Review: Lady Carolina

4 December 2015 | 1:50 pm | Stephanie Liew

175-177 Lygon St, East Brunswick

Lady Carolina celebrates Latin American street food and culture in a sleek but casual environment. Here you'll find a sit-down dining area inside — serving tapas, ensaladas, seafood grilled a la plancha, ceviche, and meats from the asado wood grill and rotisserie — and the beer garden area is more about street food, pisco, rum and beer. Did we mention they have margaritas on tap? The Music was invited to dinner last week and here's what we thought.  

Pisco is our new favourite spirit. We had it in Lady Carolina's signature Inca Punch (pisco, lime, pineapple, chicha morada syrup, soda), served in a cocoa pod. It was the perfect balance of slightly sweet, fruity, sour and bitter — and all 'round refreshing.

To start, we were given a trio of guacamole with nixtamal chips. The flavours were: Green Goddess (spring verduras, tomatillo verde), Super Soulful (cancha, pepitas, goji berries) and Chicharrones (bacon, pomegranate mojo). The standout was the Chicharrones, with its incredibly rich, salty pork fat flavour offset by the sweet pomegranate and creamy avocado; but all three were top notch.

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If you only order one ceviche, make sure it's the smoked black kingfish with horseradish, finger lime and pecan. The thick slices of fish are almost creamy, and the fresh, tangy accompaniments complement its texture and flavour. A sensation. If you're a clam fan, the Cloudy Bay storm clam ceviche with purple corn looks too pretty to eat, but dig in and you'll find wonderfully chewy clams in a rich, smoky sauce, which we found a little overpowering but others may revel in.

For those who like spicy sausage, the anticuchos grilled Peruvian skewer is recommended. It is definitely on the heavy, indulgent side but the grill brings out a deep and fragrantly charred flavour. To get even heavier, go some fried zucchini flowers — it is worth it for that crunch.

To finish, we had two desserts: the Incan Berry Cacao Crunch and the Purple Corn Pavlova. These may have been the best dishes of the bunch. The Cacao Crunch was a slice of melt-in-your-mouth dark chocolate ganache, balanced with the tartness of Inca berries, the umami black sesame icecream, and the bitter, crunchy wheel. The Purple Corn Pavlova was familiar and a bit unusual all at once — much less sweet than the white pav most are used to, and served with rhubarb, purple sweet corn and berry and vanilla coulis; a satisfying end to the evening's courses.