I was delighted to find out that this would be the destination of my latest dinner. New to commercial drive is “Cabrito”, a modern Spanish tapas restaurant. They pride themselves on using locally sourced produce, Ocean Wise seafood, and non medicated meat. Not only that, but they also boast a fair selection of Spanish wines, and home infused spirits and cocktails.
Walking up to the venue, I was surprised that I have never seen it before today. The weather was mild and their front of house garage door was open, exposing a fenced in patio. Through the gaps you got a good look at the space, including their eye catching mural splashed across the right wall. An array of 80’s colour, the backdrop to a dark haired gentleman walking his black bull.
Under the mural was a row of tables against a cushioned wall. We were given the corner setting, feeling the wind from the opening and the heat from their lamps. We came early enough for me to snap photos of the space in its simplicity. However tables filled quickly, and a gentle roar of chatter soon too filled the room. I understand their popularity, with the artisanal drinks, this was a lovely place to socialize.
The space was catered towards smaller groupings, however it also included a large family style share table, flanked by high top stools. They allowed for a larger party to be seated across the expanse of the restaurant.
There was additional seating against the black and white geometric patterned counter, that faced the bar. A seat here gave diners a look into the kitchen’s operations. Tonight, two chefs ready and waiting. Above these would be diners, hung chalkboards shaped like serving paddles, strung on a metal rod line. In coloured chalk they shared the menu in categories from “nibbles & pintxos” to “patisseries”.
The bar was my favourite feature. It had a white slat wall as its backdrop. The slats allowed for the hanging of miniature potted plants, that seem to be suspended in mid air. It and a shelf of books gave the space a homey feel.
The servers each wore a heavy cloth apron to remind guests off their specialty in butchery and meats. This was as good of a cue as many, to order some charcuterie. Their charcuterie choices included combinations of meat and cheeses, and boards of just meat or just cheese. And if you only wanted a taster, you could splurge on some of their finer cuts of meat. This included a hand cured pork leg of 36 months at $20.
We however, found the most value in their “THE” board charcuterie and cheese board. It included 3 meats and 2 cheese, none of which you had a say in. It was chef’s choice and it included some of their rotating cured meats.
Our assortment came with cured Spanish ham aged 17 months, a red wine cured beef, and a pork and duck salami. For cheese it was a “Manchego”, 12 month aged sheep milk made in La Mancha of Spain; and the “Taleggio”, a cow’s milk semi soft cheese from the Lombardy region in Italy. The extras were a dish of homemade plum jam, some pickles beet halves, and cornishons. The board is served with a bowl of olive oil glazed bread, used as a base. And as expected we ran out of bread, but was happy enough nibbling on each element without bread to distract from its finer tastes.
The meats were cut thin, each slice was the perfect morsel to melt onto your tongue. They had just enough chew and salt, to allow you to enjoy the spices and natural flavour of the pork, beef, and duck. The cheeses were thick and smokey. With their waxy finish they offered a nice contrasting, starchy chew, to the hams. And the pickled sides helped to break the rich flavours and add some freshness and crunch to the assembly.
With this, we sipped on two of their more unique cocktails. We were both pleased by the punch and amount of alcohol used, they didn’t skimp.
The “Formentera” was made with their own olive oil infused gin, Rosemary, and black walnut bitters. There was no hiding the presence of the olive oil with its sharp flavour, only heightened by the actual olives on a pick. That, and the oily film that was left on your lip from taking a sip. The martini had a nice after note, thanks to the floral nature of Rosemary. This was such a unique drink, one that complimented what we had, and would have also paired nicely with Italian, like a rich pasta.
The “lavender pisco” was made with el pisco gobernador, egg whites, lavender, lime, and Spanish bitters. By comparison this one was more sweet. It finished light and pretty like a slice of cake, thanks to the foam of the eggs.
There was plenty on the menu worth exploring. The “Fresh Beet Tartare” was interesting. Topped with a raw quail’s egg, it was an octo twist on beef tartare. When mixed in, the yolk added a creaminess and a nice salty punch to the crunchy cubed beet mix. It wasn’t as flavourful as its traditional raw meat counterpart, but it was a great substitution for those vegetarians who do eat eggs. The pieces of crostini offered a more authentic tartare experience, as you spooned beet on to cracker for a double crunch.
The “Smoked Patata Brava” was full vegetarian and vegan friendly. It had Kennebec potatoes seasoned in a Piquillo sauce. The cubes of potatoes were chewy and chalky. The spice they were coated in had a nice mild tomato flavour. This made a great side to take in between bites of salami.
The lamb was only disappointing in its portion for price. Two lamb lollipops served with a warm bean salad and a fennel confit. The lamb was perfectly tender, with just the right amount of fat left to make the meat juicy. It was seasoned with a nice balance of spice, versus the natural lamb’s flavour. You just want to pick the bone clean. The bean was filling with a gritty finish and the fennel added a pickling salt.
We considered dessert, but it all sounded so heavy for all that we had eaten already. Although I was tempted to see what a Spanish creme burlee was all about.
Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
I really enjoyed the setting and there was plenty more of the menu worth exploring, many unique pairings I have yet to try in both cocktail and canapé. Watermelon with goat cheese, bread dough topped with caramelized onion and anchovies, and tuna stuffed with piquillo peppers and rice. Don’t deny your cravings.