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Restaurants

Seven Lives

Posted by Alexandra Grigorescu / Reviewed on September 13, 2012 / review policy

seven lives torontoSeven Lives opened up in the recently renovated space at 214 Augusta just 2 weeks ago and there's already a line-up.

UPDATE: Seven Lives has relocated to 69 Kensington Avenue.

Having popped up at the Toronto Underground Food Market and Movember-themed festivities, they've collected a following, and with the short-lived tenancy of Rock Lobster Co. in the space now over, they've got a lockdown on fish dishes. Which is a good thing, because chef Sean Riehl has had his eye on the property for some time.

seven lives torontoRiehl, who arrived from California two years ago after time spent in high-end kitchens, focuses on seafood--and hallelujah for that. The menu is posted daily on their twitter feed, as well as on an unassuming chalkboard fastened to their in-kitchen fridge.

While there are some menu mainstays, Riehl stops in at fishmongers and produce stalls bright and early and gets inspired by what looks perkiest. There's one freshly-made juice ($1) on weekdays--such as the watermelon al fresca, and beginning next week, Mexican colas--and two on weekends.

The 8 or so dishes on offer run the gamut from steak, to octopus, to a ceviche-topped tostada, and when they run out of a certain item, you're out of luck. Remind you of another high-demand Mexican kitchen? Make that two (but more on that later).

seven lives torontoLocavores will be pleased to note that most of the ingredients found in Seven Lives' offerings are sourced locally--as in, just down the street. "I get the cheese from Global Cheese and the fish from Kensington fishmongers." The marlin he smokes himself at home, all the dips and toppings are handmade, and only the tortillas are pre-bought--even this, he admits with a sheepish shrug.

seven lives torontoThe tacos are typical (with a twist, of course) San Diego--by way of Tijuana--fish tacos, and Riehl says he would chow down on very similar ones every weekend. You can self-dress them with the three homemade sauces, and taste-test with proffered chips: the habanero comes with the disclaimer of "eat at your own risk" (I do, and can vouch for the legitimacy of the warning), a salsa negra (burned tomatoes and spices), and a salsa verde.

seven lives torontoFirst, the Baja fish ($4). Arriving on a miniature blue-corn tortilla, it's the most underwhelming of my chosen taco trio. Cabbage, crema and pico de gallo top a fair-sized chunk of breaded basa--although come Friday, it's switching to mahi mahi. The fish is adequately breaded (read: not too much), the pico de gallo is piquant enough, but the cabbage (oddly enough) overpowers the entire dish.

seven lives torontoI'm told that the ceviche tostada ($7) routinely sells out by 3 p.m., so it seems kismet that I can still enjoy it at 5. It's a mix of onions, serrano chilies, tomatoes, garlic, generous slices of avocado, and Riehl's Mexican crema paired with fresh ceviche, atop a lightly fried tortilla. Admittedly, I take a fork to it, but each carefully constructed bite yields a well-balanced blend of textures, spice, and acidity.

Despite how easy ceviche should be to prepare, it's somehow surprising to me that Seven Lives' is better than some others I've tasted at "authentic" Mexican restaurants around the city. The dominant flavour here is purely and simply "fresh."

seven lives torontoThen there's the gobernador ($5). This is something of a ridiculous taco on several levels: first, the sheer weight of its contents requires two tortillas, and second, the depth of flavors will mean that you'll soon forget about the gobs of crema trickling down your chin. It's something that I instantly declare to be "stupidly good," and while my exclamations should be more eloquent, I believe in the power of first impressions.

The smoked marlin lends an almost meaty texture, particularly paired with several robust shrimp, but the mix of crema, poblano peppers, onions and garlic with the fresh Jack and cheddar cheese creates an utterly rich, and unique, taste. "We're trying to keep things fresh, light, simple and unpretentious," Riehl says.

seven lives torontoPardon the foray into douchebaggery, but I couldn't resist courting controversy, and drawing the comparisons that naysayers would go to town with like an Etch-a-Sketch. It might look suspicious that one of 214 Augusta's best-loved purveyors of Mexican grub, Agave y Aguacate, vacated the building a short time before Seven Lives moved in. Riehl says, "I would've moved in regardless, and I would've wanted to work with him."

seven lives torontoAs for La Carnita and Grand Electric? "I haven't been to either," Riehl gamely answers, but says he's heard rumblings that his tacos are on equal footing (or better). And truly, I can vouch; the gobernador is heads above.

Discussion

37 Comments

Shoulds / September 13, 2012 at 12:34 pm
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mmmmmmmmmmm
Brandon / September 13, 2012 at 12:43 pm
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Looks like a legit taco place. Double shell!

Also note, La Carnita and Grand Electric are both non conventional mexican places, serving ok tacos.
Coffee Stain / September 13, 2012 at 01:04 pm
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I'd say Grand Electric's tacos are better than "ok". But lining up for hours with "in-the-know" types is less than ok. I'm looking forward to checking this place out. Looks legit indeed.
Cyril Sneer / September 13, 2012 at 01:32 pm
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Looks fantastic, will have to check it out.
K-Borg / September 13, 2012 at 01:38 pm
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Oh hellllllll yes.
jd / September 13, 2012 at 01:51 pm
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Looks promising! I will definitely check this place out this weekend.
lol / September 13, 2012 at 02:44 pm
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pretty sure the ACTUAL mexican places in the market are better and cheaper
adi replying to a comment from lol / September 13, 2012 at 03:35 pm
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my husband and myself are originally from Mexico City. We moved to Canada about 5 years ago and missed the fast street market food back home. When Mexican food was getting popular in Toronto over the last few years we were very happy and exciting! We werevery ddisappointed by La carnita and other trendy places. The only reason why we try seven lives was because we overheard two Latino grocery store owners in Kensington market saying they hadn't tasted food like that since the last time they went home. my brave husband ordered a taco, Iwas not cconvinced... then I try and it was very delicious and very much like food from La Merced back home. It is different from other Mexican food places in Torontoand very ffresh. maybe more expensive but now we learn avocados in Canada are not cheap! jajaja! muy bueno!
listo pronto / September 13, 2012 at 04:08 pm
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Amaazing food, been here twice since they opened a few weeks ago. Having so many mexican restaurants in toronto makes it easier to decide for 7 lives because the vast majority of mexican style restaurants in toronto dont offer exiting delicious food or real mexican cuisine. On the other hand, 7 lives reminded me of my childhood in Mexicali and the food there. Its been the first time in many years i get to enjoy authentic mexican cuisine outside of mexico. The food is affordable, quick to get, very addictive and very FRESH.
Max replying to a comment from lol / September 13, 2012 at 04:44 pm
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omfg, you're so right. and mexican places in mexico are even cheaper! and more actual!

this is the best taco in the market, period, and therefore is a little more expensive.
Fyood Toronto replying to a comment from adi / September 13, 2012 at 04:53 pm
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your comment more then the post makes me want to try this place. The tacos do look pretty awesome in the photos though.
will replying to a comment from adi / September 13, 2012 at 07:41 pm
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Good to finally hear an opinion from a Mexican national about the overpriced and unauthentic hipster Mexican jaunts we've had opening up here lately. I'd go to Seven Lives just based on your opinion too.
handfed / September 13, 2012 at 08:19 pm
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more food, for my tummy
hpo / September 13, 2012 at 08:48 pm
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Finally a place in the city doing tacos the right way--two tortillas!!
Futronic / September 13, 2012 at 09:10 pm
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As per the article, I found the Baja taco serious lacking in flavour and not even an average taco for Toronto. The Gobernador, on the other hand, was delicious. Stacked full of delicious smoked marlin and shrimp, it was delicious, full of flavour, and well worth the $5. It's a shame that Rebozos' stall has moved on, but Seven Lives is off to a pretty good start if the Gobernador is indicative of what they'll be making moving forward. I'll definitely try the ceviche next time I'm in the hood.
Annie C / September 13, 2012 at 10:05 pm
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I went by a few days after it opened, I can definitely say that the gobernador is fucking delicious. Will be back shortly.
FYI / September 14, 2012 at 04:49 pm
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Just because you pick up an ingredient down the street does not mean it's locallly sourced. Poorly written article.

As Keith Olbermann would say this is my vote for the dumbest thing I've read all day.

"Locavores will be pleased to note that most of the ingredients found in Seven Lives' offerings are sourced locally--as in, just down the street. "I get the cheese from Global Cheese and the fish from Kensington fishmongers." The marlin he smokes himself at home, all the dips and toppings are handmade, and only the tortillas are pre-bought--even this, he admits with a sheepish shrug. "

jd / September 17, 2012 at 05:52 pm
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Checked it out on Sunday.

Food was pretty good.

Only complaints. 2PM they were sold out of quite a bit. And the homemade sauces were gone except for 1.

I understand at the end of the day you sell out of stuff. But it just seemed completely lacking for 2.

But I will say this. I will go back just on what I ate.
Manate / September 20, 2012 at 09:58 am
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I work in the market and this is my new favourite lunch place. Sean is an awesome, friendly guy who knows his stuff, the food is outstandingly good and well priced.

And unlike the guy from Agave y Aguacate, who spent most his time hanging out in local coffee shops instead of cooking, he actually seems to be enjoying his time in the kitchen.
graig / October 2, 2012 at 03:51 pm
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finally had a chance to try out these tacos twice in the last week, and they are truly magnificent, despite being urged to avoid it by rabid agave y aguacate fans, and in fact francisco himself (via fb). and i'm glad i did.

i decided to go because when you get a master chef like francisco feeling threatened, it's worth exploring. at the time i went, the majority of customers were latino, saying it was finally a taste of home... ok sold.

was urged to sample the beef tongue and also the gobernador, both very different and equally delicious. though i need to mention how fantastic their aguas frescas are... i tried the strawberry pineapple and the tamarind.... wow! it's worth going to seven lives even if you're not hungry... just for the fresh drinks!

the staff are friendly but not overbearing and they work very well in the limited space provided.

i was a very big fan of agave y aguacate and was sad to see him go. but seven lives is a great alternative, and in many ways, a better alternative. that said, i'm getting really tired of all the blogs pitting seven lives against agave y aguacate. in they end, they both are far superior to the other mexican joints in town (yes, la carnita).
Erskine Jr. / November 3, 2012 at 12:35 pm
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FOR ANYONE THINKING ITS TOO EXPENSIVE READ THIS: Took my brother for lunch and the two of us split 3 tacos for $14. It doesn't sound like a lot of food for the price but it is! We were totally stuffed and happy. Their tacos are big and awesome. I don't care about authenticity I care about YUMMY. The may, in fact, be authentic. I wouldn't know. I do know that I have tried about 4 or 5 different ones ad they were all the best. Each equally the best taco evarrrrrrr!
Josh / January 15, 2013 at 10:08 am
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Best in the city! - HOGGBOYZ CO-SIGNED
CECE / January 15, 2013 at 10:24 pm
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Finally it has happened to me right in front of my face and I just can not hide it
Devon / January 18, 2013 at 01:42 pm
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Tried the Gobernador today. So flavorful and so tasty, and for only five bucks, you can't complain. Highly recommend! Seemed fairly busy when I came in :)
ralph / January 21, 2013 at 02:48 pm
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Gross. Diry and Gross.
geneticistx / January 23, 2013 at 04:04 pm
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ive tried all the new taco places during this mexican explosion in tdot. Easy 1-2 punch... Seven Lives is friggen amazing, like beyond amazing, and playa cabana is friggen amazing.

For a while i was obsessed with indian food (hence my love for gandhi on queen), now 7 lives has me assimilating to become mexican.

Ernesto replying to a comment from listo pronto / February 4, 2013 at 01:57 pm
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Son tacos estilo Mexicali? o simplemente te recordo Mexicali? This looks like another good reason to move to Toronto
Ben / February 14, 2013 at 11:36 am
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Top notch. I frequent this place when I can on weekends, some of the best around.
Brock / May 2, 2013 at 07:17 am
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Had one of these for the first time last night. Best taco EVER! Blew my mind.

Definitely going back.
Ocat / May 2, 2013 at 12:26 pm
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The best around .. Go often and never disappointed!
chefrob / May 10, 2013 at 11:12 am
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Best in the city, HANDS DOWN!

(I worry about saying that, as I would hate to have to wait hours for tacos, defeats the purpose!)
rish / June 9, 2013 at 11:00 am
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absolutely disgusting. tasteless and bland. hated this place
D / July 28, 2013 at 11:54 pm
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Was looking for a place to eat and wandered in this place (which is shared with 4-5 others) and ate the pork taco, SO FREAKING GOOD! My friends also had the fish tacos and they loved it as-well. Definitely recommend it and the guy outside with the steak and guacamole sandwiches.
tacos / September 7, 2013 at 11:42 pm
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Finally made it here about a month after trying out Carnita. I have to say I didn't love 7 Lives. The pork tacos were dry. The tacos were just a bit too big, they fell apart and the ones with cheese gooped all over the place with the 1st bite. I mean they're premium tacos, no doubt, just not the greatest. The shrimp was tasty (messy!), the octopus was good, the pork was meh, the mahi mahi was decent, as was the Gob. Carnita was much better. El Asador is still the best.
AC / March 25, 2014 at 04:33 pm
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"Locavores will be pleased to note that most of the ingredients found in Seven Lives' offerings are sourced locally--as in, just down the street. "

So when the Loblaws opens "just down the street" and they offer shrimp farmed in Asia, Tomatoes grown in Chile, and cheese from Wisconsin, should locovores be happy?

Emma / April 27, 2014 at 11:08 am
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i had 4 baja fish tacos the other day. legit soo good
helloblank / June 13, 2014 at 09:03 am
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DELICIOUS

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