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Bar Isabel - College and Shaw - (new restaurant by Grant van Gameren )

  • y

It is opening tonight or tomorrow night according to BlogTO:

Says in text "tonight" but, the date is Friday March 22nd


Sure there will be a lot of talk about it when it opens so let's get the thread started. Anyone planning to go opening night?

Link to restaurant website:

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  1. Twitter says this weekend, I would think Friday night is included in that statement. I would take that gamble, anyway.

    1. Really (un)informative website!

      1. they had some kind of soft open or f&f last night and possibly before from what i know, probably figure out more by tomorrow

        1. Had some amazing food last night around midnight at Bar Isabel, and it's such a cool vibe in there. Gonna be the best new restaurant of the year, I think.

          7 Replies
          1. re: childofthestorm

            agreed - awesome room - was there last Friday before they opened for an event and had a great time and amazing food --- this place is going to kill it

            1. re: childofthestorm

              And it's a bar with food, rather than a restaurant, right?

              1. re: kwass

                I wouldn't characterize it that way. The name notwithstanding, it's a pretty serious restaurant, the menu is huge and elaborate.

                Check this first look: http://www.postcity.com/Eat-Shop-Do/E...

                1. re: childofthestorm

                  Mmm, sounds and looks wonderful. Look forward to trying it soon. Do they have any outdoor space?

                  1. re: childofthestorm

                    Thanks for that childofthestorm. It looks really interesting!!

                2. re: childofthestorm

                  Was the full menu available at midnight?

                  1. re: szw

                    No it's a bar menu, like basically around 20 items to choose from.

                3. Their website has been updated. Now contains food/drink menus, with prices.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Deep Puddle

                    I imagine it won' t be long before someone complains about that drawing on the website :)

                    Menu looks good though!

                  2. great place with a great food. it feels as it should.

                    for the food:
                    phenomenal cheeses
                    competent charuterie
                    interesting wings (next time i think i will eat the meat on bread)
                    pickles were excellent
                    best of the night is the apple mustardo

                    one issue is lack of parking in that hood after 12am. either ttc, cab into that hood on weekends or count a parking ticket as your food expense :)

                    1. I went in for late night snacks (bar menu after 11:30) on Sat, great food. The raw horse tartare sits on nice crusty bread (rubbed w/ garlic perhaps?). Its taste is very reminiscent of the n'duja at Bestellen. My gf went pretty nuts over the wings escabeche.

                      Great cocktails menu by Mike Webster also. Bar Volo beer menu so it's legit. Markups are high for certain bottles, but what can you do. Have to give them props for serving the Lindeman's gueuze, an adventurous food pairing for sure.

                      The core dna of Hoof is unmistakable, but there is more to it than just that. This place seems like a winner in my books.

                      great music also.....

                      1. I was there with a large group on a Saturday night and a light snack on Sunday. Overall, I found the meat dishes lacklustre but the seafood items really shined through, compare with my experiences last year at the two Hoof's.

                        Case in point:
                        Bone Marrow - Too fatty and, for me, not cooked long enough to extract the flavours. BH definitely had (and still has) a much more consistent and quality take on this.

                        Tongue - doesn't have enough bite - over/under-cooked? I have no idea. It didn't pack that bite/explosion of flavour that I loved when I tried it first at BH.

                        Wings - I didn't taste it. From my companion's reaction though, I feel they are just mediocre.

                        Cheese plate - it was okay. The cheeses offered (we had the manchego, maho, and another queso dela serana I think) were good. But there were no special trimmings, sad face inserted. Satisfying, but again nothing special.

                        Now the Really good:

                        Snapper Ceviche - Wow. blew my mind. I have never had ceviche served on a deep fried whole snapper. It was seasoned just right. I would have chowed down the whole fish head if no one was looking. $55 for the night.

                        Grilled Octopus - Loved it. Charred, tender, served with fingerlings and roasted peppers.

                        Whitings - grilled, seasoned perfectly, flaky and crispy on the sides. Exquisite.

                        A few problems with the service (and for some reason they were cash only for the weekend), but overall, very pleasant visits.

                        I am interested to compare it with Carmen that just opened on Queen W.

                        9 Replies
                        1. re: happycamper

                          I liked the tongue but the grilled octopus was unbelievably good. Roast squash was also tasty. The fried chicken was well done and nicely paired with the eggplant. Service was excellent. Atmosphere (sitting at the back) transformed from restaurant to somewhat rowdy restaurant at around 10:30 when a couple of groups came in. It was Saturday night so this was expected.

                          My only beef is the crappy glasses they use to serve their sparkling wine (Cava). Rose and Sons does the same thing. I thought it was cool to drink baby duck from cheap Champagne saucers when I was 16 but I'm past that now. On another note, we were definitely the oldest people there ... it was definitely filled with 20 and 30 somethings.

                          We'll definitely being returning.

                          1. re: ComerDemonio

                            Echo your thoughts on the glasswear. I don't mind beer in mason jars (that seems to be the trend now?), but sparkling in flutes is non-negotiable.

                            Ditto on the fabulous octopus.

                            I will give the tongue another try.

                              1. re: shudder

                                The shape is the same but the material looks finer (crystal ?) in your images than the ones at Bar Isabel and Rose & Sons.

                                1. re: ComerDemonio

                                  The glassware is called coupes.

                                  Used to be the only way to serve back in the day :)

                                  1. re: millygirl

                                    I remember reading a while back that, as far as bubble-retention goes for champagne, it's basically a wash between flutes and coupes, since the taller size of the flutes means that, while there may be fewer bubbles escaping at a given time, each bubble has time to get larger as it rises through the taller glass, so the total gas escaping is about the same.

                                    That being said, I just did a quick search and found this (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetec...), so I guess total bubbliness isn't everything.

                              2. re: ComerDemonio

                                I can pretty much pinpoint the place in Spain they are trying to channel with those stoopid glasses, worth noting that the place in question uses flutes if you order cava, the saucers are only used for their house made bathtub sparkler (technically cava as well but with a marked difference in quality)

                              3. what's their space for walk-ins like?

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: LemonLauren

                                  I have walked-in twice on weeknights, 8-ish, party of two, no wait at all.
                                  The bar is always hopping. A good place to be.

                                2. Had a bit of mixed experience at Bar Isabel.

                                  Some things were very good - whole fish ceviche - others weren't that good - horse.

                                  Our server was also really lousy. No eye contact, barely communicated and it was up to other servers to pick up her slack.

                                  I like the decor of the room but there is something very awkward about the space.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: radiopolitic

                                    The fish ceviche is lovely...one of my favourite things I have had of late... I really enjoyed the carpaccio (great value for $5) and cheese that we ordered as well, was not a big fan of teh chicken wings and the beef skewers were pretty decent....
                                    We had a very good experience with the server, our server checked up on us pretty often, recommended a half bottle that we really enjoyed, recommended we try both the desserts (which were ok not great but given it was priced so well were fine)- the servings were very filling so its good value for your money,
                                    I loved the ambience and the room...totally see us going back!

                                  2. Just made it to Bar Isabel last week. Love the room. Service is inconsistent. Food is mostly pretty delicious.

                                    I had the Pimm's, which was one of the best Pimm's I've ever had. I would highly recommend the Pimm's.

                                    Foodwise, I would highly recommend the Mojama, the charcuterie, the ceviche, the green chorizo and the Basque cake. The tongue, deviled duck eggs and salted chocolate were good too.
                                    There were some conflicting opinions about the fried chicken and eggplant, which I found to be good, especially the eggplant. Some found the fried chicken to be greasy but I just thought the flavour was nothing special. The squash was generally deemed good, except one person did not care for the squash/yogurt combo.

                                    The biggest disappointment of the night was the whole grilled octopus. It was tender, some thought too tender but nothing special. It tasted like garlic and lemon. There was no evidence of grilling because there weren't any charred, delicious crusty bits. It also wasn't cleaned properly. There was still lots of rubbery skin, the head was not cleaned so the innards were still there, and the beak was still there.

                                    The octopus was the most expensive item (market price) and the most disappointing. I salvaged the leftovers though. I took it home, cleaned it, sliced it up and gave it a hard sear to get that charred, grilled quality. I glazed it with sriracha and honey, and had it for lunch. Then it was delicious.

                                    Overall, a nice time. The food was generally good, the timing a bit off - some long wait times between dishes but friendly service. The room was quite loud and dark but a good time was had by all.

                                    1. It is open and swinging. Good food, loud music.

                                      1. Vice did a Munchies show on Bar Isabel, serious food porn: http://www.vice.com/en_ca/munchies/ba...

                                        They go to Bellwoods Brewery, 416 Snack Bar, and Bar Volo. Toronto looks amazing in this.

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: childofthestorm

                                          Hah. I just realized that this was filmed the night I was there.

                                          Maybe that's why I had such a mixed experience :P

                                          1. re: childofthestorm

                                            Great link, thank you! Hilarious. Love those guys.

                                            1. re: jlunar

                                              gonna out myself here but i was one of the participants being fed and watered for that munchies episode. it was one of the best meals of my life

                                              1. re: disgusti

                                                Ha...your reveal provided an extra bit of fun for me watching the episode. I was trying to figure you who you were but really I have no clue.

                                                I enjoyed the video too, thanks for the link. I will have to check out some of their other videos that VICE has done.

                                          2. Walked in around 8:40 on a Saturday night and snagged a seat at the bar. Ordered a Negroni, oysters, ceviche, beer battered perch, spot prawns, basque cake w/ sherry cream and buttermilk panna cotta w/ celery and buckwheat crumble.

                                            Everything was excellent with the flavor of the ingredients shining through, but the standouts were the ceviche, oysters, spot prawns and panna cotta. The ceviche had the perfect blend of acidic lime and rich avocado. The spot prawns were cooked on smoked chips and had a fresh, briny sweetness in the heads and tails. The texture was almost like shrimp sashimi. As for the panna cotta, it reminded me of cel-ray soda, except creamy and crumbly. It's not to everyone's taste, but it definitely stands out in my memory and tasted good too.

                                            Everything was fresh and flavorful without being salty. Too many cooks let the salt do the talking. This one didn't. I'll have to go back to try the pork loin and a few other things that caught my eye.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: GoodGravy

                                              CEL RAY IS MY FAVORITE!!!

                                              I will have to go down and try this Panna Cotta...

                                              Good looking out.

                                            2. LOVED our dinner there the other night - the restaurant was packed by 6:30 and had a great vibe. We shared the boquerones - anchovies with piquillos, jalapenos and chips, some raspberry point oysters, the fried chicken with buttermilk sauce, the grilled asparagus with marcona almonds, the iberico, some manchego and the blistered, salt-flecked shishito peppers. Somehow missed the whole fish ceviche with sea bream but will put that top of the list for next time. The tongue sandwich and marrow at the next table looked really good. Everything was delicious, prices were reasonable, lots of dishes to choose from and service was very professional and friendly. Definitely the kind of place I could return to on a frequent rotation.

                                              1. Finally managed to make it to Bar Isabel tonight. Shame we haven't gone sooner, but we've been travelling a great deal.

                                                In any case, we had:

                                                Devilled Eggs
                                                Boquerones & Jalapeno
                                                Shishito Peppers
                                                Jamon Iberico (on the house as our mains were taking longer than normal)
                                                Fried Chicken
                                                Ribeye (13oz off-menu portion)
                                                Basque Cake
                                                Macerated Strawberries

                                                I gotta say - we were thoroughly impressed tonight. Everything was perfectly seasoned, prepared and cooked - Ribeye was tender and flavourful, chicken was incredibly moist and crispy. We have very few meals that are so amazingly consistent. And the desserts - that Basque cake was absolutely killer. I wanted to stop eating but I couldn't...

                                                I also noticed that the music wasn't very loud at all - which I was expecting it to be. But half way through dinner, I noticed I could barely hear it over the conversations. It's a fairly loud room, but very comfortable - so I was pleasantly surprised.

                                                Lastly - the bill was only something like $118 - with an old fashioned, and a non-alcoholic drink, included. I was astounded by the value given the quality of the ingredients.

                                                Very much looking forward to our return.

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: justxpete

                                                  Hay Justxpete! Reading you mention that Basque Cake makes me salivate involuntarily!!
                                                  BTW, how was that Ribeye prepared?
                                                  Finally, back to exchanges between two chow-friends!! Stockyard's Chicken or Isabel's chicken??!! Ha!!!!.

                                                  1. re: Charles Yu

                                                    Ribeye was apparently marinated for two days, pan seared and served sliced with the chimmichurri on the side (by request, it's normally served on) - but I think a steak should always stand on its own it without any sauces - and this held up - which was expected, as they serve cumbraes.

                                                    Lol, Charles re: stockyards - but I have to say - its been a while since I had stockyards fresh - but right now I'm going to give it to BI over SY, but Porchetta & Co (!!!!) over BI - based on the taste and texture alone, barring any other factors.

                                                    And yes, the basque cake... We will meet again...!

                                                    It reminded me very much of a similar cake I had at Edulis a few months back... But better!

                                                    1. re: justxpete

                                                      Every day that I don't eat here I ask myself why.

                                                      Service, execution, and, cocktails are all on point. (not to mention the atmosphere is lovely).

                                                      I have to say that after making gateau basque in cooking school, I found theirs to be a little on the dry side but I have had the other desserts and have floated off my chair. That's just me being nitpicky.

                                                      If you haven't gone - GO!