Weekend eating: February 22-23

Dinner Saturday night, brunch Sunday morning.


Bar Isabel

797 College, at Shaw, 416-532-2222, barisabel.com, @barisabel797 Isabel? Bar Decibel, more like! Though ex-Black Hoof charcuterie king Grant van Gameren’s latest taverna looks like it stepped right out of the back streets of Barthelona, its acoustics recall the nearest bowling alley. A small price to pay for some of the most skilfully executed tapas around. Best: to start, devilled duck eggs dressed with shredded salt cod and morcilla blood sausage the mixed charcuterie platter – water-buffalo slinzega, pork jerky, hunter’s sausage and imported Iberico ham, say – with candied apple mostardo and warm sourdough sprinkled with sea salt southern-fried chicken over deep-fried eggplant drizzled in honey and chili flakes grilled hanger steak with blistered shishito peppers, grilled spring scallions in classic Romesco sauce on the side to finish, salted chocolate mousse splashed with buttery olive oil. Complete dinners for $55 per person, including, tax, tip and a glass of cava. Average tapa $11. Open for dinner Saturday 6 pm to 2 am. Reservations accepted. Licensed. Access: barrier-free, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNNN


51B Winchester, at Parliament, 647-748-2121, kingyotoronto.ca, @Kingyotoronto This laid-back Cabbagetown izakaya proves you don’t need the full-bore frat-boy party vibe of Guu and the like to have a good time. Where else can you enjoy shareable plates that are as much fun for the tongue as they are for the eye while a kitschy Japanese sci-fi movie unspools over the bar? Best: rice-paper-wrapped salad rolls stuffed with barbecued cha shu pork, cucumber and lettuce splashed with house-made teriyaki sauce and sweet kewpie mayo tataki-style seared albacore tuna dressed with ponzu jelly and deep-fried garlic chips cold al dente ramen noodles tossed with salty cod roe, barbecued pork, bitter radicchio and strips of both seaweed and scrambled egg hamachi yellowtail carpaccio over organic mesclun, slivered red radish and daikon sprouts in a sesame-wasabi vinaigrette. Complete dinners for $40 per person, including tax, tip and a cocktail. Average main $11. Open for dinner Saturday 5:30 to 11:30 pm. Reservations accepted. Licensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNNN


2009 Yonge, at Glebe, 416-483-3747, tabule.ca, @TabuleToronto While owners Diana Sideris and Rony Goraichy include pita pockets on their card, this casual uptown eatery offers, instead of falafels, solidly executed grub made with quality ingredients at affordable price points served by friendly staff in a pleasant room. The recent annexing of the storefront next door now means that lineups – once very common come dinnertime – only happen during the weekend rush. Best: to start, a plate of complimentary pickles – crunchy dills, sour purple turnip, unpitted black olives, hellishly hot baby banana peppers follow with garlicky hummus with toasted whole wheat pita grilled haloumi cheese over baby arugula in pomegranate vinaigrette house-made grape leaves stuffed with rice ‘n’ tomato dipped into Lebanese cream cheese smokily grilled skewers of bell pepper, tomato, red onion and zucchini sided with cumin-kissed basmati pilaf laced with brown lentils honey-doused squares of green pistachio baklava. Complete dinners for $30 per person (lunches $20), including tax, tip and a Stella. Average main $15/$8. Open for dinner Saturday 5 to 11 pm. Belly dancing show at 9 pm. Reservations accepted. Licensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN


Crown Princess

1033 Bay, at Irwin, 416-923-8784, crown-princess.ca Sister of the equally OTT Crown Prince in Scarborough, this opulent Chinese dining room – think Versace does Versailles – offers suburban-style dim sum daily. Servers in French maid costumes and Strauss waltzes on the sound system only add to the luxury. And although the early-bird discount no longer applies, the extravagant spread is still worth the bucks. Best: translucently wrapped dumplings stuffed with roughly chopped scallops the inevitable siu mai upgraded with foie-gras-like goose liver mousse and a sprinkling of black caviar classic shrimp har gow and pan-fried turnip cake with Chinese sausage Chiu Chow dumplings thick with ground pork, chives and crunchy peanuts ridiculously tender octopus tentacles in five-spice powder to finish, perfectly flaky milk custard tarts tweaked with birds’ nest to drink, Iron Buddha oolong tea. Complete dim sum meals for $30 per person, including tax, tip and tea. Average dim sum $4. Open Sunday 9 am to 4 pm. Licensed. Access: barrier-free. Rating: NNNN

Gallery Grill

7 Hart House Circle, at Wellesley, 416-978-2445, harthouse.ca/gallery-grill Once a private U of T faculty club, the restaurant in Hart House’s Great Hall still feels exclusive, from its soaring Gothic Revival stonework to its Mission-style furniture and coat-of-arms china. Veteran chef Suzanne Baby’s seasonally shifting card reflects local bounty at its best. Best: to begin, cheesy gougères with house-made almond butter raw zucchini ribbons dusted with toasted panko in preserved lemon vinaigrette locally sourced mains like roasted Georgian Bay whitefish over spicy apple ‘n’ scallion salad in Berkshire bacon vinaigrette house-made lamb merguez sausage in apple cider sauce over lemon ricotta pancakes to finish, Hart House Farm maple syrup crème brûlée to drink, grapefruit spritzers. Complete brunches/lunches for $35 per person, including tax, tip and a sweet sherry. Open Sunday 11 am to 2 pm. Reservations only. Licensed. Access: barrier-free. Rating: NNNNN

Grand Electric

1330 Queen W, at Elm Grove, 416-627-3459, grandelectricbar.com, @grandelectricTO Now that ex-Black Hoof chef Colin Tooke’s super-hot Parkdale taqueria has more than doubled in size with the addition of a 40-seat patio, scoring a no-reserve table should be twice as easy. Wrong! But show up at 6, get on the list and come back in an hour or so – no problemo. Friendly and efficient servers ensure the feeding frenzy never wanes. Best: vibrantly spiced soft-shell tacos stuffed with sweet pulled pork belly topped with grilled pineapple salsa shredded chicken kicked with árbol pepper and pickled red onion deliciously braised beef cheeks dressed with buttery avocado and hellaciously hot jalapeños fried slices of mild queso over roasted poblano peppers Baja-style fish tacos with crisply deep-fried tilapia finished with radish and red onion lashed with crema and lime shareable plates like chunky tuna ceviche piled high tostada-style on deep-fried tortillas remarkably tender rings of deep-fried calamari drenched in a Sriracha-like hot sauce Chicken Frito, a heap of marvellously messy deep-fried chicken parts doused in a five-alarm sauce thick with fresh coriander, brown sugar, chili pods and funky nam pla to finish, Mason jars of key lime pudding. Complete meals for $40 per person, including tax, tip and a cocktail. Average main $10. Open for lunch Sunday 11:30 am to 4 pm. No reservations. Licensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNNNN

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