Honest El Fogon

NOW Magazine

EL FOGON (543 St. Clair West, at Vaughan, 416-850-8041) Complete dinners for $25 per person ($15 at lunch), including all taxes, tip and a Cristal. Average main $11. Open Tuesday and Wednesday 5 to 10 pm, Thursday to Sunday noon to 10 pm. Closed Monday. Licensed. Access: barrier free. Rating: NNN



This modest Peruvian restaurant serves what must be one of the best $5 lunches in the city.

We call it a sexy sandwich at our house. They call it lomo saltado – a very fresh bun loaded with juicy strips of lean, charbroiled steak dripping with a wonderful barbecue-style sauce and sautéed onions.

Our impossibly polite server confesses he’s tried to replicate it at home but failed, perhaps because it requires a special pan. We love him for that. At any rate, the sandwich comes with salad or chunky fries (go for the fries for the total experience) and costs only $2.25 more at dinner. It comes in a chicken version as well.

A nicely done ceviche mixto ($13.95) is ample for two as an appetizer, consisting primarily of tender squid rings and octopus, plus a few clams, shrimp and white fish, a very complementary slice of chilled sweet potato, plenty of cilantro and a choice of medium or hot. When paired with a basket of fresh bread and a dish of a very hot, very delicious spread consisting of garlic, clarified butter and hot peppers, the medium is recommended.

Thinking a nice stew will take away the winter chill, the seco de carne ($10.50) turns out to be a little dull and heavy after the wonderfully clean and summery ceviche. It’s two large pieces of stewed beef and potato in a cilantro gravy, served on a bed of rice surrounded by a ring of beans in a sauce that’s a bit glutinous.

El Fogon, with its minimal attempt at Latin American-inspired decor, is the kind of place one might actually find in Peru.

Order some honest food and a Cristal ($4.25) or Inca Kola ($2) and you can pretty much ignore the fact that it’s January in Toronto.   the end

 • NOW | January 20-27, 2005 | VOL 24 NO 21

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