when i was a kid, i thought my dad was a classy guy – particularly when he’d pop off a bottle of freixenet (pron: fresh–uhnet) indoors before saturday night barbecue dinner. having grown up and studied wine a bit – beyond gross consumption – i now know that despite being cool, he was also (and still is) just reasonable with luxury shit, and that matte black bottle of goodness wouldn’t have cost much more than a six-pack of upper canada, his beer of choice to mix with ginger after work for a shandy. nowadays, spanish wine is all the rage, because it’s a good value and is known as easily drinkable, high quality vino.
as it has come into fashion, so has spanish food – tapas bars with a very broad range of qualities have come to toronto, and about half have some sort of quirky asian twist to the food concept. in general though, i’ve found that they’re pretty good, and generally faithful to the bars of spain – i can claim to be informed on the subject since kc (see below) and i hung around the north of spain for a number of weeks two summers ago, and ate at a very broad range of bars – check my facebook for an album of photos specifically on food.
anyway – cava is really the best i’ve tried that toronto has to offer when it comes to faithful reproductions of the best pinxo (pron: peen-cho) spots in the basque region. katy and i specifically went to this town called san sebastian (or donostia to the locals), which has more places to eat per square kilometer than any other place on earth, and well as the most michelin stars psk anywhere -with the lone exception of the centre of paris. the dishes that chef chris mcdonald has put together are very close to what the best of the spots served, alongside 50 eurocent glasses of chilled tempranillo rosato, usually standing up at the bar. i’ve never had so much foie gras as on that trip, in so many different ways. and i guess because it was locally produced and there was so much competition for eaters, a foie dish was remarkably inexpensive – to borrow from stevie and coolio, it’s fair to say that we were living in a foodie’s paradise.
cava really did bring back the feeling of that experience, and coupled it with attentive and informed service. i fucking hate it when a server can’t pronounce the dishes he serves, but we were surprised to be served by a guy that katy and i went to junior high with. big daps go out to alessandro pietropaulo for being the kind of server i prided myself in being; that is, a salesman/actor that is proud of the product, true to the script and not too cool to run around when need be. further, the best savory dish we had was grilled octopus with hazulnut romesco sauce, grilled green onion and grilled oranges – and the best dessert was the ontario pear clafouti, which had a beautiful and atypical meringue-like dome top; alex recommended them both.
finally – barcelona has a particular breed of chocolate shops that are all uber-moderne and produce fancy, intricate treats. xococava next door is very true to that kind of spot, and the finishing touch to the meal was really good – dark chocolates filled with thick, salty caramel. truly, truly next level.
there are however, two small things that i don’t like about cava, which i’ll mention for the sake of balance in this non-review. one: its location is terrible, in the same upscale strip mall where my dentist’s office is. secondly, half the restaurant’s walls were totally bare, the main feature of the largest one being a red fire bell near the ceiling. i’m just saying. regardless…this spot is great. make up an occasion, call for a booking, and go eat there.
nb. i don’t take photos in darkly lit restaurants, so – sorry for the lack of visuals.