Tagged Little Italy/Portugal Village, Spanish, Tapas
Bar Isabel 416.532.2222 http://barisabel.com/ open 7 days a week 6pm-2am
After his split from Black Hoof, Grant van Gameren’s next venture is a lively Spanish tapas restaurant. Hazes of green and red dimly lit bulbs warm this European looking tavern along with a boisterous crowd and causal atmosphere. Yes it’s pricey and yes the service is novice at times but the food is really good.
A small platter from the kitchen arrives carrying milky almonds from Spain, firm but creamy Manchego cheese and a silky pork lonza. I love the wine list, mainly a smooth Tempranillo “Sara Soto” 2004 Cigales from Spain($75); its painful that so many beautiful wines are only available through consignment…
After ordering a bunch of items off the menu I asked my server to make sure that the kitchen did not send them out all at once, and guess what happened – everything came out at once. Bone marrow ($14) is rich, salty and has the texture of perfection served with charred sourdough. Chewy Pancetta quickly melts into a delightful acorn finish, contrasting nicely with a peppery-herb Iberico Salchicon. A side of crisp pickled vegetables soaked in a slightly-sweet astringent balance the cured meats and keeps the taste-buds happy.
Whole fish ceviche ($26): tender fish marinated with lime, spices and garlic is reunited with its fried counterpart layered in a visually delicious and flavourful dish. Original tongue on brioche ($14) can be easily called the best in the city. This dish is almost flawless – generous slices of tongue so juicy and tender with just a hint of gaminess held together by a buttery toasted brioche bun is a marvel of textural contrast. The only misstep on the menu is an under-seasoned- over-spiced horse tartare ($13), bitter from olive oil and a strange lingering aftertaste.
I must add the bartenders at Bar Isabel are spirit wise friendly and accommodating – so sit at the bar!
Tagged Canadian, cocktails, patio, Steak House
Earl’s Kitchen & Bar 416.916.0227 open daily lunch & dinner http://www.earls.ca/
I was invited to Earls for the Spring Menu Chef’s Table along with a few fellow foodies to taste the new seasonally inspired menu. Ontario farmers provide the restaurant with organic vegetables and herbs, Canadian Angus beef and grade #1 durum semolina (pasta) from Italpasta – produced and grown right here. Walking through gorgeous wood arches on my way inside, I notice a large patio to my right laden with lovely flowers and a relaxed-looking after-work crowd. Inside Chef Richard Baksh has prepared a 5 course tasting menu highlighted by cocktails. The service is remarkably quick and efficient. I really thought I knew Earls, but I was so wrong…
Summer cocktails created by Cameron Bogue, a mixologist from Vancouver, are sublime: pineapple ginger margarita with El Jimador Blanco Tequila, ginger, fresh lime. A chewy made-in-house jerky tops off Earls signature badboy Caesar; and how cool is the Moscow Mule served in a copper pot!
Leroy’s crispy dry ribs tossed with cracked pepper and flaky salt are fatty and addicting – brought back on the menu by popular demand – the only thing missing is a dip. Peppercorn crusted beef tenderloin Carpaccio is delicate, balanced by vinegary capers and deviled eggs. Connecticut brought us damn good sandwiches and Earls lobster and prawn roll is a knockout. A buttery griddled brioche bun, housemade bread n’ butter pickles( which I normally don’t like, but these are AMAZING) create this habit-forming sandwich.
The main course brings together Whatchamacallit (California grown Merlot – Earls private winery) with, 28 day-aged angus striploin rubbed with Earls signature spiced fresh herb and porcini rub that is jaw-droppingly good; sided with Yukon garlic mashed potato, vibrant haricots verts, zucchini, squash and corn topped with salty feta. The roasted chicken is a little dry but fares well drenched in a sour cream and avocado tomatillo sauce. The whatchamacallit wine pairing is a buttered-popcorn-tasting Chardonnay. And, oh ya, they also have thickly marbled ribeye steaks!
To finish the evening, a nostalgic Strawberry rhubarb crumble topped with vanilla gelato. The texture of the rhubarb made me think of my grandmother, how she made the best compotes ever (picture the scene from Ratatouille when the critic tastes the ratatouille) hitting the spot like a warm blanket on a cold day.
Tagged kosher, Pasta, pizza, Seafood, Toronto
Bistro Grande 416.782.3302 lunch and dinner Sun-Fri http://www.bistrogrande.com/main2.html
I’m always up to try anything and everything and when I found out that May is kosher restaurant month in Toronto I just had to try Bistro Grande. There are 34 restaurants participating in this event and you can find them listed here http://cor.ca/kosherrestaurantmonth.html along with a 10% off your meal coupon. Regretfully, being the klutz that I am, I forgot my wallet at home with the coupon inside of it! Hopefully I can just show them the coupon on my phone and get the discount foundon COR’s (Kashruth Council of Canada) website.
The menu is on the pricey side, entrees are between $24-$38; that said, everything is kosher sourced as locally as possible and the portions are large. The room is warm and homey, family oriented and softly lit. Our server on the other hand was brusque and gave us that hurry-up-and-order feeling (I’m assuming she wants to turn the table quickly). After telling her to give us a few minutes I order a carafe of house red and when I asked our server “What is your house red?”, she gruffly replied “whatever is open” (sounds like funs cancelled) – it was a lovely wine none the less.
Housemade bread baked fresh daily is grainy and warm, the perfect platform for a garlicky-rich hummus. The creamy Caesar salad ($14) is lavish, dusted with freshly grated parmesan and textured by thick housemade croutons. Poached salmon is diced and mixed with vibrant greens and ruby coloured sugary beets creating a “big salad” ($20); the only miss is the strange aftertaste – seasoning is needed.
Catch of the day: sea bream roasted potatoes and sautéed vegetables ($39). Served whole the fish is moist, easy to de-bone and flakes apart. Farmed Atlantic salmon ($32) tastes like creamy butter and melts in the mouth – I’m really impressed.
At first glance I was a little taken aback at the prices, however, as we started tasting the food I can understand why: the food is worthy of appreciation, it’s the service that needs a few minor adjustments. Oh, and I almost forgot to let you know that the manager would NOT give me the 10% off the bill even though I explained to him what happened and showed him the coupon on my phone. Verdict: food is great but the service isn’t.
Tagged beach, lakeshore, Pub Food, Toronto
Sunnyside Pavilion Café 416.531.2233 http://www.sunnysidepavilion.com/cafe.php lunch & dinner May through September
The sun is shining, the air is warm and the trees are blooming – summer is just around the corner. One of my favorite, hidden patios is up and running again. Sunnyside Pavilion Café is a seasonal spot located right on the Lakeshore. This spot is sunny till the late hours of the day and the menu isn’t half bad. They have a great pizza oven and a thirst quenching cocktail list, not to mention the cottage-country view and laid back atmosphere.