We went to Bar Isabel on 797 College for my birthday a few weeks back. Bar Isabel is one of the best restaurants in the city right now. We had high expectations and at the same time felt some trepidation that we may be walking into a hipster space.
The Bar Isabel space was small and echoed of a Spanish tavern with a robust bar. We felt instantly at home and very comfy in a booth to the side that gave us a prime view of the establishment. We arrived at the 6 p.m. opening time. By 6:10 p.m. the space was full.
Jess, our server, greeted us and we were made to feel like our patronage was appreciated.
Jess reassured us our 6 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. seating was not meant to be rushed. But for us to relax and enjoy the time. She was correct, from the time we ordered and the first plate came to the table – it was minutes.
We started off with a cocktail. The name escapes my mind but it contained two different types of whiskey. It was so gorgeous that we ordered another within 30 minutes of the first drinks going down. At $15 a pop we were pretty hammered but not too hammered to enjoy what was to come.
To begin we started with a Marinated Sardine Montadito (2pc) $6. The sardines were flown in from Portugal and were the tastiest and most succulent sardines I have ever had. The baguette that the sardines sat on top of added a rustic texture but yet were still easy to bite into. We ended up ordering two of these dishes. I recommend you do the same.
We also ordered the Swordfish Tiradito, Smoked Olives, Sweet Peas, Crispy Jamón, Sorrel & Olive Brine Sauce $15. It was so fresh and flavourful it might as well had been butter on a plate. The texture was soft and went down smooth as velvet. I appreciated the pairing of the sweet peas and crispy jamón with the swordfish. This dish was not as filling as it may look. There was a perfect amount of food on the plate. The plates were like pieces of art that accented the food but did not steal their thunder.
I was so looking forward to the Smoked Sweetbreads, Raw Tuna, Spicy Pickled Green Tomato & Brown Butter $20. They did not disappoint. If you have had sweetbreads in the past, Bar Isabel’s sweetbreads have angels that float down and whisper sweet nothings in your ears as you delicately eat this dish. The raw tuna was so fresh it was almost like it melted in my mouth. Don’t be afraid of this dish. If you don’t order it, you haven’t had the full Bar Isabel experience.
The Half Cornish Hen A La Plancha, Chorizo, Chili-Garlic Hot Sauce, Wild Arugula Salad $26 was a treat. It came out last. I really appreciate the layering of these dishes as they came out to us. I loved the luxury of the Half Cornish Hen. It was the protein we needed to leave us satiated but not ‘full’. The Wild Arugula Salad was also a nice touch that paired up nicely to the warm Cornish Hen.
For dessert as we were celebrating birthdays, we ordered the Basque Cake & Sherry Cream $9 and Leche Frita & Salted Dulce de Leche $7. The Basque Cake & Sherry Cream was the light sister to the powerhouse of the Leche Frita & Salted Dulce de Leche. Dear Lord. We appreciated both desserts but having condensed milk squares (Leche Frita & Salted Dulce de Leche) come to your table as an end of meal delight – they might t as well roll out my bed and pillow. We were left romanced by the whole Bar Isabel experience.
Our next reservation is in 4 weeks’ time.