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Category: Mexican Page 1 of 5

Tacofino Commissary on Hastings

Although I live in the area, I have yet to visit this location of “Tacofino”, until today. I like their Vancouver based offerings enough, and how each menu varies from location to location. But my first taste of “Tacofino” was in Tofino, and there is just something about them there that can’t be compared or duplicated. None-the-less, my partner was craving quick tacos and here we were.

Their small location was fully packed this Sunday evening. The roar of the patrons could be heard from the side walk, walking into their all white facade. There are a few individual tables if you are lucky, but majority of the seating is communal across three long ones. We hopped on the bar hoping for quicker service, only to realize how busy the lone bartender was; making margaritas non stop.

We ordered a beer to change things up, and to sip on as we waited. “Pacifico” imported from Mexico topped with a lime. The bartender thanked us for our patience, as we came during their busy bout.

The restaurant is dark, minimal light shines through the maze of orbs, strung up across the ceiling. A tangle of copper wire and ceramic pots, with artificial succulent and leafy plants. It certainly draws your attention upward.

Their menu is fulsome with burrito and taco options, as well as several appetizers and a few desserts for before and after. We would snack on their name sake.

Tuna with soy, sesame, salsa fresca, wakame, ginger, and wasabi mayo. There was a wait for the seaweed salad to thaw and our server asked if I cared or wanted it on the taco. I did, so waited, and thankfully so, as it pulled the flavours together. Tuna and seaweed with pickled ginger, and sweet mayo is a classic combination; this was exactly as I imagined it. And I was thrilled over how generous their slab of barely seared tuna was, you definitely get your value here.

Similarly, the grilled wagyu steak offered plenty of perfectly pink meat slathered with black garlic mayo cream; made fresh and fun with pickled vegetables and jalapeño. All together everything had plenty of chew and crunch, it reminded me of a banh mi with the carrot and daikon. Delicious.

The chicken taco was my partner’s favourite. It certainly had the most going on. Chicken that is nacho-crusted and topped with braised red cabbage, LP mayo, pickled apple, pepper greens, and turmeric popcorn. You can defiantly taste and feel the crunch of the nacho crust, the popcorn was a fun visual, and the cabbage offered up freshness. I just would have liked more apple for its sweetness, and to better balance out the pepperiness of the greens.

The pork starred in this taco, with its tasty caramelization. The fattiness and the sauciness of it was balanced by the cabbage, fried shallot, pineapple, and sriracha toppings. Every ingredient sang in unison, this was a well conceived taco.

Given how great everything was today I grabbed one of their signature “Diablo chocolate cookies” to go. And just feeling it in its paper bag I knew this was gonna be good. Soft and chewy, with three perfectly formed chocolates finishing it off. It gave you the perfect marriage of spicy and sweet with chilli and dark chocolate.

 

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.
Based on previous, inconsistent experiences I came in apprehensively, but left raving. I liked all the tacos we tried and will be looking forward to having the others on our next visit. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

TACOFINO
2327 East Hastings Street, Vancouver BC, V5L 1V6
604-253-8226
tacofino.com

Salsa By Marcela at Cacao

Today I was invited down to “Cacao”, a Latin American restaurant in Kits. We were here to get a first hand look at their new salsa line through an interactive cooking demonstration. I have never been to the restaurant, so thought this would also serve as a great introduction to it.

Here, we would meet Marcela one of the house chefs, who serves her traditional Mexican cuisine every Thursday night. Her credentials include her own cooking show, radio show, and books in Mexico. In Vancouver she is a mother of 4, launching her own salsa line with her daughters. It was her recipes and they took care of the packaging and marketing. Marcela found a need for her product given the abundance of tex mex in Vancouver. She simply wanted to offer real, traditional, Mexican salsa. And today, I would learn to tell the difference between it and Americanized Mexican cuisine.

Marcela was a sunny person, happy and welcoming in her deep purple and fuchsia chef’s coat, with colourful embroidery. She was patience in explaining to us what we were having, spelling out their proper Mexican names for this blog. She took the time to teach us about a few of her traditional Mexican kitchen utensils, including the carved wooden chocolate milk muddler pictured above. We also learned about chilli, how to buy them and how their name varies based on it being green on the plant, or dried and red.

Our night began with some “Tepache”, a traditional Mexican drink made from fermenting pineapple skin in water and sugar. It is comparable to kombucha in taste. Great for hot weather and best mixed with sparkling, like how we enjoyed it was today.

To snack on we had “totopo”, the Mexican word for chips. These are made by deep frying tortillas. They don’t make there own tortilla here, but do cut up, fry up, and season what they get from local “Chancho Tortilla”. Marcela declared theirs the best and most authentic tortilla that a Vancouverite can get. And true enough, these tortilla chips were amazing. This snack had the whole room going back for chip after chip. Their thick crunch and salty coating, the perfect vessel to scoop up fresh made guacamole salsa. Salsa prepared using one of Marcela’s bottled ones below. Together this was so good that I inquired about purchasing a bag of “totopo” to take home. However, they don’t offer them by the bag, making them a good reason to return.

Next we had some “Gorditas”, doughy circles that were cut down the middle and stuffed with a creamy avocado spread. The table loved these too. I liked the texture that sprung back after you took a bite, but I found it was lacking in flavour, especially compared to the “totopos” above. It reminded me of a mild corn, but made into dough and baked.

When the demo began we were invited around Marcela’s makeshift cooking station. She had her three bottles of salsa on display and all the fresh and dried ingredients she would need to prepare a full meal with them. She began by explaining to us that salsa isn’t just for dipping. And that when you purchase one of her salsas you get a snack and a meal helper all in one. Each is all natural and keeps for two months in the fridge, once opened.

She would show us 4 quick and easy recipes that you could prepare at home, yourself. But first prefaced the demonstration, explaining that in her cooking and for her recipes nothing is exact, it depends on the day, time, and mood.

First was an oven baked fish. BC red snapper prepared with lemon, salt, and her “Papa Carlos’ salsa”. Each of her three salsas are named after the family member who taught her the recipe. This was her grandfather’s recipe that her family used as an emergency mealtime solution. This pickled salsa is great with any seafood. You top your first with it generously, wrapping it all up in tinfoil, then allowing it time to bake in the oven. The result, a juicy fish made spicy with the vegetable mix. I could have used more salsa to enjoy with each bite of fish. But be warned, it is on the spicier side.

Next was a Mexican fried rice prepared with her green “Tio Emilio” salsa. She added oil to a hot pan and to it fried onions and poblano chilli. Next went in garlic, corn kernels and her uncle’s sauce, jalapeño, garlic, water, salt, oil, and fresh cilantro. When simmering you add in half a cup of salsa and half a cup of water, with one cup of rice. Stir, add salt, and reduce heat. I really enjoyed the rice and thought it was a clever way to use salsa that I could myself copying in the future.

All “Salsas by Marcela” can be utilized hot or cold. The green sauce was also great as a salad dressing. It was tasty with mixed greens, sunflower seeds, and tomato.

Next Marcela showed us how to make her favourite enchiladas using the red “Mama Luchita” salsa. You start with oil in your pan and to it add in her mother’s smokey sauce. With a bit of water, allow it to boil, before submerging a tortilla. Once fully coated, plate said tortilla, fill with feta, fold over, and top with more sauce from the pan. Once again these tortillas came from “Chancho Tortilla”. When trying it, you definitely got the two types of chilli smoked and cooked in oil that went into the bottled salsa.

Our meal ended with a dessert that embodied “Cacao“ and the Latin American food prepared traditionally, with original flavours, in an European style that they specialize in. These are “Borrachitos”, Mexican sweets known as “men drunk”. Sweet jelly candies made with corn starch, sprinkled with sugar and filled with alcohol; hence the name. They are normally either red, yellow, or green. But tonight’s rendition was dyed purple by the violet flowers they used. You don’t taste the flower, more the punchy tequila that hides with. I really liked them and wished we had more. One to try, and the second to really enjoy and taste.

If you want to try Marcela’s authentic Mexican cuisine for yourself, and not just bring a bit of her into your kitchen, visit “Cacao” on Thursday evenings to enjoy a five course meal that includes dessert. Marcela herself, made sure to note that you will get to try many different types of Mexican food, that it isn’t just tacos. And every two weeks they change up the entire menu, but mole (a chocolate based sauce) is always included.

“Salsa by Marcela” is currently only available at local health food store, “Fresh is Best”. Grab and jar and get more recipe inspiration from their Instagram @SalsaByMarcela.

Given my teaser of “Cacao”, I would love to come back and try more of their menu. I don’t recall the last time I had traditional Latin American cuisine. Don’t deny your cravings.

Tacofino Burrito Bar, revisit

Tacofino, revisit

I wasn’t planning on reviewing my latest visit to Tacofino’s take out burrito bar. But after a very tasty meal and noticeable improvements from my first so-so visit, to now, I thought I owed it to them to re-evaluate.

My partner wanted tacos and decided we would make a trip to find some. Based on our parking spot, the quickest and easiest to stop at was “Tacofino’s” take out shop.

For the full run down on decor and setting, check out my original visit and how the food has changed in the 2 and a half years between my first and second post.

Tacofino Burrito Bar

 

I did the ordering knowing that their chicken burrito is the one to get, not that the menu gave you all that much to choose from in the first place.

Fried chicken, rice, guacamole, and shredded lettuce. Here there was a lot more chicken than what I recalled, and it was a lot more crispier than memory serves. It paired well with the chewy thin grains of rice, the crisp lettuce, and just right amount of heat from the chilli mayo sauce the drizzled on thick. Memorable enough that I could see my self craving for another taste in the future.

Whereas I remembered the taco being pretty bland and like the burrito, in need of a couple of squeezes from the help yourself bottles of salsa counter side. Everything today held up on its own without the need for any additional dips.

The chicken taco, had the same crispy breaded chicken as the burrito, but with pickled vegetable slices, a creamy white sauce, and a cilantro salsa. Tasty chicken without any heat.

I was most impressed by the chorizo taco. It covered all flavour and texture profiles for me. The grittiness of the salty meat, the crispiness of the fried kale chips, the chalkiness of the sharp Parmesan cheese, and the tang of the pickled onions. Good, but not economical, and at $6 each you pay a lot more for the bells and whistles. I personally found it worth it, as I don’t find majority of the tacos I encounter tasty enough. Whereas my partner argued that the tacos he always has at other places have been around $2-3 each.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
Some tasty quick snack worth taking a detour to, and a Vancouver staple. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

TACOFINO BURRITO BAR
15 West Cordova Street
604-899-7907
tacofino.com/gastown-take-out-menu

The Vancouver Foodster Soup Festival

You have heard of a beer crawl, but how about a soup crawl? Well you have now, as in this post, I embarked on such a journey. A tour to try a few of the soups participating in the first ever Vancouver Foodster Soup Festival.

“Vancouver Foodster” brings food to the lower mainland by hosting various food tours and “tasting plates”. Curated food journeys that help you try new things and learn about new places. A stress free way to explore the city through your mouth. And he has created this event to offer those restaurants not participating in “Dine Out Vancouver”, a chance to increase traffic to their restaurants too.

The “Vancouver Soup Festival” is running for 3 weeks from January 10th to the 31st. And each week a different selection of soups will be featured by each of the 5 participating restaurants. Thus giving you the initial reason to visit and all subsequent reasons to return.
Some are soups that are off their regular menu and others are made for this event. And each week you are invited to try each soup fest participant and vote for your favourite for that week. With first, second, and third place winners each week being declared the “People’s favourite”.

Today we would be trying soups from only 3 of the 5 participating restaurants, and each of their 3 soups in one go. All to give you an overview of what you can expect from the Soup Fest’s inaugural run!

Our first stop was “Rhinofish” in Chinatown. They have been open for just over a year now and since their launch a lot has changed. They still offer the same menu items that they have gained notoriety for, but better with new suppliers and distributors.

Here, we started with a drink that paired well with their soups. This was their signature “Rhinofish” cocktail, a great beverage to sip, even despite its lack of spirits. Apple soda, tomato juice, and salted plum. The latter not only bobbed amongst the ice and mint, but it was made into a dust that rimmed the glass. The result a terrific salty and sweet, yet savoury drink, like I have never had before.

For the first week “Rhinofish” is offering a delicious “Wonton noodle soup”. A broth brewing for 8 to 12 hours for a clear liquid full of flavour. Served with pork dumplings, shredded seaweed, egg “skins” (scrambled egg omelette cut into strands), dehydrated tomato, and chewy noodles. For those who want more punch and a little heat, they offer housemade chilli oil to fragrance the soup. There was nothing that I did not like about this, the wontons were delightful, and the toppings added a great texture to the mix. So it is a shame this was the first soup we tried, as it was hard to live up to and/or surpass.

Week two, “Rhinofish” features their “vegetable noodle soup”. 12 different vegetables cooking for over 12 hours gives this broth its snap. And like its broth base, there is plenty of vegetables in the actual soup as well. Steamed vegetables, fried vegetables, and vegetables wrapped in tofu skin. Bok choy, king oyster mushroom, asparagus, tomato, and broccolini. I advise eating the tempura battered ones first as they get soggy quick in the warm soup. The tofu skin was the highlight, like eating a tasty low carb wrap that is a topping a bowl of noodles that is also good.

I liked the “Taiwanese beef noodles” the least, and that says a lot about the other two before. This broth is boiled for 18 hours giving it a very deep beef flavour. Here the noodles are thicker, better to sop up the soup with and better to balance out the beef with. Braised beef shank, pan fried short rib, carrot, and home made sauerkraut also make it into the bowl. I liked the tender shank meat, but had to gnaw over the short rib. I liked the char of the rib and its crispier skin, but not how it was made soggy in the soup that it sat in and soaked up. But the rest of it was tasty with the carrot and the thickness of the brew, giving the serving the richness of a stew.

Rhinofish Noodle Bar
550 Main Street, Vancouver BC
604-428-3389
rhinofishnoodlebar.com

 

Our next stop was the “Moltaqa”, the Moroccan restaurant in Gastown. I have been before, and continue to adore their decor. I enjoy the bold colours and the wonderful patterns that cover seats and topped tables.

Here, all their soups for the festival are vegan friend and gluten free. And with each we enjoyed traditional Moroccan tea in traditional Moroccan serve ware. It didn’t necessarily pair with the soup. But it offered a break from it with its own refreshing palate cleansing mint and sugar.

For the first week “Moltaqa” is offering a “Chickpea and lentil soup” with tomatoes, garlic, and Moroccan spices. It was a hearty soup, much like the other two to come. There were lots of chunks to chewy through, and grainy chickpeas to fill up on, but you also get a whole wheat round of bread to dip into it with. And as is custom, the whole is severed with sweet dates on the side. They are helpful in rejuvenating the soup by allowing you to take breaks from it. This is also achieved through the side of olives for sharing.

I liked the creamy “Traditional pea soup” with green peas, cumin, garlic, and Moroccan spices. It is finished with a topping of cumin, salt, and olive oil. You stir them in to the velvety soup for an extra pop. This has a consistency you’d want to dunk your sandwich into.

And for the last week of the soup festival their “Traditional white bean soup” will be up for voting. White bean, ginger, cilantro, tomatoes, garlic, and Moroccan spices. This was my favourite of the three. It has a tomatoey base like a vegetable soup and would be great on the side with some sharp grilled cheese.

Moltaqa Restaurant
51 W Hastings Street, Vancouver
604-696-4055
moltaqarestaurant.com.

 

From here we ended at our last stop: “Las Tortas”, located in the Cambie Village area. Going in we had the people in the neighbourhood tell us how great the food, and that we were in for a treat. The owner in himself is a treat. He has cooked and operated the shop for 10 years now and doesn’t look like he is slowing down.

The soup he offered for the first week is the “Pozole Verde”, a traditional Mexican soupy stew featuring hominy corn (big white meaty corn that is chewy. It reminded me of barley but nutty). All in a clear broth loaded fully with squash blossoms, radish slices, chicken chunks, and shreds of lettuce. It had a clean look and finish to it. Comforting like the bowl of soup you would ask for when you are sick: a home style chicken soup.

The “Mexican lamb consommé” is as bold as it is colourful. A strong flavour with plenty of spices and the taste of lamb through out. Slow cooked lamb broth, guajillo chilli, rice, and garbonzo beans; topped with pico de gallo. As a whole, this was another hearty soup that eats like a meal, especially with the rice at the bottom of the bowl.

“Los Tortas’” last soup you could vote for is the “Mexican red lentil”. Red lentils simmered in a vegetable based broth with a mix of tomatoes, spices, lime and cilantro. It was very herbaceous, a flavour you’d want topping some nacho chips.

Las Tortas
3353 Cambie Street, Vancouver
604-569-1402
lastortas.ca

 

Well there you have it, some warming options to enjoy this brisk winter season. So head out, find your favourite and vote. For more details check out the official link to the Vancouver Foodster Soup Festival.

Vancouver Soup Festival January 10-31

#soupfestyvr

Fayuca, Brunch

“Fayuca” is a new modern Mexican restaurant that opened earlier this year. And this weekend, they have launched their very own version of brunch. The owners have a long history celebrating food and creating their own in and around Mexico City and Vancouver. They are inspired by the food they grew up eating, and combine it with ingredients readily made available in Vancouver. They are now open from 9-3pm Saturdays and Sundays, offering a Mexican twist on your favourite breakfast items and drinks. Spiked coffee, pancakes, and eggs benny.

This sunny fall morning we were seated on their heated patio. A little oasis in Yaletown with palm shrubs and wicker chairs. However the interior of the restaurant is also worth noting.

Today, and for the next few months, in jubilation of brunch, they will have a live DJ in house spinning tracks behind a straw lined table. The straw here matched the woven straw walls and ceiling panels, the wicker lamp shades, and their overall tropical theme. Orbs of light wrapped in netting, masks carved in wood, and the first half of a marlin fish mounted on the wall.

From where we sat on their open patio, we had a clear view of their bar. A wonderful tiled feature that looked right out of a tropical vacation advert. There, we immediately honed in on the box of Honey Cheerios that was behind it. When we asked, we were delighted to learn that it was a garnish-to-be on one of our “Fayuca” brunch time drink specials.

“Sol dorado” with Reposado tequila, honey, lemon, and marmalade; finished with crushed Cheerio dust lining the rim. It was strong with citrus to start, but ended on the tequila side of things. It fostered the feeling of “waking up to a party”, according to one of my guests. Ultimately, we were all enamoured with the rim and found it a shame that the menu didn’t mention it. And disappointed that there weren’t other brunch drinks that had a different type of cereal coating its rim. For example, “El Tucan” was just asking for a crushed Froot Loops dusting.

Instead, “El Tucan” is a very serious drink, it is has heavy as it looks. Black strap rum, Campari, pineapple, and coffee bean. Definitely for the coffee lovers, pairing its natural bitterness with some strong rum notes.

The “Feature licuado” was a lot more light hearted, sans the alcohol. It was basically a milkshake, featuring a fruit in rotation. Today it was a banana blended into the whole milk and cardamom. The result was basically a banana smoothie, making this a great way to help you start the day!

“Champurrado” is Mexican hot chocolate and better than any hot chocolate I have ever had. Made with corn flour, milk, and piloncillo. It was a rich and silky sip with nutty and earthly notes. It was finished off with a mild spice that makes it both a great dessert drink and a terrific side to our meal to come.

The “Feature pastry” was a “Concha”, a freshly baked bun with a cinnamon biscuit shell, served with butter. It was sweet and flakey with a taste and a crust like that of a Chinese pineapple bun. According to my guest with some background knowledge, this pastry is not commonly served with butter, but more offered as a dessert. However, this is fusion Mexican brunch, and this “concha” found itself recreated as a dinner roll.

Similarly, these were pancakes reimagined as sweet corn hot cakes, served with maple syrup and your choice of bacon or sausage. Super tasty, but a tad too burnt, giving acrid bites. Simple, but so good. I would have enjoyed them as is, without the need of the tart strawberry or sweet syrup.

The “Seafood chorizo scramble” was two scrambled eggs mixed with BC octopus and humbolt squid chorizo. It is served with a side of beans, feta cheese, and flour tortilla. Shame you only got two of the tortilla rounds, as these were a great base; helpful in transforming your scramble, beans, avocado, and sour cream into a taco or burrito for easier eating.

Our table loved the “Birria” aka the “hangover stew” the most. The name and the idea of it was just fun. This was a traditional spicy brisket stew, with crispy tortilla, onions, cilantro, and limes. The chips stayed crispy for a long time, bobbing in the stew. The pieces gave the serving something to chew through, much like the tender strands of beef did. Overall it was a hearty and comforting serving that was good both hot or cold. I can see how it would help those with a handover.

“Huevos rancheros” is a classic Mexican dish. Two fried eggs, corn tortilla, salsa roja, beans, onion, creme fraiche, avocado, and feta cheese. Tomatoey sauce, soggy tortilla, runny yolk, gummy beans, and refreshing cream; need I say more?

 

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? – Yes.
There is no other brunch like it, you are whisked away from decor to drink. A fun spot for something different. Curious to see how their dinner fairs now. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

FAYUCA
1009 Hamilton Street, Vancouver BC, V6B 5T4
604-689-8523
fayuca.ca

Happy Hour at La Taqueria, Hastings

Today I was invited down to the “La Taqueria” on Hastings Street. This is the popular taco shop’s original location, they are now sporting five others around Vancouver, to satisfy your taco needs.

The Hastings branch has been recently renovated, just in time for summer; with a new bar and cocktail program, and some happy hours specials to enjoy them with. Happy Hour runs from 3-6pm every day of the week, and we were here today to take full advantage.

The renovations were time and money well spent. It takes their small hole in the wall and transforms it into a simple and moody bar (in a good way). A few bar stools by the counter, a handful of family style sharing tables and dim lights to set the tone: from drinks with the boys to a dinner date with the girls. Quick and easy dining with an edge.

But really they are more a bar than anything else, especially when you see and try the calibre of cocktails coming out from behind the counter. Take it from a gal who goes ga-ga over a good glass. Don’t let their tiny real estate fool you, with a bevy of herbs and bitters they bring classy cocktails to the sides of tacos and burritos with ease. But if that isn’t for you they also offer beer by the can or bottle, and margaritas on tap. In fact majority of their Happy Hour specials give you the winning combo of one of their tacos or nachos, with one of their popular beverages for less. For example, a Baja taco and a pint runs at $9 during Happy Hour, which saves you around $4. And Margaritas and “Palomas” are $7 between 3-6pm, instead of $10 regularly.

But to be honest, the regularly priced cocktails are the ones I am recommending. Between our party of three we instinctively found and ordered our favourite notes between spicy, strong, and sweet.

I was highly interested in this tropical twist to a classic.Wild Turkey, Piquant & coconut syrup, absinth, angostura, and lemon oil. Sadly, the “Spiced coconut old fashioned” didn’t have as much coconut flavour as I wanted. I had to strain to taste it. I also didn’t get any of the liquorice from the absinth, not that I am complaining about that one. But at least the drink was as strong and as full bodied as I expected from an Old Fashioned.

The “Bad Hombre” is Wild Turkey, Los Siete Misterios Mezcal, chartreuse, ginger, habanero, citrus, and a poblano pepper. It had a warming, back of your throat burn to it, a warming spice that would pair great with any of their dishes, giving it some zip and spice.

The “Sunset” certainly lived up to its name in imagery. Tequilla blanco, Campari, strawberry & peppercorn shrub, and citrus. Despite its fruit punch-like colour, this one was very Tequila forward, with hints of pepperiness. Sweet but with strong alcohol after taste.

The “Shifting sands” was an easy to drink cocktail, like flavoured water: light and breezy. Tio pepe, bercherovka, Cointreau, honey, citrus, and mint. It was mint forward and even more so when you muddied the sprig of green into the drink, which I am recommending.

The “Jalisco after midnight” was my favourite for flavour. El jimandor, reposado, pisco, vermouth, cynar, cacao, and grapefruit oil. A great smokey drink that you sip to savour. It was incredibly smooth with a creamy chocolatey finish.

Hands down, the “Sinner Man” was the most impressive drink of the night. Saffron infused rum, Mexican falernum, lime grapefruit, and cinnamon smoke. The highlight was the cinnamon stick set on fire. The visual of the smoke caught your eye and the scent of the burning stick kept your nose. Be sure to use the singed cinnamon stick as a stir stick after, so that its essence mingles into the cocktail for a more warming note. It was nutty with the spice, and overall easy to drink like a tropical juice.

The sensation of smelling it first, then tasting it for a different experience was used in another drink as well. The “Charros kick” (name pending) was one of two drinks we got a sneak peak taste of. They have yet to hit the regular drink menu, but you should be seeing them make their debut in the week to come. Mesczal tequila, orgeat, almond, and lemon juice. Here, you smelled the almond essence, but never taste it. Similarly, you expect it to be a richer and creamier drink because of its white milky-hue. Instead, it is light and refreshing.

The second, soon to be released cocktail is the “Bonito”, which did not taste like the salty flake with the same name, instead it was more minty, like a mojto made with Beefeater gin and Lillet blanc.

As for food, their seafood tacos continue to be my favourites, and the ones I recommend. Especially the two that featured battered and deep fried fish and shrimp. The trip in the fryer gives the otherwise soften taco some much needed crunch. And as textural eater, it is so important for my month-feel that I get that balance. The “Baja” taco featured tempura beer battered seasonal fish with cabbage, cilantro, salsa mexicana, and chipotle mayo in a
6″ hand made flour tortilla. The “Cabo” taco had the same make up, just replace fish for tempura beer battered prawns.

And if you like your fish fresh, they also have the “Atun” taco. Seared albacore tuna with
wasabi mayo, chili ponzu, cabbage, and pico de gallo on a 6″ hand made flour tortilla. This one was refreshing, sort of like poke or salad with the raw fish and fresh vegetable, except with a dry taco shell that you can eat around.

The other tacos are smaller in size and feature more raw, pickled, and stewed vegetables and meats. I found them less exciting flavour-wise, but their bar of sauces and pickles were perfect in rectifying this. Here, you customize with as little or as much of their salsa verde, chipotle, or habanero sauces in squeeze bottles; as you like.

But when it comes to Happy Hour and sharing, my vote is for the nachos! This serving is definitely not for just one person. The tortilla chips used are what sets this platter apart, that and the fact that they are double baked. The crispier and airier chips are noticeably lighter. They don’t have much flavour to them, but luckily they are top with plenty and layer after layer there is a consistent 1:1 ratio of dressing to chip. Three tiers of corn chips, three different cheeses, refried beans, onions, Jalapeño, sweet corn, sour cream, pico de gallo, and a creamy chipotle sauce. But be warned, the refried bean mixture does contain traces of meat, therefore this is not a vegetarian option.

But if you are ding solo and want that crunch and easy munch, you can order guacamole with some plain chips. They use the same chips as the nachos, but with a chilled lumpy pico de gallo mix to load them up with. In truth, I ordered this by accident, wanting a side of guac for the nachos, not that it needed another condiment, in hindsight.

 

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.
It is a little far for me to travel for tacos, where there are two of their other locations much closer to me. Although neither of them offer the same extent of alcoholic beverages. This locale serves as an actual bar. Lots of effort was put into really transforming the place and the experience. I would stop by just for a drink, when in the neighbourhood. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

LA TAQUERIA
322 West Hastings Street, Vancouver BC, V6B 1K6
604-568-4406
lataqueria.com
La Taqueria Pinche Taco Shop Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Happy Hour at The Pawn Shop

Today I was meeting up a friend for dinner. She admittedly is particular when it comes to eating out, so whenever we do, its at a restaurant that is within her wheelhouse. More often than not it is Mexican, today it would be “Tacos, Tapas, and Tequila” from “The Pawn Shop”.

I first heard of “Pawn Shop” at a mixology competition, where their bartender had participated. Hearing the uniqueness of their name, I made a mental note, wanting to visit them just because of it. Often a funky name leads to a funky restaurant to match, and here they did not disappoint.

We sat on the sectioned off patio up front, given the warmth of the day and the shade the patio provided. Here, the sketches of tacos, dollar bills, gold coins, and skulls that decorated the exterior spackle spoke to what was past this threshold.

The entire restaurant had plenty of colour thanks to the artistically done graffiti-style art that covered a few of the walls in urban stylized faces and monsters, including the tags of the ones (I assumed) that drew it. This style continued on to the shared washroom space where individual stalls were marked by their own luchador in masks in side and out.

The main dining area of the restaurant was a little more muted. Wood, concrete, and metal. Here the words “Eat Tacos” and “We Sell Gold” reminded you of why you were here.

Today we took advantage of Happy Hour, given that our timing correlated. Although, I arrived with only 15 minutes more to take advantage of their deals; so rushed to order. The result: I basically asked for everything off their happy hour specials menu, starting with a drink.

Their “Spiked slush” allowed you to pick your liquor and your juice and they mix together an oz for $4.95. With over seven spirit options to choose from and nine mixes the possibilities are endless. I took our server’s recommendation of partnering the jalapeño tequila with pineapple juice for a salty and sweet tropical punch. Then made it a double for $8.95.

During happy hour all their 4.5inch tacos are $1.25 each. Whereas they are normally $3.95 each. Eating earlier saves you $2.70 per taco. I ordered one of each in order to try them all. At $1.25, even if you don’t like one or two, you aren’t loosing out all that much.

I did this without reading the fine print, therefore surprised my guest (when she arrived a little later) by forcing her to buy a drink in order for us to get the deal. Luckily it doesn’t have to be an alcoholic one. In order to get the $1.25 taco deal you need to order a minimum of three tacos and one beverage. And if you want more tacos at that price it comes with the need to purchase more drinks. For every five tacos at $1.25 that you order, you need to order one drink.

All our tacos were served in the same metal pan, in two parallel lines. The following are their descriptions, in the order of how they appear on the menu.

The “Al Pastor” is achiote braised pork, house slaw, pineapple habanero salsa, onion, cilantro, and sour cream. I was impressed by the amount of meat you are given here. The seasonings is almost sweet, so liked how the sour cream balances this with some tangy cooling.

The “Carnitas” were my favourite and the one I would recommend, given how flavourful it was. Slow cooked pulled pork, house slaw, crispy onions, pickled onion, and chipotle mayo. The meat was tender with no tendon or fat, just juicy chunks of dark meat pulled into shreds. This too was seasoned on the sweeter side, but without sour cream I was left craving more pickled onion for balance.

The “Carne mezclada” has ground beef, bacon, poblano pepper, shredded lettuce, chipotle mayo, green onion, and pico de Gallo. The use of ground beef here reminded us for tex-mex flavoured like Italian spaghetti sauce. Tasty enough, but so watery that eating it was a chore..

The “Chorizo” taco was zesty and full of flavour thanks to its namesake protein. The house made chorizo was served with onion, cilantro, salsa verde, and pickled carrot radish. This was one of the more memorable tacos.

The “Chicken Tinga” was fairly flat by comparison. Shredded spiced chicken, house slaw, green onion, radish, and chipotle mayo. It ate the same from first bite to last. Good as a small taco, but any more the taste gets boring. It could have use something sweet like pineapple or corn for some zip.

The following are all their vegetarian taco options, it was nice to see that they offer three types, for those out there who are vegetarian and would like the opportunity to order and try different flavoured tacos as well. And all you needed to make each vegan is to order each without their cheese or mayo options.

The “Hongo” featured sautéed mixed mushrooms, house slaw, feta, and rojo mayo. There were plenty of mushrooms to make this a hearty taco, but it was the feta that had me going back for the second bite. Together it had a creamy and salty finish to it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t imagine it as tasty of a taco if it weren’t for the non vegan feta cheese topping it.

The “Corn and bean” taco was pretty boring. With black beans, corn, shredded lettuce, red pepper, and chipotle mayo it still left like it was missing something. Clearly this was intended as a vegetarian option, but with out a main ingredient to highlight, it felt like you are eating a side salad between your tortilla shell. In order to keep in vegan friendly, maybe some tofu ground beef?

The “Squash” taco was more interesting, but it wasn’t the texture I was expecting rolled up between a taco shell. Kabocha squash, crispy onions, house slaw, and chimichurri. The mash of orange squash made each bite starchy, it was the dominating taste and texture, leaving me craving something crispy like deep fried shallot, something tangy like pickled onions, and something sweet like a vinaigrette.

 

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? – No.
It is a great spot for some drinks and snacks to share. Easily accessible with funky decor. I was impressed enough by happy hour to wonder what the rest of their menu is like. Street corn, cheese tots, and fried cauliflower, just to name a few things I would go back to try. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

THE PAWN SHOP
1117 Granville Street, Vancouver BC, V6Z 1M1
604-687-7474
thepawnshopyvr.com
The Pawn Shop YVR Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Taco Del Mar, 5lbs burrito challenge

We made our own 5 pound burrito at Taco Del Mar!

Every year, for the last 10 years, the “Taco Del Mar” in Port Coquitlam celebrates Cinqo De Mayo in a very special way.

Every May 5th the date is observed, commemorating the Mexican Army’s victory over the French Empire, at the Battle of Puebla, on May 5, 1862. On this day many Mexican restaurants take this opportunity to showcase their culture through their cuisine. And at “Taco Del Mar”, Port Coquitlam (and only at this location) they host their annual “5-Pounder™ Burrito Eating Challenge”. 2018 will be the 10th year of this amateur eating competition.

They invite any and all challengers down, in an attempt to consume a 5 pound burrito in 30 minutes or less. In doing so, the behemoth is free, and you get your photo added to their wall of fame. A privilege only held for a select few. In the 10 years they have been hosting this challenge, only 6-8 individuals have risen to the occasion. This is our first year hearing about it, so this number may change. To date, the record for the fastest finishing time is 11minutes.

 

Each 5lbs burrito costs $30, it is made from the over lapping of 4 baked warm tortillas. The filling consists of 5 scoops of rice, 4 scoops of beans in either refried or black, 4 scoops of seasoned ground beef, 4 scoops of cheese in either shredded or queso, 4 scoops of salsa available in regular or mango, and 4 scoops of their sauce in either mild, medium, or spicy. All this is equivalent to four-and‐a‐half of their regular “Baja Burritos”.

If you wish to mix proteins or to have steak or chicken instead, you can pay $5 more to customize. Similarly you can choose to pay more for additional ingredients like guacamole, sour cream, cilantro, and lettuce.

Hot tip: ask to have your beans half black and half refried, do the same for the 2 types of cheeses and salsa. This gives your burrito a larger variety of textures and taste, thus increasing your chances of finishing. The photo above is the comparison between a regular burrito and the 5-Pounder.

To watch how we did, and to witness the creation of our very own customized 5lbs burrito, visit my YouTube channel: MaggiMei

 

You can also purchase the 5-Pounder without doing the challenge, or doing so with the intention to share, it will just cost you the $30 price. Once again this challenge is only available once a year so head down this Saturday, May 5th between 11am and 5pm to try it for yourself!

 

 

TACO DEL MAR(Port Coquitlam)
113-2020 Oxford Connector, Port Coquitlam BC, V3C 0A4
604-464-5388
https://www.facebook.com/pocotacodelmar
Taco Del Mar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

La Taqueria Main

Today I was on Main Street, celebrating the grand opening of the newest location to join the “La Taqueria” family. They are located ideally on the corner of Main and Broadway, by a prominent bus stop, for that extra walk-in traffic. Because as we know, there is nothing better than tacos on the go. Through their other five locations, they have already proven themselves as a prominent purveyor of the good stuff. Established in 2009 they have been bringing the “taste and feel of street tacos” from the streets of Mexico to the Lower Mainland.

But before we go any further, the disclaimer. When it comes to a media event, plating and portion size may be gussied up and/or paired down, and the service will usually be top notch. Though I can at least paint you the most accurate image when it comes to the food and the setting, as how I interpret it. But as always, these are my opinions and you need not take them as fact. Unless you have my exact background, have lived my exact experiences, and we possess the same tongue; no one can truly taste and appreciate as you do.

The restaurant’s plain exterior is misleading as it does usher you into a pretty special space, which intentionally had a new yet lived in feel to it. Blue and white geometric tiles imported from Mexico, reclaimed wood furniture, distressed antiques, and a collection of brass pigs. It was modern and dressy, yet cool and casual, all without effort.

The opening of this location is extra special, as it is the first, and currently only location that has a cocktail program, the others simply offer bottled drinks, Here, they are equipped with a bar and are working with mixologists from around town to create a relevant, rotating drink menu. Tonight we would get to try three such cocktails.

The “Classic margarita” featuring your choice of either mezcal or tequila, Cointreau, lime juice, and agave nectar. Finished off with a finessed salted rim that had the salt grains cascading down the side of the glass.

The “Paloma” was pretty in a pale pink. Once again your choice of mezcal or tequila, lime juice, and grapefruit juice. Finished off with an lemon slice.

My favourite was the “Mezcal negroni” that was finished off with flames, and as a result had a wonderfully robust, smokey flavour to it. Not to mention the nifty work that went into cutting orange rinds into the shape of lightening bolts. Mezcal, cinzano rosso, campari, and pineapple bitters.

Their food menu is hand painted and hung on the wall, as it is for all their other locations. A mirrored listing of what is available and what goes in to it, for you to look at before committing.

We would begin with all that is new to any of their restaurants. First, the nacho platter: corn chips, a trio of Guadalajara-sourced cheeses, refried beans, onions, jalapeño pickles, sweet corn, sour cream, pico de Gallo, and a chipotle sauce. A great snack for sharing and pairing with the new cocktails. The mound of double baked nachos is comprised of three tiers and is dressed accordingly so that each chip has some topping. The chips were thick and crunchy, they held their texture even as the serving cooled. No complaints, besides not wanting to share. Guess that is reason enough to return, to be able to get a platter all to myself.

But if you prefer just some chip and the ability to regulate your dip, you can also get a platter of corn chips and salsa, or one with chips and pico de Gallo.

And now “La Taqueria”, has everyone’s favourite, churros! These cinnamon and sugar sticks are homemade and baked fresh to order. Make sure you eat these as soon as you get them, that way they are still crispy on the outside and the dulce de leche is still gooey for the dipping.

They of course, also offer the full extent of their taco, burrito, and quesadillas line at this location. Tonight we would try all of their fish and meat tacos, which are prepared using traditional recipes; utilizing local, organic and sustainable ingredients.

The great thing about tacos here is that anything you find bland, you can easily rectify by taking a stroll to their sauce and pickle bar, where with a scoop, dollop, or squeeze you can easily add flair to your handheld. Therefore I will only be speaking to the main ingredient in each taco as you are encourage to customize and pile high to your preference.

Their seafood tacos are my favourite and a big hit with the crowd. They come in slightly larger rounds than the meat tacos below. 6″ hand made flour tortillas.

“Atun”. Seared albacore tuna with wasabi mayo, chilli ponzu, cabbage, and pico de gallo. The fish and its asian seasonings reminded me of tuna tataki, with gentle and fresh flavours. To be honest I would have loved it as a salad with some greens, or the fish dressed as is to better highlight its quality.

My favourite was the “Baja” taco. Tempura beer battered seasonal fish, cabbage, cilantro, salsa mexicana, and chipotle mayo. A dressier fried fish with a crispy outside and a flaky inside. Overall, punchy flavours, bold spices, and a creamy sauce to balance them all.

I loved how the “cabo” tacos looked visually. Tempura beer battered prawns with cabbage, cilantro, salsa mexicana, and chipotle mayo. Althouugh really didn’t taste all that different from the fish taco above, given their overlapping use of ingredients. And if I was to choose between the two, it would be the fish.

The meat taco are a great deal at $3 each, and with some manipulating you can enjoy or share them as two mini tacos with still plenty of filling. They are served in 4” soft corn tortillas.

“Asada”. We found the grilled ‘AAA’ flank beef to be a little dry. Keeping in mine the sheer volume of patrons that was celebrating with “La Taqueria” today, and the food necessary to feed them being pushed out in large batches. The “De Cachette”, braised beef cheeks was a lot more juicy and flavourful. But the “De Lengua, braised beef tongue, the moistest of them all. But my favourite of the quartet was the “Pollo Con Mole”. I enjoyed the slight sweetness of the free range chicken coated in a chocolate mole sauce that contain nuts.

For meat tacos, “Carnitas” is my go to. Pork confit with pickled red onions, except I like it with a lot more pickles, which is easily achieved with a trip to their self serve condiment bar. The “Pescado” I found a little plain without additional dressing. The white seasonal fish didn’t taste like it was salted. Maybe with more chipotle mayo and salsa fresca, and less shredded cabbage this would have been more memorable. Whereas I liked the “Al Pastor” with its juicy pineapples offering sweetness and tang. It stood out amongst all the others. And lastly, I wanted some pickles on the “Tinga De Pollo” for acidity. As the chicken with chorizo in a chipotle tomato sauce was a little one tone.

 

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.
If you haven’t visited the before, you need to come in for their seafood tacos, they are some of the best in the city. And now with cocktails, churros, and nachos, you have even more reason to make this your next dinner with a date or a mate. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

LA TAQUERIA
2521 Main Street, Vancouver BC
lataqueria.com
La Taqueria Main Street Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

La Cantina

We came to “La Cantina” for late night tacos. Truth be told, we were enroute to another taco place around the corner. But this newer shop and its bold colours drew us in like a moth to a flame. Plus its sandwich board spoke to its pricing, and $3 for a taco seemed standard, and a fair price to pay.

Stepping in, I was immediately enamoured with the decor. Their lucha libre theme engulfed you. It was consistent with the vibrant colours in the murals, lively with the up beat Spanish music playing over head, and even present in the fluorescent lights that added to the jovial vibe.

Realistically painted, meaty men watched you eat. Some looking fierce with glowing eyes, others determined with fist in hand, one proud with a sharp blazer over his shiny trunks, and even one smiling with kind eyes. Their masks also made their way on to each and every glossy stool top that you sat on.

You order at the counter, a bee line from the front door. Step one has you choosing your style. How you want your Mexican? – tacos, burritos or a bowl, as a quesadilla, or maybe a wrap? Next you choose your meat or vegetable filling. Each protein has two styles of preparation, with the shrimp plus chorizo as is, and the fish flash fried. It was hard to order off the over hanging menu at the counter. It was to the point, but didn’t list any of the ingredients. As a result, we watched the line creep as each patron had to ask what “pasilla beef” or “cochinita pork” was. So I suggest utilizing one of their take out menus on the side, to fill in the blanks.

It is $3 for a taco, $8.90 for a cantina bowl or burrito, $8 for a quesadilla, and $8.90 for a wrap. The price and parceling also reflects the quantity of food you get. They also offer sides likes soup, guac and chips, as well as plenty of sauces to load up on.

We got four tacos on a plate. The “Mole verde chicken” was shredded white meat chicken prepared with a chile pumpkin seed sauce. It was overall mild, with back of the throat burn, and a slight herbal note. This one my partner liked.

The “pasilla beef” was shredded beef seasoned in a chile almond sauce. To be blunt it didn’t look all that appealing, yet it was definitely the most flavourful of our quartet. It was savoury with chocolate under tones.

The “Shrimp chorizo” had a more self explanatory name. It was prepared “Mexican” style with pork meat. It was not as salty as I thought it would be. I liked the potatoes included, as they made things a lot more filling. And I missed any hint of the shrimp, as it was grounded and mixed into the pile of brown. All together I found the assembly just needed something more refreshing. Something raw and juicy, that isn’t the heap of cilantro that I scraped off, because I couldn’t stand its flavour.

The “Pacific rock fish” option is only available as a taco. It is crusted fish, fried and topped with pico de gallo and chilli mayo. I really wished the chunk of white fish was crispier, but the salsa kept things refreshing at least. It was the lightest of the four taco: tasty, but for my tastes, I would have liked it more with a sauce similar to a tangy tartar.

We also shared one of their “La Cantina” burritos. It was reminiscent of a chimichanga with its pool of drippy sauce poured overtop and the addition of toppings sprinkled over it all. A flour tortilla filled with Mexican rice, refried beans, lettuce, and your choice of meat or veggies. Topped with their homemade salsa, sour cream, and feta cheese. It wasn’t bland per say, but it had an interesting flavour that I haven’t had else where. It would have been much better without the quick to soggy shredded lettuce filler, as I found its wilted flavour dominating.

Fast forward: almost a month later we came back for another whack at the burrito and found it not as good as what we had above. We forgot how little we liked the lettuce and how over whelming it actually was. There was too much of it and not enough meat spread evenly. Once again the burrito was flavourful, but still missing; something zesty, to keep me coming back bite after bite.

 

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 liked their decor more than their food. I think that during my next visit I may have to splurge on some extra sauces to keep things interesting. Overall, neither good or bad, just another option for quick and easy Mexican, at a good price. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

LA CANTINA
722 Nelson Street, Vancouver BC, V6Z 2A8
604-620-8981
La Cantina Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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