Quetzal, Toronto

Partisans, Toronto

Photography by Doublespace

In Central America, the quetzal is a large bird with iridescent green plumage. In Toronto, it signifies a high-end Mexican restaurant whose white asymmetrical one-piece wrapper of ceiling and walls evokes the sculptural, cave-like forms of Eero Saarinen’s TWA terminal at JFK. However, the stated inspiration of the narrow (24-ft. wide), low-ceilinged 3,000-sq.-ft. space was more apposite: Oaxacan pottery and the billowing tarps of Mexican market stalls. The wrapper’s curve motif recurs in the flaring sides of the projecting countertops of the cocktail bar and grill fronts, in the back-bar cutaway for stowing glassware and in the rounded corners of the bar top. Projecting ribs in the ceiling conceal the clutter of lighting, loudspeaker and HVAC registers. The last-mentioned items are large enough to provide a curtain-like downwash of cool air that shields diners from the open galley kitchen’s heat, reaching 2,700 degrees Fahrenheit, from the clay oven and the blazing grill in what is one of the few North American professional kitchens to be fueled exclusively by wood-burning fire.