When La Carnita, famous for their pop-up events finally opened their physical restaurant, we expected line-ups down the block. Thankfully, when we arrived at 6, the restaurant was surprisingly large (compared to Kinton or Raw Bar) and no waiting was needed. The crowd was mostly composed of friends, family, fans, and fellow chefs.
Tortilla Chips with guacamole, sikil pak and paté 13
Although the Mexican Street Corn looked tempting, we decided to first try the “standard,” guacamole with chips. The tortilla chips were of the thicker, homemade variety and well seasoned with ancho chili powder. Those who are used to thinner Tostitos variety may find these a bit hard, but much better for scooping up dip. The guacamole was chunky, and unbelievably…rather bland. On the other hand, the most strongly flavoured dip was the Mezcal Chipotle Paté, a chicken liver paté. Lastly, the Sikil Pak, a roasted pumpkin seed dip, was the most interesting, as I’d never had it before.
A returned the next night, and really liked the corn, which was covered in Mexican crema, queso anejo, and arbol & ancho chili powder – probably the better appetizer choice.
In Cod We Trust: fish with Voltron sauce, lime crema, pickled red cabbage, green apple & cilantro 5
But the real deal at La Carnita is the tacos. We started with Cod We Trust, and in cod we do trust, as their fish taco is the most consistently awesome taco, and did not fail to meet our expectations (in fact it was even bigger)!
Pollo Frito Taco 5
I liked the fried chicken “Pollo Frito” taco which was topped with pickled green cabbage and salsa fresca. However, we need to return to try these again, as there was a mishap (it was opening night after all) and the peanut mole sauce was replaced by Voltron sauce.
Red & Green Chorizo Taco 5
La Carnita’s chorizo taco, topped with mango salsa, pickled onion, queso cotija, and cilantro managed to avoid the dryness too often found with chorizo tacos. In fact this taco requires some skill to eat without it falling apart (good thing there were extra tortilla chips).
Carne Asada Taco 5
The last taco we tried was the Carne Asada, with sliced skirt steak topped with queso anejo, lettuce, salsa verde. The combination of beef, lettuce and tomato in the taco tasted almost like a burger or steak salad.
Mini Churros with cajeta 5
For dessert, we decided to go with the churros. Served with cajeta (Mexican dulce du leche) these mini churros were served in Chinese tea cups. Unfortunately the first night they had not yet perfected the timing, and ours were undercooked. As a result, La Carnita took them off the menu for a night, until they perfected their churros and invited us back to try them again!
Lime Pie and Pineapple Chili Paletas 3.5
We did end up returning, but only to grab some popsicles (thanks Andrew!), both of which were delicious. The lime pie paleta was more akin to a tangy cheesecake on a stick, coated with lightly salted crumbled graham crackers. The pineapple paleta had actual pineapple chunks, were surprisingly pineapple-y, and had a spicy kick. We also hear that with strawberries in season, a strawberry based paleta is in the works!
I would definitely return to La Carnita, as despite the growing availability of tacos in the city, La Carnita still makes some of the best! A note for pop-up frequenters – only one free print is provided to each table, though more are available for purchase for $5.
Lastly, the one thing I’ve always found amusing is that La Carnita… doesn’t actually serve any carnitas tacos!
Tuesday Evening, June 12, 2012.
501 College St, Toronto