Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Taco Crawl (Part 2) Cuchillo

Our taco crawl adventure continued to Railtown where we stopped at ...

Mole Lamb Albondigas, Sardo Parmesan Browned Popcorn ($8 for a plate with 2 tacos)

Cuchillo on Urbanspoon

A refresher on The Food Crawl basics:
Four participants. Each participant picks a taco joint OR a specific taco dish they've been wanting to try. I drive the taco wagon (aka my Honda Fit) and come up with logistics, scheduling, route that makes sense. At each stop, we either have done our research and picked a taco OR ask our server for their most popular taco/ their recommendation. One taco per crawler per venue.
Let the adventure continue!


This was the Leggy Redhead’s pick…she had been there before- LOVED IT- but never ordered their tacos. This was my first visit to Cuchillo, which opened this year in the Railtown area. You enter under a neon skull sign through glass to ceiling doors to a spacious waiting area and a long restaurant interior with communal long tables. This space is pretty awesome- high ceilings, exposed brick walls, retro luchador posters, and some pretty cool light fixtures. It was busy but not packed and the servers and clientele were of the smile-y hipster genre. 

TLR asked the server for some recommendations, she gave a few but TLR was most tempted by the lamb option. When these tacos came out, the aroma is the first thing to grab your attention.

The lamb itself is surprisingly in a juicy, tender, meatball form. The meat has a lovely gameyness which is lifted with the toasted garlic. The popcorn is a clever, playful, creative touch that adds a fun texture element. The meatball was interesting. Although, well cooked and juicy, I found it a little awkward to eat as a meatball, so instead I did some pre-shredding with a fork which allowed for easy, well-distributed bites. Served on double red tortillas that were "meh", no real flavour or wow factor, instead letting the bold showy flavours and textures of the inside shine. Loved the space and luchador décor, loved the creative menu, I will definitely be back.

The Leggy Redhead:

Mole Lamb taco--This one was my pick.  I'd eaten at Cuchillo before and loved everything, but hadn't tried the lamb taco.  Lots of great flavours.  I didn't expect the lamb to be sausage/meatball style.  Not my first choice for texture in a taco.  Popcorn gave it a neat crunchy texture that worked. 
Venditas tequila shot - I'd never heard of these.  Well the Bad Jew introduced us to this.  What a great, refreshing chaser shot...crisp cilantro with a bit of sweet from the pineapple juice and heat from jalapeno all pureed together .  Makes you feel healthy again after the tequila shot! Ha ha, I can pretend can't I!

The Bad Jew:

Already a favorite of The Bad Jew, Cuchillo drew us in with its purple neon skull lighting the way.  If you haven’t been, the décor and set up of the room is fantastic.  A long room with a long bar (Yay) and a lengthy communal table.  Generous lighting throughout –everyone seems in soft focus.  The Leggy Redhead looked five years younger (than what?  I’m not saying, I intend to stay alive).

I took the liberty of ordering a round of Venditas – an off menu libation.  “Is it a shot?”, “Well it’s like a shot but not … you’ll see.  You won’t be sorry.”  A half shot of tequila chased by a half shot of beautiful green concoction – cilantro, jalapeño and pinapple blended together – sweet and spicy, kinda like The Bad Jew.  Highly recommend ordering Venditas if you visit.

We selected the Mole Lamb tacos – my first thought was – “I can’t believe I’m at Cuchillo and I’m not ordering the Wild Mexican Sea Prawns”  yup they are that good.  I had a lot of following thoughts; the tacos took an excruciatingly long time to arrive.  A pungent smell announced their eventual appearance.  I was eating this dish through my nose J
The tacos featured a packed lamb meatball covered in a healthy dose of my favorite Mexican sauce –Mole!  A complex dark brown sauce featuring over 20 ingredients including several types of chili and chocolate.  Thumbs up Cuchillo on your version – thick and juicy but sadly dumbed down with not much heat.  The tacos were topped with a garnish of pea shoots and sprinkles of popcorn – for an added visual and fun factor.  The red tortillas (tomato derived, I suppose) displayed pretty grill marks.  Overall, a taco sure to please the fancy pants crowd – but sadly it’s a shadow of the prawn dish.  Bittersweet.

The Glib:

One of Vancouver’s better new restaurants, with an ownership group with rumoured ties to the much missed Cobre, Cuchillo promised to deliver. The Bad Jew rightly pointed out the deliciousness of non-taco menu items, like the spectacular prawn dish, as he ordered up three Venditas (a tequila shot with a refreshing blended coriander chaser), but this night was about tacos.

The Leggy Redhead’s instincts overrode our capable and friendly server’s recommendations, and in a few short minutes we were dining on a lamb meatball, mole sauce and garlic popcorn wrapped in a warmed corn taco. Popcorn, you say. In a taco, you say. Hell yes. 

On the nose, garlic, not fresh or roasted, but crisp fried garlic. Maybe a little too much garlic. But only just. The mole was smooth and velvety. The lamb fresh, flavourful but not overpowering. The tortillas in this dish played a perfect background role, giving just enough flavour to say a casual hello. All in all, a delicious, balanced dish in taste and texture.

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