Best Toronto Restaurants 2016: Bar Raval

If the menu weren’t stellar on its own, never mind the equally stellar list of Spanish-inspired cocktails, I’d still encourage, even drag skeptics to Grant van Gameren’s latest outpost just for the look of the place. Interior design doesn’t usually tip the scales for me, but in this case, it’s amazingness incarnate: biomorphic mahogany wall panels frame the windows and swoop up and across the ceiling and around the bar. The inspiration was Spanish maestro Gaudí, but to my mind it more resembles the inside of a palace on an alien planet in a long-lost episode of Star Trek, where Kirk falls in forbidden love with a lonely princess—spooky, erotic and campy all at once. But back to the food: van Gameren imagined Raval as a round-the-clock hangout, the focus on pincho-size plates of seafood, meat and veg à la plancha (i.e., grilled) for extra Iberian verisimilitude, and, his specialty, cured meats. My favourite option is a two-bite open-face sandwich of blood sausage and a fried quail egg, which manages to be simultaneously refined and rustic. There’s equal emphasis on a list of fortified wines, rare vermouths and cocktails made with dark liquors—the better to seduce an alien princess. BEST SIP: Señor Soigné, an end-of-winter warmer of dry Lustau Amontillado sherry and Canadian whiskey.

505 College St., No Phone, thisisbarraval.com

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