Que Tal: Authentic Mexican in HRM

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Being a lover of Mexican food, I’m always on the lookout for authentic offerings in Halifax. Embarrassingly enough I’ve never made it to Que Tal’s booth in the historic brewery market… but when I heard they opened a full-service (and licensed) restaurant on the Dark Side, I knew I’d have to make the trip soon. Yesterday, this finally happened.

Que Tal is located on Portland Hills Drive right off Portland Street. When we got there around 2 p.m. it was entirely empty. The space is small, bright and colourful (decked out in full cantina mode) and the open kitchen allows customers to see what’s going on at all times. We were hoping to catch the brunch menu, but learned that it ended at 1 p.m. The rest of the menu looked so fantastic, we weren’t that disappointed.

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We were hungry and overly excited about the offerings and unbelievable prices, which is why we ended up ordering a silly amount of food. I kicked off the meal with a shaken lime margarita (awesome).

Our starters were: queso fresco, chicken taquitos, jalapeños con queso and sopa azteca. You can’t really find queso fresco anywhere in Halifax as it has almost no shelf life, and we don’t have many Mexican restaurants. It’s a soft, fresh white cheese made on-site. Delicious; a treat for cheese fanatics like ourselves. While the taquitos and stuffed jalapeños were both tasty, it was the sopa azteca that made an impression: tortilla soup garnished with ancho chiles, fresh avocado, queso fresco and sour cream. It was the broth that got me. Not much heat, just an extremely memorable, complex and satisfying flavour that screamed it was made with time, effort and care.

sopa azteca

sopa azteca

My main, the fish tacos, I enjoyed: battered haddock, cabbage salad and roasted tomato salsa. But it was the chile rellenos that really impressed. I hadn’t seen this dish served like this before: the pepper of course stuffed with cheese, battered and deep-fried, but then served actually swimming in a bowl of chunky tomato salsa. Topped with sour cream and cilantro, it almost looked like another soup. So the chile’s batter does lose it’s crunch, but.. this salsa was absolutely incredible. The combination of everything in this dish and the fact it’s all swimming in this amazingly bright, flavourful sauce was wonderful.

Service was fast and friendly, and the owner came out to greet us as well. We complimented her on the authentic dishes, which she claimed to have learned from her grandmother. It shows

Rock the Leftovers: Taco Edition

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One part of cooking I enjoy is the challenge of taking leftovers and making them new again. Working from home, I have the opportunity to make my own lunch, in my own kitchen, several times a week. That, paired with the fact that we regularly cook dinner together (and it’s usually awesome), means there are often leftovers in the fridge.

There’s something inside me that just disagrees with recreating the exact same meal two days in a row. Often I have separate elements of leftovers that I can rework. So, I do this. And I’ve decided to blog about it more.

On Friday I decided it was the night for tacos. I made three different fillings: spicy pepper mix with onions, basil-lime sauteed mushrooms, and saucy tomato sausages with roasted garlic. Plus I made a yellow heirloom tomato-jalapeno pico de gallo (with some heat), guacamole, red cabbage slaw, lots of chopped green onion and fresh cilantro. So basically a sweet spread. So good I didn’t even really take photos. I just settled in and ate.

On Saturday I was solo and planning to rock my leftovers with a brunch creation. That I did. I made a double-layered Mexican brunch tostada of sorts. Okay, so it’s not THAT different from the tacos — but it was very delicious.

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First layer: masa corn tortilla, spicy pepper and basil-lime mushroom mix, fried egg, crumbled Ran-Cher Acres goat cheese, chopped green onion. Second layer: another tortilla topped with sunny-side up (runny) fried egg, a bit more cheese and green onion, fresh cilantro. Accompaniments: guacamole and pico. Side dish: red cabbage slaw. A big glass of OJ.

Brunch happiness.

Red cabbage slaw.

Red cabbage slaw.