Chef's Hall report [Toronto]

We had booked a patio reservation through Open Table. However upon arrival we were informed that the patio was closed due to the rain, which they had neglected to notify us about. However there happened to be a high top table right by the open door, so we figured it was close enough to outdoors to risk it.

Only a few places are currently open in Chef’s Assembly Hall: The Red Eye Diner, Grateful Chicken, Ramen Isshin, Colibri, and Lost Coffee. There’s also a bar serving drinks. There is both table service and also take-out. We decided to focus on Colibri as we still mourn Elia Herrera’s Los Colibris.

We started with two cocktails:

  • Must be Nice (on the right): Bacardi gold rum, Campari, lime, pineapple syrup - refreshing, with a nice balance of sweet and hint of bitter.
  • Bright Eyes (on the left): Butterfly pea flower infused vodka (purple), Benedictine, lemon (added at the end to make it pink), Earl Grey syrup - pleasing to the eye and palate.

We then had 5 out of the 6 available tacos. The tortillas are house-made and are supple, with a lovely toasted corn flavour. The tacos range from good to excellent and are not cheap at $8-9 apiece, though they are larger than ones you might get elsewhere. Five are for someone with a very healthy appetite.

  • Pork carnitas (on the left): pork shoulder and belly, refried beans, onion, cilantro. This was the best of the bunch. The pork was slow-cooked and pulled, then crisped up nicely in a pan or on a flat grill. The onion was nice and sweet. And it came with an unexplained dark, sweet, and complex sauce.
  • Chicken verde (on the right) came with tomatillo sauce, cotija cheese, onion, and cilantro. This was pretty good, if unremarkable.

  • Baja fish taco featured fried cod, pickled cabbage, and crema. The frying was light and not oily. This was a little bland without the addition of the hot sauce, which had kick but also some sweetness and complexity.
  • Beef alambre had small cubes of top sirloin, roasted bell and poblano peppers, onions, cheese, and cilantro. Pretty good, although again benefited from the flavour of the hot sauce.

  • Mushroom al pastor with refried beans, pineapple pico, onions. This was the next best taco, with lots of rich flavour in the mushroom mix plus some sweetness from the pineapple.
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Love this idea and will bear it in mind when I’m in Toronto. Definitely expensive. Did you find them to be any better than other places? Would you get them again?

I would get them again if we needed a place to eat in the area - we went there because we were going to an opera at the Four Seasons Centre. I would get the pork and mushroom ones specifically again for sure. They are not necessarily better than some places in other parts of town, e.g., Seven Lives, Grand Electric, etc.

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I agree with DrJohn. I think many places offer better value than Chef’s Hall, which has expensive rent. It’s a good place near the Opera, and for office workers.

Better places for tacos in the cheaper rent neighbourhoods.

For cheap, cash-only tacos, I like Itacate at 998 St Clair West. Which only has a few tables. https://instagram.com/itacate_to

I haven’t tried King’s yet.

https://instagram.com/kingstacoscanada

Seven Lives , El Trompo and other places in Kensington are quite good, and provide value, but I think the places on St Clair W are currently better for cheap and traditional tacos.

The carnitas at King’s is amazing.

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Noted :slightly_smiling_face: