Barsa Taberna 2 star½ – Toronto Life
26 Market St., 647-341-3642
Squint in this cavernous underground space late at night and you could be in a new-generation Barcelona tapas bar. At Barsa Taberna, the 19th-century stone arches and rough beams contrast with a backlit wall panel that’s a sexy Rorschach-like study in cobalt, black and white. After-workers and Corktown’s pretty young things suck back pitchers of white and red sangria, the sparkling version bright with cava and fresh berries. In handshake distance of St. Lawrence Market, the wildly multi-culti menu (somewhat) makes sense. Subcontinental suggestions (vindaloo quail, masala octopus with pappadum) and Asian accents (pok pok prawns, crispy chicken meatballs on bok choy) are sometimes inspired. The pork tortita, for instance, is an okonomiyaki-like soy-glazed cauliflower pancake bursting with succulent chunks of pork. And whatever market stall yielded a seemingly random assortment of yellow beans, green peas, merguez and shitakes should take that combo to the bank: the daily paella was seductive, sunchokes smoky and soft, mushrooms taking on a calamari-like quality. More traditional tapas might disappoint (chorizo croquettas are puck-shaped tater tots, though Kozlik’s mustard with aioli makes good local dipping; sea bream ceviche lacks a chunky cut, citrus bite and leche de tigre roar), but the traditional desserts are triumphs. Crème Catalan tops silken, tangy sheep’s yogurt custard with lighter-than-air brittle of almond, lavender and crunchy salt; sangria cake is squares of tres leches-soaked sponge jewelled with slices of compressed melon. Well-priced wines from as little as $28 a bottle and clever tapas pricing (any six for $60, 12 for $120, or the whole tapas card for $210) beg your indulgence.