First Look: Valentina, the new Latin American restaurant that’s taken over The Bellevue
Cod and octopus ceviche (Images: Caroline Aksich)
The new kid on the block takes over The Bellevue (which was supposed to reopen this spring after extensive renovations, but is now closed), dishing up familiar Mexican dishes such as chicken enchiladas ($10.50) and ceviche ($9.75), as well as some less common plates like pozole ($7.50), a traditional pre-Columbian soup made from pork and maize mote.
Owner Amaranta “Amy” Enriquez hails from Mexico City, where she taught the history of Mexican cuisine. Enriquez hopes to expose Canadians to lesser-known Aztec dishes while still appealing to their palates. The menu features a rabbit and chocolate taco ($8.50), an Aztec recipe passed down to Enriquez from her great-great grandmother.
Enriquez came to Hogtown for an innocuous vacation, but ended up failing in love with Canada and opting to stay. Since moving here she has worked as a cook at Squirly’s and Hey Lucy, but at Valentina, Enriquez is purely front-of-house. She met her chef, Edwardo Victoria (Milagro), at a house party, where the two chatted about food until the wee hours.
At a first gander, one might mistake this new resto-bar for The Bellevue. The space is still rife with warm wood, and it retains the large bay windows that open onto the coveted 30-seat patio. Enriquez has given the space a lick of new, neutral paint, and is now using the main dining room as a show room. Currently, Ulises Regalado’s bright macro photos enliven the space along with a motley collection of plants.
Enriquez originally toyed with the idea of opening a tequila bar, but decided against it. The innovative cocktail list features quirky twists on classic drinks such as the tamarind margarita ($7.75), made with 1800 Tequila, fresh lime juice and tamarind, served in a tumbler rimmed with toasted spicy sesame seeds. For those who prefer to sip the unadulterated blue agave, there are nine tequilas on offer, including Milagro, Herradura and Los Arango (1 oz servings range from $5-$8).
Mexican brunch will be introduced over the next couple weeks. Expect chilaquiles, enfrijoladas, enchiladas and huevos Valentina (crispy tortillas topped with beans, red and green salsas and poached eggs).
Valentina, 61a Bellevue Ave., 647-748-1828