AN OCTOPUS’S GARDEN
#2 BAR ISABEL
It’s hard to believe that Bar Isabel, Grant van Gameren’s first post–Black Hoof eatery, opened back in 2013. But let’s not get all misty-eyed — let’s just focus on the eats. It’s easy to load up on jamón and manchego and the marinated mussels escabeche, but always save room for the octopus. A menu mainstay since day one, the whole octo (or half or quarter) boasts forktender grilled tentacles, jazzed with grilled dandelion greens and smoky pimentón. Sip on a Rusty Peach — a buzzy tipple with gin, manzanilla sherry, the wonderfully named RinQuinQuin peach liqueur and hits of ginger — and be transported to a bustling eve in Barcelona. 797 College St.
When chef Rob Rossi closed the doors to his Bestellen, it wasn’t for lack of interest. Rather, the beloved meat haven had kinda run its course, and chef Rossi was keen to switch things up. Enter Giulietta. The menu skips across all regions of the boot, with Rossi using a light touch on a cuisine that never bores Torontonians. The octopus is already a must-have: procured from Morocco, it’s done sous-vide, grilled and sat atop borlotti beans and fragrant salmoriglio. But the house-made scarpinocc pasta — tubes stuffed with creamy taleggio fonduta, strewn with hen o’ the woods and bathing in butter — will go down even faster. Do leave room for dessert. The Gianduja torta is a beautiful marriage between chocolate and hazelnut. 972 College St.
Excuse us while we drool over this grilled octopus from Bar Isabel
What has eight legs and is grilled to perfection?
Chef Cory Vitiello, of Flock, chose Giulietta as his top T.O. restaurant. His other pick that made the list was Annabelle at #24