Review: El Catrin brings Mexican-for-the-masses to the Distillery District

Review: El Catrin brings Mexican-for-the-masses to the Distillery District

(Image: Gizelle Lau)
(Image: Gizelle Lau) (Image: Gizelle Lau)
 

El Catrin Destileria ★½
18 Tank House Ln., 416-203-2121

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Chef Olivier Le Calvez moved from Mexico City to Toronto to oversee this huge new Distillery District restaurant. The high-ceilinged room, formerly home to the Boiler House, is packed most nights with tourists, after-work tipplers and local condo-dwellers. Le Calvez’s extensive Mexican-for-the-masses menu contains a few jewels, such as flaky crab cakes and baja tacos—clumps of perfectly fried haddock cooled by creamy chipotle coleslaw and piled on flour tortillas. The night’s best dish is the intensely shareable chuleton a las brasas: a buttery, spicy 16-ounce rib eye served on a hot grill with sizzling jalapeño, corn and tomatillos. Other dishes have only one note, like the tacos al pastor (overwhelmed by guajillo) and a limpid, miniscule mahi-mahi ceviche that tastes only of tamarind. To close the meal, there’s powerfully rich Mexican fudge topped with bacon and walnuts and an impressive tequila selection.

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