalles set to succeed. I just can't see a stroller-pushing local on the way back from the hardware store stopping in for a quick glass of 2003 Alsatian Gewurtzraminer ($6.95) and a "small plate" of smoked mackerel with minted ruby grapefruit garnish ($7) before hurrying home to fix supper.