There Must Be More To It Than That: Happy Hour at Fayuca in Yaletown

Let’s get this out of the way first: Fayuca is a term used in Northern Mexico to describe petty contraband goods smuggled over the border like clothes, liquor, and food.” – Scout Magazine. So the name of the restaurant is a sly nod to how they approach their food, bringing influences from all along the Pacific coast. But, as they say, don’t call them Mexican.

Long story short: I don’t think their happy hour menu really shows what they can do. I wasn’t thrilled. These are Chefs with a captial C, and this restaurant did a lot of collaborations and events with the YVR Food Fest, so I thought they would be capable of much more.

Be prepared to pay the Yaletown tax.

Fayuca’s happy hour is from 3:00pm – 5:00pm, so basically impossible for regular working folks to take advantage of. I was lucky enough to have a flex day to peep the happy hour menu and see if I liked it enough to try their dinner.

I’ve been on a Mexican kick lately (El Stanto, Lucha Verde). But especially with my El Santo visit, I’ve been feeling that there’s an undercurrent of blandness and underseasoning that’s running through the Mexican food in the Lower Mainland. Will Fayuca be different?

The design and colour palette feel like Santa Fe meets Tiki meets Pacific Islander.

Part of the bar.

View of the dining area.

The entrance.

Counter seating towards the back of the restaurant, on the way to the washrooms. Their chalkboard was promoting the YVR Food Fest GATHER Collaborative Dinner Series event with Angus An (Maenam, etc) and Jair Tellez (Mexico City). I actually ate at Fayuca the day after this happened.

A decent bottle list for a restaurant. Of course you’re paying through the nose, but that’s the way it is in all restaurants thanks to the BCLDB.

“Hora Feliz” menu.

The happy hour menu, which is also available on their website.

Sunday Cider Wild (6.5%) – $9. Great cider. I love everything that Sunday Cider is doing, and all their ciders have their own unique character. All are on the dry side, which is my preference.

For $9, I wish they filled my glass up a bit more though…it’s not wine.

Cockles with Lime, Cucumber, and Olive Oil ($6). Cockles are a rare sight. Last time I had them was more than a decade ago in Singapore in a char kway teow where they throw them in near the end so they stay a bit raw.

These are straight-up raw and lightly dressed. Really dainty things. A bit like raw clams but more tender and delicate. A good, appropriately mild and fresh-tasting start.

Complimentary tortilla chips and habanero salsa. The salsa was bright, fruity, salty, and acidic. In retrospect, this was the boldest flavour I had out of the entire visit.

Crunchy, blistered, charred tortilla chips. I love the char on these. I want to be pushed like this. Whether it’s a steak, pizza crust, or a slab of cabbage, char is a bit of an underappreciated element that adds so much. Caramelization, aroma, flavour, eye-appeal…

These must be the new corn tortillas made by their new side business, Chancho Tortilleria. Evidently the locally made tortillas from El Comal in Burnaby aren’t good enough :D. Perhaps they’re the Wonder Bread of tortillas? I really applaud Fayuca & Co. for taking this step to their own masa blends and eventually growing their own corn to spec and going through the whole nixtamalizing process. The only other place that does their own nixtamalization in Western Canada (as far as I know) is Native Tongues in Calgary. That doesn’t automatically mean the tortillas will be great though. Native Tongues’ tortillas are good but not perceptibly better than what the majority of the taquerias in Vancouver (La Taqueria, etc) use, so I’m curious to see if anyone can tell the difference when these tortillas get used in taco-like dishes.

Grilled Cactus, Halloumi Cheese, Avocado, and Salsa Verde ($9).

Some good flavours going on in this dish. A bright, acidic salsa. The slightly sour cactus with a sliminess and texture that reminds me of eating okra (a good thing). Squeaky halloumi. This dish requires a bit of dismantling in order to eat properly but no big deal. Very reasonably priced.

Potato Dumplings, Grilled Beef Tongue, and Spicy Birria Broth ($9). It’s smothered by the “birria broth”, which looks more like a thick sauce or a stew or a mole than a broth. The birria wasn’t that spicy at all, especially compared to the habanero salsa above. Some smokiness in there but overall the birria was really, really mild. For the body and thickness that it had, I was expecting to taste more from it.

The elements underneath were good though. The potato dumplings were like perogies, except the wrapper had the texture closer to soft Japanese mochi than chewy perogy skin. Well-seasoned potato inside. The slabs of grilled beef tongue were heavenly. Very tender and made my eyeballs roll around. The dumplings and tongue were laid beside each other in alternating layers underneath the sauce. The dish as a whole was just held back by the blandness of the birria. Plus I think it would be better if the birria was just underneath and the dumplings and tongue laid on top so that the customer can see the actual grill marks on the beautiful tongue.

While I love elements of the dumplings dish, the cactus dish was probably the best overall, but still I wasn’t blown away. I think they saved their richer, bolder dishes for the dinner menu.

Fayuca Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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