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Bar Isabel, Cava, Carmen, Patria, Toritos - $$$ aside, how do they compare, foodwise?!

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With the influx of Patria, Bar Isabel and Carmen during the past year. Toronto suddenly has a choice of decent Spanish tapas places!
Of the 5 places captioned above, money, service and ambiance aside, which one of them has the best and most consistent overall, food offering?!

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  1. not including kantors bero?
    i know its not strictly spanish, but its of the influence.

    - khao san road

    7 Replies
    1. re: KhaoSanRoad

      Chef Kantor's Bero looks very interesting!! Have you been, KSR??

      1. re: Charles Yu

        not yet. but i have had his food in the past and he definitely has some skill. and the plating in the to life shots looks beautiful.

        - khao san road

        1. re: Charles Yu

          I'm going next week, Charles. Will let you know how it goes.

          1. re: TorontoJo

            Great!! I'm thinking as well! So, I might even bump into you?! Won't that be cool or what??!!

        2. re: KhaoSanRoad

          Frankly Bero qualifies as at least as Spanish as Bar Isabel, don't get me wrong, I loved the food at Bar Isabel but it's definitely jumping off from Spanish, rather than slavishly authentic, that's a good thing, authenticity is the least interesting criteria one can judge a restaurant by, I mean I guess it's OK if you can pull it off and stay tasty and interesting but that rarely happens.

          1. re: bytepusher

            fair enough.

            my feeling is i think id find every isabel dish on a spanish menu in spain. tho thats just a feeling not a fact. but gnocchi is definitely not spanish is all.

            no argument here. just a personal feeling.

            - khao san road

            1. re: KhaoSanRoad

              I've never seen anything like the whole fish ceviche on a menu in Spain, that reads latin American to me, but it's possible it's from a region I don't know. I really got the feeling from the food I had there that is was Spain as a jumping off point with some applied creativity, all good.

        3. For me it would be a tossup between Toritos (one of my ongoing favs) and Bar Isabel.

          Well I think Cava is consistently good it would be my third place choice because I prefer my tapas in a more casual setting which comes into play for me.

          1. your request to ignore price service ambience if a tough one as i really want those in my tapas experiences....

            that being said i say patria for traditional as the other charles also knows quality and consistency. and you will pay for that.

            for non traditional id say isabel as grant is firing on all cylinders right now.

            i cant comment on cava as its been way too long.

            as for torito and carmen. i love them both. but its about the complete experience they offer. they are the value / bang for buck choices over patria. or even over isabel with their different but excellent patios.

            - khao san road

            1 Reply
            1. re: KhaoSanRoad

              Thanks KSR!! Have decided to give Isabel a try tomorrow!

            2. You specifically exempted service and ambiance, so I'd put Patria and Bar Isabel at the top.
              Selection is greater at Patria, but it's more of a bar scene at peak hours. Patria has a superb wine selection - Bar Isabel wine selection is poor. That was the main reason it's not on my regular rotation (food is excellent); I find it too expensive for a casual meal, but not what I'm looking for in a 'dining experience'. Stick to cocktails.

              Cava is wildly inconsistent (and their wine mark-ups always offend me). Their cold dishes were always better than the cooked ones (for me).

              I've only been to the original Torito - it never struck me as particularly spanish anyway. Certainly the food didn't inspire me to try the newr versions.

              10 Replies
              1. re: estufarian

                @ Estufarian:
                We'll be heading to Isabel tonight. Group of 5, none of them into wine, so should be fine with the poor wine selection. May be Sangria for all?
                With our 'group', we should have room to order the whole octopus and a bunch of roasted King Crab Legs?! In your opinion, any stand out dishes?

                1. re: Charles Yu

                  My favourite was the tongue on brioche - but that's a holdover from the Hoof - not a Spanish dish.

                  1. re: Charles Yu

                    Bar Isabel has a very good beer list of rare finds, curated with help from Bar Volo, so beer is a great choice if any of your party enjoy the stuff. If the GM Guy Rawlings is there ask for him, he'll be able to tell you loads of the beers on offer.

                    Standout dishes for sure octopus and crab legs, plus the morcilla (blood sausage), whole fish ceviche, fried chicken, chips and boquerones, chicken wing escabeche, stewed tripe and chorizo (can you tell I've eaten there a fair bit?).

                    1. re: childofthestorm

                      Thanks for the valuable info, childofthestorm!!
                      One final question before heading out - Any dishes need 'avoiding'??!!
                      Gracias!!

                      1. re: childofthestorm

                        You sound very well fed.

                      2. re: Charles Yu

                        If you have a sweet tooth do order the basque cake. Worth every gram of fat and sugar!!!

                        1. re: JennaBean

                          With 'Foie Gras'??!! Ha!!!!

                          1. re: Charles Yu

                            Why not! I believe the kids say YOLO!

                          2. re: JennaBean

                            +1 reco for the Basque cake

                            1. re: bytepusher

                              Thanks for the recs!
                              Totally agree!! Soooo good!!

                      3. Any more word on Carmen vs. Patria? I booked Patria for my summer-school-end celebration date but am open to changing (also have already been to Bar Isabel and LOVED)

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: LemonLauren

                          NO comparison...Patria is much better.

                        2. I love Patria. Another stellar meal tonight.

                          Out of curiosity, does anyone know if any of our "Spanish" restos are actually serving Catalan food, even if only part of the overall menu?

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Food Tourist

                            Isabel's stuff definitely has come Catalan notes.

                            1. re: LemonLauren

                              The appetizers at Bar Isabel are strongly Catalan influenced, but the remainder of the menu much less so.

                          2. The Midfield Wine Bar on Dundas at Gladstone now has Chef Carlos Hernandez cooking tapas. We enjoyed the having dinner there where the wine is excellent and the atmosphere is casual. The only drawback is that it isn't set up as a restaurant so the service was a little laid back.