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- There is a new kid in town, and his name is Pachuco – named after the look and style of Mexican youth back in the 1930s to 1950s that dressed in zoot ihiusuits. Pachuco opened its doors on Friday, January 13th, perhaps a sign of bad luck, but that shouldn’t hinder their success.
Pachuco is a small (read: reservations) and cozy space, with exposed brick walls, wrought-iron décor, and a pretty impressive wall of wine bottles lit by a neon sign. Even though Pachuco shares a kitchen with older brother and Danforth favourite Embrujo Flamenco, they definitely serve up their own distinctive flavour.
Their menu is well thought out and varied, with an excellent selection of meat, fish and vegetarian dishes. Their appetizer menu alone is worth the trip. With a confident boasting of guacamole flavours, including goat cheese, blue cheese, smoked trout and walnut, and a guacamole sampler platter that allows you to try three of their creations, there is seemingly no end to the interesting flavour combinations. We decided to stick to our guns, however, and go with the traditional guacamole, which was a stellar choice; lots of lime, onion and creamy avocado, but no flavour was overpowering. Their homemade tortilla chips have to be mentioned as well; they were crisp and tasty. I am hoping they will one day provide these in a to-go bag for purchase before you leave. We also ordered the Chile poblana, swathed in an excellent and perfectly spicy tomato sauce, with queso fresco and refried beans, all baked perfectly. The portion size on both entrees was more than enough for two people, and it could easily serve as a great entrée.
For our meals (both $15) we went with the Taquitos de Machaca (coffee and ancho braised beef brisket, with guacamole and honey chipotle salsa), and the pre-Hispanic delicacy of Taquitos de Huitlacoche (corn truffle, onions, jalapeño peppers, Cazuela beans served with requesón-avocado salsa). Where to start? Let’s save the most interesting for last. The braised beef was well cooked and well spiced, the chipotle salsa was a great added touch, and one order of beans and rice between the two of us was more than enough to share. In fact, we both left incredibly full. Their fresh-this-second corn tortillas are amazing, sweet, soft and still warm from the press, prepared just the way you would expect to find them in a traditional Mexican eatery. The Huitlacoche, however, was an adventure in and of itself.
For those who don’t know (myself included), Huitlacoche is a fungus, which grows naturally on corn in damp environments. The fungus is harvested and has been consumed as a delicacy for centuries in Central and South America cuisine. When it arrived, it tasted smokey and earthy; it looked like a dark mash of black corn, onion- and was that a jalapeño in there? Hard to tell. The dish was good, but I can’t say I would strongly recommend it. Overall, I found the food at Pachuco’s to be mostly over-salted, and the Huitlacoche had to be the worst offender. This is the main reason why I would not order it again; although the flavour was very different from any other Mexican dishes I have tried, and I actually did enjoy it, I just could not get over the intensity of the salt.
The drinks at Pachuco’s are excellent, and they offer several flavours of margaritas to choose from with a sampler platter included for just $17! We ordered the traditional lime, pineapple and guava, which were all fruity and tropical and prepared just right, but the mango, blueberry and the strawberry mint also looked great. With our meal, we just had to try the ‘Bloody Maria,’ essentially a Caesar mixed with spicy chipotle. I loved it, and you will too if you are a smoky chipotle fan. I can’t wait to go back and try out some more margarita flavours. For the non-drinkers and children in the group, there are some exciting choices; fresh strawberry lemonade and hibiscus lemonade both looked gorgeous in their bright colours, and I am sure they are also great spiked.
The drinks and food at Pachuco’s ranged from good to very good, and if they could tone down the salt (margaritas included), I would probably rate most of it as excellent. However, I cannot say our overall experience was excellent, but I would not fault them for it in my overall rating. Being that it was their opening weekend, one expects a few hiccups, and I am sure they will be cleared up by the time you visit. I was served the wrong meal at first, and we had to wait about 10 to 15 minutes for the Huitlacoche to be prepared, instead of the fish tacos, (though delightful looking), I was initially served. By the time my dish came around, the other half of our meal was cold. Our side plates and used cutlery were never removed from our table after we finished with our appetizers, and the tables are so small and cramped as it is, there was no room for our mains. Instead of removing our side plates, there was a vain attempt to stuff everything on the table. I eventually had to ask for fresh cutlery and removal of the used dishes from our table. Not once, but twice, we almost had our not-quite-finished drinks taken from us, and we had to ask a few times for extra tortillas. It seemed a little strange to me that you would only get four at a time, and as great as they were, they are very, very small, so I imagine each meal would require a minimum of 3 or 4 on its own.
Overall, I think these are minor complaints, especially since it was Pachuco’s opening preview. I found that the service was friendly and genuine, the restaurant was quaint and ambient, with Latin music, candles and a few kitschy décor details, which made it seem authentic and allowed it to live up to it’s self-proclaimed ‘Modern Mexican’ dining experience.
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