We were once again off to another Vancouver Foodster best #TacoChallengeYVR contender. This one came with a large history of winning this particular competition; as seen at their entryway, advertising of their success. So we walked in with higher expectations, and were not disappointed.
But truth be told, the big draw to Little Mexico Cantina are not the tacos, it is the owner. He has been everywhere and has taken everything back with him, to make this the hottest spot for all things Mexican in Steveston. This is Scotty, a Sihk man born in Scotland (with the accent to match), owning and operating a Mexican restaurant, in Richmond. (I feel there is a joke in there somewhere.) Scotty is a hoot, a charming owner who knows how to wine and dine his beloved customers, and drive the energy of the room. With him at the helm of Little Mexico Cantina, it is no surprise that this bar forward restaurant is always a buzz, and a local hot spot for a rowdy night out.
We had their house made chips and salsa to start. A nicely salted, thick and crispy chip providing the perfect vessel for a chunky, yet runny, fairly spicy salsa.
And we had to follow it with one of their famous margaritas. They have an endless array of flavours with seasonal offerings rotating in and off of the menu. Each margarita is prepared with infused tequilas that they make in house.
We started with the roasted apple cinnamon margarita, which had a very subtle flavour. If I was not told this was flavoured, I would have thought it to be a classic margarita, which was exactly the case. But either way it was tasty with the salted rim, and not too boozy for those who don’t like a stiff drink.
The blackberry margarita was a little more obvious in colour and scent. It drank like a sangria or punch, with the flavours of berry as the focal point.
However, if you want to try all their infused tequila as is, without the mixes and salt to dilute it, you can do so with one of Little Mexico Cantina’s tequila flights. Racked up in a set of three, you can choose your combo; or do as we did and left it up to the bartender to decide. Thus creating the “can you guess the tequila game”!
We found it easy work if you are using both your tongue and nose to discern. The apple cinnamon was the smoothest and easiest to drink. The Lemongrass Mango was refreshing, but I didn’t taste any mango in the mix. The Pineapple was so sweet that it was dangerous. You can knock multiples of these back and not feel a thing. You honestly can’t taste the tequila in this one. The Jalapeño is their only savoury offering, and my favourite. I like the spice, the lingering burn, and the tingling after taste. The strawberry drank like a fruit wine, and the blackberry like juice.
But before we got too tipsy or too full, we had to address the task at hand: tasting and judging their competitor for The Best Taco. This is Taco Diablo: a homemade blue corn tortilla topped with tequila infused prawns, their devil hot sauce, pineapple salsa, pickled red onions, and Chicharron. Sadly, we were asked our dining preferences, and although we can eat spicy foods we decided to go mild tonight, and as a result, the tacos did not come as intended. It was missing the aforementioned “devil hot sauce”. And I think if it was present on the taco, it would have popped. So be sure to order it as is for the full experience.
I won’t be going into how it tasted or if I liked it here, as to not reveal my judging score card prematurely. Instead, you will have to stay tuned for the round up post. And for now, enjoy reading what we had for the rest of our meal.
Calamari is a classic order when drinking. These were deep fried and served with a spicy and creamy chipotle dipping sauce. As personal preference I would have liked the squid crispier, and the pieces larger to be able to make out the chewy squid hidden within the caked-on batter. As a result, I found it more breading than squid. I did like the side of sweet corn salad as a balance to the spicy aioli, which also helped to elongate the dish.
The enchiladas come with your choice of sauce, and once again we made it mild, and once again I was missing a kick; so in hindsight should have gotten medium. As a result I found the enchiladas heavy in the citrus and in need of a spiciness to balance it out. Corn tortilla filled with shredded chicken, your choices of sauce and topped with house blend cheese, served with rice and bean. Here, I appreciated the latter, served in a mini cast iron skillet. It was necessary to help soak up the additional herbed onion sauce that pooled.
And given where we were geographically, we had to order the Arroz Ala Mexicana. I have never had Mexican fried rice before, and this was a draw. Available in your choice of chicken, beef, or prawn; we went for the latter most. This was a sticky rice that ate more like risotto with mushroom, onion, and green peppers. Then topped with shredded lettuce, salsa, and shards of tortilla chips. I liked it just fine, and thought the idea was a clever way to cater to the demographic.
In closing, I definitely recommend taking the trip down to Little Mexico Cantina to meet Scotty and try their limited time only taco creation, and housemade infused tequilas. And if you like the former, you can vote for it for the people’s choice award at https://vancouverfoodster.com/taco-challenge/
Little Mexico Cantina
3131 Chatham St #150, Richmond, BC V7E 2Y4