Wednesday, January 5, 2011

First Experience: Little Nicky's

Little Nicky's Coffee
Address: 375 Queen St. West (Get Directions)
Neighbourhood: Queen West/Fashion District
Tel: 416.260.0500
Located just south of Queen at Peter Street, it's hard to miss this downtown cafe. Attracted only by various word of mouth comments and a lonely street sign enticing me for mini donuts it was only a matter of time before I would visit this location.
Open in July of 2010, it's a throwback to retro. Word on the street is that retro is IN, but something was different about this location.
The Interior reminded me of the restaurants and cafe in Mad Men.  The entrance is located on Peter street and is a throwback to the 1960s an era of thriving opportunities. The cafe is adorned with checkered floor tiles, charming marble bartops, and small round tables making it a easy choice to take a break from the hustle and bustle of life. Illuminating the cafe with retrofitted hanging lights, they have ceiling fans to circulate the sweet smells of fresh mini donuts. It's no wonder why the neighbourhood has embraced this charming cafe. Parking myself on one of the seats at the bar, I ordered my double espresso and noticed the vintage style E61, I was really hoping for something amazing to back up the charming site. No Luck!
Machine: Faema E61 (2 Group)
Doser: La San Marco SM 95/A
Turnover: Moderate traffic (sit in and take-out)
Beans: Unkown Espresso Blend (5 Bean Blend)
Technical: 25 seconds at 198-200F
Music Jazzy funk with heavy bass beats

Verdict: An Northern Italian roast, appealing to the nose. At first sip, there was nothing screaming on the frontal palette, but at the end of the first sip there was chocolate. Lots of crema - but it doesn't add to the overall taste of the shot.
My next sip tasted very bitter, making it's way towards sour. Huge let down, as the cafe smelled amazing with both coffee and mini-donuts. I definitely had to eat a mini donut to balance out the palette.
Now I know that I would only be focusing on the espresso - but something is to be said, when the mini donuts are better than the actual pulled shot. Using a standard portafilter, with the two spouts meant that one shot would reach my cup whereas the other would land in the shot glass. Therein lied some of the fall backs to the shot.
I had a few questions for the barista; some of which I'm not sure which was more alarming.  When asked about his beans - he wasn't willing to name the roasters that supplied the cafe with beans, nor did he seem happy to even answer these questions. He was adamant that authentic Espresso is ALWAYS a blend of 5 or more beans, and that the crema is what makes the espresso. Single-Origin was out of the question!
Not the most friendly staffer that I've encountered, and doesn't seem like I'll be going back for espresso anytime soon.

The mini donuts are another issue to tackle.
Owner Renee Bonise, has come up with a brilliant way to attract the crowds. Made-to-order freshly churned out mini donuts lightly dusted with cinnamon and sugar is a key to Toronto's heart.
Very fluffy in texture, this light cake mixture actually adds personality to the lackluster espresso shots. If it weren't for the mini donuts, I'd avoid this location at all costs.
Why the donuts?  Bonise replies, "... they've always been a great combination, and they pair well together". Ditto her comment, but in terms of my research I'd rather just purchase the mini donuts and head home to prepare my own shots of espresso.

Until then.....

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