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Introducing: Cold Tea, a new Kensington Market bar that nods to a venerable Chinatown tradition

Theoretically, this inauspicious entrance should keep people away; in practice, the place is already packed (Image: Caroline Aksich)

Tucked into the back of the Kensington Mall, down the hallway past the knick-knack peddlers, is Cold Tea, the market’s newest watering hole. Oliver Dimapilis, who owns the bar along with Stacey Welton and Matthew LaRochelle, told us he’s convinced the “cold tea” phenomenon—post–last call beer served in tea pots at Chinese restaurants—was born in Toronto (he’s got Urban Dictionary on his side). And while the original dream was to have their new bar (open Tuesday through Sunday) tucked into a Chinatown back alley, the trio doesn’t seem too distraught to have landed a block west, scoring, as they did, a back patio to rival the front one at Ronnie’s.

The three partners are service industry veterans but first-time business owners. To decorate the place, they recycled some pieces from the recently closed China House on Eglinton and hit up their friends at Smash for an oversized steel arrow that doubles as an alcohol rack. They made the tables themselves from Mennonite barn wood (“It came to us with poo still stuck on the wood,” says Dimapilis, laughing). Currently, the space looks a like your standard industrial retrofit lounge bar (exposed pipes, blank walls), but a few walls have been left blank for artists to have their way with them (Dimapilis likens the intended effect to an arm full of mismatched tattoos). Indeed, this past Saturday they had Drake-approved screen printer Jeff Garcia come in to decorate one wall during an art party.

LaRochelle, something of a cocktail chemist, loves to play around with unexpected combinations. The Bruce Lee (or perhaps the High-Five Spice; the name hasn’t been finalized) is made with Wild Turkey, calvados, apple cider, homemade Chinese five-spice simple syrup and home-stewed cherries. While the cocktail menu is still under construction, expect some more traditional drinks, like a dark ’n’ stormy, made with ginger beer and Sailor Jerry spiced rum (garnished again with the home-stewed cherries). There’s also a healthy roster of tallboys and four beers on tap: Sapporo ($6.50), Blanche de Chambly ($6.50), Great Lakes Pumpkin Ale ($5.50) and Crazy Canuck Pale Ale ($5.50). For those seeking post-booze fortification, there’s a small dim sum booth at the bar’s entrance, which prepares MSG-free fare like shrimp, pork and vegetable shiitake dumplings (three for $5) and fresh-steamed barbecue pork buns ($3).

Cold Tea, 60 Kensington Ave.

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This is not a review.
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