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Welcome to Latin America in downtown Toronto! Located on King St. West, Valdez delivers classics of Latin American culture in both food and drink, with a global twist. Relax by the comfortable bar and lounge to quench your thirst with signature cocktails and cervezas, or enjoy a meal prepared by Top Chef Canada’s fan favorite – Steve Gonzalez – who’s fresh ingredients and creative style, come together to offer a one of a kind Latino street food experience. From its unique design, to the friendly and knowledgeable staff and one of a kind menu, Valdez delivers the experience of a lifetime. There is something here for everyone. El Jefe and proprietor Steve Gonzalez travels back to his own Colombian roots to introduce Toronto to the passions of his Latino...
Welcome to Latin America in downtown Toronto! Located on King St. West, Valdez delivers classics of Latin American culture in both food and drink, with a global twist. Relax by the comfortable bar and lounge to quench your thirst with signature cocktails and cervezas, or enjoy a meal prepared by Top Chef Canada’s fan favorite – Steve Gonzalez – who’s fresh ingredients and creative style, come together to offer a one of a kind Latino street food experience. From its unique design, to the friendly and knowledgeable staff and one of a kind menu, Valdez delivers the experience of a lifetime. There is something here for everyone. El Jefe and proprietor Steve Gonzalez travels back to his own Colombian roots to introduce Toronto to the passions of his Latino upbringing and all that encompasses it. The design, the vibe, the food and the drinks make Valdez the only original Latino Street Food Fiesta in town.
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Review: Latin street party

By Alan A. Vernon, reviewed on July 04, 2013
 

The address 606 King Street West has had a long run with successful restaurants. It's kind of tough to lose when you sit smack dab in the middle of the entertainment district. Add one more ingredient like season one Top Chef Canada contestant Steve Gonzalez and, well, you've got Valdez, another booming boîte.

Away from the lights, camera and action, the former chef de cuisine at Origin is calm, his open kitchen buzzing about with orders for his Latin street food like a stellar ahi tuna ceviche ($4 sample/$17 meal) with watermelon, radish, pea with ponzu, pickled ginger and sprinkled with sesame seeds. Purists may posit that there's too much going for this citrus-cured fish, but I beg to differ. It's refreshing to see such effort going into such a simple South American classic. As a matter of fact any Top Chef winner would have difficulty beating Gonzalez at his own game, especially his chips and guacamole ($8). And we're not talking just potatoes here. Try a colourful time-consuming combo of plantain, yucca, taro and purple potato with a perfect sliver thinness and seasoning. Oh yeah, there's also that matter of one of the best avocado dips in town. But don't take my word for it, the classic sauce, that dates back to the 16th century Aztecs, made with onion, chilli and cilantro, won a Guacamole Smack Down at the Drake back in May.

When it comes to first impressions, obviously presentation plays an important part. But even the simplest most mundane idea can be a true winner. Like with an order of fried empanadas ($9). Three minis the size of pizza pockets arrive hot and crispy in a small brown paper bag, which not only looks cute and casual, but the paper absorbs any excess grease from a pristine golden cornmeal coating. Little room for improvement here except for the fact that perhaps a bit more pork could be added to the potato and pea filling, which barely amounts to a mere teaspoonful.

Sauces are also a major draw, and not just the spicy one that accompanies the empanadas. A side of a cilantro mojo, similar to a salsa verde, does wonders for an order of yucca frites ($6) that could be a bit crispier. And an order of beef skewers ($7), or shall I say skewer, could be a bit less tough. But again a divine chimichurri is a cure all for any meat mishaps. It's also damn good with arepas, much like an English cornmeal muffin.

So far so darn good. But there are a few dishes that could use a bit more hands on attention when it comes to execution. The skin of a giggy’s trout ($17) could be a bit less flaccid, but a cold quinoa salad beneath certainly makes this the definitive light summer dish. But by far the best item here has to be the chaufa ($17). Classic fried rice tumbled with egg, edamame, chilies and perfectly crispy pieces of duck confit has a similar flavour explosion you get from a perfect vermicelli Singapore style.

Even desserts are given a kind of deconstructed twist from the ordinary. A spoonful of dulce de leche ($4) is literally just that, an unassuming spoonful of gooey milk candy sitting at the bottom of a wine goblet filled with cow’s milk. While a tres leche pudding ($7) with whole milk, coconut, mango and nicely caramelized banana is more or less just a nice rice pudding.

Valdez has lots going for it. Its festive, expansive interior should go along way to attracting area lounge lizards looking for a nice cocktail and something to fill their tummies in between bar and club hopping. And Gonzalez seems to be confident and in control, but a more watchful eye on what exits his kitchen will ensure Valdez is taken as seriously as a dining destination as it is a fun watering hole.

Reviews are meant to describe a dining out experience at a given period in time and are the personal opinion of the writer.
All meals are paid for, including all taxes and gratuities. All reservations are made under assumed names. Menu items, prices and individuals mentioned in this review may not be up to date. Dine.TO encourages its users to share their feedback.

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