Address: 797 College St, Toronto, ON
When I visited: February 2014, 4 people, dinner
Rating: $$$, 5
Bar Isabel opened last year and already made tons of buzz across the country, let alone Toronto. Enroute Magazine named Bar Isabel the number 1 restaurant in Canada in 2013.
I had been anticipating my visit to Bar Isabel for months, especially hearing that the restaurant is owned by Chef Grant van Gameren, the former chef at the Black Hoof, which is one of my favourite spots in the city. As for my experience, it did live up to my expectations.
My friends and I were able to get the 6:00 pm seating after making reservations weeks in advance. As I arrived early at 5:45pm, there was already a line up waiting for the doors to open. Inside, I adored the beautiful Spanish tavern mixed with a bistro feel. With the dim lighting to add to the atmosphere, I apologize in advanced for the quality of my photos.
To start, we had to try their crafted cocktails made by their talented barman Michael Webster. In addition, we shared a bottle of Vega Sindoa Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 from Spain. The strong notes accompanied the food delightfully.
Being a Spanish-tapas restaurant, I assumed the portions were going to be small. We ordered about 7 dishes to share amongst us. As the dishes arrived, my eyes and mouth widened, as I was happily surprised with the generous portions. Each dish was beautifully plated which looked crafted, yet non-intimidating. I was amazed at Chef Grant van Gameren and Brandon Olsen’s delicious creations.
My top recommendations (ranked in order):
1. Albacore Tuna tiradito, persimmon, celery, jalapeno & fried rosemary ($14)- This was my favourite dish. The ceviche was light with the right amount of acidity with a tint of spicyness from the jalapeno slices.
2. Whole sea bream ceviche ($26)- The dish is stunning where the sea bream meat is placed inside the cavity of fish. The contrast of textures of the fried fish and the civeche is brilliant.
3. The basque cake and sherry cream ($8.50). It wasn’t overly sweet and very moist!
4. Morcilla Scotch egg, hollandaise & blonde frisee ($8)- The exterior is crunchy and the inside is full of flavour.
5. Roast bone marrow with bread and chimichurri sauce ($11). The buttery bone marrow is gluttony goodness.
6. Original tongue on brioche ($14). The tongue was soft and flavourful. This dish is filling!
Although the chorizo and smoked sweetbreads were tasty, it did not blow me away with the presentation or taste.
The restaurant is worth all the attention. Plan a dinner date now and make your reservations!