Where We Ate: Portland Variety

More than ever, Instagram has become a source of new restaurants to try. Portland Variety was one of these finds! Conveniently located at Portland and King (former home of the now-closed KiWe Kitchen), the restaurant offers both indoor and outdoor seating. The drink menu is pretty interesting (they have a proper mixologist and all), and there are plenty of shareables to choose from. We liked pretty much everything we tried!

What We Ate

  • Housemade ricotta with honey, hazelnuts, and pears (soooo good!)
  • Salt cod brandade (loved it!)
  • Roasted bone marrow (the crispy top was a nice touch)
  • Grilled octopus
  • Eggplant confit
  • Beef tenderloin carpacio with Parmesan shavings
  • Patatas Bravas
  • Bite-sized beignets with chocolate sauce (airy, vanilla cream-filled goodness)
Housemade Ricotta

Housemade Ricotta

Salt Cod Brandade

Salt Cod Brandade

Roasted Bone Marrow

Roasted Bone Marrow

Grilled Octopus

Grilled Octopus

Beef Tenderloin Carpaccio

Beef Tenderloin Carpaccio

Eggplant Confit

Eggplant Confit

Mini Beignets

Mini Beignets

Portland Variety Cafe on Urbanspoon

Where We Ate: Bar Isabel

Bar Isabel has been on our to-do list for a while, but it’s now on everybody’s radar (especially after being named by Air Canada’s enRoute magazine as the No. 1 Best New Restaurant in 2013), so getting reservations hasn’t been easy. Matt called over a month in advance to get us in!

The restaurant definitely lived up to expectations, both in terms of food and service. And while they have a decent-sized space, they haven’t crammed it full of tables, so everyone is nicely spread out. For the amount we ordered, it also wasn’t that pricey—between 4 people, we had 7 beers, 11 small plates, 1 main, and 2 desserts, and it only cost us $75 each including tax and tip!

What We Ate

Everything was really good, but my faves are the ones in bold purple below. I would go back JUST for the basque cake alone. The right amount of crispy on the outside and perfectly soft on the inside. A must try!

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To Start

  • Marinated Sardine Montaditos
  • Grilled Mushroom Montaditos, Chicken Liver Mousse, Jamón Ibérico, Wild Onion 
  • Chips, Boquerones, Piquillo, Jalapeno
  • Coca Flatbread, Caramelized Onions, Torta Del Casar, Rosemary
  • Roast Bone Marrow
  • Morcilla Scotch Egg, Hollandaise, Blonde Frisee
  • Patatas Bravas
  • Albacore Tuna Tiradito, Asian Pear, Celery, Jalapeno & Fried Rosemary
  • Wild Leeks, Ham. Smoked Egg, Torta Del Casar Sauce
  • Chorizo Verde with Marinated Escarole
  • Spicy Fried Squid, Crispy Tongue, Kale

Main

  • 1/2 Grilled Octopus

Dessert

  • Basque Cake and Sherry Cream

Overall, a great meal, and definitely worth the wait!

Bar Isabel on Urbanspoon

Where We Ate: Pizza Libretto, Lisa Marie, and Torito

I’m still playing catch-up on restaurant posts (being the piggies we are, we hit up food joints faster than I blog), but here are some recent eats:

Pizza Libretto (Danforth Location)

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Pizza Libretto has been on our radar for awhile, so we were really excited to try it on an impromptu date night tonight. The restaurant has two locations, one on the west end on Ossington and one on the east on Danforth; both have been around for some time, but the Danforth location is the newer of the two. To be honest, we didn’t have a preference between the locations, but the fact that the Danforth location takes reservations pretty much sealed the deal!

What We Ate

  • Buttermilk fried calamari with romesco sauce and herb oil: the buttermilk batter and sauce were delicious!
  • Libretto Margherita (bufala mozzarella, crushed tomatoes, basil, grana padano) and Housemade Sausage (sausage, caramelized onion, mozzarella, chili oil) pizzas: both were really good—our only complaint was that the chili oil could have been a tad spicier!
  • Libretto Tiramisu: decadent and yummy!

Lisa Marie

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Lisa Marie is a new restaurant on Queen West opened by the owner of Fidel Gastro’s. When Matt told me about the restaurant, I was pretty excited because I already know about Fidel Gastro’s from the Toronto food truck scene (which I hope will become as big as it is in many US cities) and from TUM. I’ve also seen Matt Basile in Rebel Without a Kitchen, so it was kinda cool to see him in the flesh at the restaurant!

The restaurant has a fun bar vibe and serves cicchetti, which are explained on the wall as being “kind of like tapas… but not”—this is true because Matt and I found some of the dishes to be bigger than the usual small plates that you get at tapas-style restaurants.

What We Ate

  • Deep fried pizza with smoked duck: to me, this was like a spin on Peking duck wraps,  which was kind of neat, but wasn’t mind-blowing
  • Moroccan beef short rib with crushed pistachios: very tender and fall-off-the bone (yum!)… my favourite of the dishes we tried
  • Eggplant balls with goat cheese and basil: this reminded me of a falafel, and the Jalapeno mint jelly was a nice touch
  • Bulgolgi ravioli
  • Alabama tailgaters (bacon-wrapped beef carpaccio, cilantro, aged cheddar, and kimchi)
  • Elvis in a Jar: the picture (bottom-left corner above) looks oddly phallic, but maple syrup + rum french toast, peanut butter cream, bananas, and candied bacon… this was to die for! This and my first Eton mess at The Standard Grill in NYC have convinced me that layered desserts in jars can do no wrong!

Torito Tapas Bar

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There are a number of eateries at Kensington Market we want to try, and Torito was one of them. The restaurant has a more quiet (which might have been because it was an early dinner), cozy atmosphere. The team that works there was extremely friendly and attentive!

What We Ate

  • Avocado fries with roasted tomato salsa: these are a must if you go there… crunchy on the outside, but still soft and creamy on the inside.
  • White bass ceviche with corn, fresh chili peppers, and cilantro
  • Jamón Croquettes
  • Squid ink rossejat (paella-style pasta with octopus and aioli): we enjoyed this a lot, but it REALLY made us crave the siciliana at Joso’s (which deserves a full blog post of its own at a later date, hopefully soon!)

Torito Tapas Bar on Urbanspoon