503 College St., Little Italy
"Dai lo" translates to "big brother" in Cantonese, which feels apt given that chef Nick Liu’s parents still occasionally make the dumplings. Chef Liu cooks the food he grew up eating through his Canadian childhood as the son of Chinese immigrant parents, but it's reimagined with a little fusion thrown in. Everything is pretty sensational, but the musts are the crispy octopus taco with sambal aioli, the miso salt cod, and the hakka wontons. Aside from the food, the space is really considered and so striking, with blue leather booths and distressed-looking painted-brick walls broken up by sections papered with hand-painted scenes of Chinese nature.
505 College St., Little Italy
At Bar Raval, you could be forgiven for thinking you’ve posted up at tapas joint in, say, Barcelona. The décor is pure Gaudí, with an undulating carved mahogany interior that's both cozy and impressive. From Grant van Gameren, the same chef as Bar Isabel, Bar Raval evokes an authentic tapas bar with the spread of small pintxos (finger foods like salt cod, boquerones or tortilla de patatas) laid across the bar to whet the appetite. The main menu is concise, with classic tapas like croquetas and jamón serrano among others—simple but done well—and exactly what you want with a glass of wine.
797 College St., Little Italy
Another offering from Bar Raval chef Grant van Gameren, Isabel serves up elevated Spanish classics that feel familiar but fresh. Think whole fish ceviche, sweetbreads, and raw tuna, alongside the more traditional sides, like patatas bravas and boquerones. The desserts do not disappoint; try the dulce de leche ice cream bar or, for those who love a boozy dessert, the Basque cake with sherry cream. The interior is moodily low-lit and warm, with Spanish-tiled floors and stained-glass lamps that cast atmospheric darts of color across the dining room.
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