Tag Archives: tacos

La Carnita – brunch menu

5 Feb

Brunch menu at La Carnita, Toronto

Brunch. One of the 5 most important meals that we have. Yet, on the weekend, brunch becomes the focal point for many people.  People are probably tired from working all week or from the late night they had the night before, and we strive to find the ultimate restaurant where we can stuff our faces with the perfect mix of flavours, meat and grease.

When we were invited to the preview of La Carnita’s brunch menu, we swooned.  When we were in Costa Rica, my 6 AM breakfast usually consisted of a hearty Latino beef stew. It cured the aches and pains from the previous day’s hikes and gave you the will and strength to continue with your day. The prospect of a delicious Mexican brunch option that would shake the aches and pains that come with the winter doldrums and that was crafted under the watchful eye of La Carnita’s Andrew Richmond gave me enough strength to leave the house before noon (!!!) on a cold Sunday morning. God bless you, Andrew.

The Proud Mary and Let It Burn, La Carnita brunch

You can’t have a brunch unless you have an eye opener. Two of La Carnita’s new drinks will open your eyes and then some.  The Proud Mary is their take on a Bloody Mary and it is bloody incredible. La Carnita uses tomatillo juice instead of tomato juice and you get a refreshing and citrusy Tromba tequila-based drink that will disappear down your hatch at an alarmingly fast rate.  Let It Burn plays on your three senses – you have the visual impact of the sprig of fresh romsemary, the incredible smoky smell of the “smoked” Mezcal rinse and the delicious flavour of the tequila, juices and rosemary.

Guillijo granola and yogurt, La Carnita brunch

We started off on the lighter side of brunch, trying the guillijo granola and yogurt. The yogurt is topped with guava, pineapple and hibiscus and is laced with a coulis made from an mild Mexican chilli. The berry-flavoured chilli paired very nicely with the fruit and the mild sweetness of the yogurt.

Potato and yucca homes topped with a poached egg at La Carnita brunch

I’ll admit that I was partially hung over before starting brunch and I needed something hot and comforting in me, stat.  The potato and yucca homies topped with a poached egg would be the perfect start to curing my head hammers. A savoury beef cheek ragout interlaced with thinly sliced jalapenos topped a tasty hash menage. Perhaps this will be Mexico’s ode to poutine?  A bottle of La Carnita’s hot sauce is a mandatory accompaniment to this dish; the extra sweet heat of the hot sauce takes this dish up to another level.

Crispy chicken torta at La Carnita's brunch

The crispy chicken torta is a hand-held sandwich of perfectly-fried chicken resting on a bed of guacamole and salsa fresca and tickled with a habanero honey glaze and crema. This was sweet, crunchy and creamy and didn’t last more than three minutes. My hangover didn’t stand a chance.

Chorizo sausage taco at La Carnita's brunch launch

La Carnita takes their chorizo taco and brunchified it.  Imagine salty and spicy sausage topped with spicy maple syrup. It is Mexican mouth candy with a gentle afterburn.

Cochinita pibil tostada at La Carnita, brunch launch

We ordered the cochinita pibil tostada mainly because we love anything topped with a fried quail egg. The braised pork rests on guacamole and, instead of your standard tortilla, you get a crispy-yet-stable tostada, which allows the quail egg to be enjoyed in all of its rich glory. While brunch was stellar to this point, the tostada was one of my favourite dishes. Rich but not heavy, flavourful yet subtle and, surprisingly, not messy to eat.

Lamb bacon and eggs taco, La Carnita brunch

This is probably as close as La Carnita will get to huevos rancheros, and that’s fine by me.  The lamb bacon and eggs taco will give brunchers their morning bacon and eggs fix, but, of course, with a tastier twist.

Roasted pork belly sope, La Carnita brunch menu

I really want to post the Youtube clip of Vince Carter in the slam dunk competition, crossing his arms and mouthing “it’s over!” The roasted pork belly sope, ladies and gentlemen, will go down as one of the best brunch dishes in this great brunch city.  You have a Mexican version of Eggs Benedict, served on a sope and a delicious mound of roasted pork belly. This is gringo brunch porn at its finest. The buttery and citrusy hollandaise sauce that covers the perfectly roasted pork…adjectives do not do it justice.

Mexican hot chocolate, La Carnita brunch

I was curious as to why hot chocolate would be a dessert item and not a beverage item.  One taste and I found out why.  Think of someone taking a molten chocolate cake and melting it down, and then covering it with a homemade marshmellow that is lightly toasted and served hot.  This was an indulgent yet justified finish to an amazing brunch.

La Carnita’s brunch will be the first Mexican brunch to be offered in Toronto.  Call it Mexican-Canadian fusion, call it gringoeats or call it whatever you like – it doesn’t matter because it is a great way to chase your hungries (or hangover) away.  Go there before word gets around because it is all but guaranteed to be a top Toronto brunch destination.

La Carnita
501 College St
p: 416-964-1555
www.larcarnita.com
@la_carnita

 

Photos by Robin

Words by Richard

La Carnita

2 Jul

La Carnita

When word got around that La Carnita, the darlings of Toronto’s new pop-up restaurant trend, were setting up a brick-and-mortar restaurant, many foodies held their collective breaths. Would an every-day restaurant lose some of the excitement and exclusiveness that its “Tweet today, gone tomorrow” incarnation had?  Could they keep quality and innovation going over time when they’re serving food on a daily basis?

The answer is very simple.  La Carnita’s restaurant breathes the culture and vibe that grew with the various pop-ups and food events.  It’s a logical progression of an idea that matured over the past year, and we diners get to reap and eat its delicious rewards.

It’s inevitable that people will compare La Carnita to Grand Electric, so let’s get that out of the way. La Carnita is like Grand Electric’s gainfully employed older brother. It doesn’t have the fun “f-you!” punk attitude that Grand Electric has. It’s more grown up and has a sophisticated hip-hop feel.  Think of East LA meets Ossington meets New York with hip hop playing – but not blasting – but with less hip irony that other west-end joints are thought to have.  There are also three visible differences: La Carnita does not have a patio, La Carnita focuses on tequila (versus bourbon) and La Carnita has more inside seating than Grand Electric. La Carnita will also take your phone number and call you when your table is ready, where Grand Electric doesn’t offer that courtesy anymore.

Interior, La Carnita

From the bat-signaleque Meathead sign in the front, to the gold-toothed “GRINGO” threshold welcoming you into the restaurant or the graffiti-tagged walls and chicken-coop light fixtures inside the restaurant, you’re hit with a chiq yet cool-trash vibe that greets you at every turn. It’s clear that Andrew Richmond, the guy behind La Carnita, has a background in design. Every element of this place has been carefully selected to reflect La Carnita’s “steez”.

Menu at La Carnita

The menu is focused and to the point. We came for the tacos but wanted to also eat our way through the delicious starters.

Mezcal chipotle pate & tortilla chips, La Carnita

We ordered the tortilla chips with mezcal chipotle pate. The crispy, house-made tortillas and the pate were lightly sprinkled with a zesty chilli powder, combining the creamy liver goodness with a nice kick of heat.

Mexican street corn, La Carnita

The Mexican street corn tastes as delicious as it looks. The gentle dribble of  Mexican crema and queso  played well off the grilled corn flavours, with the nice chilli kick to chase the flavours down.  Normally I wouldn’t be squeeing over corn, but this corn is squee-worthy.

Avocado mango salad, La Carnita

The avocado mango salad is a nice take on the Thai style of mango salad. The presentation was nice; you have a few springs of cilantro and shredded mango sitting on top of a perfectly-ripened half avocado.  The flavours were excellent, with the creaminess of the avocado playing off the citrus tones of the mango quite well.

And now: taco porn.

Tacos at La Carnita

Tacos at La Carnita

Tacos at La Carnita

With six tacos on their menu, its easy for a couple to order one of each. So we did, and ate our way through: cod, beef tongue, skirt steak, chorizo, chicken and a vegetarian taco. The toppings are also more intricate than what you find at other taquerias. Each taco was delicious with the beef tongue being my favourite and the ever-faithful fish taco (named “In Cod We Trust”) being Robin’s list topper.  None of them disappointed.

More taco porn:

Tacos at La Carnita

Tacos at La Carnita

For dessert, we decided that we needed a palate cleanser. We shared the key lime paleta. Its now what you expect when you’re ordering a key lime dessert.

Key lime paleta at La Carnita

This fruity key lime pie-flavoured ice pop is a delicious combination of tart and sweet, with a graham cracker-like crust that has a pinch of salt to it. I’m not sure how quickly the paleta melts, since ours disappeared in 2 minutes.

La Carnita’s Underground Market and pop-up days may be on hiatus, but that’s not a bad thing.  Toronto now has another great option to get our Latin American soul food fix, and it’s a pretty perfect way to get that fix.  Come for the tacos, stay for the ambiance, tequila and the rest of the delicious menu.

La Carnita
501 College St
Toronto.
416.964.1555
lacarnita.com
@la_carnita

Photos by Robin. Text by Richard.

La Carnita on Urbanspoon

Death Row Meals Supper Club: Tacos, Tacos, Tacos… & Booze.

17 Jan

The name of this event kind of says it all: Tacos, tacos, tacos… & booze.

Passing around the tacos

Rossy Earle of SupiCucu and Nick Lau of Niagara Street Cafe

Grabbing a taco

On Sunday, 6 amazing chefs gathered at Milagro Cantina to battle for our tastebuds’ love with their tacos. We were given a score card with a description of the 6 tacos we would be eating. Without knowing which chefs made with tacos, we scored each one for flavour, appearance, and originality.

Nick Liu of Niagara Street Cafe's taco - Crispy octopus and jicama

At the end of the afternoon, the scores were tallied, and Nick Liu from Niagara Street Cafe was the winner with his  crispy octopus taco with smoked paprika caponata, chorizo bacon, spicy tomato aioli on a jicama “tortilla”, paired with Steamwhistle. This was definitely the most original of all of the tacos. I wasn’t surprised that it scored high across the board for taste, appearance and originality. Definitely a winning combination!

Rossy Earle of SupiCucu's taco.

The runner-up was Rossy Earle of SupiCucu. Her taco was a green plantain tortilla with avocado cream, braised & pulled chipotle smoked duck, chayote & tomato pickled slaw, culantro lime cream, duck skin chicharron, paired with Spearhead. Rossy always does an amazing job with making food that is the perfect combination of spicy and smokey without being overpowering. Her taco was actually my favourite of the day in terms of taste. When I ate it, the juices dripped down my wrist, which to me is always an indication of a good taco. The Spearhead was a great choice for a pairing and the pineapple notes in the beer played nicely with her smoked duck.

Steve Gonzalez' taco

Steve Gonzalez’ taco: a grilled adobo pork tender, tomatillo and corn relish. roasted garlic and lime crema on a refried bean tortilla, paired with Corona. This was very similar to the taco that he made when he was the guest chef for one of La Carnita’s pop-ups, so even though we weren’t told right away that this was Steve’s taco we figured it out. The refried bean tortilla was unique, and the salsa was perfectly smokey and sweet.

Tom Davis from Stockyards' taco

Tom Davis from Stockyards‘ taco: braised beef cheek and smoked beef tongue with avocado crema, pickled red onion, cilantro, and duo of house smoked hot sauces, paired with Trapiche Malbec. This one had me at “house smoked hot sauces” and was another one of my favourites of the day. Though tacos seem to go hand-in-hand with beer and tequila, I thought that the Malbec was a very nice accompaniment and would have gone well with some of the others as well.

Andres Marquez of Charlies Burgers' taco

Andres Marquez of Charlies Burgers‘ taco: Carne asada of smoked and grilled marinated kobe knuckle, fresh flour tortillas, salsa taquera garnished with grilled scallions, paired with Tequila Tromba Blanco (available soon at the LCBO). Compared to some of the other tacos we had seen that afternoon, this one looked very plain. I didn’t see any of the promised grilled scallions, either. But the beef was well cooked and the fresh flour tortilla was pure simplistic perfection.

Arturo Anhalt of Milagro's taco

Arturo Anhalt of Milagro‘s taco: Longaniza (spicy street style chorizo) with salsa verde, onion and nopales (cactus), paired with with Don Julio Blanco. The chorizo wasn’t what I was expecting, but it was very good.

Joel Solish with Nick Liu, the winner of the Death Row Meals Supper Club's taco battle.

The man behind the afternoon’s festivities was Joel Solish, a food blogger, local food advocate and all-around amazing guy. He promises that there will be more exciting installments of the Death Row Meals Supper Club soon. The next event will be showcasing some of the city’s best sous-chefs; Sort of like a preview of Toronto’s up and coming stars. Stay tuned to Living.Loving.Local’s Facebook page for information about upcoming dinners.

Photos and Words by Robin

Grand Electric

26 Nov

Colin Tooke's Grand Electric restaurant in Parkdale in Toronto Ontario

A perfect summary of the Toronto restaurant scene came via a Tweet that said, more or less, that if one wants to start a successful Toronto restaurant, one should get a job as a dishwasher at the Black Hoof, then quit and open a place of their own.  Its funny because, well, its true; just note the success of the (dearly departed) Hoof Cafe and the buzz behind Grant van Gameren taking over at Enoteca Sociale.  So the Twittersphere lit up with excitement after it was reported that former Hoof chef de cuisine Colin Tooke opened a new restaurant.  We were given a name (Grand Electric), we found a non-descriptive website and a Twitter account that gained almost 500 followers in 3 days without tweeting anything of substance. No soft opening, no real promotion, no real signeage on the restaurant: nothing but word of mouth (or in this case, finger) to lure people in.

I couldn’t help but buy into the buzz. Their website said that Grand Electric is about “Mexican food, craft beer, brown liquor and loud music.” Seriously, say no more. So with Robin otherwise engaged for the evening, I made plans to meet up for an early bird dinner (Europeans would scoff at our 6 PM meet-up time) with Stella (Food Junkie Chronicles) and Gizelle.  The decor is relatively bare bones, with a beautiful wooden bar to display the lovely libations-to-be to thirsty patrons. Being a lover of good beer, my eyes immediately scanned over the drink list.

The bar at Colin Tooke's new restaurant, Grand Electric

Drink List

Any Toronto restaurant or bar that has not one but two Dieu du Ciel offerings on taps is immediately in my good books. Bottle-wise, I was happy to see Rogue’s Dead Guy Ale and BC’s excellent Red Racer available alongside hipster-friendly Labatt 50.  Since I was dedicated to drinking beer with dinner, I didn’t read over the hard alcohol list, which apparently is chock full of delicious bourbons and other liver-blowing spirits. They also make two signature cocktails: The Michelada is a mix between a shandy and a Caesar featuring Tecate (a Mexican beer), and the Grand Electric Sour is similar to a traditional unblended margarita. Both are very refreshing and reminiscent of summer.

Stella and Giselle decided that we’d order the entire menu. Keep in mind that the combined weight of these two women equals one me.  We started off with the Guacamole and Chips.

Guacamole and chips.

The corn chips were made in house and were quite nice, with a fresh crispness to them.  In the middle of the guacamole was a light chicharron which had the consistency of a firm shrimp chip. The guacamole was very simple with a healthy amount of fresh cilantro; a nice way to start our meal.

Beef and Chicken Tacos

Pork and Chicken Tacos

Tacos at Colin Tooke's new restaurant Grand Electric

Next came our tacos. We started with the beef cheek tacos, which were well executed. The beef cheek was delicate and perfectly fatty and had great flavour.  Fresh cilantro and green onion were carefully sprinkled on top of the tacos. I put a few dabs of the moderately-spicy salsa verde in it to kick it up a few notches.  We then moved onto the spicy arbol chicken taco.  I think that they should have changed its name to “DAMN spicy arbol chicken taco.”  It was delicious, but there was some serious heat coming from those tacos. The spice took away from the savoury flavour of the chicken and I personally think that a little less heat would have allowed us to taste the flavour of the meat and not just spice.  The third taco was pork belly al pastor and this was the taco show stopper.  There was a nice citrus kick to it and its pairing with the peach salsa  made me want more.  The next time I return, I’d gladly order 3 pork belly tacos.

Ensalata Electrico

The ensalata electrico arrived next. The salad part was quite simple – it tasted like Ranch dressing with a bit of a kick to it.  The salad’s simplicity is what I’ve come to expect when I eat Mexican, so I can’t say I was overly disappointed.  The treat, though, was the meat croquette that was served with the salad. A crunchy exterior yielded a delicious meaty interior that coated a cheese core.  Crunch plus meat plus cheesy goo equals a happy me.

Pollo Frito

Keeping up with tradition, I passed on all things fishy (the fish tacos and the ceviche, which was served on a crispy taco). Our next arrival was the pollo frito, or fried chicken. It tasted like a hybrid between honey garlic chicken wings and Chinese-style crispy chicken. For $14, it was a nice dish to share. Flavour-wise, it was probably the least impressive of the dishes. It was good but it was missing something to make it memorable.

Pozole Rojo

Finally, we received our pozole rojo, which is a hearty soup traditionally make from pork shoulder. This was my show stopper.  It had tender bits of pork, slivers of fresh avocado and an accompanying bottle of hot sauce clearly stolen from Hades himself. I put a dab in my soup and it was more than enough to give it a tasty thermal heat. A squirt from one of the fresh lime wedges completed me and my deepest desires for a flavourful soup.  West-enders now have a legitimate alternative to Golden Turtle to beat the winter blahs.

Key Lime Pie

We somehow found room for dessert and, since churros weren’t available, we ordered key lime vasa to share.  Whipped cream, lime, lime zest and a graham cracker-esque crust.  Need I say more? A nice cool down to a spiced up evening.

We all thought it was a great place to come to for great drinks and great food.  Grand Electric isn’t a fine dining or hot date restaurant, but it’s exactly as advertised: good Mexican food, good booze and loud music.  Black Hoof, you should be proud of your offspring; Not only was the food great, but Grand Electric had Hoof-like waits (2 hours, we heard) on its first weekend of service!

Grand Electric
1330 Queen St. W
Toronto, Ontario
416.627.3459
grandelectricbar.com
@grandelectricTO

Grand Electric on Urbanspoon

Blog and photos by Richard.

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