Holy moly, Vancouver, have I found a goodie for you.
But first, let me say that finding decent Spanish food in this city has been tough times. Aside from the old institution that shall remain nameless because they’re so sweet there but I got food poisoning from some shitty rotten scallops and on a date to boot (we didn’t last), there just aren’t a lot of great Spanish joints up in here. I adore the small plates at The Sardine Can, but true to its name, it can get rather snug in there on a Friday, and I can blow a dainty little gasket when I’m hungry enough and have to wait for a table. Also lacking in this city is some really good Mexican, which bouts for some pretty vicious cravings when you’ve spent a few years eating some of the best off street carts in LA, drunk and not drunk (which means buzzed). But I’ve finally found a place that can fill both gaps, and it’s bloody well glorious.
Cuchillo (which means knife in spanish.. As in “I’d rather sit on a cuchillo than go vegan”) is another Gastown spot, which seems to be the place I venture to most often lately when I’m in the mood to eat, which means I should move to Gastown, but its first kudos go to opening a little further east than what’s comfortable in this city. More and more businesses are mustering up the balls to venture east into the “dodgy” area, most likely because the rent’s cheaper, but it’s still walkable to civilization (and even better, the Urban Winery, which has tasty local wine flights aplenty and just got their license to serve full glasses– olé !), and it ain’t that scary. This is Canada. The most you’ll see is a very friendly crackhead or a couple of cold prostitutes and all of them recycle and can name at least one character off Murdoch Mysteries.
Lookit, the important thing is that the trek is worth it. Venture through the nameless and skull-embellished door into a cavernous warehouse-like space that still manages to be warm and inviting, with help from super nice servers and smiley bartenders enticing you with dangerously tasty cocktails. It’s a little loud and most seating is communal, so maybe don’t take fussy relatives here, although maybe you don’t want to hear what they have to say anyway. The food is bliss, little saucy tacos for sharing (duck and crackling with blackberry habanero jam! fried rockfish! lamb adorned with parmesan brown butter popcorn!), lots of snacky things to dip your fresh out of the oven corn chips in, bigger plates to hog to yourself like bison steak with walnut manchego tostadas on the side… It’s not your food cart special or a boring old heap of enchiladas. It’s creative, it’s inspiring, it’s fresh and seasonal, and everything I’ve ever had there has been worth a trip back to say hi to the hookers on its own. A couple of favourites: the sublime tuna ceviche which is done “constructed-style”, meaning the tuna is served in generously thick seared pieces, layered like a terrine with tortilla chips, cilantro, and a warm bacon and peruvian potato base to give it some heft. It’s unlike any ceviche I’ve ever had. Their tomato and mozzarella salad is also anything but standard, using yellow heirloom tomatoes stacked atop hunks of fresh mozzarella and layered with some roasted poblanos for a little heat. They pay a lot of attention to the details, and it shows.
I get that most of you don’t live in Vancouver. But for those of you that do, please give this place your business! Please eat tacos! Please devour the snot out of that yucca poutine which tastes just like a regular poutine but better! It’s like crack which is so fitting!
In concusion: Cuchillo? Meet your new regular.