Address: 155 Smith St
Two tables over, a server ceremoniously slides two brimming shotglasses across the table’s surface and begins describing the flavour profile of an aged tequila. Nearby, a circle of jerseyed Jets fans crowds closer to their table to “ooh” and “ah” over the racks of tacos jostling for space.
La Roca is serious about having fun.
The slick downtown spot launched almost a year ago with a concept to serve the light, fresh, and flavourful food of coastal Mexico to our prairie city. Everything from the menu to the lounge-like interior veers away from Tex-Mex kitsch toward the authentic contemporary. The drink menu, for instance, lists forceful margaritas (yes on the powerfully kicky salt rim, no on sugary slush) with flavours like cucumber jalapeño, and more than 40 varieties of tequila selected to show of a variety of blanco, aged, and rested sips. If you want to let loose, the bar seems to be saying, do it right.
This goes for dinner as well, a collection of fun food invigorated with splashes of lime and spice. Salted tortilla chips come with the table, and are perfect for scooping tender cubes of shrimp ceviche from its glass vessel. They also make an ideal dipper for the bubbling pool of queso fundido, tangy and spicy from slivers of jalapeño and crumbled chorizo sausage.
Surroundings are casual chic, and service offers a blend of professionalism and camaraderie that makes devouring a taco feel almost elegant. Served in trios tucked into metal taco holders, these fresh hand-held bites are menu highlights. Eight varieties range from traditional carnitas to healthy grilled fish tucked into flour tortillas or lettuce wraps. A delicious vegetarian option gives crunch to creamy avocado with a fried panko breading.
Accompanying sides are equally rewarding. Pozole soup, an authentic Mexican stew, is a hearty blend of veggies in a savoury broth rich with shreds of chicken. Potato-like pillows of hominy, made from white corn, enrich the bowl. A fun play on a classic, Mexican Caesar salad adds some heat, spiking the dressing with chipotle, adding deep fried slices of jalapeño, and swapping bacon for chorizo.
A small selection of mains have recently been added to the menu, offering options for large appetites. Smoky, charred carne asada is complemented by a swizzle of creamy avocado sauce. A colourful fish dish, with a changing featured fillet, packs a zesty punch under a lime-heavy salsa verde with colourful pico de gallo.
Dark rustic decor keeps the dining room looking chic, while pops of colour—including a wall of vibrant artwork and patterned banquettes—give the 170 seat space some coziness.
So do street food inspired desserts like crispy churros and a banana choco chimi (a deep fried Mars bar, banana, and tortilla concoction). Just close your eyes and think of Mexico.