Tuesday, July 31, 2012

La Carnita

The taco obsessed have a new place to get their fix and it's called La Carnita, 501 College Street.

After a year or so of pop ups, this taqueria finally has a permanent residence. The room is large (roughly twice the size of another hugely popular taco spot; you know who). It's a little bit street, a little bit posh, the space feels cool yet rich. Think graffiti, creative light fixtures, hip hop, dark hardwood, and a pretty ceiling. The only problem is someone forgot to dim the lights; it's way too cafeteria bright.

The OG Michelada ($8) is Tecate beer with clamato, lime juice and hot sauce. The rim is generously salted but it is too weak on both the clamato and the hot sauce. Nonetheless, it's an appropriate taco beverage.

There are three other house cocktails (try the Who Shot Ya? ($11) with Bulleit bourbon, hibiscus grenadine, ginger syrup, lemon juice) some micro brews, tequila and mezcal.

The Mexican street corn ($8 for two pieces) makes a dramatic entrance. Two perfectly charred ears are slathered with crema, queso anejo and chilli powders. It's a little over done; the kernels don't bite back.  The crema is silky, the cheese is sharp but oh my god this is a mess to eat; you get teeth full of kernels and a beard of crema. Proceed with caution and ask for extra napkins.

A swordfish ceviche can easily be made in anyone's kitchen but its' perfectly balanced acidity, the choice of a meaty fish like sword and the addition of coconut milk make it my favorite.  It's perfect and the chips rock too.

Ever since LC opened, my twitter feed has been inundated with praise for three offerings: the 'In Cod We Trust' taco, the tongue tostada and the churros for dessert.

Naturally I have to see what all the fuss is about.

'In Cod We Trust' ($5) is a soft corn tortilla that has the right texture. It doesn't break, split or get all mushed up under the large portion of beer battered cod. Kudos for this. The cod is thick and moist yet crispy. Pickled red cabbage, 'Voltron' sauce (a tamari based condiment), green apple and cilantro complete the pretty picture.

I don't like the tongue tostada ($5) as much. Braised tongue seems more boiled than braised. The best part of eating tongue is the texture and distinct "tonguey" flavour. It's a bit chewy and almost tangy. This meat tastes nothing like tongue and it's dark brown appearance looks unappetizing. No cute orange sauce or teeny beet sprouts can save it. I am however a sucker for the bits of grilled pineapple.

A chorizo taco ($5) is too minced, too greasy and I can't even finish it because it starts to make me feel gross. There's no smoke, no spice. The queso cotija is nice and tangy and I try to pick through the meat to save the cheese.

The churros ($5 for three pieces) are over fried?! Is this how they always are? I'm confused. Churros are always crispy on the outside yet light and fluffy on the inside. I ask the server but she has no real answer except that she offers to take them off our bill.

The look and feel of LC as well as the fact that they take numbers and call you when your table is ready (the other one stopped doing that) will have me going back I'm sure. I never stood in line for a club and I sure as hell won't do it for a taco.

*LC is now open seven days a week

Monday, July 16, 2012

Food Truck Mania: Buster's Sea Cove

Toronto finally got itself a few food trucks. It's too bad that you have to go down to Bay and Front to have lunch. Some trucks have been parked at Queen and Jarvis but after some "issues" with the landlord, they have either relocated or are laying low.

Front and Bay isn't the nicest of surroundings. There is nowhere to sit, limited shade and a ton of construction right now. What there is though is a ton of suits who need to eat lunch and when we arrive at 1 pm, the two trucks have long lines.

The most talked about street eat right now is Buster's Sea Cove's lobster roll ($13). An extension of their St. Lawrence Market location, this sea foam green truck also offers shrimp or fish tacos and a crab roll.

The lobster roll is served in a brown box with faux newspaper, a large dill pickle slice and a mini bag of Miss Vickie's regular potato chips.

The roll is perfectly toasted and buttered. The lobster (a little too picked apart in my opinion) is lightly dressed. Any creamier and it would be overwhelming.  Bits of celery and chives and a squirt of fresh lemon complete this salad on a bun.

It's a fun lunch.

The fried fish tacos (two for $8) are not as successful.  I like that the salsa has bite and stings my lips. The batter is light and really crispy but it quickly gets soggy under the salsa. Shredded purple cabbage adds some crunch but the corn tortilla gets destroyed by the weight of the toppings and falls apart as we try to eat it. Either double it up or get sturdier tortillas because this was a big hot mess.

It's exciting to finally have the kind of food trucks you hear about in other cities; let's just hope the rest of Toronto can get a few too because there's nothing fun about having to eat your lunch on a curb.

*follow Buster's Sea Cove at http://twitter.com/bustersseacove for their current location