Quetzal is Toronto’s newest authentic Mexican restaurant located at College and Bathurst. The executive chef duo traveled extensively in Mexico before opening the restaurant just a few weeks ago. The dishes combine the flavours and tastes of the Mayans, Aztecs, and the Spanish, each of whom had their own cultural impact on Mexico.
My parents first visited Quetzal a couple of weeks ago when I was still at camp, and raved about it, so I knew I had to come eat there VERY soon! Flipping through the interesting and amazingly-designed menu, I was blown away by the diversity of the dishes. They serve everything from oysters to steak to a selection of complex and delicious salsa (one of the salsas has ants in it – but we didn’t get that one since my mom was partaking!) – each item was described in Spanish and English, and each had a small icon indicating vegetarian, vegan, portion size, and more, but the real stories are told with enthusiasm by your server or the person who serves the dish. They know where their ingredients are from and are so excited for you to eat what they are creating.
To start, my mom took the lead and ordered the salsa platter (minus the ants, as mentioned). The platter includes nine different salsas in little circular dishes, each with a wooden spoon to serve. It also comes with housemade soft-shell tortillas that paired perfectly with the salsa. My top three were probably their guacamole, the grilled tomatillo and chile salsa, and the garlic and chile de arbol emulsion. The latter had an amazing spice, while the avocado and tomatillo went great on a tortilla together! All of them were complex and offered much more than “salsa” might imply to you.
After the salsa, we decided to opt for a tapas-style meal, which I definitely recommend doing here – sharing food is always fun plus you get to try so many more dishes. The next dish that came is something I like to indulge in every once in a while – oysters. The selection changes based on what oysters they can get, but this time they had larger oysters from PEI and small ones from New Zealand! Each had a delicious flavour that was only enhanced by Quetzal’s mango habanero salsa the dish came with! Of course, the presentation of each dish is beautiful and interesting. You will feast with your eyes first!
Next came the three “Masa” – stuffed corn dough. I originally expected the three of them to be similar in size and shape, but with different filling, and I could not have been more wrong. Each Masa is made using a different shape of corn dough with creative fillings and beautiful plating. First, the “Tetela”. A stuffed triangular thin corn Masa with queso fresco, zucchini flower, black bean sauce, and pistachio crema. We had it done vegan (because my mom!) and it was absolutely delicious! Next came the “Tlacoyo”. An oval corn Masa pattie with peas, poblano requeson, and wild mushrooms. All I’m going to say about this dish is that Quetzal has a way with mushrooms. When I took the first bite, I could not believe the unbelievable flavour that I was savouring. The mushrooms had an awesmazing smoky flavour and a perfect texture – I only wish there had been more for me to enjoy! The third Masa was the “Tlayuda”. This was a thin, crispy tortilla with asiento, beans, quesillo, and cabbage. All three Masa were unique in presentation, flavours and texture which I wasn’t expecting. The connection to masa as an ingredient is also amazing!
The next dish that arrived was possibly my favourite of the night – the Arrachera steak. This amazing meat was covered in a porcini rub and served with an anchovy, jalapeno, and caper salsa and a full roasted leek on the side. I don’t eat much meat but this dish blew my mind and is definitely one of the best steaks I have ever had.
My mom loved the carrot ceviche, which was a special dish due to the availability of fresh, organic heirloom carrots. Quetzal really makes the best of what’s in season! The ceviche also came served in a cool carrot-citrus broth that was poured onto the dish right at the table! You will see the photo below, it was a work of art!
When you dine at Quetzal (you really must), please order the grilled king oyster and maitake mushrooms with poblano peppers. These mushrooms were similar to the ones we enjoyed earlier, and were absolutely AMAZING! They were served in a bowl and when brought to the table, the server gently poured a warm burnt leek broth into the bowl, which added another amazing smoky, deep and rich flavour to this exceptional dish.
In addition to the great food, Owen, at the helm at the bar, loves tequila like my mom and dad and made them a few really interesting cocktails with multiple ingredients, also presented uniquely.
If Quetzal isn’t yet, it will be one of Toronto’s hottest new restaurants. The energy in the space, created by the decor, the open kitchen and certainly the staff all contribute beyond the outstanding food. If they keep this up, it’s on every other chef and restaurant owner to start innovating and meeting these standards! I can’t wait to go back soon and try even more of what their menu has to offer, but for now, I’m moving into my residence at University and will be cooking on my own on a budget!