If tacos make you think of fast food, you’re in for a surprise at month-old Restaurant Maïs in Mile End. Sure, the food is served quickly enough, but the ingredients for the soft-shelled Mexican staple are chosen with a deep consideration of ethical eating and the fine-dining-turned-casual-cuisine chefs are no strangers to time-consuming techniques including braising and fermenting.
The focus on ethical eating guides the menu options. With just four appetizers and six tacos listed, along with some extra salsas and a few desserts, we were able to eat our way through the menu. Ingredients range from the raw (a refreshing scallop ceviche served atop a crispy tortilla shell smothered in bright green guacamole with a hit of grapefruit and radishes) to the cooked (a squash and pumpkin seed taco with fresh cheese that made my newly vegetarian heart sing!) to the cooked-for-a-very-long-time (a carnitas taco that turned my carnivorous boyfriend slightly speechless). With a focus on what’s fresh, the menu changes often, so we enjoyed a fish taco made with arctic char that might not be there when you go. Schmidt recommends about 3 tacos per person and suggests a drop or two of their home made hot sauce made from four types of peppers, lightly fermented for a pleasingly hot punch.
Of course, it wouldn’t be Mexico without some tequila, so I washed my tacos down with one of their signature cocktails - the slightly tart Paloma made with tequila, hibiscus syrup, lime and grapefruit juice. Given the cold we skipped the Paletas (delicious Mexican popsicles) in favour of the delicious almond tart served with a pear filled with dulce de leche.
We’ll be back for Paletas when it’s truly patio season.
Restaurant Maïs 5439 Blvd St-Laurent, 514-507-7740, www.restaurantmais.com