CROSS-CULTURAL MASHUP DELIGHTS TORONTO COCKTAIL CROWD
LoPan’s cross-cultural mashup delights Toronto cocktail crowd.
DaiLo is typical of Toronto’s penchant for creating cultural mashups that locals never think twice about: It’s a Hong Kong-themed bar/restaurant in Little Italy with an Irish head bartender. No big deal.
Shane Mulvany explains that DaiLo, opened last August, means “big brother” in Cantonese, or, more colloquially, “boss.” That’s his role at the upstairs bar, which offers its own dim-sum-and-cocktails menu and has a name of its own, LoPan, after the villain in the 1986 film Big Trouble in Little China . The atmosphere evokes Hong Kong as well as anywhere else in town: leather banquettes; teal walls with gold stencils that echo chinoiserie patterns; and bird cages hanging from the ceiling that might cause déjà vu for those who have visited the famous temple of Man Mo, the Chinese deity of learning. If it’s not too busy, Mulvany may have time to regale you with the surprisingly deeply thought-out inspiration for the cocktails, all of which speak to Asia in some way. Take the Katipunan, whose every ingredient recalls the history of Filipino freedom fighters (see sidebar).
That sort of cross-cultural literacy would be somewhat alien to some of the folks back home, since Mulvany comes from a small town north of Dublin that didn’t have an “ethnic” restaurant of any kind when he was growing up. Now when he returns home, he becomes a cultural ambassador for the whole concept of high-end cocktails, which are still mostly unknown in rural Ireland.
Conversely, there wasn’t much culture shock for Mulvany by the time he moved to Toronto in 2012 . Multiculturalism was already old hat, as he had previously lived in London and New York. What did take some getting used to were Ontario’s liquor laws, and Canadians’ reserve while drinking — essentially, our habit of trying never to look too smashed in public. Says Mulvany of the low-key vibe at LoPan: “Everyone’s a bit more relaxed here.”