Every time a culture has its food interpreted in a new country, there are some deviations. In North America, we like to make things a little heavier and a little less spicy. When it comes to Mexican food, this can be a travesty, as the light, fresh dishes that are its signature can become watered down.
Tequila expert Andres Marques and modernist chef Howard Dubrovsky used their time in an underground supper club to do more than think of synonyms for the word delicious. It was the beginning of a beautiful business partnership, culminating in the Toronto restaurant Fonda Lola, which opened in late 2013 on the Queen West strip.
The dimly lit restaurant, on a bustling evening — Photo courtesy of Andres Marques
Fonda Lola is a "casual Mexican interpretation of a restaurant," informs Andres. He and Howard are committed to an "honest and simple approach to food."
This means stepping back from the deep-fried and into the territory of lively ingredients that are made to shine. Guacamole, for example, is a smooth puree of avocado, and served with homemade crispy chips that are just the right amount of salty and dusted with powdered chilis.
Caesar salad comes in taco form with a lettuce leaf wrapping around garlicky avocado mousse, topped with maple-flavored bacon (Did you know that Caesar salad is a Mexican invention?). Tacos come in a skillet, with pork and pineapple steaming on the table waiting to be hugged by fresh corn torillas. For dessert, there are churros, which stack like Jenga pieces on top of salted goat's milk caramel and whipped cream.
Before you sink your teeth into the food, wait for the description. Someone will sit down with you to share what exactly is going onto your plate and soon sealed into your memory.
The drink menu is committed to slanting towards "healthy boozing." Local kombucha is used for some cocktails. Fresh citrus juice is squeezed daily. Agave is replaced by local maple syrup to give margaritas a Canadian twist. They are tart and magnificent.
The team behind Fonda Lola — Photo courtesy of Andres Marques
Howard and Andres have a passion towards their vision that is contagious. They plan to revolutionize Mexican food.
"Now that the palate of Mexican flavors is known, we can begin to expand people's perceptions and interpretations of what Mexican gastronomy is," raves Andres.
This food, we dare to say it, may be better than it is in Mexico. Open from 6 p.m. every night but Monday, Fonda Lola offers the chance for us to start learning through our taste buds.