What's the vibe:
Grant van Gameren, Kate Chomyshyn, Julio Guajardo and Owen Walker have teamed up for one of Toronto's most hotly anticipated restaurant openings this year, bringing together a shared love of Mexican food and its culinary history cooked with Canadian ingredients.
Partners in life and the kitchen, Chomyshyn and Guajardo (who both headed up the food programme at El Rey) spent plenty of time in Mexico before the restaurant opened, learning all they could about the diversity of regional cooking methods.
The result is a cuisine that spans Oaxaca and the Yucatan, with a variety of raw food, moles, barbacoa and vegetables cooked over a 28-foot-long fire that stretches along the left-hand side of the restaurant. The low ceilings coupled with the fire-element makes the space feel slightly cavernous, but white and maple wood accents stop it from feeling suffocating
What to drink:
Owen Walker was on hand behind the bar to serve us up some delicious beverages. The menu is handily split into drink types; Cheladas for beer-infused cocktails; Light and Bubbly for drinks like the High Ten, a delicious mezcal, peach and rhubarb concoction; and Vibrant and Rich for more boozy libations like Crystal Visions, a blend of local Dillon's gin and Ancho Reyes, a spicy liqueur crafted from ancho and poblano chiles in Puebla Mexico.
If you prefer something lighter, local and Mexican beer is available.
What to eat:
Almost everything on the menu comes into contact with the huge fire pit – even vegetables and sides get the flametreatment. Sharing plates are the way to go here as there's a lot of ground to cover.
Opt for fish and seafood from the raw bar in the centre of the restaurant, including multiple kinds of ceviche (scallop and halibut or a carrot version). Cornish hen offers an example of the Canadian food cooked with a Sinaloan Mexican twist. Or try the Tlayudas; a Mexican pizza originating in Oaxaca, which spreads asiento, refried beans and cabbage on a crispy tortilla.
Our favourite dish was the Hongos a la Parrilla – grilled king oyster and maitake mushrooms with poblano plus a salty broth poured over top.
Dinner and drinks for two: about $150
419 College St, Toronto, 647-347-3663; quetzaltoronto.com