Thursday, August 31, 2017

Livin' La Vida Los Lobos in London with the Wolfe Brothers


Jennifer Wolfe with a Cucumber & Cilantro Margarita

Air Canada recently announced  Canada's top 30 best new restaurants on its longlist for 2017. Brothers Justin and Gregg Wolfe of Wolfe of Wortley in London's Wortley Village made the list. Los Lobos is the latest creation from the brothers who are also proprietors of The Early Bird and the former Rock au Taco. Los Lobos is literally "the wolves' in Spanish.

Trying to give London something it didn't already have, the Wolfe brothers brought authentic Mexican street food to downtown London, with Rock au Taco a few years ago. In anticipation of the opening of  the Los Lobos project, The Early Bird expanded into the adjoining space previously occupied by Rock au Taco earlier in the year. 

Los Lobos is now officially open on Talbot Street at Albert in the space previously occupied by the Talbot St. Whisky House. At one time it also housed Marg or Rita's another Mexican hotspot in its day. Servers are knowledgeable, articulate and welcoming, as you'd expect from a restaurant that is modern and chef-driven.We were greeted warmly by Olivia Wolfe, who is married to Gregg, and is charming and conversational while expertly managing expectations to facilitate the brief backlog in the kitchen. Open under a week Los Lobos is already a busy and happening spot.

Think, modern Mexican flavours, with innovative riffs ideas and lots of  cool Mexican imagery and local references. The restaurant and bar are painted floor to ceiling in stunning, colourful murals, and one-of-a-kind art installations by Toronto artist, Stu Andrenelli of the cutting edge Toronto-based clothing company Playdead Cult. There are plenty of colourful motifs and indigenous Mexican folk art featuring skeletons, skulls and Christian crosses. It is the kind of iconography that people are used to seeing associated with the celebration of Mexico's Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead).

The focus is on Platos pequeno (small plates) which predominate on a menu of gourmet Mexican-inspired fare with a modern twist. The menu shares the love for tacos  but also covers a take on classics. 

We loved the chilaquiles (corn tortillas cut in quarters and lightly fried) with mole, questo blando and cilantro. The crispy cornmeal battered jalapeño relleno stuffed with Monterey Jack and served with red salsa or mole are sensational. The ceviche is made with bay scallops which are small, tender and slightly sweet. The marinade is fresh  and prepared with red onion, radish, lime, cilantro and habanero giving it both citrus and heat. 

Los Lobos tacos offerings are rooted in tradition and are topped with various combinations of salsa, aioli, pickled vegetables and hot sauces. We sampled five of the ten tacos on offer. We savoured the beef cheek taco with pickled red onion, queso fresco and horseradish. The savoury pork belly taco is finished with lime sour cream, radish and jalapeño. Green salsa, pickled cabbage, corn and cilantro are the perfect accompaniment for the scallop taco. The yuka taco (yuka is the plant from which tapioca flour are derived - not to be confused with the yucca plant) has a great texture and perfectly matched with pico de gallo, cumin crema and green onion. They were all excellent. Forced to pick a stand out, it would be the crunchy battered cod taco with chipotle aioli, cabbage, pickled red onion and cilantro. There is also beef  tongue with radish, red salsa and iceberg lettuce and iterations on cauliflower and black beans. All the tacos are priced at $5 each. Tacos can be made into a burrito with rice and or beans, served dry with crema, green or red sauce.

The La Carne section, includes beef cheeks that are chilli braised with fried yuka and pickled cabbage; and chicken a la plancha (grilled chicken) with Lobos mole and pico de gallo.

Los Lobos has a dedicated, in-house Mexican pastry chef. Exquisitely prepared churros are served authentically with a generous portion of  thick and creamy chocolate ganache and chilli heat making it spectacular. The plating and presentation of the food is top notch.  Everything we sampled live up to the promise of the Wolfe brother's tremendous talents.

The Wolfe`s also take the cocktail side of things very seriously. The bar serves up ice cold cervezas, smooth tequila, mezcal and bourbon focused cocktails and blended margaritas. The combination of cucumber, cilantro and tequila makes for a truly knock out margaritas. Other kindred flavours include: strawberry and cumin; watermelon and apple; pineapple and jalapeno and grapefruit ginger vanilla. You can expect Los Lobos to take blended drink classics and island-style beverages to a new level by offering plenty of options. We sampled the strong and deeply flavoured Blood In Blood Out ($14/3oz) made with tequila, port, lime, ginger and bitters. We also tried the signature Los Lobos cocktail prepared with tequila, Amaro Nonino, Cynar, maraschino and lemon.

Los Lobos has a fun, funky and eclectic vibe that appeals. There is a no reservation policy. There's plenty of room inside or outside on the spacious patio, just go on in and enjoy. The restaurant is a breath of fresh air.

Modern Mexican
580 Talbot Street
London, ON
519 439-6483
Open Tues- Sat 11 am - 11pm & Sun 5 pm - 11 pm.

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