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Showing posts with label Tapas Bar. Show all posts

Portland Variety

 Located on the corner of King & Portland in the busy King West neighborhood lies Portland Variety. Portland Variety operates as both a cafe, and restaurant; as the 2,400-square-foot restaurant features a standing-room cafe at the front during the day, and at night, it transforms into a cocktail bar/restaurant.

 I had the pleasure of attending a media tasting to welcome back Chef Jo Castrinos to Portland Variety a couple weeks back. He was the original chef of Portland Variety when it first opened in 2014, and he has now returned to helm the kitchen as Executive Chef. The tasting was an intimate gathering with some of my fellow bloggers, and all the dishes that we tried that evening were family-styled.



Watermelon Mojito - dark rum, lime, mint, watermelon



 The menu at Portland Variety featured a fusion of Canadian, French, and Spanish cuisine offering shareable plates for both lunch and dinner. Some of their shareable plates include grilled octopus, fried hen, and braised short ribs.   

 Royal Garden - vodka, lime, basil, cucumber

 

We started the tasting with a selection of Assorted Pintxos.


 

Mushroom Salad - arugula, truffle pecorino, pine nuts, yuzu vin

 

The Striped Bass Crudo - citrus, green mango, chive oil, chill, was up next, and it was a favorite among our small group of diners. The bass crudo was well-prepared, and the epitome of freshness. Additionally, the combination of green mango, and chive oil perfectly complemented the briny flavor of the bass.


My spice tolerance is pretty high, so I am capable of tolerating really spicy dishes. Which is why, I enjoyed the Shrimp Pil Pil - chili oil, lemon. The shrimp was super flavorful, and the lemon added a nice contrast to the richness and spiciness of the chili oil.  



Moorish Chickpeas - saffron, cumin, wilted swiss chard


I am glad that they kept the Grilled Octopus - smoked tomato, iberico chorizo, fennel pollen, on the menu. The octopus was seared and crispy on the outside, while the interior was tender. It also had a slight smoky flavor, without it tasting unnaturally smoky. 


 Cornish Game Hen - piri piri, pickles, olives


The 16 oz Ribeye - porcini rub, caramelized onions, was surprisingly flavorful. It was my second favorite dish of the night after the grilled octopus. I am not a huge fan of onions, but the caramelized onions added a nice flavor to the dish.


Patatas Bravas - spicy tomato, garlic aioli


Tangerine Panna Cotta - basil, pistachio meringue


Lastly, we ended the night off with Beignets - vanilla custard, for dessert. The deep-fried yet airy beignets were lightly dusted with sugar making it a sweet treat. This was a great way to finish off a meal.


Cappuccino


Portland Variety is a nice casual place in King West, and perfect for all occasions. They are open for brunch, lunch and dinner. Click here for their hours of operation.

Address: 587 King St W, Toronto, ON M5V 1M5

Social Media

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PortlandVariety/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/PortlandVariety/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/portlandvariety
Website: http://www.portlandvariety.com/

Disclaimer: The food provided in this post was complimentary. However, all of the opinions expressed in this review are of my own.


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Bar Isabel

Bar Isabel is a popular restaurant known for their Spanish-influenced tapas dishes. Its location on College and Ossington is easily accessible, and there's a paid parking lot nearby (where Metro and Shoppers are located). I called about 2.5 weeks earlier to secure a reservation for three people for a Saturday. The hostess informed me that their small table might not be comfortable for three, and that they'll need the table back by 8:15 pm. I ended up accepting the 6:30 pm reservation slot as I wanted to try out the restaurant.


The decor is supposed to resemble a Spanish tavern with its wood panels and decorative yet mismatched floor tiles. The atmosphere itself is very lively around 7:30 pm and onwards. I am not too fond of the red lighting that emits throughout the establishment but it's not overly distracting.



I got the sparkling water bottle ($6) for the table, and two coke for the bf and I ($6 for 2 glasses). My friend ended up getting an alcoholic beverage which is not pictured as he was drinking it while I took this picture.

 

To start off the night, we got a bowl of bread ($4) to share, and that came with olive oil and butter. I believe that it was sourdough bread and sadly it was not warm. 


Originally, we got one order of 6 oysters, but ordered another 6 as we really liked the first batch. We ordered a total of 12 oysters ($32), and each was exceptionally tasty and fresh. Each batch arrived on a bed of ice with two condiments and lemon slices.


The 1/2 grilled octopus ($34) was enjoyable, and more than enough for the three of us. Surprisingly, the octopus and its suction cups weren't chewy at all. It was rather tender and had a nice charred taste to it. The dish was also served with greens and roasted potatoes. There's a whole octopus for $59 for those with larger parties, or if you really love octopus.


The spicy fried squid, crispy tongue & kale ($8) was another dish that I enjoyed a lot. The outside texture of the fried squid was flavorful and slightly crispy. The lemon adds an extra zest to the dish, but it's not absolutely needed.


The roast bone marrow ($11) was rich! It's very well expected that portions at tapas-based restaurants tend to be a tad smaller. So it wasn't surprising that this dish came with only two pieces of bone marrow. However, one piece of bone barely had any bone marrow in it which was disappointing. Also, try not to overload on the chimicurri sauce as it has a strong flavor to it.


The spicy pork anticuchos (5 pc) ($12) are essentially long skewers of pork. The meat on the sticks were tender with a good hint of spiciness.


The last dish of the night was the Albacore tuna tiradito, Asian pear, celery, jalapeno & fried rosemary ($14). Personally, I thought that it was a decent dish, but not a personal favorite of mine. The tuna was sliced fairly thin and quickly fell apart when I attempted to divide and scoop everything onto my plate.

Bar Isabel doesn't assign one server per table; I believe that they do work as a team. Our table of three was served by about 2-3 different servers throughout the entire dinner. They were knowledgeable of the menu, and our initial server provided some recommendations. Although the service was not exceptional; it was still rather good as our servers were polite, and quick to take away our finished dishes. Overall, the casual Bar Isabel is a good place for Spanish inspired dishes. Our bill for three came out to be around $188 (including tax and tip); so that's roughly $63 per person. It was not the cheapest tapas, but all of us left feeling full which is always good. To sum it up, their menu offers a variety of Spanish tapas dishes, drink menu is impressive (according to my friend who does drink), and the service was good. 

RATINGS:

Quality of Food: 4/5
Service: 4.2/5
Overall Dining Experience: 4/5
Price: $$$

Address: 797 College Street, Toronto, ON, M6G 1C6

Bar Isabel on Urbanspoon

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