Grand Electric – Taco Heaven

I took a friend of mine out for dinner a couple weeks ago for her birthday.  She suggested a new place over in Parkdale, Grand Electric.  Now I had been hearing good things about this place for the past couple months but when I did some research prior to our dinner, my expectations were heightened to say the least.  “Best Mexican in the City”, “Worth the two hour line up”, “Fun atmosphere”, “Best tacos ever”, and “Over 35 bourbons on the menu” are just some of the phrases that came up over and over again.  So, in our excitement, we got out of work a little early and lined up before the place opened at 6pm on a Monday night.  We showed up around quarter to six and were the first in line.  Within minutes, there was a lineup down the block.  A couple minutes after six, the doors opened to a small, candle lit but very casual room with a smiling staff.  Within minutes the room was packed, lively and the wait staff off to the races taking drink and food orders while one staff member was taking the names of the people who weren’t fortunate enough to get a seat in the initial rush.  The atmosphere was electric with excitement.  My friend and I, both having done our due diligence before going, put in our first of what would be three food orders before most of the people were settled in.  We figured the kitchen would be swamped with all the initial orders.  We were both pretty hungry and didn’t want to wait in queue.  The first dish out was the guacamole and chips.  There was also a chicharron (pork rind) in the middle of the dip.

The chips were crunchy, thick (unlike flimsy tortilla chips in the stores that break when you scoop) and tasted great.  In addition to the nice corn flavor, there was a nice hint of lime that was present but not overpowering.  The guacamole was pretty amazing too.  Super fresh, well balanced flavors and just the right consistency that allowed to easy and frequent dipping.  The picture is a little deceiving too but trust me when I say the portion size is pretty good for $7.  And then there was the pork rind… if it weren’t so unhealthy I would snack on these ALL the time.  Crisp, airy, with a nice balance of salty and savory flavors.  Next was our first order of tacos, the Pork Belly Al Pastor and the Baja fish tacos.

My friend and I were on a mission to try the vast majority of the menu so we decided we would order all the tacos and have half each.  Now, when I took my first bite of the Baja fish taco (above on the left), I was tempted to tell my friend  I didn’t want to share the fish taco and she would have to order her own.  Then I realized she had the pork belly al pastor in her hands and she might not share with me if I said something like that…and it was her birthday.  I savored my few bites of the fish taco, enjoying the lovely light batter, the ever smooth and flaky fish, and the cool vegetable garnish that balanced the whole thing out into a mouthful of utter bliss.  Then we switched and I tried the Al Pastor.  Holy cow!  Or should I say Holy Pork Belly!  Wonderful blend of spices mixed with the rich and ever so flavorful pork belly.  All this flavor and richness was cut with the sweetness of the pineapples that were mixed in.  It was really tough to say which one of the two were better but all I knew was that these were easily, hands down, the best tacos I have ever eaten in my life (and I’ve eaten at a LOT of Mexican places)!  To round out the first order was the tuna ceviche.

This wasn’t what I was expecting from a ceviche.  It was large cubes of tuna, finished in lime and citrus over a crisped tortilla, topped with japalenos and a creamy mayo(?).  The fish was fresh, citrusy and delicious.  The peppers gave each bite a nice kick and the crunchy tortilla it was served on added a nice crunchy texture to the otherwise soft ingredients.  Another win.  The begin round 2, was the pozole rojo soup.

This was packed with flavor.  The pork/tomato broth was so rich and complimented the huge portions of pork meat in the soup.  The pork meat practically fell apart when you would poke it with the spoon.  There were chunks of avocado in there as well which my friend found a little unsettling since she has never had warm avocado before….I thought it went well.  They also provided a small jar of hot sauce warning it was very spicy.  So if you want more kick than just the jalapenos, this is a nice addition.  I can take my spice and have to admit, this stuff is pretty hot.  Not light your mouth on fire hot, but a good spicy flavor that leaves a definite tingle after.  We also ordered the spicy arbol chicken and beef cheek tacos this round but ate them so quickly that we didn’t take a picture (so I took a couple off the net).  Below is the beef cheek taco.

The beef was soft and tender.  It went well with the smooth avocado and the jalapeno peppers.  The onions were a nice addition as they added a bit of a raw bite and freshness.  Below is the spicy arbol chicken taco.

The chicken was juicy, well seasoned and plentiful.  This wasn’t exactly spicy but the certain chili spices that did come through were nicely balanced by the almost creamy slaw-like blend on top.  We also had the spicy squid.

This was served up in a similar way the ceviche was, on top of a crisped tortilla.  This dish was good, but didn’t rank up there with what we had eaten so far.  The squid was a little on the rubbery side.  The spice blend, peppers and mayo were all really good, just the delivery device for the flavors was a little off-putting.  To start round 3, we started with the last taco on the menu, the fried queso and poblano pepper.

The fried cheese was delicious.  Really how can you go wrong with fried cheese.  The poblano peppers, and fried onions also possessed very strong flavors (peppery and sweet) that contrasted the creamy saltiness of the cheese.  Probably my least favorite of the five tacos on the menu that night but in the broader world of tacos, this is still miles better than the majority places I’ve been to.  Next was the pollo frito.

Now you can’t really see the chicken since it is covered by jalapeno peppers and cilantro.  It was nicely browed, crisp and glazed with an almost Asian-like sweet glaze.  I really liked this dish.  The mix of sweet flavors, heat and juicy chicken is always a win.  To finish everything off, we had a Key Lime Vasa…each.

Perfect end to a great meal.  The key lime center is creamy but light.  The graham cracker crust at the bottom brought me back to my childhood sneaking into the kitchen pantry and eating those graham cracker bear cookies….but this was so much better.  Mixing the cracker, the key lime center and the whipped cream was a bite of palette cleansing goodness that left me satisfied and blissed out.  And the presentation in the little jars was cool.

It has only been a couple weeks but I’m itching to get back to get more tacos and try the last two items on the menu that we were too full to try, the elsalada electrico and the chipotle shrimp.  Only this time, I don’t think I’m going to share the tacos.  I know we’re only a month into 2012, but this is the best meal I’ve had so far this year.  If I have a few more meals like this, 2012 is looking to be a great year.

~ by jlowjlow on February 5, 2012.

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