Bar Isabel

It’s been under a year since Grant Van Gameran ­­(Exec chef, former co-owner/chef of Black Hoof) & Max Rimaldi (of Enoteca Sociale) opened Bar Isabel (@BarIsabel797) and just two months since they were ranked “#1 Best New Restaurant of 2013” by EnRoute Magazine (very well deserved as you’ll squint to see). Along with Guy Rawlings (GM, former chef of Brockton General), Brandon Olsen (CDC, former chef at Black Hoof) and Mike Webster (mixologist, formerly at Momofuku, Splendido) the food & drinks that they make plus the unpretentiousness of it all will have you coming back again and again.

797 College St.
Little Italy
Toronto, ON

Reservations: 416 532 2222
Transit: 63 Ossington bus OR 506 Carlton streetcar
Hours: Everyday 6pm – 2am

I’m fully convinced that they don’t want you to take photos when you’re inside. They just want you to sit down and enjoy your meal?! What? Food looks great but the red lights kill it though if you try to take photos. I mean you can only compensate so much without an additional light source (by that I don’t mean use flash…) but it does no justice to just how good the dishes were. 

A current obsession of mine because I’m hermitting in the computer labs at school studying for finals: watching food vidoes! (with the other half of the screen being my notes duh…) It shouldn’t have come as a surprise that I walked into a final on Saturday thinking about David Chang's low tech strawberry foam. But I digress, VICE Munchies: Bar Isabel. 

Came with a couple of friends and I think we all wished we’d come hungrier. Got drinks and after getting distracted by way too many things, we finally ordered food. We gotta work on our efficiency. Eating, no problem. ;)
Attention to detail. Perk of opening own restaurant = total creative control.

Smoked Sweetbreads, Raw Tuna (18)
We found this an odd combination when we saw it on the menu so naturally, you have to order that. Ugh I love eating out with people who are down to try anything! Adventurous eaters make for the best company and food friends. :D (any tips on converting best friends to liking runny eggs, seafood and red pepper?! Yes, you know who you are!)

Morcilla and Brioche (13)
Morcilla is Spanish blood sausage. Those are coins of foie on top and the brioche, fluffy and warm as it should be. 

Sea Bream Ceviche (26)
This. THIS! No words. C’mon, first off, when a whole fish arrives at your table, you get excited. Growing up in a Chinese family means eating at loud restaurants where the lazy susan takes up seventy percent of the big round table and food arrives as a full animal (ie. crab, lobster, fish, duck and the rare suckling pig—always with deliciously fatty and crispy skin). So this was a good start. Also turned out to be my favourite dish of the night. 

Ceviche so fresh and all the different textures and flavours. I know this is so cliché but seriously, party in ma mouth! And being Asian, we attacked at the rest of the fish after finishing the ceviche. 

1/2 Grilled Octopus (34)
Totally could’ve and should’ve ordered a full octopus. Who said you can’t eat protein and carbs in the same meal?! They obviously didn’t try this. Smokey, MEATY and impossibly tender. With the knife sticking out like that, you know you can just go at it, no need to be all fancy and proper here. 

Corn Ice Cream (6.5) – burnt husk, walnut crumble, spicy caramel
Love the heat this packed. Nice change up from ice creams that are simply sweet, or even sweet and salty. 

Basque Cake & Boozy Cream (8.5)
Imagine eating this by a crackling fireplace. Done.

 Oh I wonder what restaurant used to be here before Bar Isabel.
Verdict: Let’s agree to agree (wait, what?). Bar Isabel is definitely an “it” place to hit up in Toronto. Your wallet might cry a bit but just order some more chorizo and tongue, you’ll feel better instantly ;D Plus they make you feel welcome! The food, needless to say, is a reflection of Grant and his team, approachable and so damn good! If I tried any of the cocktails, I’m sure I’d be raving about them too…next time!

P.S. Late-night chef’s platters. That’s so happening next week.
Check ‘em out! http://barisabel.com/

5 out of 5 NOMs
Bar Isabel on Urbanspoon


  1. wow your photos turned out great!

    1. thanks! I had to dump more than half of them though bc of focusing/light issues. These were the "better" of the bunch already.

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