The Spend A Lot list is Joanne’s sky’s-the-limit guide to dining in the big city.

#5 Bar Isabel

Bar Isabel

The gift that keeps on giving. Despite expansion, Grant van Gameren guarantees great food and service at the mothership. Getting a reso is tough, but we always get dinner at the bar if arriving before 7:30 p.m. weekdays. It’s not written the menu but they now offer their famed octopus in ΒΌ portions: Hurrah! $22 buys the best octo in town, char-grilled sweet and tender with house-made spicy chorizo and hot tomato sauce. Barely smoked sweetbreads dance on the tastebuds atop fat raw tuna and pickled green tomato. Sweet raw scallops get jazzy with lime, compressed apple, cucumber, mint and tomatillo with ginger. Basque hotpot is barely cooked shellfish in spicy tomato broth with fennel and crisp garlic crouton fragments in almond picada sauce. For dessert there is still the grand gateau Basque, its centre warm cream, its crust sugar cookie and its roof sherry cream. But we adore the zing of the new dessert — fresh tarragon ice cream encased in dark chocolate. Dancing a jig on the taste buds.

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

  • 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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