#4 Bar Isabel

Bar Isabel

Almost too good to be true, Isabel is Grant van Gameren at his most confident and creative. Who else dreams up sauce of amarillo pureed with ginger and citrus on fat chunks of raw tuna, with persimmon and jalapeno for sweet and hot? Who else marinates ultra-fresh sardines with espelette peppers? Perfectly pickled piquillo and jalapeño with white anchovy turn house-fried corn chips into a flavour explosion. His octopus brings strong gourmands to their knees thanks to its combo of tender, juicy and crisp. He ferments sweet peppers with wild mushrooms and charred leeks, always showing the love for smoke and vinegar. But his tour de force is whole fish ceviche: Looks like a whole sea bream but chef has ceviche’d chunks of the fish and then put it back together mixed with avocado and topped with fried leeks. And then there’s dessert: Erotic gateau Basque, its centre warm cream, its crust sugar cookie and its roof sherry cream. Lemon-zinged dulce de leche is grand deep fried. The tapas are great in Barcelona, but they’re better at Bar Isabel — which is why getting a table is so hard. Hint: Walk in and eat at the bar.

  • Bar Isabel
  • 797 College St., Toronto (map)
  • 416-532-2222
  • www.barisabel.com

  • Chef: Grant van Gameren, Brandon Olsen
  • Cuisine: Spanish
  • Cost of dinner for two: $100
  • Hours: Mon. to Sun. 6 p.m. to 2 a.m.
  • Reservations: Yes
  • Meals served: Dinner
  • Veggie-friendly: Yes
  • Wines available: 100+
  • BYOB?: Yes
  • Corkage fee: $25
  • Patio: No
  • Private party area: No
  • Wheelchair accessible: No
  • CC accepted: Yes
  • Parking: Street parking, Green P nearby
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