#5 Bar Isabel

Bar Isabel

One worries that having opened Bar Raval, chef Grant van Gameren may be distracted from his flagship. Forget it. His touch is as delicate and clever as ever. Barely smoked sweetbreads dance on the tastebuds with fat raw tuna and pickled green tomato. Sweet raw scallops get jazzy with jalapeno, chervil, dill, apple and aji Amarillo sauce. Pickled fennel turns whipped crème fraiche and anchovy into a taste triumph. Snazzy sweet shrimp, quail egg and morcilla meet in the mouth like a pleasure-burst. Grant’s octopus brings strong gourmands to their knees thanks to its combo of tender, juicy and crisp. But his tour de force is still 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 leche frita 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
  • Sous Chef: Nathan Young
  • 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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