Bar Raval has been on my list for a very long time and finally I can cross it off. It’s definitely worth the wait.
Imagine being transported to Spain, in the Basque region where you’re sipping on drinks and eating various pintxos (edible components being skewed onto a piece of bread). That is Bar Raval — a taste of the Basque lifestyle in Toronto. It’s one of those spots that gets packed the minute it opens. It’s not a large place either; do be prepared to bump shoulders with other patrons.
I wish I could have taken a picture of the space, but pictures do not do it justice. Just go and you’ll know what I mean. Think rich mahogany all around.
We came around 5:30pm and it was already full of people. One thing you’ll notice is, there’s not a lot of seats; it’s mostly standing. We scored seating near the bar in a little corner. Normally I would be worried sitting in a corner, especially having our backs to the rest of the room but we were well taken care of and we enjoyed the semi-seclusion even if there were people right behind us.
The food at Bar Raval are meant for sharing. You’ll notice that there’s canned and preserves, cured meats, seafood, tapas and pintxos. Some of their canned offerings come straight from Spain– pricey but it’s an opportunity to taste the seafood straight from the country.
We got razor clams ($26), which is from Spain. If you are not fond of that seafood taste, it might be best to avoid this as it’s simply razor clams and clam juice.
My favourite in the menu so far is the house smoked mackerel ($13). The pieces of mackerel pretty much melts in your mouth, complete with smoky flavour and drenched in rosemary oil. Do yourself a favour and get this.
Pintxos comes with two. Cojunado ($12), sweet piquillo pepper, chorizo, bacon, sunny-side up quail egg and drizzled with parsley oil on a slide of baguette. Messy to eat, but this was really really good.
Hot Octopus ($12) with potato, olive oil and pimenton. There was a little more potato than there were of octopus. Nonetheless, it had good flavour with olive oil and the smoky pimenton.
Wild Mushrooms in Oloroso ($15) is really good. Oloroso is fortified sherry and it gave the mushrooms a little bit of sweetness, but didn’t take away its delicate flavour.
Bar Raval is definitely one of my favourite place this year and I cannot wait to go again to try out the rest of the menu. The vibe is casual, relaxing and a really great spot to catch up with close friends (it’s not great for big groups though) or a date (but not a romantic date night).
Edit: I took my brother to Bar Raval for brunch, where their tapas menu is available and they also had some baked goods and tapas-style selections available during the day laid out on the bar.
505 College St.