Chef Christian Manuel Ventura Alatorre says he was lucky to have gotten his first job at a Japanese restaurant — having no culinary experience, he took in as much knowledge as he could and eventually opened Sushi Momo, a renowned Montreal vegan sushi spot on Rue Saint-Denis.
Now, he's expanding his repertoire with more unique and flavourful plant-based restaurants. First came Casa Kaizen, a Mexican-Japanese fusion joint that re-opened in July.
Up next is Nopalito, a Mexican street food spot that's slated to open at the end of October, though Ventura Alatorre tells MTL Blog the opening could be delayed due to COVID-19 red zone closures.
If Nopalito is anything like his other restos, it'll definitely be worth the wait!
Why the name Nopalito?
Ventura Alatorre says Nopalito, which means 'little cactus,' represents exactly what Mexican food is all about.
"When you visit Mexico there are cacti everywhere, plus they are delicious," he says.
What will the space look like?
Designed by Chantal Royer, Ventura Alatorre says the layout will resemble a typical Mexican household, similar to the one he grew up in.
When it finally opens, right next door to Casa Kaizen on Avenue des Pins, he says it'll be filled with the same little cacti that inspired its name.
"The space's design is inspired by Mexican culture. Same colours, warm, inviting, [filled with] plants . . . the same feeling [you get] when you go to a Mexican house," he says.
What's on the menu?
For starters, everything is 100% plant-based.
"I want to show customers that plant-based [food] can be creative, tasty and sometimes better than 'traditional' food," he says.
The menu, he adds, is a nod to his Mexican heritage consisting of favourites from his childhood.
Ventura Alatorre says Nopalito will serve tortas, a staple of Mexican street food. A typical torta is made from a telera — a Mexican bread roll — filled with carnitas (pulled pork), veggies or cutlets.
"In Mexico, the perfect street food is cheap [and] easy to make. You just need a telera and you can fill it up with anything you like, so the possibilities are endless," he says.
Nopalito will also serve kekeas, which he describes as "oversized flour quesadillas, filled up with some delicious fillings."
"I believe that [going] plant-based [is] the only way to move forward," says Ventura Alatorre.
"I’m trying my best to help people to transition to a plant-based lifestyle one meal at the time."