Bar Raval transports you to a Spanish pinxtos bar, separated from the outside world and offering some of the best food in Toronto.
Before entering this restaurant I had never enjoyed a meal while standing across a barrel in the company of others, nor had I been so confused as to how a seating system works.
The crowded gastro-bar has a bar area with baked goods on display, a table stretching along one side and barrels with flattened tops that act as tables.
If you don’t grab one of the limited number of stools, you’ll be standing for the duration of the meal. But fret not! Most people are standing in this restaurant so you’ll fit right in.
There is also a covered outdoor section that lacks any seating, with more barrels and a window sill to rest your food.
It’s anyone’s guess how the wait staff keep track of whose food goes where but they seem perfectly comfortable, never getting confused or missing an opportunity to ensure you’re having the best possible visit.
The interior is dark and crowded, which makes you feel like you’re part of a small community experiencing the restaurant together.
It comes as no surprise that Chris Nuttall-Smith has placed this in Toronto’s top new restaurants of 2015.
Food & Drink
The Walk Off: Whiskey sour with Absinthe and a strong taste of apricot. Nice to have alongside various tapas to offer a sharp contrast with the oily breads and various rich meats.
Pumpkin & Hazelnut: A small salad with plenty of semi-sweet mashed pumpkin with arugula and pine nuts.
Tomato Bread: Toasted bread with fresh tomato spread. Amazingly simple and delicious. A must try!
Croquetas: two breadcrumbed fried rolls filled with cheese that simply melts in your mouth. A dish that is far too easy to quickly eat and miss.
Hot Octopus: Small pieces of octopus and potato in a puddle of olive oil. Good portion for splitting between two people.
Mushroom Tower: Two skewers of mushrooms each poked into a piece of bread soaked with good olive oil, topped with a single shrimp. If you like mushrooms, this is the dish for you.
Fig & Olive Oil Cake: Sweet, somewhat fluffy, large pieces of fig, a hint of olive oil. Served with cream that makes a good dip for each bite of cake.
Ellis KoifmanFollow @ellis_koifman