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Category: Cuban

Tocador, Happy Hour

Seeing some pretty impressive drinks and dishes come out of their social media presence I was excited to give “Tocador” a shot. Its pale pink exterior with white, pink, and blue striped patio was eye catching in its simplicity and new coat of paint.

Walking in was like an explosion of colour. The pastel walls and bold accents helped to craft this wonderland. Featured walls were papered in pink hibiscuses and blue. There was a mural of a joyous woman bathed in streams of yellow sunlight; smiling in full, surrounded by palm leaves. Pink patterned tiles creeped from wall to bar, its hue matching the striped vases that sat on the chestnut coloured counter top. I especially liked the up-cycling of the two vanities with mirrors, that sat on the actual bar as shelving.

This afternoon I visited their colourful restaurant with a friend to try their “Punch of the week”. I ordered it using a photo, but sadly didn’t get what was pictured. I was envisioning a tall glass goblet with a long stem, the length of my forearm. A lavish vessel to be enjoying a grand drink in. Instead, we still got just as big of a drink, except it was in a short and stout glass. This drink has a two person minimum. Its making varies from week to week, but it always has plenty of rum and fresh juices, and as the menu describes, “some stuff that will taste good in your mouth”. This week included a mix of both white and dark rum. It was good enough, but not memorable in terms of flavour profile, but let’s be real, I definitely got it for the novelty.

And seeing we were at the right place, at the right time: between 4-6pm; we also partook in their happy hour offerings saving on average $3 per dish. Although there were only 2 options available, and neither were printed on its own menu. So perhaps they were testing this out in their market? None-the-less, here they are.

“Croquetas con carne” potatoes croquettes made with a rotating selection of meats. Today it was lamb, you don’t get much of the meat, but plenty of its flavour. Little nuggets of dark meat embedded into the fluffy whipped potato ball, all wrapped and coated in crispy fried breading. The creamy white sauce it sat in gave things some moisture and another dimension of flavour, however I would have preferred a gravy or a tomato based sauce to give it a more familiar feel.

“Dip & Dab”. The name was fun. It was like chips and dip, but with crispy dried plantain slices and house made guacamole. A nice bar snack to nibble on as you drink, and on the healthier side too. Loved the crunch of the fruit chip and the lumpy guacamole that paired with it.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
Sadly I didn’t get enough food or drink to give a full assessment of the place, but I did like what I saw and tried.
I will definitely be back for a more fulsome meal. In fact, a few days after this, I attempted to invite a Cuban friend to try their dinner service with me, to get her perspective on their cuisine. But after glancing at the menu she declared that it wasn’t authentic cuban cuisine, so passed. Until next time I guess. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

TOCADOR
2610 Main Street, Vancouver BC, V5T 3E6
604-620-2433
tocador.ca

Havana Restaurant & Gallery

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We originally had chosen this as our destination for their patio, a well recommended choice when searching up “the best patio in the Vancouver”, and a Commercial Drive staple 18 years strong. Without reservations and their unwillingness to take any unless your party has six of more, we gambled on being first to come and first to be served. Though given the chill of the early night and the whisper of wind, we instead opted for indoor seating with no wait, compared to the 30 minute turnover for a patio seat.

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I have been once years before, but I usually shy away from places that require a lengthy wait, no guaranteed reservations, or are too noisy. I consider my time valuable and want not to wait for a seat to only have to wait for the food I am paying for. And dining out for me is as much about the food and the experience as it is the company I keep. I attend such outings with friends and therefore each visit requires the ability to communicate and the possibility to converse. And here both prove to be a difficult affair. The restaurant was bustling with life and yelling was required. I am sure music was playing but with all the chatting at each tightly spaced table, the clanging of knife to plate and fork to mouth, and the commotion of the open kitchen to our right and the heavy duty bar behind us; it proved an impossibility to take notice. With the tables this close, it reminded me of those awkward classroom moments. Like sitting in lowered desks you end up eye level with a servers bottom as they engage the table next to yours, and you get the short “end” of the stick. Excuse my pun.

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As busy as the floor was their walls. What was once a fresh coat of paint has now been reduced to scratches in wood, carving with tools, and the chipping of colour. Most find it gives the place character, speaking without words the nights it has seen and the years it has celebrated. A certain homey and natural charm. I could understand this view point, but I found it more like graffiti; with names carved and initials in hearts etched. The scrawlings crept up the wall giving it a look of age and decay. The crooked black and white photographs arranged in disarray did little to improve this scene.

Unfamiliar with Cuban and Latin cuisine the entire menu seemed more fusion to me. Unexpected and familiar ingredients like French fries, balsamic vinaigrette, and harvarti cheese mixed with the more traditional use of plantains, red chillies, salsa fresca, Cuban rice, and chimichurri. There was a lot worth venturing, but as a first taste in over 5 years I played it safe with what I know, tacos.

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“Chicken Taco”, freshly sautéed chicken breast in a coconut-jerk sauce. Served with lettuce, house made guacamole and pico de gallo salsa. I went with the entree size for more food; which was just the addition of wild long grain rice, beans, and more fresh guacamole. In hind sight I should have skipped the entree with its side of beans and rice. Although filling it wasn’t something I wanted to eat with a bite of taco. Separately it was decent, but nothing taste wise compared to the jerk chicken. It was just a bowl of carbs and proteins meant to fill. On the bright side this portion did include another dollop of guacamole. The best restaurant guacamole I have ever had. Creamy and luscious, so good I could have eaten it like yogurt, with utensil licking spoonfuls. The jerk chicken was juicy, dripping with sauce. It required quick eating to keep the flour tortilla of the taco chewy and in tact. Well flavoured with a hint of spice the chicken was perfectly cooked and absolutely the star of the dish. I tasted the heat from the jerk, but could have used more definition with the cooling effects of coconut. A whipped coconut milk cream on top maybe?

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“Beet Salad”, golden beets, goat’s cheese, spiced pecans, beet chips, fresh greens, and dried cranberries; all coated in an apple-mustard vinaigrette. The salad was equal parts light and fresh to hearty and filling. Full of bold flavours and a span of texture. The flavours complimented one another with salty cheese and naturally sweet cranberries, a spicy mustard and a tart apple. And the textures covered crunchy nuts to smooth greens, crumbly cheese to crisp beats. You enjoyed tasting as much as you did chewing. This was definitely a salad you can eat as an entree and be content with it.

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Tempted by their coconut creme caramel and fresh berry pavlova, we instead went for their special of the day, a “Chocolate brownie with espresso ice cream”. With each bite you were able to taste the premium ingredients. Many layers giving this dessert its many flavours. The richness in dark cocoa; the earthiness of toasted nuts; the sharpness of espresso mixed into cold cream; and the chewiness of perfectly baked, still moist, and still warm cakey brownie. The exact quote is, “I want to make babies with it!”

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
If possible I think we ate things wrong. With all the variety such food is best taken when shared. Snacking portions with their famous sangrias by the pitcher in hand. Experiencing the fresh food and being submerged in the boisterous atmosphere everyone seemed to be having a good time. Often restaurants on Commercial Drive can be hit or a miss. Here you get the raw grittiness of the Drive, with just the tiniest bit of fancy; the makings for date night or a late night chill session. In fact if memory serves, they have a gallery of art located at the tail end of their restaurant for you to enjoy as well. A fact I had forgotten and one I failed to explore on this return trip. As one of the nicer places on the Drive this has become a common hot spot for many. A fact proven when I spotted three of my coworkers. Don’t deny your cravings.

HAVANA’S
1212 Commercial Drive, Vancouver BC, V5L3X4
604-253-9119
havanarestaurant.ca
Havana Restaurant & Gallery on Urbanspoon

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