Bar Isabel has been the centre of attention since its opening in Little Italy last year, with a crew including mixologist Webster (Momofuku) and Chef Grant van Gameren (Black Hoof). You'll find this Spanish tavern at the top of all the 'Best Restaurants in Toronto' lists, and it hasn't shown any signs of slowing down yet.
The dim decor is accented with sexy hanging lamps reflecting red patterns off the ceilings, mosaic floors, and wooden arches. The space is cosy and intimate, like most new restaurants in Toronto. It encourages you to get to know your neighbour, with around 75 seats and a fully stocked bar. The cocktails are definitely not to be missed — ranging from A Woman Scorned ($16) with Devil's Cut bourbon, Amaro Averna, Campari, and cinnamon tincture to the Baraganna ($15) with charred pineapple–infused 1800 Tequila.
The menu is full of Spanish-inspired dishes like pan con jamon iberico de bellota ($16), a plate of Spanish cured ham, and patatas bravas, a dish as essential to Spanish tapas as poutine is to Quebec, consisting of roughly cubed potatoes covered in sweet sauce with the option of blood sausage. This dish was so good that it had my dinner date look up at me in awe and simply say: "how... did they do... that?" as if cooking were a magical and exotic thing that we may have been doing wrong our whole lives.
Bar Isabel's Grilled Octopus via Foursquare
Don't underestimate Bar Isabel's cheese and charcuterie plates. From Manchego to Majorero, they have over a dozen cheeses to choose from to pair up with cured meats like buffalo slinzega or jamon serrano gran reserve. With cheese and meat plates ($16 each), you can always add bar snacks — like olives, bread, or garden pickles. Oysters are also served at Bar Isabel at market prices in rounds of 6, 12, or 24. Finger foods are the bar's specialty.
Oysters by Phil Roeder
For those who want more than just meat, cheese, and oysters (don't look at me!), there are mains like whole sea bream ceviche ($26), smoked sweetbreads with raw tuna and green tomato ($20), or an 18oz rib-eye and chimichurri ($42) plus foie gras for a mere $22.
Drink. Be Merry. Bar Isabel's Motto via Foursquare
As sharing plates and the warmth of Spanish décor continue to tickle the fancy of Toronto restaurant-goers, Bar Isabel will remain a force to be reckoned with. Make reservations a couple weeks in advance if you have a specific time or large group in mind, and buen provecho!