La Burrita recently opened its doors on the outskirts of Little Korea, its northern Mexican cuisine replacing the previous tenant's Ethiopian offerings. One of a few Mexican restaurants along this stretch of Bloor (think Tacos El Asador and Mexitaco), the restaurant's nondescript exterior belies the bustling scene inside, where music blares, the staff is friendly, and the food comes out quickly to meet the lunch rush.
La Burrita's menu offers a few staple northern Mexican dishes served in a dizzying array of configurations. Tacos, tostadas, burritos, tamales and quesadillas are dished out with up to 15 different meat, seafood, and vegetable options, from carnitas to chorizo to chilorio; a comprehensive sample would take several visits and be well worth it, as the food is rich and plentiful in addition to being inexpensive and delicious.
Tacos ($2.90) are the best way to sample the different menu options. Most come with similar underlying architecture: pico de gallo and salsa verde; onions, salsa verde and cilantro; or rice, beans, sour cream, salsa verde and salsa roja.
Try starting with the chorizo: it's a bit greasy, but pleasantly spicy and delicious, stuffed to the point of overflowing. The chipotle pork is similarly bursting, both in terms of mass and flavour, as its spicy sauce combines with salsa and rice to form an almost open faced burrito. Fish, lightly battered, is tender and flaky, but its pairing with a salsa fresca (or pico de gallo, depending on your nomenclature preferences) is less effective on the whole.
The carnitas and beef cheek tacos, served with cilantro, onion and salsa verde, are also good; the beef cheek a little fattier and richer and the carnitas moister and tastier. The asada (flank steak) is a bit tough but makes up for it in flavour, which is more than one would expect from a simple and quickly cooked cut of steak. The veggie tacos in this case really mean olives and lettuce, and are a bit meagre compared to other options, but for the more adventurous, a type of cactus, is also available.
Tostadas ($4.99) and tamales ($3.30) are both also worth sampling, in particular the later. The corn husk steamed dough is slathered in beans, salsa verde and cream, and stuffed with (in this case) chicken. The meat is moist, the masa warm and the salsa is tangy with heat; it's a potent combination and at $3.30 an outright steal.
The tostadas are also jam packed, with rice, lettuce, salsa, and meat, in this case chilorio, slow cooked pork that's then fried in a chile sauce. The meat is tender and richly sauced, and studded with little mouthwatering chunks of fat. The iceberg lettuce isn't going to win any awards, but the other ingredients, combined with the crunchy tostada, more than make up for it.
Somewhat ironically, the only misfire of our meal is the burrito, or burrita ($9.99) in this case. Burritos as we might know them here owe as much to California as anywhere else; the traditional northern Mexican ones usually offer one or two ingredients as opposed to the smorgasbord of toppings available further north. It's not a bad idea in principle, but the execution here leaves much to be desired.
The carnitas burrito is almost entirely rice and meat, and when freed from the company of vegetables, the pork's saltiness overpowers, almost to the point of inedibility. Even slugging back a Jarritos pop or beer (they are licensed) is barely enough to get the taste of salt out of the mouth.
This isn't enough to put a damper on the meal, though, which really is excellent through and through. The dishes aren't flashy, and there isn't a signature dish that really turns heads, but the great value, large portions and overall quality make La Burrita well worth a visit.
Photos Miranda Whist
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