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Restaurants

Frida

Posted by Jason Finestone / Reviewed on March 28, 2012 / review policy

Frida Restaurant TorontoFrida Restaurant & Bar melds the soul of classic Mexico City cooking with a refined, contemporary fine-dining touch. Chef and owner Jose Hadad has been fulfilling his culinary enthusiasm since moving to Toronto in 2001 to attend chef's school at George Brown College, starting the Mad Mexican line of prepared guacamole, salsas and tortilla chips in 2005 and opening up Frida in 2008. Coupled with his great love for the city of Toronto, Hadad possesses an unwavering passion for the preservation of his Mexican culinary heritage, using traditional Mexican preparations and ingredients with locally curated Ontario products whenever possible.

Chef Hadad was out when we went for our meal, but Sous-Chef Sergio Maldonado and restaurant Manager Vanessa made sure that we got the full-fledged Frida experience, helping us select a 7-course meal to satisfy all the senses and stuff our stomachs.

20120326-guacamoleED.jpgLike all meals at Frida, we started off with a complimentary selection of fresh handmade salsas and tortilla chips and a plate of their famous guacamole ($8/$11). If you're not into Ceviche ($16), which challenges for best appetizer on the menu, then the Duck "Carnitas" Mini Tacos (3-$12/6-$16) are the must-have starter.

Frida Restaurant TorontoTiny and crisp fried tortilla shells are packed with juicy, marinated pulled duck and topped with fresh citrusy guacamole, pico de gallo and on the right days, one of the most satanically delicious things — chicharron. A small frissee salad comes on the plate as well with sweet cherry tomatoes and an arbol chili vinaigrette with a hint of heat.

To finish off our string of starters, a lively looking cup of Soupa de Frijol Negro ($4-cup/$9-bowl) was a sweet and smooth puree of black beans with fresh avocado, ancho oil, and house soured cream, crispy tortilla strips and chives.

Frida Restaurant TorontoThough you'll find it in the Little Bites section of the menu, what I would consider a mid-course came in the form of one of my favourite things — beef tongue. Lengua En Escabeche is tender braised beef tongue with a picante sauce of pickled jalapenos, carrots and onion and served over a creamy blend of mashed black beans and herbed bread. While each piece is unique and delicious on it's own, this was truly meant to be eaten together. The softness and sweet flavour of the tongue and beans, flashes of heat and acidity from the pickled chili's, and the fragrant finish of fresh ground rosemary and oregano on the crusty bread; this is a complete dish from the presentation to the palate.

Frida RestaurantThe main courses followed in the form of two homegrown Mexican classics: Chilies Poblanos Rellenos (1-$17/2-$21) and an assortment of Tacos. The Chilis are what my Mexican friends describe as one of the ultimate comfort foods from their childhood. Roasted poblano peppers (a large, mild green chili) dipped in a fluffy egg batter and fried, then stuffed with Oxaca (wah-ha-ka) cheese. The light smoky bite of the roasted pepper is a great compliment to the gooey cheese and a creamy tomato sauce with epazote along with rich, viscous house soured cream.

Frida TorontoWhile all of the tacos on the menu come in threes (between $9-$12), if you ask really nicely, you might just be able to swing a bit of a sample platter. Our exploratory taste buds lead us to a spread of four types of tacos: Carne con Queso (grilled AAA NY Striploin and Oxaca cheese), Barbacoa (lamb), Cabrito en Salsa Verde (braised goat with roasted tomatillo salsa) and Pollo Pibil (pibil chicken with cured onions). Each seemed to want to one-up the other, but we both agreed that the highlights were the barbacoa and pibil.

Nestled in a warm, soft corn tortilla and topped with fresh chopped cilantro and onion, the lamb is braised in a borracho sauce made from tomatoes and several types of chilis. Borracho, slang for "drunk" in Spanish takes it's meaning into cooking (as has been described to me) as a subterranean style of roasting lamb. Cooked in this rich and spicy sauce, you would leave your lamb to slow cook overnight in agave leaves as you went to drink tequila with your compadres. In the morning when your hangover was most potent, you would dig up your feast and eat away the pain.

Frida Restaurant TorontoThe only thing that was in pain at this point was my nearly bursting belly, but at Frida, one must always save room for the Churros ($7)! A classic churro is a long, tube shaped Mexican doughnut, warm and soft in the middle and crispy outside, dusted with sugar and cinnamon. The Churros Rellenos con Cajeta at Frida are bite sized, placed on dollops of handmade blueberry and strawberry coulis and oozing with cajeta, a creamy, sweet, tantalizingly finger-licking, plate-scraping goats milk caramel sauce.

The finale at Frida was just a sweet as the start and though I'm stuffed to the brim now, I hope it won't be long until my next mow.

Frida Restaurant

Discussion

17 Comments

Edan / July 29, 2009 at 07:43 pm
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My friend's dad owns this place. Never been, but I'd love to go!
stuart / August 4, 2010 at 11:24 am
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Wonderful food, great atmosphere ... but this is not cheap mexican food. You get what you pay for here. Look forward to going back soon.
CC / December 17, 2010 at 02:38 pm
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Although it is expensive, it is totally worth it! Everything was so fresh and delicious. Very authentic, but upscale Mexican -you cannot find this in the GTA.
I went half a year ago and I don't know why I haven't been back. My mouth is still watering from the tortilla soup and mole!
FF replying to a comment from CC / March 28, 2012 at 12:15 pm
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Define 'expensive' for me. This place serves mains for under $30 which in this town, is definately 'reasonable' to me. If you want to eat on the cheap, stick to Salad King.
Anna / March 28, 2012 at 02:38 pm
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The food here is AMAZING. Definitely worth the price.
Gabe / March 28, 2012 at 10:19 pm
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Kind upscale for mexican... think sand..sandles...sumbreros...tequila
Evan / March 28, 2012 at 10:47 pm
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Why is the rating so low? The place looks awesome.
Realist (mostly) replying to a comment from Evan / March 29, 2012 at 08:33 am
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Disclaimer: I haven't tried it yet. Ratings may be low because it's relatively expensive; people seem to think Mexican food should be cheap. It may also be rated low because Canadians don't really understand Mexican cuisine, which I think is demonstrated by the popularity of places like Burrito Boyz. Or it may simply be that the place isn't as good as the pictures look.
Adam / March 29, 2012 at 10:56 am
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Can we please have these reviews proofread before they're posted?

There's just so much unnecessary capitalization (names of dishes, "Sous-Chef"; and, bizarrely, "restaurant Manager"). And let's not have mishandling of apostrophes ("on it's own"; "chili's" as a plural).

This stuff is distracting. I know not everyone cares and I know I'll get people replying to me with hostile comments, but I stick to my position vis à vis BlogTO: Either this is a professional media outlet or it's not. If it is, you have to get the formatting right.

I know a lot of the writers here are trying to crack into the print journalism biz. Speaking as a guy who's been a newspaper editor, you plucky young j-school students/grads have to have that grammar shit nailed down if you're ever going to have a hope in the industry. You have to know the difference between "its" and "it's" to be a professional writer. I didn't make the rules, I'm just being honest.

Good luck.

(Food sounds tasty …)
Kareem / March 30, 2012 at 07:43 am
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I read the article without being distracted by the grammar errors. probably because I was distracted by the author's missing critical faculties. This "review" reads like a paid advertorial -- is it?
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JF replying to a comment from Kareem / March 30, 2012 at 09:06 am
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This IS the author. Apologies for the grammar errors, but sometimes things get missed during the editing process. More importantly I must stress that blogTO never has, nor will, run an advertorial or accept any type of compensation for a review or article. We have a strict policy (if you read out submission guidelines http://www.blogto.com/contribute/?listing-suggestion under "write a post") that we do not publish press releases, or accept self-promotion or advertorials.

As a staff writer we pay for our own meals and write each review based on the experience we had at the time. I happen to have dined at Frida several times and have honestly never had a less than stellar meal. This particular visit was no exception. Though, if there was something substandard to report you'd better believe it would be in there.

Hope that clears things up for you Kareem
Blah / April 2, 2012 at 11:04 am
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Not even close to traditional Mexican food!
judes / December 28, 2012 at 09:34 pm
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i would like to request any and all self proclaimed authentic mexican restaurants to add horchata to their drink menu because its not mexican without horchata.
think about adding that to you menu please.
KevinTO / May 20, 2013 at 05:38 pm
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I just had a look at the take out menu, the prices seem very excessive. $22 for 3 tacos? I used to fill myself up on authentic Mexican food for $12 back in the day including appetizer and drink.
weishak / June 5, 2013 at 01:27 pm
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If you want to talk about their menu items then you should remember how they they are spelled. "Soupa" is not a Spanish word. It should be spelled "sopa." Oxaca is nonsense because you forgot the 'a' in Oaxaca. I have never been to Frida but I will assume the owners do not mix and match Spanish and pseudo-English/French words for their dishes. "Chilies Rellenos Poblanos" should be "chiles ... ."
ZIna / August 30, 2013 at 04:32 pm
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The pics look amazing and I rather enjoyed the review. Sometimes, you get what you come for...
maria / May 17, 2014 at 11:24 pm
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The most horrible customer service I have ever had in Mexican restaurant. Feel horrible for chef jose to have unprofessional employees to superwise place by bringing whole experience for customer to the absolute zero. Untrained and absolutely dissatisfied with manager on duty vanessa and her lack of attitude to want to make it worser tgen it was. My apologies for chef jose that all hard work and dedication must and is ruined by zero knowledge of customer service or experience.

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