New Toronto hot spot is serving up a fusion of flavours in Little Italy

On College Street, a new restaurant, Conjeo Negro, draws inspiration from Caribbean, Creole and Latin American flavours. These diverse culinary influences shape the space’s menu, offering a fusion of spices and ingredients that marry all three cultures into tantalizing food and drinks.

Taking its name from the Spanish translation of “Black Rabbit,” Lamine Martindale one of the restaurant’s partners and owners, says it’s a name that signifies prosperity and fertility and aligns with the restaurant’s aspirations. 

Martindale, along with his wife Alycia Wahn and business partner Diego Diaz, fused their passion for food and diverse backgrounds to create the culinary concept. With extensive experience in front-of-house, back-of-house, and bartending, the trio, having decided it was time, embarked on the journey of establishing their own restaurant.

Braised beef cheek, collard greens and cheddar grits

“I’m of Caribbean descent. [Wahn] is Canadian but she’s a chef and spent a long time in Venezuela when she was younger. And then Diego is Latin American,” says Martindale. “So, we asked ourselves: what can we make that speaks to ourselves, but also speaks to our city and the people that we grew up around?” 

In a multicultural city like Toronto, Martindale says there was a bit of a gap when it comes to Creole food. Thus, Conejo Negro was born. Combining their individual talents, the team infused the restaurant’s dinner and bar menu with distinctive flavours and flair

For drinks, patrons can enjoy fan favorites such as a classic Mai Tai or a spicy burnt pineapple margarita. The food menu, curated by Wahn, features dishes like Brazilian Cheese Puffs made with tapioca flour (gluten-free), Caribbean-style braised beef with cheddar grits, squash dumplings, gumbo, and more.

For dessert, guests can order a flourless chocolate torte, with a chocolate ganache, maldon salt, and mango and lime coulis. 

@conejonegro_to/Instagram

“We’re trying to push all of those things together and see how they work,” says Martindale. “And we’re always evolving.”

While Conejo Negro excels in its dinner offerings, its role in College Promenade is versatile. Presently open solely for dinner, Martindale envisions expanding to include a brunch menu and utilizing the patio during the summer months.

As Martindale mentions, the location is ideal for families and locals seeking dinner, as well as for those passing by looking to drop in for a nightcap.

“Eat elsewhere first and come have a drink with us, or you can come eat with us and then go drink elsewhere after, too,” says Martindale. “And if you just want to come through with your family or for a date night, we can provide that ambience and environment for you.”

Conejo Negro is located at 838 College St. and is open Tuesday to Thursday from 5 pm. to 10 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. 

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