Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Mexican in Vancouver


peppyre
 Share

Recommended Posts

A question posed by the great Keith Talent in the pizza debate thread got me thinking. I really can't think of one good Mexican restaurant in the city. I've been to the one on Davie that people told me was really good and really "authentic". It may have been "authentic" but good seemed to be a bit of a stretch.

Now, of course I'm comparing this to some of the Mexican food that I've had in Southern California, particularly San Francisco. Does Vancouver have a Mexican restaurant that is truly good and authentic and spicy and flavourful?

Maybe this could be our next challenge.

"Go forth and find good Mole!"

"Seek and ye shall be rewarded with sweet Tamale" :raz:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Maybe this could be our next challenge. 

"Go forth and find good Mole!"

"Seek and ye shall be rewarded with sweet Tamale"  :raz:

Stick to the food peppyre :raz:

La Salza Mexican Deli

4140 Hastings Street

Burnaby, BC

604 299-6485

Not so much a restaurant ... but really good food. The kids & I LOVE their tamales.

A.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Reading Keith's thread, I was wondering the same thing. I live a block from Topanga Cafe and it was always quite crowded over the years but not lately. I think I went about 5 years ago and got the feeling that it was run by university students as a side business. I get my share when I go to Texas but I also long for a nice Mexican meal here in town.

Also, when I'm wandering the desert, I'll befriend the nearest Agave plant for sure...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Anyone been to The Mouse & The Bean? I'd like to boycott it based on the fact alone that the name is stupid, but when you're wandering the desert you'll accept a glass of water from anyone.

Been to the mouse and bean and quite good and authentic, the only down side is that they close at 5:30 i think and just open for lunch. But super cheap and tasty.

DANIELLE

"One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well."

-Virginia Woolf

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The above mentioned Mouse & Bean is indeed made by Mexicans and is a decent approximation of what passes for Mexican food north of the Rio Grande.

However as someone who's been travelling to Mexico for over 2 decades and has lived and worked in different parts of that vast and complex land I have to say the long answer is no. :sad:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The search for great Mexican food. I could go on and on forever. My egullet life is mostly spent on the Mexico forum. My last post was lamenting the fact that once Mexican food hits Canada it really gets twisted around. And why? Vancouver has ever other cuisine, I am totally perplexed why a higher end Mexican regional restaurant hasn't gone ahead. We can get wonderful fresh chiles now and the basic dried varieties (although their supply has been rather sporatic over this last year).

Mexican regional food is something I have been studying for quite some time since I had my first goat barbacoa in Oaxaca in 1992. That was pit barbequed with fragrant avocado leaves and chile pastes. I was shocked at the incredible complexity and diversity of the foods in Mexico and still am and that's what keeps me going back for more. Leaving again on the 13th of December, first to collect the amazing sea salt of Zihuatanejo (fleur de sel be dammed) and then back to Oaxaca where we have some special meals planned.

I have been cooking private dinners in my home since 1999, set menu, about six or seven courses, all Mexican regional food. I love making long and involved moles the best. I'm a bit of a freak, I guess, I have three large bins of chiles, many hard to find varieties and I am now growing my own epazote and hoja santa, two very distinct cooking herbs for Mexican cuisine.

I'd love to cook for you egullters one day. I'm only a ferry crossing away.

In the last four years, I have done two stages - one at Fonda San Miguel in Austin, Texas and the other at Cafe Azul in Portland, Oregon (unfortunately now closed). Next year I hope to do another stint, this time in Chicago. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Anyhow, in Vancouver, El Sireno on Commerical Drive, has some amazing locally made products, such as tamales, crema, chorizo, queso fresco and some tortillas from Oregon called Don Pancho, which I think are very good - good aroma and durability.

Another place on the Drive, I think it might be called a Pupuseria, near where Patels used to be or still is. The woman there is not from Mexico, El Salvador maybe, but she serves homemade pupusas, stuffed with cheese or beans. They are a God send. Good homemade salsas and agua frescas. Hope its still there. Worth checking out.

Cheers,

Shelora

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've been to the Mouse and Bean several times for lunch. Can't really compare to anything I've had in Mexico, but maybe that's a regional thing.

Decor and location are nothing to scream about (okay - that part's authentically Mexican), but the food and people are terrific, and very reasonable prices. The Ascencio's, who own it, are extremely friendly and are terrific hosts. If they miss being 'truly authentic' Mexican, it's not for lack of trying.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

There's also Mexico Sabroso 440 W. Hastings - not too far from the Mouse and Bean. About the same quality level as the M & B. They are as authentic as it gets in Van.

They have an ok mole but you can get tacos with lengua (tongue) and carnitas and posole (my favourite winter soup). Nice aquas frescas and you can tell from the crowd that it's a home away from home. Again, though, it ain't the full meal deal, no cerveza, but the prices are decent. Open evenings and lunch.

I'd kill for a Frontera Grill in this town.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You know, I'm starting to feel the same way. I have been to Mouse and Bean and Mexico Sabrosa, before I went to San Fran, and I thought they were good. Not great but passable. Having had mediocre Mexican in Mexico that so far above what we have here it's really disheartening. Has anyone tried Charlie's Cafe in Port Moody? My mom's husband loves it and has been going there for years. Feedback please :biggrin:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Haven't found any particularly good Mexican here in Vancouver, but there's a great place over in Courtenay that I've been to a few times. Tita's is a wonderful little spot amidst the sea of minigolf and smorgs on the island.

I know a man who gave up smoking, drinking, sex, and rich food. He was healthy right up to the day he killed himself. - Johnny Carson
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yes, I've gone to Tita's in Courtenay with great hopes and an open mind.

Mole served with either venison or boar I've forgotten now, was watered down. which equals watered down in everything else. Why go to all the hours involved in making a mole (if indeed it is made from scratch) if you are just going to water down the flavours to make it stretch out the evening. Couple that with dull wait staff. Basically the old rice and beans and cheese mentalityand some sour cream drizzled over top. Oh my God, what would Mexican food be without a big platter of rice and beans on the side? A rip off?

Cooks that night - we peeked our heads in - were much too young to understand what their website tries to deliver as their mandate.

The best thing about Tita's was the cookbook for perusal from Patrica Quintana.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If you're willing to brave it and head down to American soil, right across the Aldergrove/Lynden border, there's a little restaurant called El Ranchitos about 10 minutes south of the border. Pretty good Mexican I would have to say :biggrin:

I too have been spoiled by really good Mexican food - travelling lots to Southern Cali and Mexico and also having a father who's as white as they get, who thinks he's Mexican :biggrin: (Really, the stories I could tell! :raz: ). My husband, who had never had really good Mexican until dating me, is a convert who complains that some how Mexican food gets changed (and not in a good way) when it crosses the Canadian border.

But the best overall if I can't get El Ranchitos is the famous homemade Chiles Rellenos my mom learned to make from an exchange student about 30 years ago... (there's never been leftovers, no matter how much she makes) after years of practice, she swears that I've perfected the craft as well :raz: I promise if we ever have an Egullet Vancouver Mexican get together, I'll make enough that everyone will get their fill :cool:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Not at all. Bring it on Stovetop.

The thing that deeply perplexes me, and that others have brought up on this post, is the fact the Mexican food gets so f***ed up in the translation once it hits Canadian soil. Why?

Just like other cuisines where we can debate the finer points, who serves the best dim sum, who serves the best Vietnamese noodles, best Japanese, best French etc., Mexican cuisine deserves a better rap/rep in this country. Isn't it time? I think Vancouver would be an ideal city for it.

S

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I will be the first admit that I have been completely spoiled when it comes to Mexican... so therefore, I'm a bit more picky.

But as others have said, as a loose rule, most Mexican that you find in Canada is waaay different than what you'd find in Southern Cali or Mexico. In all fairness though, I haven't tried the restaurants that Stovetop suggested (although my sister went to Las Margaritas and didn't like it at all - and I trust her judgement on this as she's from Southern Cali) - I've only tried others.

So, if I try one of them and I find that I really like it, I'll be sure to recommend it - I promise. I was speaking of the Mexican restaurants that I have tried...

Meg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"Hey; I did not mean any disrespect by saying how hard this room is to cook for"

Taste in food is highly personnel; who judges what is good and what is not, it is a highly subjective thing and have a hard time with the so called level of expertise there is on defining what is and what is not Mexican food. My God Mexico is a huge country, Mexico City has more people then all of Canada, and they themselves have many nationalities and cultures so trying to define “Mexican” in Vancouver is silly. Firstly the lot of you have not gone to all the restaurants that do Mexican food, you all mention the same restaurants and do not even give credit to a Company that has been doing Mexican food and selling Mexican product for years, that company is “Que Pasa” it used to be in Kits now it is in Richmond.

It Exports Mexican Food to the US and western Canada, they are one of the best and consistent food Companies we have in Vancouver and if you are dissing them, I have hard time in taking any of you seriously, when you are judge how can you judge something if it is only what you like and dislike, that is not how you judge food, you know sometimes you have to judge food that you do not like but have to be more objective and judge based on its substance not what you think is good or bad, ones taste like I said are personnel, being a chef one of the things that has drove me crazy over the years is restaurant owners who make food in their restaurants that they liked, what the hell is this , it is not your home kitchen, it is a business and treat it so, give it the sense of professionalism it deserves, it is not about the egos, but about the customer, he or she rules( customer), it is up to the owner what customers they want, this is the toughest part of the business, the customer chooses but do we choose the customer???

Mexican food has many forms, you can have the Spanish influenced and many regional foods, this is out of my knowledge so I will not pretend to be an expert, but I do know that you have Texas Mexican and California Mexican styles of food, they all interpret a little different, so if you think that Vancouver should be the same you are mistaken, even in the US you will find huge varieties and interpretations of the same food.

"When is a burrito a burrito";” When is Enchilada sauce, Enchilada sauce" these are one of many questions that you could ask.

As for Mole, well is Vancouver ready for this type of food, I have not seen to many restaurants doing things with chilies and mole and it is hard to find the raw ingredients to make a good Mole.

We need more data before we jump to conclusions to what is good Mexican food??

steve

Cook To Live; Live To Cook
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Wow, Stovetop, you covered a lot of ground there! (Including one hell of a long sentence!)

As for judging Mexican food in Vancouver and finding it wanting: Yes for the most part it is (wanting). That there are many cuisines wrapped up under the "Mexican" catch all does not change the fact that well made food using authentic techniques and ingredients and made by people who care about what they are making will always stand out over poorly seasoned, dumbed down offerings.

The frustration expressed by fans of Mexican cuisine in Vancouver is based on the experience of eating in other cities (in and out of Mexico) where dedicated professionals and amateurs have not compromised the authentic feel of what is one of the great cuisines of the world.

Lack of ingredients is definitely an issue in bringing authentic Mexican to Vancouver but we are at a point where that is an excuse more than a reason as there are a number of places that have imported the building blocks of good Mexican food. (Que Pasa is a fine place and a pretty good source of ingredients and I really miss their little lunch counter in Kits.)

God forbid that an owner or chef should try and go for his/her vision of what the perfect food experience should be. (Maybe you're just trying to get a rise out of us.) Of course the customers will have their say by voting with "bums in seats" but for every five wacky concepts there will be one that is driven by passion and takes the authenticity or originality of the experience to the next level. (Rick Bayless is a good example.)

You can't appreciate what good Mexican food is all about until you've eaten from a little road side food cart just about anywhere in Mexico and tasted the purity and depth of flavour that comes from a few ingredients (that -should be- but is hardly ever duplicated here).

Why the city hasn't managed to come up with a place that embodies the true spirit of Mexican cuisine (with a great cerveza and tequila selection!) boils down to some one taking the risk. Most of the better ethnic places in Vancouver have been started by their respective countrymen. Since we don't have a particularly large Mexican population it will most likely have to be a local who takes the plunge. With the help of forums like this we greatly increase their chances of success by getting the word out.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Excellent points by both stovetop and eatrustic. First of all kudos to anyone who scratches out a living in the restaurant biz.

Companies like Que Pasa are great,- you won't get any dissing from, except for the fact they don't answer emails - but, its a strange phenomena that nobody else has taken up the torch to bring more Mexican choices into Canada.

Oh yeah and the tequila and mescal thing. Why can Toronto offer more in the way of 100% agave tequilas but our selections are still at a minimum? I'm all for digging up that blue agave Keith, count me in.

Moles, by the by, are not hard to make, just time consuming. And oh so satisfying. The chilies available in Vancouver are ones that can readily be used for mole making. Anchos, Pasillas (chile negro) and guajillos. Try Gourmet Warehouse.

Fresh poblanos are usually available all year round. If anyone wants some special dried chili requests, let me know, I'll be bringing a bunch home again in January.

Cal-Mex, Tex-Mex, all well and fine, Topangana Cafe has been there for yonks and is still going strong. That is just fine.

But regional and coastal areas of Mexico deserve some attention. Their food is both ancient (think slow food) and with Spanish influences. Lots of it is being threatened with extinction (corn is one glaring example).

Stovetop I would like to offer you a taste of a rare smoke chile from Oaxaca. I can send you some with a recipe. It will blow your mind.

This chile is another reason why I'm such an fanatic about Mexican food.

Cheers,

Shelora

Link to comment
Share on other sites

the best Mexican this side of the Rio Grande, and I'm not even a distant relative, is Tio Pepe's on Commercial. It's a closet of a room but done up like one fiesty pinata with authentic Yucatan style and flavours. And another just down the street, although not Mexican it's worth mentioning -- Rinconcito Salvadoreno restaurant. check it out just to acquaint yourself with the Herrera family...homey.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Glad to hear that Tio Pepe's is still running-last I was there the female half of the ownership team had serious health issues and the outlook was grim.

As to the hard working folks @ Que Pasa

#1-Mexicans don't eat 'tortilla chips'-they were invented in California and only in tourist dives like Cancun, PV or CSL will you find them on a menu.

#2-I know the Deli food that Que Pasa makes-you couldn't give that food away in Mexico-not without 'pistola al mano'! :rolleyes:

Edited by Sam Salmon (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...