Playa Cabana’s best kept secret is not its decor, a menu item or even a specialtytequila…their secret has a name, and that name is Mireya.
Mireya is the master-mind behind most concoctions at Playa Cabana. Her experience in Mexican cuisine roots from her own roots bringing to Toronto’s Mexican food lovers some of the most authentic recipes.
I came to know of Playa Cabana through word of mouth. Having opened over a year ago, I was perplexed to have just heard about this place. Maybe my journalism know-how needs some polishing, or maybe its popularity just recently increased with the overwhelming opening of taco joints this year in Toronto, such as La Carnita.
Either way, I was, and still am, extremely happy to have visited Playa Cabana and especially, to have tasted Mireya’s precious treats.
Speaking of treats, why not start by describing the insanely-good Pulpo Tacos.
Pulpo means “octopus” in Spanish. The Octo-Taco, as Playa Cabana calls is it, is served with the full octopus tentacle, perfectly seasoned and cooked, with a rather smooth texture, served on a bed of charred jalapeno salsa. But that is not all that comes with it, there is also visible pieces of corn, a small drop of guacamole and what looked like a grilled cherry tomato garnished with cilantro. Though the Chef was not able to share the ingredients with me, I could very easily understand why – these tacos are unique and so are the recipes.
The freshly-made corn tortillas are something worth a mention as they are made on the premises with corn and water. The “tortillera”, meaning the woman that makes the tortillas (not Mireya), has her own station at the back of the restaurant, where she smiles as guests pass by while she makes what looks like thousands of tortillas in one night.
Asides from the tortillas, all salsas are also made fresh, with ingredients that never come from a can or bottle, and are locally sourced.Like the Tacos de Chori-Queso, a homemade Mexican chorizo wrapped with Oaxaca cheese, griddle in corn tortillas. The sauce is subtle and is mostly mixed with the juice goodness flowing from the chorizo. This taco drips with flavour and punch and has a nice crunchy texture.
The famous Tacos al Pastor, which are Mexico’s staple taco, were my favourite and apparently also a crowd favorite at Playa Cabana.
Pastor tacos are adobo-marinated pork roasted on a Trompo (spit) with pineapple. Adobo is mostly known as a way of seasoning meat to preserve it. Usually made out of paprika, oregano, salt, pepper and vinegar, adobo ensures the meat flavour is locked in while the meat rotates on the spit. Playa Cabana’s version of adobo is slightly different, adding a bit of chili pepper flavour, and of course pineapple, with a Mexican je ne sais quoi. The tacos are served on soft tortillas topped with diced red onion and cilantro and packed with the marinated pork which is succulent and tender…the star of the dish.
On the sweet side of things, Playa Cabana’s churros where delectably served with a home-made dulce de leche, topped with whipped cream and cinnamon powder.
The ducle de leche, also known as caramel made with goats milk, tasted instinctively fresh. It was as though I was savouring a slightly sweet goats milk, so good. The churro was crunchy, but a bit too chewy, almost undercooked on the inside. I am not certain if that was the intention, but it definitely felt like it.
Mireya’s keen affinity for flavour, texture and tradition has made Playa Cabana one of my favourite Mexican restaurants in the city. Wherever she goes, I will go.
Until next time Foodies!