We were on yet another Vancouver Foodster food tour. This time traversing the city in search of Latin Eats. These were small bites and sample sized portions determined to be tasty and worth trying, as per the Foodster himself. Such events are a great way to discover new restaurants or try new foods you might not have otherwise thought to or would. This was definitely the case for me today with many of this dishes to come, first times for myself.Four stops over twelve different tastes to whet our appetites and/or serve as a full meal. The follow is in the order that we travelled.
2525 Main St, Vancouver, BC V5T 3E5
The Tamaly Shop specializes in their name sake, but also sells baked good from off of the counter, with imported snacks on shelves, and traditional candy for grab and go by the register. I made a mental note to return when I am low on snacks.
In celebration of the unique tonight they brought in live entertainment to regale their guests. We took a seat beside the musician singing soulful ballads in Spanish and began our tasting plate with a couple of drinks.
They had the traditional hibiscus water and Horchata and we got a cup of both.The former was mildly sweet like red fruits, where the horchata was like the leftover skin milk in a bowl of cinnamon and sugar cereal.
For food, each table was given a share serving of pickled vegetables, presented in a lovely clay pot. There was much of it considering how small our tamale bites would be to follow. Each pickled vegetable was crunchy and hard, delivering a very sour crisp. I did find them necessary in adding a little acidity to the savoury bites below.
The serving came as a set, laid out across a platter. The Guacamole & chips was fragrant avocado and bright citrus. I just wish there was more guacamole over the chips, just to have more of it.
As for the feature, it had to be tamales in three varieties. “A tamale, is a traditional Mesoamerican dish made of masa, a dough made from nixtamalized corn, which is steamed in a corn husk. Tamales can be filled with meats, cheeses, fruits, vegetables, herbs, chilies, or any preparation according to tastel”. As per Wikipedia.
The Savoury Pork tamale bite can be broken down to a light corn shell, a pinch of pork meat, and a mild tomatillo salsa over top. A little flat without some pickle.
The flavour picked up with the Mole, which was a heartier morsel of spicy bean purée over the corn. This one I liked the most.
And for dessert they prepared a modern fusion Chocolate tamale. It was similar to a brownie, but a lot more light and mild. It was given most of its flavour from the cream and berry dressing.
2815 Main St, Vancouver, BC V5T 3G1
Our next stop is a great Mexican restaurant I was originally introduced to by Vancouver Foodster, through one of his challenges a few years back. There I discovered how fresh and authentic Maizal RMF food was.
Here, we had a full dish instead of a tasting bite. A Chicken and chorizo Infladita with Oaxacan mole. An Infladita is a stuffed puffed corn tortilla. And this was one of the items I had never had before. So it was an additional treat to be able to see it get rolled out to order through a machine that also cut out the corn dough into circles. These circles were the heated on a hot surface and the results are so fantastical looking.
Fresh tortillas pressed and toasted to order then deep fried and made into a pocket to house pulled beef and purée bean. Hearty and filling, they were not stingy on the stuffing. The light dough itself was soft, but yet crispy. The generous saucing is what flavours and brings it all together.
Not that you needed anymore, but diners had a choice of help yourself communal hot sauces to add on some additional heat. Or could look to the in house made tangy green sauce or the slightly spicy, more tomato-like red sauce. There was no loser in this equation.
Mi Casa Mexicana
2015 Burrard St, Vancouver, BC V6J 3H4
Next we headed to long standing, second floor restaurant on West 4th, Mi Casa Mexicana. A lively sport for televised sports and bountiful drinks.
Here we had a platter of small plates assembled together for a complimentary and tasty serving.
Taco Campechano with ground beef, was your standard meat, onion, and fresh green herbs over a flour tortilla. It was not too memorable without a dunk in the broth below.
There were also Chilaquiles, which were room temperature chips coated in so much cheesy goodness, that you had to eat them fast, lest they grew soggy. And if they did, once again it was nothing the dip below couldn’t remedy. Flavour trumped texture here.
The Birria Broth was definitely the one to bring the plate together as a dip and a side. So good that we gulped it down as is, like a soup.
Machete Mexican Ancestral Food
1007 Main St, Vancouver, BC V6A 4L4
And last but not least we ended our night at Machete. They use to operate out of a commissary kitchen, where the food was so tasty and garnered with so many positive reviews that there was a need to move into their own restaurant with a dine in option. And this Tasting Plates Tour brought us to them today.
We would began with our choice of drinks. A fresh Horchata or Mango juice. However reading the regular menu, my guest opted to order something a la carte off of their their specialty drink menu, featuring cocoa instead. Served in an authentic clay bowl that balanced in a wooden ring, this was something special. The unique bowl/mug and the sensation of bribing it to your lips definitely added to the authenticity of the experience. The drink itself was too sweet or too chocolatey. You get the flavour of cocoa, but none of its heavy richness. It was like a lean chocolate skim milk tea. More quenching that filling.
Although they looked similar, our share platter for two included two different types of traditional Mexican tortillas.
The Huaraches are handmade oval shaped tortillas prepared using blue ancestral corn. The name translates to “sandals”, given its shape. Each is topped with beans, green sauce, and your choice of stew in a meat or veggie option. Each is then finished off with lettuce, cheese, avocado, onions, and roasted pumpkin seeds. These are best eaten when the base is still crispy.
The Carne Asada version featured hard and chewy grilled steak with salt and pepper. And the Pastor was marinated pork with pineapple. The latter was the more tastier of the two, although I was missing the sweetness of pineapple in this.
The other two were Itacates, corn tortilla shaped like triangles and stuffed with beans. Topped with your choice of listed protein and finished with lettuce, sour cream, cheese, guacamole, and pumpkin seeds. Similar in idea to the “sandals” above, but the base is where they differ.
The Chicharrón prensado was their family recipe of a pressed pork rind tortillas. I was hoping to be able to bite into some crunchy bits, but this was all tender pulled pork.
The Flor de calabaza was a unique one. Described as a “Special pumpkin flower” with white onions, garlic, epazote, and pepper. This had an impressive amount of flavours and textures making this veggie option truly exciting.
And at the centre of it all was a serving of corn with salted cheese. It was a shame that corn is not in season and the result is kernels that were not sweet. This offered a nice savoury and substantial side to the tortillas above and sufficed as a topping.
In short, this was a great way to learn more about Latin cuisine and have it in an approachable format. As a Tasting Plate tour you did not have to worry about what to order, thanks to the Vancouver Foodster already taking out all the guess work for you.