First Look: Veggie Mexican at Lucha Verde on Davie St.

Last year was all poke — this year’s trend seems to be Mexican! With the opening of Fayuca, El Santo winning Vanmag Gold Award for Best Latin (disappointing review here), expansion of Tacofino into Yaletown, La Mezcaleria into Gastown, etc, Mexican cuisine is getting hot. But what I’m after is just plain good eats. Surprisingly, the most impactful (there’s a Sherman word for ya!) “Mexican” experience I’ve had that consistently impresses me is the tacos at Four Winds Brewing in Delta. They use tacos as a canvas, and bring in smartly constructed flavours. I’m not even going to touch the notion of authenticity. There’s a huge range of regional Mexican cuisine that we are just frickin’ ignorant about in Vancouver. I’m just concentrating on whether the shit tastes good or not. So does Lucha Verde taste good?

NOTE: Lucha Verde wasn’t even a week old when we visited. I think you’re all intelligent enough to take what I say below in perspective. They were still training new servers but we still got good, attentive service. The owner was wearing a TMNT t-shirt!

Lucha Verde is where Lolita’s South of the Border Cantina used to be on Davie St. I saw a few neighbourhood people stopping to check out the menu and ask questions.

With vegetarian restaurants like MeeT on Main, Virtuous Pie, The Acorn, The Arbor, CHAU VeggieExpress, and many others popping up in recent years, I think Lucha Verde’s combination of “veg-mex” cuisine and cocktails will be very popular.

There are plenty of veggie-based foods that are inherently tasty. But too often the veggie options in town taste bad and boring. Lots of cuisines like Middle Eastern and Korean (especially Buddhist temple food) are just plain awesome. So really, I’m not biased against vegetarian food per se. I just look for the same level of flavour, texture, aroma, and excitement as I do with any food. Some of the best tacos at Four Winds Brewing are the vegetarian ones (Roast Cauliflower, Mushroom 3 Ways — omg).

Lucha Verde seats around 30 people. Hooks at the bar for purses/bags/murses are a huge plus.

Table at the window.

Drink list. The beer list isn’t exciting for a beer geek like me, but I don’t have to have it my way all the time. I got the hilariously named “Thirteenth Step” zero-proof cocktail.

Wine list.

Food menu is also available on their website. Queso Fundido always jumps out at me.

Snacks. I like tight menu.

Tacos.

Desserts. The sundae sounded fun but I ended up being too full for it. Next time.

Thirteenth Step ($6) zero-proof cocktail with ginger, guava, lime, and soda. Tastes like the ingredients.

Los Muertos Cerveza Negra ($6) brewed by Penticton’s Bad Tattoo. This was ex-food blogger Sean’s beer.

The housemade hot sauce. I tried a bit with the chickpea fritters. I can’t really describe it, sorry. I’ll have to try it again. If I had to compare it to something, it would be aji amarillo.

Side plates for sharing food. In fact, all the food is served in metal trays like this. No fuss, no breakage…I’m down with this.

Chickpea Fritters ($10) topped with queso fresco, lime crema, and charred corn. Came with one small wedge of lime but the dish needed more acidity than it could provide.

This dish looked amazing and delicious, but came off a little flat. It needed more spice, a bit more salt, more acidity, more texture, more spark. As it is, it’s “ok” but with some tweaking could be good.

Sidenote: I’m also thinking that I don’t like chickpea fritters cuz of the stodgy middle that chickpea fritters have. The deconstructed falafel plate at St. Augustine’s is an particularly egregious example. I love hummus. I love fried chickpeas. Somehow I don’t love them turned into a fritter.

Elote ($8), grilled corn on the cob (split lengthwise, you get three pieces) with aioli, queso fresco, and cayenne. I was totally against something as simple as corn being served in restaurants. This elote changed my mind. The charred, sweet, juicy corn with the cheese, aioli, and spice was the best example from this visit of simple done right.

Queso Fundido ($12) with three cheeses (topped with queso fresco makes four) and charred poblano pepper. The queso fundido at La Mezcaleria has been on my list of things to eat for ages, so I can’t compare the two…yet. This one was great. Melty, cheesy…ummm, it pretty much tastes like what it looks like. I even like the orange oil on top.

The tortilla chips here are thick and CRUNCHY.

Let’s all have a laugh at my freaky double-jointed fingers and death grip on the chip.

I love the mild and smoky charred poblano peppers in this. I wouldn’t mind even more poblanos 🙂

Bring on the tacos!

Squash Blossom ($7) with deep fried squash blossom (stuffed with kabocha puree), corn sauce, and watermelon salsa. I enjoyed this one. Even though I didn’t get much crispness from the batter, the flavour of the sweet kabocha puree inside was great, and actually went well with the cool, sweet watermelon. Enough layers of flavour and texture to keep it interesting. It’s gotta be a ton of fiddly work to stuff, batter, and deep fry these squash blossoms.

The coloured corn tortillas are a fun touch but the tortillas fall apart a bit too easily. However, they did pace the food so that the tacos came as we were finishing our starters and snacks, so they didn’t sit around too long getting soft and wet.

Pasilla BBQ Jackfruit ($6) with pineapple salsa. Not a fan of this one. The jackfruit was like mush. The flavour balance was not appealing either, although I can’t put my finger on why. Maybe it was the smokiness or the sweetness or both. If you’re crazy about jackfruit-as-a-meat-substitute, then go for it. I didn’t hate it, but a lot of question marks floated above my head as I ate this.

Achiote Cauliflower ($6) with toasted pumpkin puree and orange salsa. I can’t really comment on this but Sean loved it. He said the cauliflower was a bit like the Najib’s Special Cauliflower from Nuba. That comparison alone means that people will go nuts over this taco.

Fried Cheese ($6) with deep fried halloumi and apple jicima slaw. Another one of Sean’s that he really liked.

The damage for two people. It’s not cheap but I think fairly priced considering the work that goes into these dishes (especially the squash blossom taco). This place will be busy. It’s like housing prices in Vancouver…we’re becoming immune to $6/7 tacos.

Feelings are positive so far. Despite a couple disappointing dishes, the strength of the elote, fundido, and some of the tacos means it’s worth another visit.

NO ZOMATO LOL
AND IT DOESN’T MATTER

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