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Feb 23, 2014 07:21 AM

Looking for a restaurant (Spanish)

Spanish Tapas, maybe even music. Our standby for atmosphere and food, Terroni (in the old bank building) disappointed us with food quality and value (not to mention packed in like sardines). We're looking to go the Spanish route. It'll be a Tuesday evening. Want to take out my nephew who is going to Spain in a few months.

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  1. In terms of straight up Spanish tapas


    Everyone else in the city swizzles in some other influences often latin American, now frankly I think this is a good thing, choose from among:

    Carmen (avoid the paella which they for some reason do not do well, stick to the tapas)


    Salt Wine Bar

    Bar Isabel

    8 Replies
    1. re: bytepusher

      Well, I do put more weight into recs provided by locals, so your comment is noted and taken. I will look all of these up.

      Now that I've looked, they all look delicious. Need to find out about atmosphere, music or other.

      1. re: bytepusher

        +1 Bar Isabel. I know a lot of people like Patria but I found it a bit heavy compared to the restaurants I had in San Sebastian because Patria uses a lot more cheese in their dishes. Some people like it... I didn't like it as much but I found the restaurant environment really nice.

        I'd also like to add one more that is less trendy and more focused on food with superbly warm service. The restaurant is called La Vinia on the border of Etobicoke and Toronto. I would say that it's more similar to the neighbourhood restaurants of San Sebastian instead of the youthful trendy restaurants of Barcelona or Madrid.

        Stand out dishes include the paella (I prefer the seafood only but the chorizio, chicken, and seafood is good as well). They have tapas as well and the ones that I like are spanish croquettes, grilled calamari, Chorizo al Vino con Almeja (chorizio sauteed with white beans and clams), spanish omelette with chorizio and patatas, and octopus. Special mention to their fried milk custard (leche frita).

          1. re: bytepusher

            Thanks Nevy for recommending La Vina. Have to check it out!

            1. re: Charles Yu

              At La Vinia, if the tripe in spicy sauce is the special of the day, it's a must order dish. So good!


              1. re: ace123

                My family makes a mean tripe! However, that is a rec I am going to read about.

          2. re: Nevy

            Thanks for the La Vinia tip - completely missed that in the past.
            But VERY disappointed with their wine list - more suitable for Italian food than Spanish.
            But LOVE their misprint on the chef's bio. Gotta get me some of that Jam on Serrano!

            For the OP, I find the food most authentic at Patria - definitely a hopping place packed with the downtown crowd. Maybe better overall (but less Spanish) is Bar Isabel - IMO these two are the 'class' of places I've tried so far. Food at Bar Isabel is more diverse (only Spanish influenced) but also excellent. Both offer smaller dishes (which is the Toronto version of tapas - the ones found in Spain are mostly different (and smaller) than the ones in Toronto). Reservations essential at both.

            Salt is a fantastic place – one of the reasons that I think Toronto may be the best place for Portuguese food in the world (certainly of the places I’ve visited, including 3 visits to Portugal). But, given your stated reasons, it’s not specifically ‘Spanish’ – rather it’s ‘Portuguese’ – although clearly an overlap. Portion sizes here are a bit smaller (¿more authentic?), which has the advantage that you can try more dishes but, of course, that adds to the bill.

            Cava is also upscale – and has authentically smaller portions. But I’ve mostly been disappointed with the cooked tapas here – although the uncooked/raw tapas are excellent. Probably the most expensive.

            Torito and Carmen represent the budget end of the spectrum. Torito is more South American and, for me, is more ‘eating’ than dining. Good, but not memorable.
            Carmen (for me) was a disaster – food was unmemorable. Service was memorable for all the wrong reasons. Haven’t been able to put it out of my mind completely – I recall one dish where the menu recommended a specific wine for pairing – except that wine wasn’t available!

            1. re: Nevy

              La Vinia paella looks very suspicious. The price seems very cheap. It is probably made with what I've head the Spaniards call "Paella Helper."

          3. Great list by bytepusher. To that I would add Toritos.
            Patria and Bar Isabel are the two current favs and as such, reservations way in advance is highly recommended, even for a Tuesday!

            1. I'll put in a vote for Cava. I've had a couple of great meals there.

              1 Reply
              1. re: petek

                I've been to Spain several times and Cava is nothing like real Spanish food. In fact, the food isn't especially good period.

              2. Consider checking out La Cubana on Roncesvalles. I's not Spanish, but I found their bocaditos to be more like what I consider proper Spanish tapas than a lot of the fancier, more expensive pseudo Spanish restaurants in town.

                10 Replies
                1. re: currycue

                  Really? My friends and I sampled most of La Cubana's bocaditos on Saturday night and the didn't have much in common with Spanish tapas, apart from being shareable snacks from a Spanish-speaking country.

                  Have you been to Patria yet? What they serve looks and tastes a lot like what I've ordered throughout Spain.

                  1. re: prima

                    I agree. The bocaditos at La Cubana are definitely Cuban and not Spanish. I just liked the stripped down, no frills approach they take as opposed to the overpriced "supreme" bravas that are served elsewhere (why must bravas be "supreme"?) To be fair, I'm yet to try Bar Isabel or Carmen (I'm afraid) after being so thoroughly disappointed by places from Torito to Embrujo Flamenco.

                    1. re: currycue

                      Sigh!! That's the thing about Toronto restaurants these days! They can be so inconsistent! One simply does not know whether they are trustworthy or not, even with all the hype and positive reviews behind them!!!
                      Casing point Torito and 'Bar Isabel'!! Everyone raved about the atmosphere and food of BI. However, when I finally make a trip from way up north to try it out. The food was borderline disappointment!. Broiled King Crab legs were overcooked and mushy. Fried chicken was way undercooked and have to be returned! Octopus was overly charred....etc Only great dish was the yummy Basque cake dessert!!
                      As for Torito. that's where I had my most memorable and enjoyable Spanish food! That 'tongue and cheek', Mussels in can, Pomegranate glazed broiled quail...etc.Absolutely delicious! Not just once but repetitively!!
                      Now, I read currycue gave it a thumbs down!! How sad to know!!

                      1. re: currycue

                        It's true the papas bravas are posh at Patria, but they're quite tasty (could always ask them to hold the egg). I'm ok w posh bravas and basic bravas. Wish Patria added more size options for some dishes, since 3 croquetas/order is a little precious.

                        1. re: prima

                          Sorry. I must admit, though, that I'm a little spoiled for Spanish food as I travel to Spain about once every 18 months. I'm always looking for more basic, down home style Jack Astor's (for lack of a better comparison) but Spanish. It's a very simple cuisine and that, I think, is the beauty of it. I can't imagine going to a restaurant that served poshed up shawarmas, etc.

                          1. re: currycue

                            There is a little hole in the wall spanish place at Bay & Wellesley - called "Segovia". It is in the alley behind what used to be the Sutton Place hotel. I used to live in the area and would never see any more than 1 or 2 go in the door but it has survived for years, I was never brave enough to try it... Anyone Ever been?


                            1. re: pourboi

                              Segovia has been in business since 1979, they used to be on Yonge Street and moved to the current location in 95. I haven't been since well before the move. Back in the day we thought it good but I'll confess we didn't really know from Spanish food at all. Back then after the chef was finished cooking the dinners he would come out into the dining room in his whites and play classical guitar for a while.

                              1. re: pourboi

                                I went to Segovia a few times some years was terrible! Don't know if it has improved but everything we ate lacked flavour and was way oversalted.

                              2. re: currycue

                                Most of the Spanish restaurants and tapas bars I visited on my last trip were at a similar level to Patria, but I was seeking out places that were more upscale/innovative than basic/down home. No shortage of posh tapas in Spain for those who like posh tapas. :)
                                FWIW, I can imagine Ottolenghi and Tamimi serving posh shawarma in the UK, and I've made relatively posh shawarma at home with ON lamb, using the recipe from Ottolenghi's Jerusalem (which I highly recommend). I would think MidEastro in Yorkville is serving Middle Eastern food that is a little poshed up, but I don't know if they serve shawarma.

                      2. I'm leaning toward Patria with Bar Isabel being a close second.