Vancouver does not boast an abundance of regional Mexican cuisine. But casual taco shops have become trendy. And as we discover this week, the quality among them ranges vastly. See the review for Gringo here.
If you’re in the mood for a more satisfying, albeit less rowdy experience than something like Gastown’s Gringo, try Los Cuervos Taqueria Y Cantina. Andreas Seppelt and Stephan Gagnon opened the 30-seat restaurant last year only a few steps away from their wildly popular Les Faux Bourgeois. The cantina has a similar laid-back attitude and offers very good value.
Gilles L’Heureux is their new partner and chef. Having once worked at a ritzy boutique hotel in Mexico City, he knows his way around tacos. But he is not a diehard for authenticity. He substitutes feta and Monterey Jack for Mexican cheeses unavailable here. And he takes advantage of local ingredients such as albacore tuna, which is perfectly seared with pale flesh framing a firm, pink centre.
All tacos are served on a single, white-corn tortilla with intriguing fillings that range from the deeply gamey bison skirt steak (topped with bacon, melted Jack, onions and peppers) to lightly battered avocado (which was surprisingly meaty, with jicama slaw and corn-and-black-bean salsa).
The kitchen makes its own chorizo, sauces and salsas. Heat fiends must ask for La Fantasma, a super-spicy salsa not served among the tabletop squeeze bottles.
In addition to tacos, the restaurant serves a daily quesadilla, addictively delicious deep-fried flautas filled with roasted duck and sweet potato, and a small assortment of tostadas (open-face tacos served on a fried tortilla). The pulled chicken with chipotle-tomato sauce, lettuce and crema was a lip-smacking balance of smoky, rich and fresh.
Beverages are limited to a short selection of tequilas, mezcals, Mexican beers and margaritas. The latter is my only complaint. Why does every taqueria in this city (or so it seems) mix their magaritas with agave syrup instead Triple Sec or Cointreau? It’s less expensive, I suppose, but it also cheapens the cocktail with a rough finish.