CLOSED: Rosalinda (Toronto)

It’s getting easier to have a plant-based meal in Toronto. Newly opened in the spring, Rosalinda serves vegan Mexican cuisine and is probably the fanciest meatless eatery you’ll find in the Financial District. Their airy dining room feels carefree and is polished and pretty enough for business lunches and socialites alike. The love child of Grant van Gameren, Jamie Cook, and Max Rimaldi, these owners know a thing or two about creating trendy hip restaurants.

Their multigrain chicharron ($9) provides a tasty nibble while waiting for the other dishes. You’ll want to gently spread the thick tangy guacamole onto the crispy multigrain crackers as they're not nearly as strong as pork rinds. But, they do have that puffy crunchy texture, the various seeds giving it a nice nutty flavour. 

It’s not often you’ll find fritters light and moist. Rosalinda’s veggie fritters ($7) contained plenty of shredded vegetables bound together with a bit of chickpea flour, enough to hold it together without forming a lump of dough. Accompanied by a tamarind-ancho dip, to give it that Mexican flavour, I could have easily eaten them plain if there was a bit more salt in the batter.

If I didn’t know Rosalinda’s menu was vegan, the young coconut in the ceviche ($14) could almost fool me for squid. There’s the blast of acidity you’d expect from ceviche, but the dish lacked the herbs and onion to balance out the lime juice. Moreover, if the coconut was cut into cubes, it’d combine better with the diced apple and celery for contrast. With the coconut slices, the dish felt fragmented as it’s difficult to get all the elements in one bite. 

Our waitress described the chilaquiles rojos ($15) as “nachos”. While not entirely untrue (since the dish is made with a base of tortilla chips), my friend described it better as “soggy Frito Lays”. You really need to get to the bottom of the dish for the ones soaked in sauce for flavour; the ones on top merely taste like moistened chips. With nearly half a dozen ingredients listed on the menu for the dish, it was still bland and uneventful, even just a drizzle of crema on top would have been nice.

Not surprisingly, there are a variety of tacos and tostadas on the menu. I’d skip the roasted cauliflower tostada ($7) - the fried shell was brittle (not crispy) and breaks into shards with a slightly bitter finish. Although the cauliflower florets were nicely roasted, the sikil pak (a pumpkin seed spread) and herb salsa verde were all colour and no flavour. The chorizo verde taco ($14) was better, at least the corn shell was warm and soft with great flavours seeping through from the poblano tomatillo salsa and cucumber pico de gallo. Just don’t order it expecting the salty spicy taste of chorizo as the filling tastes more like spinach paneer than sausage.

In fact, the taco led us into a conversation as to why vegetarian restaurants insist on naming dishes after meat to begin with. If it’s their way of appealing to meat eaters, anyone who orders these tacos expecting chorizo would be sorely disappointed. However, if they called them paneer verde tacos, it’s closer to the reality and would be just as appealing. I, for one, wish vegetarian restaurants will just showcase vegetables, legumes, and pulses proudly; not trying to disguise them as imitation meat.

The dish I was most excited for was the roasted Japanese eggplant ($16), which when done well can be so good. Rosalinda’s version was almost there, with plenty of flavours and textures from the salsa macha, sikil pak, cashew crema, cilantro, and pomegranate - I especially enjoyed the spicy kick from the salsa macha – it just lacked salt, something the spongy eggplant needs a lot of.

Thankfully, the Casare aioli on the Tijuana-style broccolini ($14) saved the day – adding it to the eggplant made the dish sing. Consider ordering both dishes together as a bit of the crunchy roasted broccolini paired with the softer eggplant is a nice combination.   

Although the spiced churros ($8) with cinnamon sugar and chocolate banana caramel looked and smelled great, they were so dense it was felt like we were eating fried bread sticks. Where is the airiness of churros? Since the recipe doesn’t call for eggs, it’s not as if making the dessert vegan is to blame.

Go for the rhum roasted pineapple ($8) instead. While the pineapple is a little sweet and there’s no rum flavour, the coconut whipped creamy is heavenly and the toasted coconut chips adds a nice crunch.

Even with my love for Mexican food, I don’t love Rosalinda … it simply doesn’t do the cuisine justice. Mexican fare has so many vibrant sauces and ingredients. While Rosalinda’s menu lists many of these, what shows up on the plate looks pretty but tastes bland. All pomp, but little substance.

Overall mark - 6.5 out of 10

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 133 Richmond Street West

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Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!

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