Yaletown: Plus, wide selection offers chance to update your ‘tequila stories’
Manager Emi Numez with Camarones Enchipotlados and Ceviche de Pescado. SAM LEUNG – THE PROVINCE
Where: 1043 Mainland St., Vancouver
Payment/reservations: Major credit cards. Call 604-681-2120.
Drinks: Beer, wine and tequila.
Hours: Mon.-Thurs., 5 p.m.-11 p.m., Fri., 4 p.m.-11 p.m., Sat., 10 a.m.-11 p.m., Sun., 10 a.m.-9:30 p.m.
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There are two things most people I meet have in common. They all have a secret stash of condiment packs that they’ve scoured from fast-food establishments –enough, say, to keep every citizen of a small Eastern European nation rolling in ketchup, mustard and vinegar for at least a year — and everyone has a tequila story. My tequila experiences ended many moons ago when I disappeared and was found three days later wandering the Coquihalla Highway clad only in underpants, a sock puppet on each hand and a pair of deer antlers duct-taped to my head. Blackouts like that come only once in a lifetime, but they take work and persistence and the ability to shoot back tequila until you’re as blind as a cactus. I realized I was no longer up to the task. Let the younger generation pick up the slack I thought.
But tequila, or the devil’s sweat as I like to call it, has gotten a bad rap and the fact is good tequila can be sipped moderately and enjoyed without finding yourself waking up next to an inflatable sex doll in a trailer park. As evidenced at this relatively new Yaletown establishment with its earth-tone brick walls, cozy semi-circular plush booth seats mirrored by a semi-circle of open kitchen jutting out into the room and an overall casually chic sensibility. Plus, a tequila list that offers up the cream of the agave crop.
Peaches and I took a seat on the patio alongside the revamped shipping-dock promenade. The intriguing part of the menu here is the botanos, which in Spanish means small sharing plates that you fight over.
We began with the wonderful homemade guacamole, made to order so you can request a spice level, which is a new thing to me since I always believed guacamole was supposed to have the mild-mannered personality of say, a life-insurance salesman. This was an excellent green goop, a little flick of lime hiding in each bite and the hot chili sauce on the side carried all the thrills of almost stepping on a rattlesnake.
Cooled down with that Tijuana classic, a Caesar salad ($7), that was good enough to keep the creator of the thing, Mr. Cardini, from rolling around in his grave. Along with that we sampled a small side of tortilla soup ($3) that proved to be a rich reddish brown mire of tomato and dry chilies with thin pieces of tortilla, avocado, cheese and cream lurking in its murk. There were great layers of flavour in this stuff and I’ve got to say that on the slurpability scale this soup rates a seven or eight.
Next up on our botanos journey was Tostadas de Atún ($10). Two fair-sized crispy tortillas smeared with chipotle mayo were the foundation for thinly sliced raw tuna, red onion, avocado, cilantro and citrus dressing. Very good although I found the chipotle concoction a touch too sweet.
Finished with the queso con chorizo ($9) and two small pulled-pork tacos ($7). The first, consisting of melted cheese and house-made chorizo, and baked until slightly browned, got no complaints from me. Meat and gooey cheese — these are two of the basic building blocks of all human life. As for the latter, let’s just say this is one place that the shredded pig meat can comfortably call home.
It’s an inventive menu when it comes to Mexican food, revamped for the modern urban grazer without turning its back on tradition because, in the end, tradition and tequila are very much alike — both waiting to jump out from behind a cactus and bite you in the ass if you don’t show them some respect.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
Reinventing Mexican cuisine and tequila dreams.
RATINGS: Food: A- Service: A Atmosphere: B+
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5 GREAT PLACES FOR CLASSIC COCKTAILS
1 THE CASCADE ROOM: Named for Vancouver‘s original “beer without peer,” this cool, comfortable room hasn’t forgotten its roots with cocktails from a time when logger barons ruled the earth.
2616 Main St., Vancouver, 604-709-8650
2 GRUB: Great retro-style drinks in this spiffy and sparse room that warms up immediately when you set your lips to sipping a Casablanca or Great Gatsby.
4328 Main St., Vancouver, 604-876-8671
3 GEORGE: Ultra-swank factor abounds in this lounge where mixology borders on alchemy and the classics aren’t neglected in these trying modern times.
1137 Hamilton St., Vancouver, 604-628-5555
4 NU: A room that feels both retro and contemporary all in the same breath. Then, classic cocktails with some of the finest ingredients are bound to leave you breathless.
1661 Granville St., Vancouver, 604-646-4668
5 BONETA: A happening joint that balances style with comfort — and they take their cocktails seriously. Great classic entries like The Alfonso, The El Diablo from Trader Vic’s and The Vancouver, which first saw light in 1954 at the Sylvia Hotel.
1 W. Cordova St., Vancouver, 604-684-1844
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I’m giving you all plenty of notice to this Sept. 6 event so no one can complain about missing out on such a great food and wine shindig. Namely the first annual Wine & Culinary Extravaganza hosted by the Fraser Valley Wineries Association at Highpoint Equestrian Estate Community in Langley (200 Street at 8th Avenue) between 2-5 p.m. With wineries like Domain de Chaberton, Township 7, Sanduz and River’s Bend represented, along with fantastic food from local restaurants and culinary wizards, plus live entertainment, this celebration of all things Fraser Valley, at only $50 a pop, is sure to be a great soiree. Check the website www.fvwa.ca for tickets and more info.
THE LUNCH BOX
Selling Point: Sleek and modern Asian-style interior that sets up a nice counterbalance to the Old World recipes. And if you’re hitting The Scotiabank Theatre for a matinee, it’s not a bad spot to stop in and suck up some food first.
What to Eat: Check out appetizers like the wok-flash fried salt and chili calamari or the Szechuan BBQ spareribs. There are also some interesting noodle dishes like Ants Climbing Up a Tree (I’ll leave this a mystery) and Singapore-style fried vermicelli. Plus entrees like Mongolian beef, Malaysian chicken curry, grilled wild salmon with miso-sake sauce, Peking braised short ribs, Singapore chili prawns and braised long green beans in a spicy minced meat sauce. The only way to eat veggies.
Lowdown: Calling itself a New York-style deli, this place lives up to its billing with a great array of specialty groceries and some of the most amazing take-out sandwiches you’ll ever taste.
What to Eat: I’d say just keep going back until you’ve tried every sandwich on the list. Check out the fantastic porchetta with provolone and lemon pepper mayo, the Caliente with hot capicolla, spicy eggplant, hot peppers and havarti, the Fat Tony with prosciutto cotto, prosciutto salami, provolone and marinated peppers, the Lafayette with garlic roast beef, balsamic onions, havarti and Creole mustard or the great New Orleans muffuletta, all served on a Portuguese bun. And all only $6.30.
1016 Cardero St., Vancouver, 604-689-0450
© The Vancouver Province 2008