A couple of Fridays back, Cherry, MC and I were invited to attend the opening weekend of Toronto’s newest country bar, the Rock ‘n Horse Saloon. Good time? Well, let’s just say 60% of YYZ Gourmand found themselves riding on a mechanical bull…and we have solemnly pledged that these videos will never go public.
So how did we end up on said unforgiving bull? Our inhibition was mostly just us being us, but also partly caused by the JD shots on the house and this monstrosity:
Fast forward to the next day. C’mon, you know how it is – don’t make me admit it. Let’s just say that only a good brunch could fix what ailed me and thank goodness I found myself in Roncesvalles, a neighbourhood I’ve watched transform over the last 4 years. Some changes have been for the worse (the new Tim Horton’s that’s opening soon) but mostly for the better (Barque! Gurts! Pizzeria Delfina!). I regrettably never got to try the restaurant Blue Plate but was curious about the Cuban diner (from the people of Delux Restaurant) that took over the space – La Cubana.
It was a grey, bitterly cold afternoon; the streets felt abandoned and it was quiet except for the howling wind. In contrast, as soon as I opened the second of the double doors, I was instantly welcomed by cheerful music, laughter, and the warmth of the retro diner decor. When people try to fake a 50s look, they need to take a page from La Cubana’s book. The gorgeous tiles, simple but thoughtful design, and pistachio colour scheme made me question whether it was actually humid Havana outside, and not chilly Toronto.
The words ‘pineappe-glazed pork belly’ on the menu caught my eye and wouldn’t let go so I came to my decision fairly easily (rare!). Served with rice and beans, purple slaw and fried tostones, I wished I wore my sweat pants.
A closer look? Your wish is my command.
And of course, I asked for house made hot sauce. Surprisingly tame in heat, it still added a nice touch to my dish. Not that it was needed, everything was great as is: perfect sunny-side eggs (yolks were warm but runny!), perfectly crisp tostones, wilted purple slaw that kept its peppery brightness, and sweetened caramelized pork belly with a hint of pineapple. Swoon.
Now the waiter had suggested that we try their corn fritters but we were too full. So when I returned last Friday for dinner with a couple of good pals, the first thing I did was order a plate. Oh, dear friends AND enemies, get yourself there and buy some STAT. Fresh fried-to-order, these pillowy soft blobs of dough are going to be my new carb loading favourite. Imagine a savoury fresh doughnut. Multiply that sense of satisfaction by 100 and serve it with an aioli.
This winter is shaping up to be a cold one and the only thing that’s keeping me from sobbing into my toque is knowing that La Cubana is here to give me that quick Cuban escape.