A month ago, I went on a taco crawl organized by food blogger Mina from Seizonal in search of the best tacos in Montreal. Tagged along with us is Zomato community manager, Geneviève. As you may or may not know, Zomato bought Urbanspoon. Part of her job is to meet bloggers to ensure a smooth transition to Zomato. The whole food crawl lasted 6 hours, we tasted over 10 tacos.
El Rey del Taco
Our first stop is at El Rey del Taco in Little Italy, close to the Jean-Talon market. We opted for the DIY 1/4 kg carne tacos - thin slices of beef sautéed with green peppers and onions. Using AAA prime beef, we expected that it would be cooked with great care. Instead of getting a succulent juicy beef, we had very dry beef. Even their spicy condiments are not enough to bring the meat back to life.
Our next stop is at the Cochinita Pibil situated in the Jean-Talon market. The name of this food stall is also the name of the only food item that is served in the form of a taco (3 for $5.50) or a sandwich for the same price. Cochinita Pibil is pulled pork braised in orange juice, achiote and lime. The pork was juicy and tender soaked in a flavourful yet sweet sauce. It is garnished with pickled red onions for acidity and contrast of flavours.
As we were heading south on boulevard St-Laurent, we couldn't resist making a pit stop at La Cornettaria for their zeppoles as it was the last day they were on sale. They are on sale from beginning of March until Easter. Zeppoles are deep-fried dough, typically filled with ricotta cream. The outside was crispy and flaky, and the ricotta was light and smooth. Zeppole season is now over. You have to wait patiently for next year.
|La Cornetteria - Zeppoles|
Now that we have our pre-desserts, we reached our next taco stop - Fortune, a new restaurant opened less than a year ago. It has been on my radar ever since they opened. This is the only place on our taco crawl that provides two flour tortillas. At first, we weren't sure why two tortillas. After grabbing a bite, it makes sense that it provides a good balance of tortilla to filling ratio. One had the idea of dividing the taco into two smaller tacos. I had the chicken taco cooked in beer with cheese and avocado. It was tender and succulent. The avocado and cheese give a nice creaminess that meld the ingredients altogether. The fish was moist and flaky. The garnishes provide an element of acidity and freshness to complement the fish.
|Left: Chicken cooked in Beer, Avocado, Cheese and Cabbage Slaw Taco|
Right: Fish with Pickled Cucumber, Radish, Carrot and Kale Taco
Genevieve had the grilled pork which provided a pleasant charred smokey taste to the meat. It is contrasted with the sweetness of mango and freshness of the cabbage slaw. Finally, as I mentioned on my review on Sidedoor, cauliflower is the new kale for 2015. The cauliflower here is roasted which intensifies the flavour of this vegetable complemented with the creaminess of the avocado and fresh ricotta. Their flavours are spot on. We all agreed that it is top spot of the night.
|Left: Grilled Pork with Mango and Cabbage Slaw|
Right: Roasted Cauliflower, Avocado and Fresh Ricotta
As we continued walking south on St-Laurent, we reached at our fourth destination - Maïs. I heard mixed reviews about this place. I wanted to see myself what's the fuss about. After we ordered, it took about 30 minutes for our taco to arrive. I wanted to put out there that our tacos were a disappointment. We ordered the cauliflower which was salty not much flavourful. Our other taco was the mole with a fried egg. Mole is a Mexican curry made with chocolate and a mixture of spicy peppers, herbs and spices. The mole was just spicy. We couldn't taste any signs of chocolate nor the spices that are put in the sauce, at least the fried egg was oozy.
|Cauliflower & Fried Egg Mole Tacos|
We finally arrived at our last stop of our taco crawl - Icehouse. Despite eating so many tacos, we did not feel full when we arrived at the restaurant. We ordered and shared a fair amount of food. We started off with popcorn shrimp. Crispy battered shrimp comes with a delightful sweet and sour sauce. A squeeze of lime and some chopped green onions provide some freshness and tanginess to the appetizer.
|Icehouse - Popcorn Shrimp|
Mina and her friend Tasnia ordered the grilled portobello and fried chicken. I had a bite of both of their tacos. The grilled portobello was firm and juicy, it's complemented with a dollop of guacamole, pico de gallo and pickled onions. Everything works well together. The fried chicken has crisp batter and juicy meat, it is served with jalapenos, pickle and ranch sauce.
Genevieve and I shared the beef tacos and mahi-mahi tuna. The beef taco is quite special as it is the only place that is served on a hard taco shell. This taco replicates well to a cheeseburger. When we think of fish tacos, we usually associated to deep-fried crispy fish. The baja-style does not resort to batter the fish then deep-frying, instead grilling a nice piece of mahi-mahi tuna. The fish was grilled to perfection with a red cabbage that provides acidity and freshness.
|Icehouse - Beef with Crispy Taco Shell and Mahi-Mahi Baja Tacos|
It was difficult to choose one, but Icehouse and Fortune both make delicious tacos that have the prefect balance of flavors and texture. So, what's your favorite taco spot in Montreal?