MEXITACO (828 Bloor West, at Shaw, 416-537-6693) This cheap and cheerful taqueria delivers no-nonsense Mexican food in a room of limited kitsch. Complete meals for $22 per person, including all taxes, tip and a domestic beer. Open Monday to Thursday 1 to 10 pm, Friday and Saturday 1 to 11 pm, Sunday noon to 10 pm. Licensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN
one of my front-line foodie operatives is phoning me to rave about a new Mexican restaurant on Bloor that serves authentic tacos. That'd be Tacos el Asador (690 Bloor West, 416-538-9747), I assure my source, yawning that we discovered his big scoop over a year ago.No, he counters, it's called Mexitaco. Obviously, the poor boy's delusional, because Mexitaco's that new Tex-Mex joint on Queen. Must be the margaritas talking.
But a few days later I'm barrelling along Bloor west of the Pits when I notice a new taqueria on the corner of Shaw called, yes, Mexitaco. Later, I learn that the Queen cantina is called Taco Mexico. (I'm not the only one who's confused.)
Inside Mexitaco, I find a brightly lit eatery decked out in minimal south-of-the-border kitsch (sombrero count: three). Although it's quite small, the room is lined with mirrors, and tall uncurtained windows let in light on two sides. Mexican country rock plays on the stereo.
So far, not too promising. But the second the first dish arrives, Mexitaco's authenticity is confirmed: yellow rice.
I've wasted enough space ranting about the abominable pink rice with frozen peas 'n' carrots that most so-called authentic Mexican restaurants serve. But it's the one surefire giveaway that its creator has never been anywhere farther south than the Gardiner.
Not only is Mexitaco's rice the right colour, from the addition of achiote, but the slightly smoky refried beans are simple perfection as well -- slightly runny puréed pintos that counter the chili heat in mains like Pollo Asado (grilled chicken breast, $8.99). Just don't expect rice and beans alongside Mexitaco's, er, tacos.
Tacos are meant to be eaten on their own, without the tourista Tex-Mex trappings. But Toronto diners weaned on Old El Paso and Taco Bell want the whole enchilada.
It's like going for a slice and assuming it'll come with a salad and a buttered baguette.
Nor are the tacos here like the California hippie food sold at places like La Hacienda and such. Mexitaco's tortillas are smaller, lime-scented, flexible shells holding strips of grilled steak, shredded pork marinated in tomatillo and pineapple or spicy sausage ($5.99 for three, $19.99 dozen). Garnished with raw red onion and fresh coriander leaf, they get added punch from a seemingly subtle house-made hot sauce that kicks in after a 10-second delay (cough).
Don't miss chef Patricia Morales's flan ($3). Made from an old family recipe, it's more a dense, sweet bread pudding than a custard. Wash it down with a bottle of Sidral Mundet ($2), an apple-flavoured carbonated heat-killer.food & drink