Rebozos (126 Rogers, at Boon, 416-658-5001) Open Tuesday to Thursday 11 am to 8 pm, Friday and Saturday 11 am to 9 pm, Sunday noon to 7 pm. Closed Monday, holidays. Unlicensed. Access: five steps at door, no washrooms. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNNN
I love mexican food, the cheaper and cheesier the better.
From my first day of assuming the position as NOW's food editor, one of my many missions has been to scour Toronto in search of our most authentic Mexican cantinas. Week two, I chanced upon El Jacalito (see Recently Reviewed, page 45), then a fast food stall equipped with an electric frying pan and a card table, in an ad hoc Latin mall set up in a warehouse in Etobicoke. I discovered El Sol (1448 Danforth, at Monarch Park, 416-405-8074, known to regulars as El Slo due to its leisurely service) and its vivacious chef, Yolanda Paez formerly of the legendary Gringo's four years later.
And who can forget the original El Trompo, before the owner vamoosed, or late, lamented El Paisano, the surrealistic taqueria in Parkdale that served awfully terrific offal tacos wrapped in house-made tortillas in a room decked out with traffic signs? Due to its odd location and lack of local foodie interest, it folded not long after it opened.
Which brings us to Rebozos, a seven-month-old taco stand in the middle of nowhere that's been hailed by some as the only genuine Mexican joint in town. Located in the wilds of Weston, it's even further obscured by an awning over its front door that reads Gypsies Café.
The setting is certainly the real McCoy the living room of owner/chefs Teresa Medina and Indalecio Marroquin's home. The small space has been modestly transformed into a family-style take-away slash lunch counter. That's the couple's two preschoolers squabbling over toys while a TeleLatino soap opera blares from a portable TV. They don't do that at Hernando's Hideaway.
Rebozos' lineup is just as minimal: a few soups and sandwiches along with the expected quesadillas, tostados and tacos.
To most North Americans, tacos are something that comes in a kit labelled El Paso, hard-shelled and topped with chopped iceberg lettuce, grated cheddar and a dollop of sour cream. They'd never recognize Rebozos' renditions. Wrapped in soft corn tortillas, they're served in five basic versions and are topping-free except for the optional house hot sauce.
You won't need additional heat with a puerco adobado taco, sweet threads of dry-rubbed pork marinated in incendiary chilies that seem to disintegrate on the tongue as they build to a sweat-inducing finish.
The slow-braised pork shoulder carnitas taco (both $2) reduces the fireworks but ramps up the melt-in-your-mouth tenderness. In contrast, the carne de rez taco gets stuffed with overdone roast beef tossed with a fine dice of mild Spanish onion.
Weekend-only tacos include barbacoa (barbecued cubed lamb mixed with mild red and green bell pepper and caramelized onion) and sensational conchinita pibil (pork slow-cooked in orange juice and kicked with yellow achiote and cumin, all $2.50).
Though Medina and Marroquin out-source the tortillas they use to make their tacos, they press their own for the enchiladas. They fry, then dip their house-made, unstuffed tortillas into either a tangy green poblano purée or an aromatic unsweetened chocolate mole. They arrive folded like crepes, layered with melted queso and sided with plain long grain rice studded with frozen supermarket peas 'n' carrots and appropriately bland refried turtle beans ($9).
As a hangover cure, I favour a bowl of brown rice and steamed dandelion greens to neutralize stomach acid and kickstart the liver. Latin Americans swear by pozole. Similar to Hungarian goulash or Korean pork bone soup, Rebozos' take ($7) finds a slightly greasy spice-fortified tomato broth thick with pulled pork, starchy hominy kernels and the occasional piece of soft, chewy pork knuckle cartilage garnished with chopped lettuce, onion and oregano. My sozzled sidekick the Troubled Balkan claims it works.
Rebozos has lots to love despite its location. And, yes, it's as authentic as it gets. But I had to ask why, when they pay so much attention to the fixin's, Medina and Marroquin don't make the tortillas for their tacos themselves.
"If we did, we wouldn't have time to cook anything else!" laughs Marroquin.
Rebozos takes part in Harbourfront Centre's Ritmo Y Color fest July 21 to 23. For more information, go to www.harbourfrontcentre.com.