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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Photos by Robin
Words by Richard