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Chef’s Choice: Grant van Gameren of Bar Isabel picks his favourite restaurants

Chef's Choice: Grant van Gameran of Bar Isabel picks his favourite restaurants

Who better to guide a fantasy food tour than a chef? We asked some of the city’s top culinary talents to walk us through their ideal day in Toronto restaurant meals.

grant van gameren
Bar Isabel

BREAKFAST
The Federal on Dundas West is my breakfast local. I always get the Cubano sandwich and freshsqueezed orange juice.”
1438 Dundas St. W., 647-352-9120.

LUNCH
Grand Electric’s squid hoagie is insanely rich. You may want to split it.”
1330 Queen St. W., 416-627-3459.

DINNER
“I love a blind tasting at ­Hopgood’s Foodliner for interesting combinations like Triscuits and crab dip.”
325 Roncesvalles Ave., ­416-533-2723.

DRINKS
Chantecler’s Toronto cocktail is rye, bitters, Fernet Branca and orange. It goes down a little too easily.”
1320 Queen St. W., 416-628-3586.

The Informer

People

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The New Power Set: five young Torontonians on the verge of greatness

The New Power Set: five young Torontonians on the verge of greatness

Jared MenkesJARED MENKES, 32
The grandson of Menkes Developments founder Murray is starting to dominate the downtown condo market. He oversaw Pears on the Avenue, a Yorkville condo, then led the firm’s advance south of Bloor with Fabrik, a 16-storey building in the fashion district. Now he’s in charge of Harbour Plaza, a two-tower project in the South Core, and Noir, a 49-storey condo at King and Peter.

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The Dish

Restaurants

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Three Toronto Hot Spots Make EnRoute’s Annual “Best New Restaurants” List—Including Number One

enroute-logoIt’s that time again, when end-of-year lists start clogging our Twitter feeds and Facebook timelines. One we look forward to every October, though, is “Canada’s Best New Restaurants” by EnRoute—Air Canada’s consistently (and surprisingly) good in-flight magazine. This year, three excellent Toronto restaurants made the list. At number 10 is Parkdale’s “twisted hymn to the American South,” Electric Mud BBQ. At number two, David Chang’s University Avenue ode to the chef’s menu, Momofuko Shōtō. And at number one, Bar Isabel, where Grant van Gameren shows off his prowess with dish after dish of Spanish delights. You can see the full list here, along with notes about the trends EnRoute loves (lamb belly as the new pork belly) and hates (tables that are way too small).

The Dish

Restaurants

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The Dish Power Rankings: the Jack Bauer edition

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Toronto Life’s roundup of the restaurants with the biggest buzz, the longest lineups and the toughest tables to snag.

Bar Isabel holds strong at the top and Jack Bauer’s presence pulls a normally buzz-free tavern into the number ten spot.

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The Dish Power Rankings: Terroir-ism edition

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Toronto Life’s roundup of the restaurants with the biggest buzz, the longest lineups and the toughest tables to snag.

The seventh annual Terroir Symposium brought a raft of international food stars to Toronto—and rearranged this week’s top restaurants. Further down, the first reviews for Chantecler’s new tasting menu shoot it up the list.

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The Dish

Restaurants

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The Dish Power Rankings: April fools edition

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Toronto Life’s roundup of the restaurants with the biggest buzz, the longest lineups and the toughest tables to snag.

A long running powerhouse prepares for a three-week break and David Chang spills the beans on where he eats in Toronto.

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Restaurants

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The Dish Power Rankings: Brandon Walsh edition

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Toronto Life’s roundup of the restaurants with the biggest buzz, the longest lineups and the toughest tables to snag.

The top two restaurants swap positions this week, and Patria rockets back on the list after an excellent celeb spotting.

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The Dish

Openings

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Introducing: Bar Isabel, Grant van Gameren’s highly anticipated new restaurant in Little Italy

Introducing: Bar Isabel

Name: Bar Isabel
Neighbourhood: Little Italy
Contact info: 797 College St., 416-532-2222, barisabel.com, @BarIsabel797
Owners: Grant van Gameren (Black Hoof, Enoteca Sociale) and Max Rimaldi (Enoteca Sociale, Pizzeria Libretto)
Chefs: executive chef Grant van Gameren and chef de cuisine Brandon Olsen (Black Hoof)
General manager: Guy Rawlings (Room 203, Brockton General)

The food: Sharing-friendly plates ranging widely from Mediterranean standards like a whole grilled octopus ($49) to chicken wings ($10) served escabeche-style.

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Grant van Gameren’s Bar Isabel opens Friday night

(Image: Twitter)

Bar Isabel, the new mostly-Spanish restaurant from Grant van Gameren and Max Rimaldi, is set to open for its first dinner service to the public this Friday at 6 p.m. (various chefs have been tweeting excitedly about the pre-opening “friends and family” dinner tonight). The long-awaited restaurant—van Gameren first mentioned plans for a “Grant Restaurant” back in 2011 when he parted ways with The Black Hoof—will serve sharing plates in a casual atmosphere that the chef describes as “Old World Spanish Tavern.”

Bar Isabel, 797 College St., 416-532-2222, barisabel.com, @BarIsabel797

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Grant van Gameren’s Crown Cooks is now called Bar Isabel

Crown Cooks, the forthcoming Little Italy venture from ex-Black Hoof chef Grant van Gameren and Max Rimaldi (Pizzeria Libretto, Enoteca Sociale), has gotten a pre-opening name change: it’s now Bar Isabel. The restobar is slated for a late March opening, and Guy Rawlings (Room 203) has been added to the team as front-of-house manager, joining Brandon Olsen (also formerly of The Black Hoof), who’s the chef de cuisine.

Bar Isabel, 797 College St., 416-532-2222, barisabel.com, @BarIsabel797

The Dish

Drinks

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Bar Volo reopens today with double the taps and a refreshed menu by Guy Rawlings

(Images: Bar Volo)

The Yonge Street beer geek den Bar Volo closed for a snap renovation last Sunday and reopens today with some big changes. Most important: there’s an all-new draft system, which doubles the number of taps to 32 and has room for six casks (co-owner Tomas Morana likened the new, huge list, neatly written out on a chalkboard, to a “library of beer”). Morana told The Dish that the bar’s menu has been pared down and given a refresh by Guy Rawlings, and will include charcuterie from Grant van Gameren’Crown Salumi and the new Hogtown Charcuterie, pretzels from Woodlot, a house-made mustard and a selection of cheeses, pâtés and terrines.

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Chef swap: Jesse Grasso replaces Brandon Olsen as chef at The Black Hoof

Grasso’s Twitter profile pic (Image: Twitter) 

In a note posted on The Black Hoof’s blog, owner Jen Agg announced today that chef Brandon Olsen (who took over from Colin Tooke, who took over from founder Grant van Gameren) was leaving his post after a year and a half “to travel and take a little break.” (Olsen told the Dish’s Renée Suen that October 29 is his last service, after which he’ll be “driving across America for a while. Then heading back to TO.” In other words, Toronto is, thankfully, not losing the man who brought it Foie and Nutella.) His replacement: Jesse Grasso, who previously worked at La Quercia and “modern Chinese brasserie” Bao Bei in Vancouver. Agg writes that the young chef “knows his offal” (surely a requirement for the gig), and that he has the “requisite tattoos, beard and hipster glasses, but don’t judge him on that.” [The Black Hoof]

The Dish

Restaurants

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Grant van Gameren’s next move: Crown Cooks, a new restaurant on College

Grant van Gameren at the Black Hoof, the Dundas West charcuterie bar he co-founded (Image: Renée Suen from the Torontolife.com Flickr pool)

So this is what Grant van Gameren has been up to. Ever since the The Black Hoof chef and co-founder left that influential Dundas West charcuterie bar to take the reins at Enoteca Sociale, his many fans have been waiting for news of his next move. Now, The Grid is reporting that van Gameren will be opening up a new College Street restaurant called Crown Cooks in the former home of Grappa, a short 10-minute stroll from the Hoof. The new 70-ish-seat spot will be influenced by his recent culinary grand tour of Europe (apparently a certain Barcelona absinthe bar inspired some of the design), and will serve tapas-style sharing plates of offal, veggies and Crown Salumi, his new cured meat line. It’ll also feature a late-night menu prepped daily by the chefs, but put together  by the bartenders (the working day of a cook already being quite long enough, thank you). Unlike the Hoof, Crown Cooks will be accepting reservations. Apparently van Gameren’s learned a thing or two from Enoteca. [The Grid]

The Dish

Restaurants

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Terroir 2012 recap: what we saw, heard and ate at the big annual food industry meet-up

Kevin Gilmour (sous chef at The Drake Hotel) was assisted by his crew at this pork carving station. Hunks of roasted pork were served over a peanut-ginger slaw (Image: Renée Suen)

Last week, 500 members or so of Canada’s food and hospitality industry gathered for Terroir VI at the newly renovated Arcadian Court. The theme for this year’s symposium was “The New Radicals,” a new generation of chefs that have a collaborative and unconventional approach to cuisine despite their conventional training. Symposium chair Arlene Stein had arranged a line up of the industry’s finest from Canada and abroad, assembled on panels featuring restaurateurs, writers and chefs from the old and new vanguard—most attendees agreed this year’s crop was the best yet (before the event we spoke to Australian chef Ben Shewry, as well as sustainable aquaculture champion Barton Seaver and natural wine advocate Alice Feiring.).

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Matthew DeMille to leave Enoteca Sociale

Enoteca Sociale’s Rocco Agostino with Matthew DeMille (Image: Renée Suen)

Over the weekend, Swallow Food reported that Matthew DeMille, the chef de cuisine at Enoteca Sociale, would be stepping away from his post in April to take a “cooking sabbatical” with his family in the Ontario countryside (which admittedly sounds pretty nice). DeMille signed up for the job at the Dundas West rustic Italian restaurant just last July, after a stint as Matty Matheson’s sous chef at Parts & Labour. Last November, DeMille was joined in the kitchen by former Black Hoof owner Grant van Gameren, who took over the place as executive chef. There’s no word yet on a potential replacement for DeMille. Read the entire story [Swallow Food] »

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