Serving Nuevo Latino fare, Valdez brings a fun and colourful street vibe to King Street West. Under the creative vision of Chef Steve Gonzalez (formerly of Origin and ‘Top Chef Canada’), Valdez delights the taste buds with traditional Latin-American street fare.
Inspired by his Colombian heritage, Chef Gonzalez’s menu revolves around festivity embodying the idea of food bringing people together. The menu is comprised of four parts: Ceviche served in small portions as a flight or larger sharing portions; traditional snack foods (“Stuff”); shareable or individually portioned entrees (“More”); and traditionally prepared house made desserts (“Dulce Y Algo”).
I had the pleasure of attending the media opening that showcased some of the dishes and cocktails. The fare was enjoyable. Light, zesty and fresh tasting, I was happy to discover that many of the dishes include cilantro – so much so that the Chef even has a warning on the menu stating they “cannot guarantee your food hasn’t come into contact with cilantro”. Heck, it even makes an appearance in their version of the classic Mojito.
Keeping up with the street party theme, the design concept lends to a street-like feeling. Long and narrow, the restaurant is made up of different spaces. As you walk through you will pass by a bar area, a row of “hot seats” in front of the open kitchen that put you right in front of the action and a group dining area in the rear.
Here is a look at what El Jefe, the Spanish term for “the Chief” or “the Boss”, and his team cooked up for us:
Cocktails - Mojito Valdez (Bacardi 8, cilantro, minto, Jarritos lime soda) $9 – Light and refreshing, Valdez puts its own spin on the classic drink with the help of cilantro and imported Mexican Jarritos soda.
Ceviche - I was excited to see ceviche on the menu! A popular dish in South and Central America, Valdez offers five different types. We sampled the Cocktel de camaron (tomato, citrus, cilantro, chili’s, andean corn nuts) $3/13, Atun japones (ahi tuna, watermelon, radish, ponzu, pickled ginger, pear) $4/17 and the Ceviche Mixto (octopus, calamari, mussels, squid ink, maize, citrus, sweet potato) $5/16. My personal favourite is the Mixto with its tasty marinade, followed by the delicately flavoured and refreshing Atun japones.
Stuff - Chips & guac (plantain, yucca, taro, potato, avocado, onion, chili, cilantro) $8 – A great dish, this guacamole is very creamy with a distinct zesty tang of citrus. It comes with a nice variety of thin, crispy chips perfect for dipping.
Croquetas (rice, chicken, peppers, saffron, chipotle aioli) $6 – ‘Timbit’ sized and mild in flavour.
Fried empanadas (cornmeal, pork, potato, aji) $9 – These were too salty for my liking.
More - Giggy’s Trout (togarashi, quinoa, yuzu, mango, avocado, fried shallots) $17 – Paired with a delicious quinoa and a mango drizzle, the trout was excellent, perfectly fresh and flaky.
Adobo pork ($27 per person) – This dish is the perfect representation of the simple celebratory nature of food in Latino culture. Feeding up to eight people, it takes 48 hours to prepare and must be ordered in advance. Served family style, it consists of tender pieces of pork and crispy pork skin, beans, rice and a side of chips & guac. Chef Gonzalez spooned and served this dish, making us feel like we were a part of his Valdez family. It was obvious that a lot of love and family tradition was fused into this dish.
Valdez is located at 606 King St. West. It is open for dinner from 5:00 – 10:30pm Monday to Wednesday and from 5:00pm – midnight Thursdays through Saturdays. Their bar/lounge and rooftop patio is open from 5:00pm to 2:00am Monday to Saturday.
Natalia Dziubaniwsky is a professional in the not-for-profit sector and an avid traveller forever searching for a new adventure. A lover of life, wildlife enthusiast, movie buff and hobbyaholic, you can interact with her on Twitter @taliasfootsteps or simply follow her footsteps through her blog.