La Bella Managua
La Bella Managua is a rare Nicaraguan restaurant in Toronto, but it fits right in on eclectic Bloor. Chef and owner Jesus Morales serves up mostly traditional fare at reasonable prices, showcasing regional cuisine from across the country .
The restaurant is decked out primary blue and yellow, with small tables with tablecloths. There's a big window at the front, and it's probably nicest near that, and though I sometimes wish they'd do away with dingy curtains I kind of like the hanging plant. Other than that it's your neighbourhood Latin joint with all kinds of various knick knacks and pictures all over the walls.
Even if you don't really know Nicaraguan food, you're probably familiar with tamales ($8.95). These are traditional Nicaraguan tamales, corn dough studded with pepper, onion, and pork loin, topped with achiote (fresh Spanish paprika), served with house special sauce (white vinegar, pepper, and chopped onion) and garnished with mint, all wrapped in a banana leaf.
This monster is 22 ounces, so it's good to share...but even though Morales and his daughter often do this, they always end up fighting over how they each end up digging into the other's side.
The pollo a la parilla ($14.95) is a combo of grilled seasoned chicken breast served with traditional gallo pinto, fried sweet plantains and an avocado salad. Gallo pinto is a Nicaraguan side dish of rice and beans, served with most proteins like beef, chicken and fish.
The ceviche ($9.95) is served with crispy fried plantain chips. Small chunks of mahi mahi are marinated in lime juice and mixed with bell pepper, red onion and cilantro.
They are licensed here, serving beer, wine and spirits, but we try the El Macua ($8), the national drink of Nicaragua. They use Nicaraguan rum mixed with guava, orange, lemon and cherry juice. Guava and sugar cane are cultivated in Nicaragua, thus guava and rum.
This is a cheery place to go in Bloorcourt to enjoy new tastes you've never heard of before, down a few drinks and some standard tamales and tacos, or to reconnect with Latin cuisine.
Photos by Hector Vasquez