Hola! There are a million foodie stories in the Naked City, as there are restaurants, bistros and street food stalls. But there are very few truly great Latino restos. And I have tried most of them- from the oh so hip Ossington, to multi-cultural St. Clair, to the sticks of Scarborough and further west to the uber suburban outback called Mississauga.
But by far the best Latino restaurant in all of Toronto and the Greater Toronto area, is the little known Colombian café and grocery, “Ave Maria”, on Bloor Street west, near Euclid, nestled strangely in the heart of Koreatown,
literally sandwiched between a Korean sandwich shop and a suspicious all night Korean “spa”. “That’s Koreatown, Jake.”
The small space, seating about 20 customers, is brightly-coloured, lively and very warm. A tribute to the owner, Maria and her supremely talented husband, the chef, Alan.
The restaurant has been open for about year and has been widely successful in an environment, not known for non Asian food emporiums.
I of course went full Colombian (as opposed to full Brazilian) and tasted all their best dishes.
Such as their: (1) perfectly made empanada – a light, soft cornbread covering potatoes and beef with their home-made hot and spicy sauce on the side; (2) specialty, shrimp ceviche, containing large, juicy, fresh shrimps cooked with just the right amount of lime juice and red onions; (3) signature dish of their spicy hot tamale, full of beef, chicken and pork covered in a protective leaf; and finally (4) their tres leches white cake, consisting of regular milk, evaporated milk and condensed milk and many other hidden ingredients, served with a hot and strong Colombian coffee chaser.
Oh my, the combo of cake and coffee was amazing and heavenly.
For once, the price was very reasonable – under $30 per person. The service was very warm, patient and I learned a great deal about Colombian dishes, from Maria and Alan, seen in the photo below.
Note the brightly covered international storefront and vibrant and cozy soft interior. But the unique Colombian flavours were the thing. And Ave Maria delivered big time.