Unless you’ve literally been living under a rock – in which case, can you please provide us pictures of your dwellings, a rental receipt, and the name of your interior decorator? – by now you’ve taken note that chef-about-town turned man-about-Europe reprised as chef-about-town, Grant van Gameren, has new digs. They’re called Bar Isabel, and they’re sexy as hell. You’ve likely read the reviews, seen your Instagram feed light up with foodie fanatics’ #FoodPorn and #Twitgasms, heard the critics rave about the Spanish pintxo-inspired menu…
But all that aside, here are the five real reasons you need to head to College West’s favourite new restaurant…
It Has the Aesthetic Toronto Doesn’t Know It Wants
I want to preface this by saying we do – like really, really do – love/adore/worship industrial lighting, exposed brick, and uncomfortable chairs that lead to sciatic nerve issues. It’s just that… well… Put it this way: Audrey Tautou looks fabulous in the classic Chanel jacket, but not everyone who wears the classic Chanel jacket looks as fabulous as Audrey Tautou. Get it? Rather than conceding to the par-for-the-course aesthetic made almost a prerequisite by the stare downs of hipsters the citywide, Bar Isabel has a look all its own. From the mixed tile floor to the glazed woods, it’s decidedly untrendy by city standards, which makes it all the trendier by mine.
Grant’s Tongue Is a Feel-Good Time
Or maybe it’s Brandon “Brando” Olsen’s that got me all aflitter. They’re sharing duties, so I’ll give ’em both credit. (Though technically I suppose it’s the cow I should be lauding here.) The stand-out dish during our 3-hour stay in Bar Isabel’s welcome bodice was the Original Tongue on Brioche. I had to share it, which led to an innate distaste for my dining companion. Buttery, melt-in-your-mouth goodness it was. When you get tongued properly, there ain’t nothing better.
The Staff Knows Their Sh*t
We likely questioned every available option while perched at the bar trying to decide what would be enough of a taste of the menu to constitute saying we “really tried Bar Isabel.” Questions like, “Well just how ‘fried’ is the fried chicken?” and, “How do you pronounce ‘mojama’ and what the eff is it?” Nary a roll of the eyes was seen as they answered all of our annoying queries with aplomb and precision.
The Whole Grilled Octopus is More Famous Than the Chefs Who Prepare It
We didn’t order it. Everyone told us to. There were only two of us, and a half order just seemed so wrong. We have been living half-lives ever since this grievous error.
The Kinky Kitchen
You’re going to expand your horizons, and try that one thing you’ve dreamt about trying late at night while huddled under the covers in a cold sweat after reading passages from 50 Shades of Prey: The Carnivore’s Descent Into Madness. In my case it was head… of spot prawns. Yours might be going hardcore raw with horse meat, or snuff film-cray with tripe. Your deepest, darkest foodie fantasies will be realized… and they’re only a streetcar ride away.