Bar Isabel – GVG you did it again!

Ever since he left the Black Hoof, many have awaited the day Grant van Gameren would open up his own place and grace us with the mind blowing flavours he had teased us with many years ago.  He had done stints at a few places where we saw hints of the van Gameren flare but now with the opening of Bar Isabel, we get the full blown experience.


The space has a comfortable, warm, and has almost a Spanish family tavern kind of feel to it.  The colorful tile floor, red lighting, and wood paneling takes you out of southern Ontario and into southern Spain.


The cocktail list is short but each combination looks delicious (except maybe the absinthe, I had few “interesting” experiences).  I tried the daily special, the Spruce Tip Spring Thing.


It’s a spruce infused whiskey, with juice, cointreau, and a mint syrup they make in house.  It was very refreshing and a perfect fit for the rich flavors we were about to experience.  My buddy had the Isabel Fashioned.


It’s basically a take on an old fashion but with different twists like bacon sugar.  Quite good with a heavy presence of orange zest to make it a little fruitier.  To start we tried the devilled eggs, salt cod, morcilla and hollandaise.


Very tasty.  Smooth texture; warm, salty inside; and buttery hollandaise.  It’s a very little egg but packs a lot of flavour.  Next we had the chicken wings escabeche.


It was supposed to come with four but we got six.  Nice bonus considering they are super tasty.  The meat is VERY juicy and moist.  The sauce is sweet and savoury.  It’s simply a good chicken wing.  It’s hard not to think of Duff’s down the street and compare.  Not really an apples to apples comparison but both are excellent in their own right.  Next we had the tongue on brioche.


The very first time I had this at the Black Hoof many years ago, I reacted much the same way I did taking my first bite into this.  HOLY SMOKES!  This is one of the best things I’ve ever eaten.  A flood of memories from all the great deli sandwiches came to mind and only one even comes close, Katz in New York.  I know a lot of people will hate me for saying this, but this could be better.  The mustard on the side is a nice addition.  It’s more of a jam than a mustard since it’s nicely sweetened. We saw a number of tables ordering them after and each time we considered ordering another one for the table.  I could eat this sandwich every day.  Next we had to Caterina Bay Scallops, Spanish blood sausage, porcini and wild asparagus.


The blood sausage is nicely spiced, Earthy and counters the buttery mushrooms and scallops well.  The scallops are small but cooked to perfection.  The greens add a nice balance as well.  Next was the octopus, chorizo and stewed peppers.


Now I am usually reluctant to order octopus since it’s usually overcooked and rubbery.  After taking my first bite, I wanted to applaud the kitchen.  Perfecto!  Great texture and great charred flavour.  The chorizo was delicious, spicy and the saltiness is nicely balanced by the sweet peppers and possibly the sweetest onion I’ve ever tasted.  Put the octopus, sausage and peppers on to one bite and it will blow your mind.  Next was the fried chicken and sticky eggplant.


The chicken was boneless which made it very easy to eat.  The chicken batter was well spiced and wonderfully crispy.  The chicken wasn’t oily but juicy and moist.  The chicken is well balanced with the sweet, sticky sauced eggplant and greens.  The sweet sauce (with a chilli pepper kick) actually tasted really good with the chicken when it spilled over.  There was a also a slight mix up with our order so they gave us a complimentary beer.  It was a local craft wheat beer that actually went really well with the chicken.


We also ordered dessert, a buttermilk panna cotta, celery with buckwheat crumble.


This is a surprise from bite one.  The panna cotta is light, smooth and very refreshing.  The celery flavour, which is actually more prominent that one would think, actually works well.  The crumble reminds me of graham crackers.  A great way to finish off a great meal.

I was a big fan of the Black Hoof at inception.  I loved the interesting twists on Italian food at Enoteca Sociale.  GVG, with Bar Isabel, you did it again!  Keep it coming and I’ll keep eating it!

~ by jlowjlow on May 31, 2013.

One Response to “Bar Isabel – GVG you did it again!”

  1. Very glad you had such a fantastic experience. It’s our pleasure to cook for you.
    Hope to see you back again soon.

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