I honestly can’t believe just how beautifully the Niagara region is opening up around me, especially St. Catherines. My latest revelation unfolded after a dinner at Pharmacii, a Korean snack bar in the heart of downtown St. Kitts. After a stellar night of eating and drinking (how most terrific nights start), I can confirm that delicious foods are in fact the ultimate prescription for wellbeing.
Pink neon lights light up the street before it, big letters reading PHARMACII. Inside the snack bar seats maybe twenty at most, including some spots at the bar. Behind the bustle of bartenders smoking and torching and muddling, a piece of fabric shields the front of the house from the kitchen where dishes fly out, each one more fragrant and artful than the next.
With a menu that changes frequently, depending on the whim of Pharmacii’s head chef, there’s always something new to feast on with the exception of some classics like their smoky bulgogi (read: Korean BBQ beef) pancake that’s topped with pickled carrots, boughs of cilantro, a sous-vide fried egg and a sauce that—dare I say it—tastes just the slightest bit like donair sauce.
Of course, while the food is a marvel, when I sit down for dinner, the first thing I tend to peruse is the drink menu. With pages upon pages of drink options, the creative cocktails are the real showstoppers. While there were so many gorgeously-elegant sounding cocktails like the Paper Crane or Fuccboi, it was Mama’s Banana Bread that really intrigued me. A concoction of housemade banana bitters and liqueurs, topped with caramelized banana slices, it smelled and tasted almost identical to a freshly baked loaf…if that loaf was loaded with booze.
After a cocktail, it’s only natural to start to feel a teeny tiny bit peckish. Thankfully, Pharmacii’s menu has no shortage of appetite-satisfiers, all served on vintage-inspired fine china. Meant to be shared, the dishes are served as they are prepared, which means that you can keep ordering and grazing up until the chef’s last call.
Along with their iconic bulgogi pancake, I had the pleasure of trying their take on a KFC fried chicken that featured morsels of golden fried chicken covered in a slightly sweet gochujang sauce. Still perfectly crisp to the crunch, the chicken was uber moist and the sauce was just plain delicious. Topped with sesame seeds and a sprinkle of fried sweet potato straws, not a single flavour was out of place.
Another delicious addition was their hoisin-marinated eggplant on a bed of sushi rice. Earthy and smoky, sweet and tangy, these warm sushi bites were so flavourful. With a heartiness similar to that of a meat dish, I’m sure that even the most devoted of carnivores wouldn’t think twice about chowing down!
With edgy decor like neon lights in the dimness of the space and menus spattered with vintage images along with playboy bunny logos, the restaurant exudes a sort of trendiness that excites and entices anyone that walks in. Even the bathroom is cool, its walls plastered with pictures of male models and vintage playboy pinup covers.
Surprisingly economical given my previous snackbar endeavours elsewhere in downtown Toronto, the cocktails and the sharing plates are worth every penny. This spot is by far one of the most interesting places I’ve dined at in the Niagara area. Definitely make it a point to take a drive to St. Catherines to check it out, you will not—I repeat, you will NOT— regret it!