Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?…Probably at King and Shaw

One of the advantages of having younger siblings is the ability to watch some of the television shows that you might not normally watch without getting beat up by your friends. Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego? is an example of one of these shows.  Carmen was a master villain  who directed her minions to steal world landmarks.  She dressed in a trench coat and a wide brimmed hat to disguise herself.  In the end, the villain would get caught by the astute contestants but Carmen would escape much to the dismay of the chief who was played by the late Lynne Thigpen.  Even though I was an older teenager, I did learn a lot from that show.  For example, it taught me that the Washington monument looked like a dildo and that Louvres is the one with the pyramid  in the courtyard.  In fact, I may have gotten an ‘A’ in geography because of that shifty laddie.

I have been keen to try Carmen since it replaced the space along Queen street that Caju used to occupy.  Following  the blueprint of Cava and Patria, it focuses on Spanish inspired tapas except in this case adds a few twists and turns here and there. We arrived at around seven to a quarter-full restaurant so getting a seat didn’t seem a problem.  By 730, however, the place was full so I considered us afortunado that we got a seat.

Carmen has an impressive cocktail menu with a focus mainly on bourbon and tequila.  I started with the Almodovar  ($14) which was Bourbon, triple sec, lime, mint and  olive oil.  It was nice summer cocktail with fresh flavours which matched the acid and fattiness in some of the early dishes. Loved the olive oil.

Matador $14
Almodovar $14

 

There were a small group of us, so we ordered a docena of dishes to try the array of flavours that Carmen offered.

1. Pulpo Vinagretta ($8)

A cross between ceviche and an antipasto .The acid is sherry vinegar instead of lime and plenty of olive oil is used. Served with fresh bread, it was a delicious start to the meal.

Pulpo (Octopus)
Pulpo (Octopus) Vinagretta $8

2. Jicama con Aguacate  ($8)

More Mexican than Spanish, these little morsels were a tasty bite of fresh flavours. I have a jicama fetish so I thought they were just delicious.

Jicama
Jicama con Aguacate $7

3. Marinated Olives ($4)

I’m not an olive fan but based on the feedback from the table and the visibly appealing  presentation of different sizes and colours of this popular fruit, I’d say it was a good spent for four bucks.

Olives
Marinated Olives $4

4. Ribeye Pintxos ($14)

A delicious take on these Spanish snacks.  The amount of beef was a little stingy but attractive and well prepared.

Ribeye Pintoxes
Ribeye Pintxos $14

5. Carne Tartara ($12)

Hardly a traditional Spanish dish, beef tartare is a Toronto restaurant staple.  This one compares well to the others in the area.  Pickled ramps and cucumber accessorize the beef along an in-shell quail egg sitting atop it.

Tartar
Carne Tartara $12

6. Patatas Bravas ($7)

These were a true representation of one of Spain’s most recognized dishes.  Slightly sweet and spicy sauce was slathered atop a generous plate of crispy potatoes and finished with streams of aioli.  Very enjoyable.

Patatas Bravas
Patatas Bravas $7

7.  Crispy bread, fresh tomato spread and manchego cheese ($6)

Nicely presented, fresh, simple and authentic, this dish was a pleasant facsimile of the homeland favorite.

Crispy Bread with Tomato and Manchego Cheese
Crispy Bread, Fresh Tomato and Manchego Cheese $6

8. Pork Tenderloin

A piquant sauce beneath slices of nicely cooked pork tenderloin and topped with manchego cheese, this dish was simple but delicious.

Pork Tenderloin
Pork Tenderloin $10

9. Blood Sausage

Probably the funkiest dish on the menu, I enjoyed the nicely seasoned sausage covered in melted cheese.  Surprisingly, blood sausage is quite a universal dish but I think very few of those cultures top it with cheese like you would escargot or nachos.

Blood Sausage
Blood Sausage $13

10. Quail

The versatile (and foodie friendly) bird was served with flavours including olive and almond. It was a well executed dish.

Quail
Quail $12

11.  Galletas ($2.50 each) and Helado ($6)

I suppose you could call this the Spanish version of cookies and ice cream.  Normally served  separately, we decided on these as small and sweet ways to end the meal.   No complaints.  The cookies were moist and flavourful and not over sweet despite the use of dulce de leche and the rhubarb ice cream was a tart but enjoyable finish to the evening.

Galletas $2.50 each
Galletas $2.50 each
Carmen Ice Cream
Helado $6

My Take

Carmen opened in the midst of the Spanish invasion and before the explosion of the small plate phenomenon in Toronto. It sticks to both the blueprint of traditional tapas with dishes like Patatas Bravas and Ribeye Pintxos but also offers  “vanguardia” dishes with fusion concepts including Mexico and the Middle East.   All in all, the food was above average.  The vibe was a little quieter than some of the other eateries in the area which made for an enjoyable night of discussion instead of trying to speak over the bellowing voices of the in-house music. I didn’t see Vic the Slick , Patty Larceny or any of the other minions associated with the show attempting to steal silverware or the large painting of a woman (who I presume might be Carmen) off the wall. However, I thought I might have seen Carmen Sandiego herself lurking around the shadows of restaurant…but then again, maybe it was just Joanne Kates.

 

Carmen on Urbanspoon

 

 

 

 

 

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DDD:Cleveland:Momocho Mod Mex

Another old yelp post with a few updates…..

It was a swell night and I was sitting in a hotel at the Cleveland airport. I called down to Momocho Mod Mex and they assured me I would get in without too much of an issue. I arrived to be told it was a 30 minute wait but was seated after about 15. I opted for the patio which provided lots of room in nice backyard type surroundings.

I started with a michelada ( beer and hot sauce wit some lime and salt on the rim). Well done and good price point ($4.50) and  I liked the ability to choose from any of the numerous Mexican and non-Mexican beers on the menu. I opted for an old school Tecate. There are also plenty of margarita choices on the menu as well.

After mulling over the array of guacamole (there’s everything from goat cheese to crab), I opted for the jicama/pineapple ($8.50). It was a big portion, was fresh and tasty but not as unique as I hoped. Maybe it was my choice!

The tamale dumplings ($8.50)  were ordered as a side and were very authentic although served with the same side as the taquitos.

momo tamale

From the mains, I ordered the Machaca (brisket)  ($15.50) and atun (tuna) ($17.50) taquito plates at the recommendation of the waiter.  The tuna was a perfect medium rare and the brisket was tender and flavourful.  The highlights were definitely the  brisket   and the blood orange marmalade that came with the tuna. The chile rajita served on the side was good but not spectacular.

Atun Taquitos (Tuna $17.50)
Atun Taquitos
(Tuna $17.50)
Brisket
Brisket

Dessert was the Capirotada ($6). Despite the unique menu description (gingersnap and jalapeno) and promise by the waiter, I would say it was an average bread pudding.

Dessert
Dessert

Decor inside was unique and very tasteful. Cozy in and out even though some of the art is a bit creepy!  Service was slow at times but the staff was pleasant.

My Take

All in all, a nice experience in a relaxed environment with refined, modern Mexican food, although the flavours became a bit monotonous as the meal progressed. The guacamole was a tiny let down, either because it was so highly touted or because I went conservative and shied away from the trout, crab, goat or blue cheese.  This place is an atypical DDD  in both cost (I found it a little pricy) and decor.  Plus, I swear Guy Fieri was one of those strange masked men in the pictures hanging on the wall. It didn’t blow my mind but I also didn’t leave disappointed although I do believe,based on the pictures inside, I had a few nightmares of masked Mexican wrestlers administering full nelsons on me while screaming “Mi comida es la mejor del mundo” in my ear.

Verdict: 4 Guyz

Momocho Mod Mex on Urbanspoon