Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Mexican Standoff

I'm just going to go ahead and throw down...

With all due respect to this city's full-fledged Mexican restaurants, Montreal's best tacos are currently being served...

a) in some hole-in-the-wall in the Little Italy-Rosemont-Petite Patrie axis?

b) in the back of a Latino grocery store in the Plateau?

c) in some flashy Nuevo Latino restaurant in the Downtown core?

d) at Carlo's & Pepe's?

No. Nope. Nada. None of the above.

They're being served out of a place that should be familiar to many of you longtime readers, and a place where you might least expect them: McKiernan. That's right, McKiernan.

Okay, it's possible that there is a Mexican place hidden somewhere in deepest, darkest Montreal that's serving tacos that can compete with the finest purveyors from across the North American continent (with the multicultural explosion of creativity that Food & Wine has labeled "Taco World")--hell, I suppose it's possible that there's also a ghost taco truck making its way across the cityscape under darkness of night and operating in full contravention of the city's perverse anti-street food bylaws--but, if so, we've yet to uncover these Mexican treasures. All I can tell you is that by far and away the best tacos that we've had here in Montreal in a very long time (outside of our AEB test kitchen, that is) were served to us by our friend Marc-André at McKiernan. We were hoping for shrimp, or maybe even snow crab--it being the season for both--but what we got was a selection of the traditional and the patently non-traditional that just blew us away. Perfectly braised beef tongue (tacos de lengua) & exquisite duck confit (tacos de canard confit). Served on homemade corn tortillas (!). Topped with roasted tomato salsa, julienned radishes, and cilantro. Accompanied with limes, refried black beans, and a limited, but tasty selection of Valentina hot sauces ("hot" & "extra hot").

They've always got a trick or two up their sleeves, but we didn't exactly go to McKiernan looking for tacos. Luckily, they found us.

Casa McKiernan, 2485 Nuestra Señora O., 759-6677


Debbie said...

It never ceases to amaze me where exactly you can find the best food. Sometimes it is right under your nose.

Amy said...

But isn't the part of the appeal of the other places that you can stuff yourself for under $10? I'm guessing McKiernan's tacos will set you back a little more, huh?

aj kinik said...

Hi, Debbie,
yes, as a wise man once said: “If you look hard enough, all meanings can be found or produced close to home.”

Hi, Amy,
Yes and no. In other cities/places, where you can get truly amazing tacos for very little $$, I would lean heavily towards the mom & pop establishments and the taco stands. I'd be a fool not to. But in Montreal, we've got two strikes going against our taco culture: we don't have the critical mass and we don't have street food. So you grab your top-notch tacos where you can find them, and if you have to pay a little extra every now and then, well... Quality trumps quantity. If you can find quality and quantity, all the better.