Photo by bittermelon, used under Creative Commons license

“We like cooking really tasty food. You like eating it.”

In part to celebrate a job change, and in part just because we wanted to try it, last night Nellie, T-Bone, The Sof, and I had dinner at Bar Isabel, recently named best new restaurant in Canada by EnRoute magazine. I won’t bother describing the funny logistics or the toque-heavy hipsters. I’ll just get straight to the food & drink.

Nellie and I started with cocktails: mine, their (spicy) twist on the Old Fashioned; hers, a twist on the classic G&T. T-Bone had champagne, and The Sof had one of the Bellwoods beers on hand. I would have liked to take advantage of the very adventurous beer list but the cocktails were too good to ignore. We threw in some bread to form a crash pad for all the food to follow.

We started with a few cured meats and cheeses; I don’t recall which ones exactly, but they were all delicious.

Next came chorizo verde & octopus skewers, one for each of us. Then patatas bravas, and arbol chili chickpeas w/ snow pea leaves.

Next came a plate of fried chicken with buttermilk sauce, which was one of the best pieces of fried chicken I’ve ever had. It was crispy, but still almost impossibly juicy.

Everything up to this point, post-cocktail, had been paired with a bottle of 2012 Santiago Ruiz Albarino.

The gang split a whole grilled lobster covered in aji amarillo butter, whatever that is. They said it was delicious, but I wanted none of it. Instead I had a plate of three smoked sweetbreads, each sitting on top of a piece of raw tuna, covered in persimmon & brown butter. The whole contraption together was fantastic, but when I pulled out just the sweetbread itself, it was amazing.

One qualm: the ladies had asked for a glass of white to go with their lobster. Disappointingly they were given another glass of the Albarino. It couldn’t stand up to the richness of the buttery lobster. By this time I’d moved on to the bottle of red we’d opened, a 2006 Matarredonda Tinto De Toro, which opened up very nicely.

The big topper was an 18oz Cumbrae’s ribeye steak with chimichurri. It was tremendous. Not that we needed it, but if a second one had just magically turned up I wouldn’t have sent it away.

Somehow we had room left for dessert, and put ourselves in the gracious hands of our server. He brought out a Basque cake covered in sherry cream (killer!) and a second dessert which, unfortunately, doesn’t appear on their online menu and whose name has slipped from my memory. It was a mound of creamy chocolate mousse and a small soft bread product, like some kind of churro-breadstick bybrid. Hard to describe. But, again, all delicious.

No doubt about it, it was a monumental meal. T-Bone even surprised us by treating the table, so…love. This one’s going in our favourite-ever list, I think.

Oh: Nellie & I also stopped in at The Emmet Ray for a drink before dinner. With that beer, whisky, and bourbon list I can see it being a regular stop when we’re out that way.


Photo by bittermelon, used under Creative Commons license