Review: Colombian snacks and punchy cocktails at Valdez on King West
606 King St. W., 416-363-8388
Steve Gonzalez, the former chef de cuisine at Origin and the class clown of Top Chef Canada’s first season, has opened a Latin American street food restaurant in the Entertainment District. The room is a funhouse of Catholic iconography and Colombian kitsch, including a cigar-rolling station in the foyer and burlap coffee bean sacks on the walls. Unfortunately, it vibrates with rap so loud you can barely hear yourself chew, but if you can get into the groove—and plenty of patrons do—there are some good snacks. The menu is an ode to Gonzalez’s native Colombia, and the Spanish-speaking servers describe it with rapturous superlatives. A few items live up to the hype, like an Aperol-lime margarita rimmed with smoked chili salt that kicks you in the mouth (in a good way) with every sip. Rare grilled beef skewers are likewise full of punch from a slather of chimichurri. Other dishes are strangely bland: the arepas are dry and salt-deprived, the pork empanadas taste of little more than cumin, and the coconut rice pudding lacks sweetness and pizazz. Our recommendation: go for cocktails and snacks; leave before your ears start to bleed.