Introducing: Bar Isabel, Grant van Gameren’s highly anticipated new restaurant in Little Italy
Name: Bar Isabel
Neighbourhood: Little Italy
Contact info: 797 College St., 416-532-2222, barisabel.com, @BarIsabel797
Owners: Grant van Gameren (Black Hoof, Enoteca Sociale) and Max Rimaldi (Enoteca Sociale, Pizzeria Libretto)
Chefs: executive chef Grant van Gameren and chef de cuisine Brandon Olsen (Black Hoof)
General manager: Guy Rawlings (Room 203, Brockton General)
The food: Sharing-friendly plates ranging widely from Mediterranean standards like a whole grilled octopus ($49) to chicken wings ($10) served escabeche-style. There’s also offal and cured meats (including jamón ibérico, $25 for 40 grams), and a range of vegetable plates ($5-6) and seafood dishes (starting at $8). The late-night menu of bar snacks changes daily.
The drinks: Local and international craft beers selected by Rawlings (including beer nerd picks like Lindemans Gueuze Cuvée René), as well as a list of unusual wines selected by sommelier Mik Piltz (Splendido), with an emphasis on Portuguese and Spanish bottles. The long cocktail list, from Michael Webster (Momofuku, Weslodge), includes both classics and changing house creations, like the Old Flame ($14).
The place: Bar Isabel’s long wood-filled and encaustic-tiled room, complete with curved ceilings and mismatched tables and chairs, was inspired by van Gameren’s travels in Spain, Italy and France. The restaurant caters equally to patrons sitting down to a full meal and those stopping by for a beer and fried pig’s ears ($8) at the long cherrywood bar.
By the numbers:
• 10,000 pounds of hand-poured encaustic tiles from Mexico cover Bar Isabel’s floor
• 1,400 square-foot dining room
• 200 hours spent cutting and assembling the glass mosaics (composed of 20,000 tiles) which decorate the space
• 6 beers on tap (on the current roster: selections from Bellwoods Brewery, Dieu du Ciel, Bar Volo’s House Ales and Spirit Tree)