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Pure Spirits Oyster House and Grill - Toronto, ON

Oysters and Much More in the Distillery District


Restaurant Category : International, Seafood

Pure Spirits Oyster House and Grill - Toronto, ON Nestled in the heart of The Distillery District on Tank House Lane in Toronto, Pure Spirits Oyster House and Grill is steeped in history. Here was the very room where clandestine barrels of whiskey started their journey across the lake to the U.S. and around the world during the prohibition. Today, it boasts of serving premium spirits and the best oysters in Toronto.

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With the hype surrounding it, we went to Pure Spirits with high hopes. Unfortunately, when we arrived we had to wait about 30 minutes to be seated due to the kitchen staff being shorthanded. This was on a Monday afternoon during a civic holiday in Canada. Personally, I think the management lacked foresight to anticipate the throng of people on a holiday and should have been better prepared to handle the influx of customers.

Once seated, we were given our menus - which had a variety of choices. Appetizers included Chilled Mango Gazpacho, Manhattan Clam Chowder, Hand-cut Yukon Fries, Crisp Fried Chicken Spring Rolls, Grilled Jumbo Black Tiger Prawns and many more.

There were Mussels from Prince Edward prepared in a variety of ways like Traditional Provençale and Chinese Black Bean. There were regular salads like Caesar Salad and Mixed Garden Leaves, and fancy salads like Seared Ahi Tuna Niçoise and Grilled Flank Steak Greek Salad. Pastas ranged from Pure Mac ‘N Cheese to Nova Scotian Lobster Pappardelle.

There was also a lunch menu which had Haddock and Chips, Turkey Burger and Pulled Pork Sammy among others, while the Entrées featured Crisp Skinned Pacific Salmon, Seared Ahi Tuna, and Whole Baked Branzino. There were also a couple of Black Angus steaks and a dessert menu that included Churros, Crispy Custard and Classic Créme Brulée.

After a read through of the menu, we promptly ordered Veuve Clicquot. However, the waitress had no idea what it was and we had to repeat the name three times until we finally told her it was a kind of Champagne. Still oblivious, it struck us that the waitress was out of her element.

Now, we love our oysters, but we are far from experts. Being in an oyster house, we expected to be guided through the different kinds and preparations of oysters. Alas, we weren’t. All our server could tell us was where the oysters came from and how one was larger than the other. No info on the taste, texture or any other attributes to help us make a good decision. Obviously, for oyster novices like us, this wasn’t helpful at all.

We settled on ordering two kinds of oysters – Raspberry Point from Prince Edward Island and Kumamoto from Washington State in the US. For the record, we found the Kumamoto much more enjoyable than the Raspberry Point oysters.

The weather was beautiful and with the horde of people coming and going, we decided to stay a little longer than expected to people-watch. We ordered some Nova Scotian Lobster Pappardelle, a pasta dish prepared with some wild mushrooms and a black truffle cream sauce. Our verdict? It was killer and definitely the highlight of the day.

We also ordered some Pellegrino sparkling water to enjoy with lunch on this super hot day, but they were out of it.

Our biggest complaint was with the waitress who didn’t know this from that. It should be expected that when you go to an oyster bar, the server should have at least some rudimentary knowledge of oysters. Just like when you are in a wine bar, employees should have a solid grasp of the wines they carry. However, despite the hiccup, we found the service to be pretty decent.

Overall, our time at the Pure Spirits Oyster Bar and Grill was a good experience. I would give it a Bombastic rating, but because of the long wait (due to poor staffing), clueless waitress and being out of San Pellegrino, they get marked down and only get an Almost Bombastic rating.

What I liked: The outdoor seating, perfect for people watching. The pasta.

What I didn’t like: The long wait, uninformed waitress, warm water and Champagne.

Rating: Almost Bombastic

Address and Telephone Number:
Pure Spirits Oyster Bar and Grill
17 Tank House Lane, Toronto,
ON M5A 3C4
[416] 361 5859
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Oyster Bar in the Distillery District

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