Bar Raval (Toronto)

Bar Raval Toronto

Never did I think I’d knowingly pay to eat canned goods. But, that’s the Grant van Gameren magic: he makes canned food sexy, so people wait to eat it and pay top dollar. Of course, the ones served at Bar Raval are imported from Spain and said to be top quality, not the Chicken of the Sea variety.

We tried a half order of white clams ($20) and they were slightly salty with an essence of the sea – though Grant’s magic still didn’t transform College Street into Majorca for me.

Plain kettle chips accompanied the clams, which seemed like a strange combination. But after popping one on a chip and adding a splash of hot sauce, the crunch of the chip against the soft clam was quite good. Overall, the clams weren’t rubbery or mushy (as I feared) and tasted as fresh as canned could be. Nonetheless, they weren’t fantastic either, I’d still rather stick with the fresh ones.

The boquerones ($9) are deboned anchovies marinated in vinegar and olive oil. The acidness would pair well with a beer’s bitterness, but with my bubbly cava it didn’t have the same effect - the cava overtook the delicateness of the fish. Moreover, after experiencing the saltiness of the clams and chip, the dish ended feeling much plainer. Having ordered a side of bread ($1.90), it would have gone great with the fish as a make-your-own pinxtos, but it didn’t arrive until later.

The soft chewy bread was instead paired with the thin slices of presa iberica ($11). Being from the leaner shoulder cut of the pig, it isn’t as melt-in-your-mouth as the jamon variety. Nonetheless, it’s flavourful with a sweetness that’s mixed into the cured meat and the light film that sticks to your tongue is wonderful, so you can taste it even after the pork is gone. This dish is a great deal with plenty of slices to go around.

A cross between ceviche and carpaccio, the Galician octopus ($8) is a refreshing summery dish. Served room temperature, the octopus slices arrive with a vinegar, paprika and oil mixture with diced pickles (?) on top. There’s still a bite to the octopus that makes the dish perfect to munch and graze on.

For a more substantial dish, the whole squid ($15) done a la parilla (charcoal grilled) was a delicious choice. Unlike typical grilled squid, there isn’t the grill marks and strong charred taste, rather it’s a very light smokiness. The dish is finished with olive oil, garlic, parsley and olives but could use a bit more salt.

To keep with traditional tapa bars, Bar Raval doesn’t accept reservations, given most are quick stops for people to grab a couple of drinks and light bites. The beautiful gothic restaurant itself has limited seating, so most diners are expected to stand and share table space. Recently, a decent sized patio opened providing more seating for those who like it eat sitting. Dining on canned goods still won’t be a regular practice for me, but if I had to do it, Bar Raval would be the place for me.

Overall mark - 7.5 out of 10

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 505 College Street

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Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!

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