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Category: Spanish

Bodega revisit 2

“Bodega” continues to be one of those places I visit when I am in a pinch, looking for a restaurant that not only serves up a good meal, but does so in a great setting. They just tick off all my boxes so, here is a revisit visit post, with us trying new dishes and some of their desserts this time.

Their romantic setting is given some colour with their Spanish theme broadcasted through posters that covered the walls, while their history was showcased in black and white portrait photography that filled the rest of the wall space.

We started with a dish of house marinated mixed olives to pair with our glasses of red wine. Briny nuggets served in a dish that gave us a place to put its pits.

“Tabla de ibericos”. Their assortment of the finest charcuterie from Spain was an impressive assembly, well worth the $28. Thin seasoned cuts of meat, sharp and firm cheeses, pickled olives and cornichons, sweet quince jelly, and fragrant roasted garlic by the clove. This platter had everything to nibble on. And for $4 extra we were able to add on an order of “Pan y aceite Olivia” to round it out. Organic bread served with a side of Spanish evoo. Who doesn’t love warm bread dipped into fragrant oil. We were just missing a hint of salt to take it to the next level.

The “Tortilla eapanola potato omelette with aioli and mixed olives was so good that we ordered two. Thin slices of potato stacked and served with creamy mayo. Potatoes are always delicious and with its texture here, they are simply amazing.

“Piquillos rellenos”. Piquillo peppers stuffed with goat cheese, basil, dates, and marcona almonds; and they were amazing. Layers of flavour with fragrant pepper, salty and decadent cheese, sweet dates, and crushed nuts for crunch. And what a stunning presentation to boot!

The “Lengua estofada” is one that I have had before, and one that I deemed was worth trying today again. Beef tongue in a tomato, onion, and capers. Tender slices of meat in a tangy sauce, so good that my guests declared it the best beef tongue they have ever had.

With a vegetarian in the group we opted for the “Paella jardinera”. Saffron rice with pardon peppers, artichoke hearts, oyster mushrooms, asparagus, grilled fennel, cherry tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, and peas. Be warned this does take 30 minutes to make, but the outcome is a fragrant, fulsome rice with a nice crunch to it. It provided a great base and a nice filler for all the dishes above.

We saved room to enjoy their “Pan de calatrava”. Bread pudding with figs, dates, and dulce de leche. This was a nice twist to the classic fluffy bread pudding, with a soggy centre and a nice liquor kick to finish on.

The “Churros” were made fresh and served with hot dipping chocolate and vanilla mascarpone. Each rod was crispy and the dip plentiful to coat it from tip to tip. Although as good as it was, I much prefer the classic cinnamon and sugar flavouring on my churros.

 

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.
Another great meal, so I see no reason to not continue visiting. A great place for authentic Spanish tapas, and a destination sure to impress you guests. A unique and original spot for a wonderful night out. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

BODEGA
1014 Main Street, Vancouver BC, V6A 2W1
604-565-8815
bodegaonmain.ca

Bodega revisit

I continue to claim “Bodega” as my favourite tapas spot for authenticity of food and setting. So when looking for a place for dinner in the area, I found myself leading my guest in their direction. I love the rustic look of their Spanish posters and red gingham napkins, and how dressed up and romantic they feel with the lights down low for dinner. Although they keep things causal with their staff and their more laid back approach and dress code.

For the more detailed review of their interior and to get a feel of the restaurant’s vibe, click on the link to read my first visit recap. I also tried a few more dishes then and there then in this revisit.

Bodega on Main

 

We started with their house marinated mixed olives. They were perfectly briny, without being too salty. Each was firm around the pit and made for a meaningful bite, followed by a smoky finish. I appreciated the variety in colours and sizes, but naturally the larger green ones were the preferred pick.

This evening I was with a more adventurous diner, so we found ourselves ordering their more unique dishes. Like the “Lengua estofada” which is beef tongue, prepared with tomato, onions, and capers. I am a fearless eater, but there is just something about tongue meat (tongue flesh?) that I can’t stomach. I can’t get over the weird sensation of chewing on tongue with your tongue. Although the meat of it was fairly tender, and not at all tough or muscular as you’d expect, feeling your own. The sauce helped me finish my piece with its deep spice, and the stewed tomato offered up a different texture to help disguise. This is a great way to try tongue for the first time, but not one I would go back for more of. I had one piece out of four and that was enough.

 

Whereas I would come back just for the “Chipirones”. This is sautéed baby squad in a garlic and wine sauce. Each piece was super tender and full of flavour. Easy to chew with a great charred flavour. Honestly the best squid dish I have had to date. I just wish I didn’t have to share it.

Following it with the “Conejo riojana” was a bad idea. This was slow cooked rabbit in a tomato and wine sauce, and it was bland compared to the other dishes above. The texture and taste was like that of fried chicken, coated in a runny juice. I would have liked it without the sauce or at least a thicker tomato paste instead. Sadly the potato side was the more memorable note to this plate.

 

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.
Despite a two out of two for dishes enjoyed, my original assessment of them stands. They have a winning combination of clean and simple food in a dark and rich environment. A great place to sit and catch up at, or the one for a casual dinner date. My new favourite spot for tapas. Make sure you visit with the attention to pair your food with Spanish wine. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

BODEGA
1014 Main Street, Vancouver BC, V6A 2W1
604-565-8815
bodegaonmain.ca

Bodega for brunch

I have been to “Bodega” once before and knew I would find my way back. And today it would be to try their newer brunch menu for the first time. My visit coincided with my time as a Vancouver Foodster caesar completion judge. So there was plenty to eat and try.

But first the disclaimer. When it comes to meals enjoyed as media: 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.

To check out my first visit and my impressions of the place, visit the link below.

Bodega on Main

 

Their “Premium double caesar” was only available during their weekend brunch. The cocktail begins with Walter Caesar mix and to it they add your choice of either Sons of Vancouver chilli vodka, Altos blanco tequila, or Ford’s gin. The rim is a mix of maldon salt and chilli flakes. It is finished with a prawn, olive, pearl onion, and jamón kebob. It was a tasty cocktail, but what made it memorable wasn’t what was in it, but the ham that balanced over it. It also paired nicely with the flavours we ordered for breakfast below.

To watch its creation, along with the other caesar challenge entries. Clink on my recap video below, and see if you can recreate them for yourself, at home.

 

For food we got the “Breakfast paella” made with chorizo, chicken, prawns, roasted grape tomatoes, and piquillo pepper. It was topped with a couple of soft poached eggs, because nothing reads breakfast like the addition of eggs. I wanted more flavours and depth to the rice. It was heavy with salt and saturated soggy with its own sauce that pooled at the bottom. I wanted the paella crispier, with more stickier, tackier rice. I liked the chicken the most, but there was only one wing from drumlet to tip.

And because I like trying the unique and most unusual on any menu, their menu had me ordering their “Morcilla”. This was a breakfast platter of sausages with a twist. Blood sausages, fried potatoes with onions, poached eggs, and grated manchego cheese. These were the best representation of blood sausages that I have ever had. They weren’t iron laden or bitter; but instead rich, deep, and dark. Almost cinnamon-y. I just wished for a lighter side, something a lot more fresh to change the taste. Even more green onion and maybe some tomato or avocado over the starchy potatoes would have helped.

We were then offered dessert. We were tempted by the churros, but given the rarity of figs on most menus, we had to take advantage of them here now. “Bombon de higos:” brandy soaked figs with almonds, and mascarpone; dipped in chocolate. They weren’t too sweet despite the robe of chocolate that surrounded each one. They reminded me more of cheesecake with the marscapone, it was definitely the highlight for me. Great two bite morsels, where one was more then enough; so be sure to share this one.

 

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.
Another great meal at “Bodega”. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

Bodega on Main
1014 Main Street, Vancouver BC
604-565-8815
bodegaonmain.ca
Bodega on Main Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Cabrito

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

CABRITO
2270 Commercial Drive, Vancouver BC, V5N 4B5
604-620-7636
cabrito.ca
Cabrito Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bodega on Main

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This one was on “Vancity Buzz’s” best new restaurants of 2015 list. And I choose it for today, as when dining with a group, I prefer tapas so that I get to try many dishes and eat only what I like from them.

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One of my guests has been to its predecessor downtown, so knew what to expect with this one. She knew the food would be good, declaring that we would be spending a lot of money and trying many things. However, the decor was better than anything she expected. After we set our jackets down, she even took the time to tour the restaurant herself. They didn’t have happy hour (yet), but opened at 4pm and we were only the second ones in.

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The Spanish influenced wasn’t only in the name or cuisine, but it continued to the ambience and decor as well. The space was rich with warm tones: Browns, reds, and gold. Brown in the tables and booths, red in the checkered napkins at each setting, and gold in the rim of the crystal goblet used as a tea light on each table. There were patterned tiles under our feet, each different but altogether complimentary in design. Cast iron chandeliers hung from the ceiling, suspended from chains and glowing with an orange hue. One wall was plastered in Spanish posters and adverts like a collage. Another hung with greyscale canvas art and black and white photographs surrounding it. All this was accentuated by the bluesy beat of the music playing over head, it even had my Cuban guest swaying to it and clapping to the tempo. Authentic and engulfing, are the best word to describe the scene.

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The staff were just as authentic. Our server was attentive in a friendly sort of way; like a cousin who doesn’t know you so well, but cares for you just the same, and wants you to have a good time. She took several opportunities to engage my other guest’s baby girl, even getting her manager to help make room for their stroller. Apparently in Spanish culture, the family comes first, kids are welcomed everywhere including the bar, or in our case a nice restaurant. The large family that sat in the corner opposite us had their toddler exploring the isle between the tables. Where ours held us a table and a half worth of space. The guests that eventually sat next to us, would not be happy over it.

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When looking for libations, my tapas experienced guest was insistent that we had to have Spanish wine with tapas. The wine list, like the fold out paper food menu was spelled out in Spanish. Luckily this sake guess double as our translator, she knew the cuisine well and spearheaded our entire ordering process. Though each Spanish name did come with an English description underneath.

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“Jamon iberico de bellota”. This was described as the “finest ham in the world”, so good that the vegetarian even had to nibble. You could feel the quality as you pulled a gummy sheet of meat from the plate. And taste the quality as soon as it melted on your tongue. It had a unique chew with melted fat, to match its unique salty tang. It’s hard to describe, but you can taste that what you were having was something special. I have never had anything like it. This plate, like a few others to come also came with a pile of mixed olives. Both it and the ham were easier to eat with fingers.

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“Membrillo y queso”, aged manchego cheese and quince jelly. It went well as a pairing with the ham above. Glad they came together. Like an adult ham and cheese combo with the bonus of jam to seal the salty with some sweet. The cheese was deep and rich. A starchy, dry and dense match with the fruity syrupy jam. And because of of the sweeter jelly this option was also mentioned as part of the dessert menu. It can go both ways depending on what you pair it with.

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We ended up asking for some bread to complete our ham and cheese sandwich feel. The white and multigrain slices made a great accompaniment. It came with a dish of olive oil for dipping. Like everything else, you could taste the difference in their Spanish olive oil. The flavour was so deep, like all the olive oils I have had before it was diluted in comparison.

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“Tortilla espanola”, the traditional potato omelette. This was thin slices of potato adhered together with egg, hence the omelette description. However it was more like cake in texture and appearance. Fluffy, with chunks of starchy potato. According to the Cuban it was done perfectly, exactly like how she recalled it from memory. It was served at the perfect temperature, where the potatoes were neither too soft or too hard. It was served with a nice garlic mayonnaise to change the taste, not that it needed anymore flavour. So good that we ordered a second serving and it came out just the same.

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“Champinones”. Sautéed mixed mushrooms flavoured with garlic, sherry, and finely grated aged manchego. There was the option to add a fried egg for extra on top, I regret not doing so as it could have used another element to create some depth. It was the same flavour in each cap. It was a juicy pop in your mouth, accented by sharp cheese. It needed a starch with it. Some bread, a little pasta; or in my case the omelette above was helpful.

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“Gamas al ajillo”. Sautéed prawns in garlic and chillies with sherry. It was a little spicy, although should not have been, as Spanish cuisine isn’t spicy at all. The prawns were good, and it’s oil based sauce made a great dip for the basket of bread.

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“Pimientos de pardon”. The blistered peppers with maldon salt was a fun one. When delivered, we were warned that some may be on the spicy side. So essentially this was the pepper eating version of Russian roulette. It was the luck of the draw whether your pepper was spicy or not. I was 1:3 for getting a non spicy one, though even then the heat creeped up close to the stem. I enjoyed the game, holding you breath, as you watched one another bite down. When it wasn’t making me tear up, the waxy pepper had a nice flavour brought out by the crunchy salt sprinkled over it.

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“Lengua estofada”. We dared the beef tongue made with tomato, onion, and capers. I actually think it’s weird to break down a tongue with your tongue. Though it’s great that they were using every part of the animal. It would have been better if they didn’t slice the tongue as a whole, that they didn’t preserve its natural shape. However covering it in the pasty tomato sauce helped. It actually it tasted no different than if it were from any other part of the cow, it was even a little fatty. And if no one mentioned it, I wouldn’t have been able to tell that this was tongue meat.

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“Crema catalana”. This was not the usual Creme brûlées that I am partial to. It had the same crisp sugar burnt crust, but under it, the texture was more like whipped yams. Where I prefer the almost pudding and a little bit jello-like texture that I have had in the past.

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“Churros” served with hot dipping chocolate and vanilla mascarpone. This is actually my first taste of a churro, which is essentially a Spanish doughnut. This textured straw was fried, making it look and taste similar to a Chinese donut; but less greasy and sweeter with the sugar and cinnamon coating. The chocolate sauce was a little tart, probably from the use of good quality dark chocolate. But best smeared with the thick milky cream of mascarpone.

 

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.
They had a winning combination: clean and simple food in a dark and rich environment. Mix in staffing that care and a comfortable ambience, and you have the makings of a great night. I would be bringing many guests back to this one. A great place to sit and catch up at, or the one for a casual dinner date. My new favourite spot for tapas. Make sure you visit with the attention to pair your food with Spanish wine. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

BODEGA
1014 Main Street, Vancouver BC, V6A 2W1
604-565-8815
bodegaonmain.ca
Bodega on Main Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tapas 23

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I have lived in this city long enough to see restaurants come and go; buildings torn down and others built up. This was one of those times, where I have been to a location now reinvented. Given my less than stellar rating of the original, we were eager to see how its latest reincarnation would fare. Once home to “Crave” is has now been rebranded as a tapas restaurant.

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Located on Main Street, parking is tricky depending on time of day. We were aiming for mid afternoon so had our pick of the lot: side streets, metered parking, or lane ways with nothing signed. We came right at 3pm and caught the server still in mid prep. We let ourselves in anyways, as she confirmed the time. We were led to the very back of the restaurant. Pass the small bar upfront with seats facing out the window. Pass the shelf by the hostess podium, showcasing wine by the bottle. Our table was the closest to door leading to their patio out back; like the one out front, it was now close for the season. Though I could imagine both being quite the destination on a hot summer’s day. On weekends sangrias were on special for $5, an ideal drink in July, under the shade that their backyard patio provided. The patio out front was divided from the interior by a glass paned garage door. With a push of a bottom or a pull of crank this door would roll up and the space would open up. Instant fresh air. Though all these luxuries would have to wait until the days grew longer and the weather became less wet.

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The layout was as I remembered, it was the decor and menu that had been redesigned. The walls were papered in print and hung with Spanish posters. Each poster of various size was framed with various frames. They created visual interest. I couldn’t read what each read, but found them whimsical none-the-less. Especially the one with the mime dressed like a clown holding a bottled beverage in each hand. He wore a full black oversized onsie with ruffled collar; a masquerade mask covering half his face; and a top his head, a pointed cone for a hat. From afar the wallpaper resembled smudged ink blots in grey on a sheet white, but with a closer inspection they actually likened to a faux marble finish.

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Despite the large windows looking out at street level and the lighter coloured walls, the place was kept dark. Little was done to add brightness to the place. The lights were dimmed and the furniture was dark. Combined with narrow isles and the unique smell it felt like we were dining in a basement.

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The restaurant had a smell to it. An overwhelming punctuation that reminded me of rust and cobwebs. The kind of musky perfume suited to a great aunt or a duchess living in a dusty old mansion. Almost floral, but more befitting of an antique store, not a clean, well kept establishment serving food. As scent is attached to taste this concerned me. One of my guests insisted it was mould that we were breathing in. Either way it was outdated and unpleasant, but not enough for us to leave. The smell was eventually drowned out with familiarity and the sweeter scents of our dishes arriving.

What better for a meal in between meals than tapas, meant to be shared amongst friends. The website led me to believe we would be experiencing authentic Spanish tapas, in actuality the small plates had more of a Mediterranean influence, as listed by the menu.

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The menu was a one pager with specials printed in chalk. Conveniently the latter was listed on a blackboard strung up to our right. We only needed to look up and point to order. We were in time for their happy hour between 3-6pm. There were no separate menus to order off of, instead our server mentioned what would now be $5 instead of its regular price. Disappointingly this selection consisted of only three items and Pabst Blue Ribbon for $3 a can. We would later discover there were actually six $5 specials offered during happy hour, but only three were made available to us. A titbit we gathered from a takeaway insert included with our bill. How could they run out given we were the first customers in at 3pm and the first ones to order?

Vegetarian dishes indicated with a lower case “v” and “*” meant nuts. There were plenty for our vegetarian guest to partake in and plates delicious enough for us to share in. Plate after plate came and I appreciated how they all matched in colour and size. Visual consistency is a thing of beauty.

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“Charcuterie and cheese” the perfect pairing to wine and a good way to start our meal. It was an interactive display with lots of flavours and textures to discover alone or partner together. Cured meats and smoked cheeses, briny olives, fresh fruit, marinated mushrooms, pickled veggies, and crisp crackers and toasted bread to eat it all with. Our server had difficulty remembering all their formal names, I don’t blame her. I can’t even recall what she did manage to remember. This by far is one of the most elaborate charcuterie and cheese boards I have ever had. Not just the usual meat and cheeses with bread. But seasoned and pickled vegetables: button mushrooms, cauliflower, asparagus, cucumber, and carrots; were an impressive ensemble. And the condiments and spreads included were an added bonus: a grainy mustard, a sweet and spicy chilli jam, and a citrus jelly compote.

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I have never seen so much blue cheese offered in any menu. We, three women, decided to indulge in the stuff as our partners prefer not to. They are unable to get past the cheese’s pungent smell to taste its bitter and buttery goodness. Unfortunately the two dishes they were supposed in had us playing hide and seek with its flavour.
We ordered the “Empanadas” on special for $5. Regularly it goes for $12, at that price I assume you at least get one more. Two empanadas filled with beef brisket and blue cheese, served with a Chimichirra sauce. When we cracked into each empanada it was piping hot with the steam that escaped. With its flaky pastry and thoroughly heated filling you could tell this was made to order. As mentioned I couldn’t make out any blue cheese promised on the menu, and I was looking and tasting hard for it. The beef was tender and pulled to a stringy consistency, having it baked in a crispy shell kept it moist. Though after the first bite I grew bored of its one note taste. Luckily the mild Chimichirra sauce help to add acidity and freshness to the dish, and to perk it up with a little spice.

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“Patatas Bravas”, their in house specialty. Baked and fried potato cubes served under a creamy garlic, chilli, tomato sauce. This varies from traditional Spanish cuisine, as most Spanish food isn’t meant to be spicy. Whereas this dish was almost too spicy. “Bravas” in the title is used to refer to the use of many spices in the dish, not that it is spicy hot. Without warning of the heat I took in a large mouthful with lots of thick sauce, thinking it would be similar to a homemade ketchup. Instead I set my mouth on fire, though it doesn’t help that I don’t have much of a tolerance for spicy hot foods in the first place. Once my tongue cooled, I only dared to pick at the un-sauced potatoes existing at the corners of the plate. The potatoes had a grainy, cakey consistency to them, like they weren’t cooked through. Whereas I expected a crispy bite given their golden brown exterior. They were bland, relying too heavily on the sauce for its flavour. They could have benefited with some more salt and a lot more seasonings.

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“Bruselas”, their signature dish that came highly recommended by our server. Sautéed and grilled Brussels sprouts served in a balsamic reduction, sprinkled with shaved Parmesan and slivered almonds. It doesn’t look too appetizing, but this was my favourite dish of the night. I enjoy a good deep fried sprout, but unfortunately didn’t get it here. The intended crispiness was lost due to the pool of sauce that each bulb was forced to sit in. The reduction had a sweater flavour that was most complimentary to the bitter vegetable and the salty cheese. The dish needed it to pop, but I suggest serving the balsamic on the side for self dipping instead. Thus allowing each Brussels sprout to remain crispy and giving the diner control of how much or how little sauce they wanted.

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The “Manchego stuffed dates wrapped in bacon” were on the board of specials. At $5 we didn’t need happy hour prices to enjoy them. Three one bite morsels of sweet and salty, chewy and gooey. Crisp bacon and melted cheese is a winning combination. Though the skewers could have done with some freshness. Maybe a sheet of pancetta for wrapping, instead of the overwhelmingly salty taste of bacon and the oily texture of bacon fat. For added sweetness and spice smear into the drizzle of balsamic and chilli mayo decorating the bottom of the plate.

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“El Tomate”, oven roasted tomato in a blue cheese sauce. This took the longest to come, and what we eventually got was not what we had expected. We imagined a whole round and red heirloom tomato; baked in the oven until charred, then seasoned with salt and pepper to taste. Surprisingly the tomatoes was yellow and there were two smaller ones still on the vine, instead of one large. It was a strikely well composed plate visually. Given that the quantity per order is not listed, it would have been nice of our server to offer to bump the order up, to charge more so that each of us could have our own tomato. This instead of attempting to split the last half three ways. The blue cheese was more pronounced here, a sharp and smokey after taste that paired well with the syrup-like balsamic drizzle. With the pointed slices of baguette we likened the dish to a do-it-yourself Italian bruschetta. The tomatoes themselves were a soggy pulpy bite, a texture that reminded me of baby food. I have had good roasted tomato in the past, and on each occasion it was done keeping some of its original firmness in tact. Whereas here, the fruit/vegetable caved in with just one cut. The thicker, lumper sauce did little to improve the enjoyment of eating the tomato mash; but the bread and it’s toasted crunch did help to add a solid texture.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – No.
Given what little of the menu we tried I wouldn’t be against a return trip. Solely based on its vegetarian offerings I deem them decent. But maybe dining with a omnivore, like myself, I will find more enjoyment in ordering off the full menu. Returning with someone who can appreciate anchovy toast, sautéed prawns in garlic cream, mussels in a white wine butter sauce, clams with chorizo and goat cheese, squid saut éed with capers, and braised short ribs. Or someone who would prefer more deep frying in their happy hour meal. Greasy sides to partner with cheap beer. “Cobello Fritos” spanish onion rings, homemade fries served with a roasted red pepper aioli, or potato crusted chicken wings. Overall the experience was decent: our server was very informal, the setting was comfortable enough, and the food average at best. There was just nothing that stood out for all the right reasons. An overall rating that may have be higher if not for the smell of the place. Don’t deny your cravings.

TAPAS 23
3941 Main Street, Vancouver BC, V5V3P5
604-620-8300
tapas23.com
Tapas 23 on Urbanspoon

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