“Carnales”, in Mexican slang (derived from “carnal” meaning “from the flesh”), are your bros, the strongly bonded friends of yours whom you’d go the distance for. With the success of their taquería, the infamous Tres Carnales (Edgar Gutierrez, Dani Braun, and Chris Sills pictured in order below), were given an opportunity to push their brotherhood rooted in Mexican cuisine another kilometer. They jumped at a deal they were offered and in August 2014 opened their second restaurant, Rostizado (102-10359 104 Street), in the Mercer Warehouse.
The three “brothers” are the types of guys who’ll venture outside the resort and explore what else is out there. Reflective of their adventurous spirit, Rostizado goes beyond your preconceptions of Mexican food and offers an experience meant to make you feel something. Conceptualized around the idea of hearty, big platters of traditional Mexican rotisserie chicken, the modern Mexican restaurant was the three carnales’ answer to wondering what else they could do creatively. They sought to break from tradition and create something new while being mindful of avoiding fleeting fads and quick trends in the cuisine, which Dani says is them adding their “grain of sand to the natural evolution of Mexican food.” They incorporate ingredients and techniques from around the world but have found a way to remain distinctly Mexican. The heart of the space comes from the necessity of eating, alongside the ideal of sharing a meal with loved ones. As Dani puts it, “We all have to eat, might as well make it sexy and delicious.”
The Mercer Warehouse is a hub of creativity. It’s a place for entrepreneurs, artists, vendors, and restaurateurs to develop their crafts. It’s an idea factory that runs on the notion of building community. That strong sense of community is what brought Rostizado into the building.
When you sit down at Rostizado, your meal is set in midcentury modern decor with a tasteful Mexican flair that steers clear of abrasive kitsch and keeps in line with the rustic aesthetic of the Mercer Warehouse. Your meal is scored like the soundtrack of a slick heist movie, perfect whether you come with your own crew or meet some people beside you and start a new gang. The sense of community and connection flows through the restaurant from their layout to the menu. Network with people in person and make a new friends list at a communal table of 10; get closer on their couches, or reconnect with an old pal at a table for two. You can break that big news to your mom or break into an argument while breaking bread over one of their many shareable dishes, like the “molcajetes” which are offered as either prawns, chorizo sausage and queso Oaxaca in a pineapple salsa or grilled skirt steak with salsa borracha, grilled nopales (aka cactus pad), charred onions and queso fresco, both served in a Mexican mortar made of granite (the dish is the bomb, but we’re talking “mortar and pestle” here).
“The kid knows flavour,” was Chris’s quote to Dani that solidified the spot of the third carnal. Trained in traditional French techniques, head chef Edgar Gutierrez delved into Mexican cuisine when he was asked to join Dani and Chris in the taquería. It’s been an adventure in relearning the basics for him because he says, in Mexican cuisine, “There are no rules,” in contrast to the formality of French cuisine. Using the same ingredients, a mole (a typical Mexican sauce) made in Puerto Vallarta could be completely different from one made in León, and neither will be similar to the moles of any village on the road in between.
While the taquería has a small kitchen with the sole focus of making tacos and getting them out as quickly as possible, at Rostizado, Edgar has a much larger kitchen which he describes as a dynamic playground that allows him to flex creatively. Past inceptions of the menu have seen Edgar applying a very Canadian flavour profile of smoked salmon and incorporating it into a traditional Mexican “sope”, a dish that takes a corn masa disk and tops it with beans, salsa, and sometimes meat. The newest version of the menu has Edgar evolving classic ceviche and modernizing the cubano sandwich. How are you going to deny Charles Darwin when your mind is blown by these evolutionary dishes?
Mezcal Me Maybe
Bar manager Corey Wilfert, with an abundance of spices, fresh herbs and ingredients from Rostizado’s kitchen at his fingertips and the feedback from his team in his ears, created a list of bright, refreshing (and sometimes spicy) drinks unique to Rostizado, but, of course, still representative of Mexico. The cocktail menu is the perfect pairing to the food: smartly forward thinking, playfully complex and creatively fresh. Edgar’s pick on Corey’s lineup is the No Su Pepita, a mezcal and tequila based blend of berry and citrus with smoked black salt to round it out and a finish of chile oil drops for an added kick. Dani says he could put those back in pints (highly not recommended with all the mezcal and tequila involved), and so he opts for the El Insurgente, a refreshing option of Blanco tequila, ginger liqueur, cucumber and lemon juices, and mint.
On top of the cocktails, the Tres boys partnered with local brewery Alleykat, who focus their small batch brewing on ales, to create the Lupita Especial. The ale, which takes its name from the common Mexican name Guadalupe, stays in line with Mexican flavours even though it strays from the typical light lagers you’d find on a Cancun beach (a base they cover with Modelo Especial and Negra Modelo Amber).
Like Sand in an Hourglass
Dani Braun is a man who respects honesty and community and those virtues are reflected in the spaces he’s created. With his “dos carnales” sharing his vision and more importantly, as Chris says, “not compromising in that shared vision”, he’s clearly and deftly communicated the essence of his Mexican culture. He’s created new experiences and if this is his grain of sand in the evolution of Mexican cuisine, we can’t wait to see what the rest of the beach is like!
-Froilan Santos, contributing writer