June 26, 2022

Alimentaria Mexicana on Granville Island has make clear a naturally industrial a part of Vancouver.Taehoon Kim/The Globe and Mail

Identify: Alimentaria Mexicana

Location: 1596 Johnson St., Granville Island, Vancouver

Cellphone: 236-521-8440

Web site: alimentariamexicana.com

Delicacies: Mexican cantina

Costs: Shared plates, $6.95 to $27.95

Extra info: Open Wednesday to Sunday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Reservations and walk-in seating out there. Patio. No supply. Mercado and Fabrica opening later this fall.

I’ve associates visiting from out of city subsequent week. Once they requested me to advocate a cool place for dinner, I advised Alimentaria Mexicana on Granville Island.

This, expensive readers, is a primary.

Granville Island is likely to be an enthralling metropolis landmark. And it’s a pleasant place to buy artisan cheese, sausages and recent seafood, pattern native sake or see a stay present.

However the former industrial wasteland has by no means been cool, until you have been an artwork scholar at Emily Carr within the Nineteen Eighties.

It’s hardly ever busy after darkish (outdoors of festivals).

And after 20 years of dwelling in Vancouver, I’ve not as soon as advised to anybody that they go there for dinner. The eating places have at all times been too touristy.

Lo and behold, Granville Island would possibly lastly be realizing its potential.

On a current Friday night time, the streets have been alive and hopping. Many have been there for the Vancouver Fringe Pageant, which has now totally transitioned to Granville Island, because it ought to, to create extra affect.

The food and drinks venues have been all busy that night time. There was a full home at The Liberty Distillery, a 45-minute waitlist at The Sandbar Seafood Restaurant and a energetic scene on the Granville Island Brewing patio.

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However Alimentaria Mexicana, which has taken over the previous Edible Canada area kitty-corner to the Public Market, was the throbbing nerve centre.

The restaurant’s giant, 75-seat patio was packed. Lights have been strung over thatched umbrellas. The luxurious, greenery-topped fences have been splashed in vivid oranges and yellows. A Latin brass band was pumping from the audio system. And the diners have been ecstatic.

“Have you ever been right here earlier than?” a cool, barely tipsy older girl with pink hair requested, as we waited outdoors for a desk at round 9 p.m.

“Oh, it’s so good. I’ve been right here thrice because it opened. Get the chorizo tostada!” she implored, teetering again inside.

Alimentaria Mexicana, which opened in mid-July, is owned by Ernesto Gomez, government chef Martin Vargas and operations supervisor Darragh McFeely. These are the identical people behind the fantastic Chancho Tortilleria, which launched Vancouver to genuine, nixtamalized, heirloom corn tortillas.

Earlier than this, they ran the wonderful Fayuca restaurant in Yaletown with Mexican celeb chef Jair Tellez – till the hire turned untenable.

After two years of trying to find a brand new location, they landed this prime area on Granville Island and scaled the idea again to one thing extra relaxed and inexpensive, with a concentrate on consolation meals and immersive experiences.

Head chef Martin Vargas prepares a dish at Alimentaria Mexicana in Vancouver.Taehoon Kim/The Globe and Mail

When the imaginative and prescient is totally realized, maybe as quickly as subsequent month, this energetic hub will embrace cooking lessons, an indication tortilla manufacturing facility and a market that sells specialty meals merchandise, textiles, pottery and extra.

For now, it might solely be judged on the standard of the meals and drinks being served within the eating room. And it’s all mouth-mesmerizing.

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Artisanal tortillas, the spine of the menu, are processed regionally and ready every day, utilizing a dozen totally different kinds of non-GMO heirloom corn immediately sourced from Indigenous communities in Oaxaca.

Nixtamalization is an historic methodology of turning dry maize into nutritious dough by soaking and cooking the kernels in an alkaline resolution earlier than they’re floor, kneaded and fed by means of a press. The pickling lime course of loosens the outer shells, making it extra digestible and activating the vitamin B3.

Nevertheless it additionally transforms the corn into golden (typically blue or pink) flatbreads which might be nutty, toasty, tender but chewy and infinitely tastier than any of the rubbery Wonderbread variations discovered on grocery store cabinets.

You possibly can attempt them fried into crispy, bubbly tostadas, piled excessive with roasted butternut squash and chunky guacamole. Or rolled into flautas crammed with braised duck and drizzled with a creamy, slow-charred, brightly acidic recado negro, which has a garlicky warmth that doesn’t start buzzing till it’s partway down your throat.

It’s most likely finest, nonetheless, to begin with a virgin stack warmed on the range, dipped in a medley of house-made salsas that may take your style buds on an explosive joyride.

For timid palates, there’s a gentle, loosely juicy salsa roja, constructed from charred tomatoes. For a heat afterglow, attempt the thick and chunky sikil paak, churned with pumpkin seeds, toasted peppercorns and fennel seeds.

Silky salsa verde begins amping up the Scoville scale with zesty jalapenos which might be blended and balanced by earthy tomatillos. And for the extraordinarily adventurous, there’s a scorching habanero that may set your entire mouth on fireplace.

(Clockwise from prime) Birria beef tacos, inexperienced chorizo tostado, mushroom birria, halloumi and grilled cactus, and salsa and chips.Taehoon Kim/The Globe and Mail

Birria tacos have turn out to be all the trend of late. Typically they’re nice, typically they’re underwhelming. Right here, the highest spherical beef, slowly stewed in wealthy inventory, is served with out the fashionable cheese skirt or aspect bowl of consommé.

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The chin-drippy meat is crisped to order on the flattop and served in flour tortillas which have been bathed within the base inventory. That is the best way Chef Vargas used to eat them each morning for breakfast on the markets in Baja California, the place he’s from.

For a brand new twist, do attempt the mushroom birria, which is served as a soup. This actually showcases the complexity of the broth, deeply flavoured with guajillo chiles, dried and smoked pasillla peppers, toasted coriander and floral avocado leaf.

Vegetarians are catered to very properly right here. Essentially the most fascinating plant-based dish is the halloumi and grilled cactus, a holdover from Fayuca, which now tastes even higher than I keep in mind. It’s served over a beautiful salsa verde that thickens to a shiny, beurre-blanc texture from an enzyme within the cactus that’s added on the end.

I virtually missed the chorizo tostado that our pal outdoors advisable. However I’m glad I didn’t. It’s not simply chorizo. It’s inexperienced chorizo – vibrant emerald in color from inexperienced beans and charred cabbage, thickly streaked with molten fats and made by the Oyama Sausage Co. within the public market.

Skip the mussels with pink chorizo, which is dry and oddly musty, and go straight for this wonderful inexperienced model if it’s out there.

Wash it down with a glass of pure wine (the checklist is all from B.C.) or terrific cocktail (curated by star bartending marketing consultant Sabrine Dhaliwal).

And savour the pleasure of having fun with Granville Island with out feeling like a vacationer.

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