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No. 38

Bar Isabel

THEIR FAMOUS CEVICHE once piled high on the deep-fried carcass of the fish from whence it was cut, now comes in a bowl. No longer is there a designated fry cook, churning out croquettes for the hungry throngs. The formerly deep and idiosyncratic wine list has been depleted by pandemic-era take-away sales. But maître d’ Alessandro Pietropaolo will still lead you to your table with an engaging smile. And, as before, there are small plates of boquerones, giant plates of grilled octopus, and delightful daily specials built on snow pea leaves, asparagus or whatever else is in season. The cocktails are still expertly made, and new sommelier (one of Toronto’s best) Lexi Wolkowski, formerly of Brothers, will deftly assist you in navigating the reduced but still impressive wine list. After two years of scant travel, all this, combined with the dim light and din of the room, is enough to transport you, if not to Spain, then at least to 2019. Slip in just before the new, earlier kitchen closing (now 11 p.m.), take a seat at the bar, and admire the scene. Regulars, revellers, new dates and good wine. The normal is, perhaps, but a nightcap away from the old one.

Photography by: (Interior) Alexa Fernando, (Food) Rick O’Brien

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