What’s on the menu at Quetzal, a new Mexican restaurant with an eight-metre-long open fire pit

What’s on the menu at Quetzal, a new Mexican restaurant with an eight-metre-long open fire pit

Name: Quetzal
Contact: 419 College St., 647-347-3663, quetzaltoronto.com, @quetzaltoronto
Neighbourhood: Kensington Market
Previously: Awash Café
Owners: Kate Chomyshyn and Julio Guajardo (El Rey, Montreal’s La Catrina), Owen Walker (El Rey) and Grant van Gameren (Bar Isabel, Bar Raval, Harry’s, PrettyUgly, El Rey, Tennessee Tavern, Rosalinda)
Chefs: Kate Chomyshyn and Julio Guajardo

The food

Chomyshyn and Guajardo (partners in the kitchen and in life) prepare dishes using traditional Mexican techniques and flavours (but Ontario-grown ingredients whenever possible), cooking most everything (fish, Cornish hen, sweet potatoes, sausages) over the kitchen’s 24-foot-long open flame. Tortillas are made in-house, as are different salsas, including one made with Chicatana ants. A bar in the centre of the restaurant serves ceviche and other raw dishes using sustainable Canadian fish and seafood. The seasonal desserts are influenced by the couple’s former paleta operation in Montreal.

The nine house-made salsas are available for $3 each or all nine for $25. 


The Tiradito Estilo Baja: kampachi seasoned with white soy and lime, then topped with avocado, minced charred serrano and cucumber. $21.


Vidalia Rostizada: a slow-roasted Vidalia onion is finished with Oaxacan chilies, cumin and herb salsa. $8.


Hongos a la Parrilla: grilled king oyster and maitake mushrooms with poblano. $14.


And again.


Served with tortillas and two salsas, the Pescado Zarandeado, here a European bass, is butterflied, grilled and dressed with red and green salsa. $46.


Vegan-friendly Concord grape sorbet with hazelnuts, compressed melon and coconut yogurt is topped with Mexican mint. $9.


Corn ice cream topped with wild blueberry granita and popcorn meringues. $9.


Left to right: owners Owen Walker, Kate Chomyshyn and Julio Guajardo.


The drinks

In addition to an extensive selection of both mescal and tequila, there are local craft and Mexican beers, as well as New World wines that are mostly consignment or private order. There are cocktails, too, including some not-so-boozy ones, from bar manager Owen Walker.

A selection of the New World bottles being offered, including Maturana’s Naranjo, a skin-contact wine made with grapes from 80-year-old vines in Chile’s Maule Valley.


The Domino is a martini-style cocktail made with pear-infused Ketel One vodka, Tio Pepe, dry vermouth and Mexican pepperleaf. It’s served with an olive and pickled jicama. $17.


The High Ten is served on the rocks and is made with Tio Pepe, Sombra mescal, peach, lemon, rhubarb, hyssop and soda. $14.


Walker, behind the bar.


The space

The 72-seat space was designed by PARTISANS and features thick Canadian maple beams embedded in an undulating white ceiling inspired by traditional Mexican markets.

Here’s the raw bar.


Those who can take the heat can watch the action from the 10-seat chef’s table.


The eight-metre-long indoor wood fire is divided into several areas: a custom-made grill for roasting and grilling meat and fish, a plancha for vegetables, and a traditional comal (flat griddle) where tortillas are prepared.


The plancha (left) and the comal (right).


Here’s a close-up of the comal, with a couple tortillas on the go.