Don’t pass on th­ese tacos

Junc­tion taque­ria Al Pas­tor wants to re­de­fine Mex­ico’s na­tional taco

NOW Magazine - - FOOD & DRINK - Pho­tos and words By NATALIA MANZOCCO

Al pas­tor If you know your tacos, you’re al­most cer­tainly fa­mil­iar with the clas­sic al pas­tor, the na­tional taco of Mex­ico.

But if your Mex­i­can food ed­u­ca­tion has been lim­ited to the GTA’s (oth­er­wise rea­son­ably com­pre­hen­sive) Mex­i­can food of­fer­ings, Al Pas­tor taque­ria co-own­ers En­rique Gon­za­lez

and Alain Fred­er­ick Jac­ques say, you’ve prob­a­bly never re­ally had one.

“We said there’s some­thing miss­ing in Toronto – and that’s tacos al pas­tor,” says for­mer Playa Ca­bana Cafe­te­ria chef Jac­ques. “They do have it on menus, but they’re not tacos al pas­tor how they’re sup­posed to be.”

Specif­i­cally, that’s pork mar­i­nated for three days in pineap­ple and or­ange juice, chilis and red wine vine­gar, then slow-roasted and shaved on a shawarma grill.

I’ve never been su­per-hot on tacos al pas­tor – the meat’s usu­ally dry and life­less by the time it lands on the taco. But this stuff is moist and caramelized, with pineap­ple and onion lend­ing bursts of fresh­ness and sweet­ness.

Lit­tle won­der they named the place after it.

The Junc­tion take­out spot is an homage to the Mex­ico Jac­ques and Gon­za­lez both knew grow­ing up, com­plete with a lit­tle shipping-crate “mar­ket” that serves as pantry, gift shop and wall decor all at once. Ta­jin sea­son­ing, bot­tles of Ta­p­a­tio hot sauce, Abuelita hot choco­late and even lit­tle luchador ac­tion fig­ures are all for sale.

On the op­po­site wall, a hand­painted menu fea­tures a hand­ful of tried-and-true taque­ria recipes (tacos are all $3.50). While the al pas­tor is un­doubt­edly the top seller, the tacos campechanos (ar­guably Mex­ico’s sec­ond-favourite) are stel­lar, with moist, shred­ded brisket and chorizo packing huge flavour.

Que­sadil­las and bur­ri­tos do away with the usual Tex-Mex trap­pings. The for­mer are ooz­ing mon­sters (a deal at $6.50 each) packed with Oax­aca cheese on blue corn tor­tillas and stuffed with ei­ther chicken tinga or meaty, savoury huit­la­coche, a Mex­i­can del­i­cacy. (They’re known in English as the po­etic “Mex­i­can truf­fle” or – thanks to the veg­etable the fun­gus grows on – the very not-po­etic “corn smut.”)

Al Pas­tor’s bur­ri­tos ($10), mean­while, recast alam­bre – a dish of meat, sautéed pep­pers and onions, and cheese – as the con­tents of a starch-free bur­rito. “It’s a more au­then­tic ver­sion of the bur­rito for us,” Gon­za­lez ex­plains. “The Amer­i­can­ized ver­sion has rice, beans – pretty much what Chipo­tle or Bur­rito Boyz or ev­ery­body does is the Amer­i­can­ized ver­sion.”

“We ba­si­cally just make the alam­bre the way it is in the taque­ria,” adds Jac­ques, and it’s de­li­cious, re­sult­ing in a bur­rito packed with fried poblanos and more shaved pas­tor pork that man­ages to sat­isfy with­out the dreaded bur­rito bloat.

Gon­za­lez read­ily ad­mits there’s noth­ing wrong with a good rice-and-bean bur­rito – or, since this is Toronto, a fish taco served with a death-de­fy­ing dessert, a blar­ing hip-hop sound­track and a shot of cheap whisky.

But more per­spec­tive and rep­re­sen­ta­tion of tra­di­tional Mex­i­can cook­ing is al­ways ap­pre­ci­ated – all the more when the re­sults are this tasty. 2982 Dun­das West, at Pa­cific, 647-748-2982, al­pas­

Al Pas­tor’s name­sake taco fea­tures pork mar­i­nated for three days, then sliced from a shawarma spit.

Al Pas­tor’s bur­ri­tos are all killer, no filler.

Que­sadil­las make use of Mex­i­can huit­la­coche mush­rooms.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.