Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Toronto: Bar Isabel

come away with me
:Little Italy:

Where do I begin? How about at the best part. I was in my favourite Canadian city - M.o.n.t.r.e.a.l. The best - vibrant and inspired. Whether I am 14 or 25 or 30-ish...the city speaks my language.

From there I made my way to the city that stole a big piece of my heart and refuses to let it go. Yes, Toronto.

There are too many beautiful faces to see when I'm in town and I do my best. I did alright this trip - saw Aerie, mother to three of the cutest kids ever and friend to a slightly neurotic, mildly obsessive-compulsive and moderately materialistic woman - yes, yours truly. I scheduled quality time with my favourite duo - The Scotsman and Cracker - and a bucketful of long-time friends.

I also had one of the best meals I've had in a long time. The Scotsman and Cracker joined me and when the three of us reunite, it's usually one part insanity, one part hilarity and two parts love. 

My pick was Bar Isabel. This little gem didn't make it into my schedule on two earlier visits so I made sure The Scotsman and Cracker knew it was a priority, and like they never have and never will - they didn't let me down. Neither did Bar Isabel. She lived up to her gossip.

The venue is cozy and hipster chic but not in an annoying way. It's as authentic as the colourful servers who are, much like the restaurant, unrefined but classy. They're also knowledgeable and efficient. Our server paid just the right amount of attention to us and made some great recommendations.

The three of us shared a fantastic array of tapas, but I would say there were two must eat standouts: the sea bream ceviche and the grilled octopus. Perfectly executed so you are fully satisfied from first to last bite.

We started with a trio off the to begin menu. I wish I could remember what it was, but all I remember was the creamy foie gras crunchy crostini magic in my mouth:

Heart you
Considering I don't like vegetables as much as a grown responsible adult should, I loved these shishito peppers. We almost fought over them...almost:

Salty simple bites
Patatas bravas with blood sausage
Sweetbreads and fresh tuna - I didn't know how well this would work and let me tell you
It worked - on every level. Flavour, texture and money well spent.
Let's end with the two best dishes I mentioned earlier. The whole sea bream ceviche is exactly what you'd want. The presentation was a celebration of the sea: a bed of fresh meaty ceviche surrounded with creamy avocado atop the rest of the fish perfectly fried from head to tail. We demolished the entire plate, right down to the deep fried leeks - ingenious addition.

If you can take something away from Bar Isabel, it's the fact they merge technique with flavour to bring dishes that showcase every ingredient. That is an art - it's for people who just love good food.

Here is the pièce de résistance - a half grilled octopus. If you need to know anything about octopus it should be this - it is really DIFFICULT to cook perfectly. Perfect means tender and this was:

Perfect ending to a spectacular night. This meal actually sums up my entire trip. 

There's more to come, but I'm starting with the best so you can get a glimpse into why I can't let go of Toronto. The city is as colourful as this meal and allows everything and everyone to coexist in harmony.

Bar Isabel on Urbanspoon

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