Mexican Salsas Grill
Mexican Salsas Grill is a new joint promising authentic Mexican fare in the heart of Kensington Market. And while I like Tex Mex as much as the next person -- burritos are, after all, great booze sponges and it's hard to think of a better "let's watch the fourth season of Dexter" food than nachos -- I like Mexican food even better, so I knew I would be checking this place out sooner rather than later.
Opened two months ago by Jesus Martinez, Salsas' owner says he's trying to replicate the street taquerias of his native Mexico City, offering tasty fast food at easy to digest prices. And while the menu won't win any innovation awards with standard tacos ($1.99), tostadas ($2.50) and tortas (a Mexican-style sandwich, $4.99), the fillings are what set this place apart.
I kick-off with a trio of tacos, and as my tortillas are warmed on the grill I ponder the various fillings, which include chicken mole (available in negro and verde), carnitas (slow cooked pork), chiles rellenos and charro (beans with pork rind, coriander, tomato and onion). I choose a mix and look on in anticipation as my tacos are finished with home-made salsa, cilantro and finely diced raw onion. I'm packing gum, so good to go with the "aromatics."
The chiles rellenos is strong and sweet, with a jalapeno hit. The onions provide a refreshing crunch and the salsa that requisite zing. If there's a fault, it's that the fillings are almost too generous -- reminding me that there's no dainty way to eat a taco.
Moving on to the carnitas, I'm rewarded with the rich, smoky flavours that only come from hours of braising. Full-bodied and lush, this dish is sort of like pulled pork with a punch.
And finally the mole. I've had moles negro in Mexico that were works of art, striking the perfect balance between chocolate and chile. This is no such mole. Tired, limp and dry, the chicken is decent enough but any flavor the sauce may have had has been lost amidst the other fillings. Disappointing, yes -- but as Meatloaf taught us, two out of three ain't bad.
Undaunted, I order a grilled steak taquito and a tostada. The steak is a lean cut of beef, rubbed with garlic and cooked to order. As it's sizzling, I grab a Mexican coke ($1.50, made with sugar, not high fructose corn syrup like the stuff we get here) and tackle my tostada.
Essentially a corn chip pizza, the tostada is a large corn tortilla smothered with beans, crumbled cheese, lettuce and drizzled with cream. The flavors aren't radically different from the tacos, though the beans add a caramel note and the lettuce a crisp aftertaste. It goes well with the coke.
Meanwhile my steak has been cooked, and my taquito's served sizzling hot. Topped with guacamole, onions and Jesus' most blisteringly hot salsa, it's a lively affair. The meat has that fresh-off-the-grill zing while the hot sauce means I'm going through the coke at an alarming rate. The only off-note is the guacamole. Bland and mushy, this dip needed a gallon more garlic and lemon. A shame as it would have nicely rounded my hot tempered taquito and is easy enough to get right.
I ended my meal with my wallet nearly as full as my belly. Was I blown away, transported back to Mexico in a taste-bud triggered time machine? No. Is there better Mexican in town? Possibly. But Mexican Salsas Grill is good, honest food at good, honest prices -- and sometimes that's all you need.