King St. West is known for its rows of fabulous bars and lounges, but recently, I discovered a different kind of bar—a chocolate bar. Yes, SOMA Chocolatemaker has finally graced the west end with a new location at King and Spadina. With the original location still operating in the Distillery District, the King location is far more accessible for those spur-of-the-moment chocolate urges.
I have been to my fair share of chocolate shops and dessert specialty restaurants, but none have been as effortlessly casual and welcoming as SOMA. While it may seem quaint from the outside, it's large and spacious on the inside with a high ceiling and a sitting area towards the back. The décor is rather earthy, complete with wood and stone accents covering the surfaces. I didn't check out the large sitting area in the back, but I thoroughly enjoyed the bar-style sitting area right in front of the window where I could munch and people-watch at the same time.
When you enter, there is a small store where you can buy various products like bars, cocoa powder, and other chocolate-based items; the prices are reasonable considering that everything is fresh and made in-house. You can buy items like cocoa powder and chocolate-covered nuts in bulk, but do be prepared to pay anywhere from $20-$30, depending on the quantity and the item. However, the good news is that if you want to go easy on your wallet and your weight, you can opt for one of the small sampler packs, which won't set you back more than about $10.
Now, if you're really a chocolate lover, you are probably better off heading straight to their chocolate display, complete with several varieties and flavors of individual pieces. The price is $2 per piece, which, from my experiences, is a standard price in these kinds of specialty shops. They have a large selection, but I decided to try out an orange piece and an olive oil piece. I was expecting the traditional orange cream base or a chunk of chocolate made with orange essence, but was left very impressed with the quality. The filling had the texture of shredded coconut, which probably came from the orange zest infused into the piece. The olive oil piece was also very well-made, as you could taste a light hint of the oil, as well as feel the smoothness of the chocolate. The best part about SOMA's chocolate? It's not overly sweetened. They do an excellent job of balancing flavors and maintaining a hint of that rich cacao flavor in every piece.
So far so good, but my experience still didn't end there; I went into nostalgic bliss when I took one glance at their drink/coffee menu. I grew up with an appreciation for South American flavors; one particular taste that pleased my palette was a special Peruvian hot chocolate that is infused with chili peppers and has a strong, robust flavor. And you know what? SOMA makes it! This drink is truly the icing on this already mouthwatering, metaphorical cake. I had gotten a hold of the special hot chocolate mix from a friend who brought it directly from Peru, and since then, I have never seen it anywhere on the East Coast or in Toronto. Infused with chili, ginger, and cacao, steamed milk has never tasted so good. They did full justice to the original flavors, and it provides a refreshing kick, especially after a long day of work. It's called the Mayan Hot Chocolate, and in case you happen to be lactose intolerant, you can ask to have it made with water instead of milk.
There is no dearth of chocolate in Toronto, but SOMA stands out because it is one of the few specialty shops that has resisted the urge of converting into a full scale restaurant. Its simplicity is what makes the experience truly enjoyable. Furthermore, because of the small scale, the staff is extremely attentive and friendly. It does a perfect job at providing gourmet products with a no-frills atmosphere—definitely one of my new favorite spots in the city!
443 King St., Toronto, ON M5V 1K4
Hours of Operation:
Thurs, Fri: 9am-9.30pm