Wednesday, September 18, 2013

A Taste of Sunny Mexico on The Drive at La Mezcaleria

I had briefly visited La Mezcaleria as part of a Tasting Plates adventure on Commercial Drive a few months ago. When asked to coordinate a work drinks meet up in East Vancouver, I knew right away I wanted to try. We arrived right after they opened at 5pm and grabbed a table right away in the front area.

We ordered cocktails, I had Lucia’s Garden -$11 (front and centre) and really enjoyed it. This drink features chipotle infused mescal, cynar (a herby bitter liqueur), reposado (a type of tequila; aged a minimum of two months, but less than a year in oak barrels of any size), tequila, mint, agave. Slighty spicy, with a refreshing, slightly herbaceous taste, this was like a smoother, more delicate Caesar or bloody mary. You could actually taste the layers in this cocktail, but they all melded together seamlessly.

We also nibbled on tortilla chips and their Ceviche Flight- $19; a sample of their ceviches. Aguachile (lime and lemon marinated scallops and albacore tuna with green apple, cucumber, and chile water), Albacore Tuna Ceviche (avocado, lime, and pork chicharron), Scallop and Coconut Milk Ceviche (jicama, pineapple, and thai chile), and Pacific Red Snapper Ceviche (tomato, lime, red onion, Serrano, and cilantro).
My favourites were the Aguachile, I just loved the sharp, sour bite from the green apple, and the Pacific Red Snapper for the spice and kick from the Serrano and fresh cilantro.

Two weeks later, some friends wanted to meet up for dinner on Commercial, something casual and fun. I created a list of options and included La Mezcaleria. They all picked LM, they had heard good things and wanted to try.

When we arrived at 6:30pm, the place was quite crowded. It’s a small, narrow space so seating is a bit limited. They do take reservations for parties of six or more, but we were a party of five (insert Matthew Fox and Neve Campbell jokes here). We had a bit of a frustrating and uncomfortable 20 minute wait standing and seated at the corner of their front bar surrounding their open kitchen area. We ordered drinks, they took a really long time, and one of the hosts gave my friend’s bar seat to someone else…which was a bit weird.

Narrow and crowded as it felt at that moment, the d├ęcor and design is undeniably cool. A long wood bar in the centre surrounding an open kitchen where food orders are prepped, grilled, assembled right before your eyes. Mainly small tables and another bar at the back where the cocktail wizards work their drink magic. There are cool black and white photos from Mexico, hanging plants, retro cool dome lamps.

Once we were seated, drinks in hand, the whole experience just took a slight turn and transformed into a pleasant and all around happy dining experience. All of us order the daily special cocktail, a Spicy Mango Orange Margarita $11. This was a NICE drink. Not too sweet with a oh-so-subtle kick of chipotle. The sous chef and I also enjoyed a few pints of their on tap 33 acres Lager.

La Mezcaleria is owned by the same people who brought Vancouver La Taqueria taco shops a few years ago. I’m a fan of La Taqueria’s tacos so I had a pretty good idea on what to order. We all ordered tacos for dinner, they do 4 Meat Tacos for $9.50 and 4 Veggie Tacos for $7. I ordered two Meat (Pescado; Zarandeado fish with chipotle mayo, radish, and pepitas and De Lengua; braised beef tongue) and two Veg tacos (Tinga de Hongos; Sauteed fresh mushrooms in spicy chipotle sauce and De Picadillo; Sauteed ground tofu)I believe the total came somewhere between $7-9.50 for the four but not sure exactly. My favourites were: De Lengua, which was tender, soft and uber juicy…and don’t be freaked out, it doesn’t look like a tongue, just slow cooked, shredded beef AND Tinga de Hongos for the warm, smoky, spicy chipotle sauce. Of course, all of the tacos come with seasoning and sauces, but you can kick up your tacos as you like with their four house salsas- verde, chipotle, arbol, and habanero.

They do offer the same tasty pickled onions and jalapenos that they do at their La Taqueria taco shops but they don’t bring them automatically, so make sure you ask your server.
Also, if you want add some refreshing crunch and veggie filler to your taco, you can ask for a side of shredded cabbage (I think they charged me an additional dollar for this.)

La Mezcaleria on Urbanspoon