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A Mexican restaurant unlike any other in Toronto

a
arugula Feb 8, 2012 06:03 PM

My first impression of this place is great--wonderful regional Mexican food in a quaint tiny restaurant with great service. I'm dying to read more opinions from people who know more about central Mexican cuisine.

The menu is gutsier than most--tongue, beef brains, corn truffle--but with lots of less challenging dishes along side. I think corn-truffle might be an acquired taste, but I was glad to try it.

Other surprises. The ceviche was mayonnaise based and only contained marlin, vegetables and herbs. We were very surprised, but found it very good. Other standards--Cochinita pibil, guacamole, and margaritas--were as good as I've had in Mexico, and much more reasonably priced than other places I like in Toronto.

The parent restaurant, Embrujo, has small portions, so we way over ordered. Two appetizers, two mains, and a side of rice and beans was way too much for two hungry, heavy-eaters. I'd suggest ordering a course at a time. I can't wait to hear what other people think.

  1. Kagemusha Mar 9, 2012 07:31 AM

    BTW, where are the owners from???

    The more I scan the menu, the fishier this place looks. Think the NP reviewer saw through the game.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Kagemusha
      foodyDudey Mar 9, 2012 07:44 AM

      They are Mexican, and they also run "Embrujo Flamenco" Read this for more info
      http://www.torontolife.com/daily/dail...

      1. re: foodyDudey
        Kagemusha Mar 9, 2012 09:37 AM

        That's puzzling. Why would a Mexican cook so starved for Mexican food open a "Spanish" resto? Bizarre. For all the "regional" hype, they're sketchy on where they're actually from. Mexicans aren't reluctant to answer when you ask "de donde." The menu is almost laughably touristy.

        1. re: Kagemusha
          prima Mar 9, 2012 09:53 AM

          I think some people go into the Spanish food business because they can charge $7.95 for a slice of room temp tortilla espanola in Toronto. Not sure how many people are willing to spend $15 per order of taquitos. With an order of taquitos costing $15, a Mexican dinner could easily add up to $30+ per person. I don't have problem with that if the food tastes good, but I think a lot of people in TO like their Thai, Mexican & Greek fixes to cost less than $20 per person, and anyone used to ordering $7 Mission burritos in CA is going to find $30+ per person a little steep.

          1. re: Kagemusha
            h
            hungryabbey Mar 9, 2012 06:17 PM

            The server told us that the owners are Mexican, but they were raised in Spain, so they knew the Spanish culture best, but then one of the sisters decided she wanted to try cooking her grandmother and mothers Mexican recipes.

            1. re: hungryabbey
              Kagemusha Mar 10, 2012 04:58 AM

              Gotcha!

      2. h
        hungryabbey Mar 8, 2012 06:36 PM

        Just wanted to give an update.
        We arrived for our 820 reservation a few weeks ago, and were told they didn't have our reservation. I don't like when these things happen, and they very rarely do in my experience, but thankfully they were able to give us a table within a few moments. Crisis averted.
        Our server was quite the vibrant character. She had the Mexican accent and pronunciation down pretty good (I wasn't even going to attempt to pronounce anything on the menu.. just pointing and nodding for me). And while she seemed a bit underexperienced (I like rapport building.. but by the end of the night she basically had told us her life story), I appreciated that she knew a fair bit about her dishes and the restaurant's history.
        With regards to food/wine:
        This place has quite the selection of Margaritas.. think of a fruit flavour, and they can probably make it. They also have the option of a Margarita sampler for $15 where you get a choice of any three served on a nice wooden board. Over the course of the night we tried the Guava, Spicy Mango, Pineapple, Blueberry. Personally, I think my favourites were the Spicy Mango and Guava, least favourite was the Blueberry. But honestly, they were all really delicious.
        Having a version of my personal favourite drink on the menu, I needed to try their Chipotle Bloody Maria which I loved because I always ask for them to be made extra spicy, so the smokiness was really satsifying.
        We started off with the Guacamole Sampler and chose: Goat cheese (with goat cheese, chile poblano, sun dried tomatoes), Smoke Trout (smoke trout, bacon, chile poblano), and Pineapple and mild pepper (I don't have specifics on this one since it was their special for the night). Personally, I loved the goat cheese one best because they were very generous with big chunks of cheese. The trout one was great if you happened to get a chunk of bacon on your chip.. but I didn't get the flavour of the trout at all, and I could have used some more bacon in there (really- extra bacon is never an issue). The pineapple one was nice, but again, I would have liked some extra pineapple there for a little additional acidity to cut the rich avocado.
        We also had the Tortilla chips with a salsa sampler that included Mole, Green salsa, and Starfruit salsa. I am not a mole crazy person as I don't actually like chocolate much but it did have a nice deep flavour profile and good amount of heat. I loved the green salsa, which was smooth and incredibly bright with fresh lime flavour. And then to balance out that acid, the starfruit salsa was really deliciously sweet, which was surprising because usually (in my opinion), starfruit doesn't have that much flavour at all. Now, something needs to be said for the chips themselves. These were not your typical tostitos, they were fresh, warm, perfectly crispy, not greasy at all corn chips that had a wicked crunch and an almost flaky texture.
        Next, we had to tackle our mains somehow after two baskets full of those chips. We tried:
        Taquitos de Machaca: Coffee+ancho braised beef brisket: Guacamole, mole, and honey chipotle salsa
        Taquitos de Pato x 2: Slow cooked duck confit, Pear salsa and guajillo peppers, Peanut and arbol pepper salsa
        Taquitos de Cochinita pibil: Traditional slow cooked pork marinated with achiote spice, Wrapped in banana leaf, Peanut and arbol pepper salsa, Habanero mayo
        All of the taquitos were "make your own" style, where we had the meat, accompanying sauces, tortillas and then we ordered a couple sides of rice and cazuela beans.
        I had the duck confit which was really nicely cooked, though slightly underseasoned, but its crispy skin made up for it as it added a great texture to the tacquitos. The sauce underneath was slightly sweet, with a touch of heat, I just wish I had more of it for slathering on my tortilla. The tortillas themselves had a delicate, mild corn flavour that was a great back note for all of the big flavours going in. And while I found them a little hard to work with because they were so soft and warm (and therefore fell apart if you put too much in), I did enjoy their softness from a texture stand point. My favourite accompanying sauce would have to be the yummy peanut salsa which was kind of like a Mexican spiced thick peanut sauce. I tried a couple fork fulls of the pork, and loved that one as well, so if I were to return (specifically, not on shabbat), I would probably go for that. The sides of rice and beans were both good, but nothing ground-breakingly noteworthy, though I would suggest them for the table as they help add more variety and texture to your taquito creations.
        So after all of that, we took one look at the dessert menu and said oy, no can do (I ate my weight in chips!). But to help out our server who was having a competition with her coworker for who could sell the most shots of tequila, we agreed to a round of those. I don't actually recall the name of this variety as they have quite the variety, but it was suprisingly smooth.
        Alright so for: 1 Marg sampler, 3 (or 4?) individual sized margaritas, the bloody mary, a bottle of sparkling water, Guac sampler, Salsa sampler, 4 main taquitos, 2 orders of rice and beans and 4 tequila shots, the bill came to about $210. Considering how many festive libations were enjoyed, I would say that this was a great deal. Pachuco would be an awesome spot for a first date since it's got a sexy dark atmosphere, it encourages sharing, its not too pricey, and it has lots of fun, fruity drinks. My only disappointment here is that they don't have access or ability to build a patio.. But regardless, I am looking forward to the summer when an icy drink is desperately needed. They did mention they will be participating in the taste of the danforth hopefully.. and usually I hide that weekend, but I might emerge for some chips.

        5 Replies
        1. re: hungryabbey
          TorontoJo Mar 9, 2012 04:14 AM

          Nice review, hungryabbey, thanks! If you are ever craving that style chips, just stop in any of the La Tortilleria locations. They make them in house and sell them in clear cellophane bags. My favourite tortilla chips in the city. Also a good opportunity to pick up some warm corn tortillas and some fresh salsa (I'm partial to the green tomatillo salsa).

          1. re: TorontoJo
            h
            hungryabbey Mar 9, 2012 05:16 AM

            Great tip, Jo! Will do.

            1. re: TorontoJo
              Davwud Mar 9, 2012 05:38 AM

              Their fresh made corn tortillas are waaaaay up there.

              DT

            2. re: hungryabbey
              foodyDudey Mar 9, 2012 07:22 AM

              Now I am wondering what the food is really like. I don't believe much of what the newspaper food writers say, but when I saw this 1 star review http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/02/13/restaurant-review-pachuco/ I wasn't sure if it was worth a visit. Chatto has a favourable review here : http://jameschatto.com/category/resta... so maybe I'll check it out tonight.

              1. re: hungryabbey
                j
                julesrules Mar 9, 2012 07:31 AM

                Yes thanks hungryabbey for the great review. I usually stick to classic margheritas but "guava", "spicy mango", and "sampler"... this place has my number.

              2. Kagemusha Feb 9, 2012 05:03 AM

                Another shot in the dark. I'm guessing the huitlacoche is canned? How do you feel about canned mushrooms? Guac, refrieds and tortillas--oh my!

                1 Reply
                1. re: Kagemusha
                  d
                  downtownfoodie Feb 9, 2012 05:55 AM

                  "and for dessert, churros, the traditional Mexican street food with a modern Canadian twist, served poutine-style with marshmallows doubling for cheese curds and cajeta filling in for gravy."

                  that's too funny. i love churros, and i appreciate the creativity, but that just sounds like sweet on sweet on sweet. with a side of sweet.

                2. foodyDudey Feb 8, 2012 06:21 PM

                  You forgot to mention the name - it's "Pachuco" Did you go after seeing that I had mentioned it in 2 other threads? http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/828897 http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/828345 I haven't been there yet but I want to check it out soon as the menu looks great.

                  http://www.pachuco.ca/

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