There’s a new Mexican taco place on Main St. called Maizal (Facebook, Instagram). It’s surprising that within the span of a couple months, TWO places have opened up in Vancouver that make their own tortillas in-house: Chancho (where Nuba used to be on Seymour) and Maizal. I did a quick little visit to Maizal with Moyenchow and here’s my early thoughts.
(As far as I know, there’s no relation between this Maizal and the Maizal in Toronto.)
Maizal is the FOURTH new Mexican place I’ve been to and posted about this year. Tacofino is also set to open their fourth Vancouver location, this time with a “40s–60s Hollywood Mexican” theme (sounds like Grim Fandango come to life??). If last year was all about Hawaiian poke, this year seems to be all about Mexican. I’m happy for this re-energization of the Mexican scene here. Although nothing’s blown me away so far (Lucha Verde is probably the most fun and delicious), I welcome the newcomers and hope each place finds their niche and direction.
First time I’ve seen a Lime & Chia drink! And those features look very interesting. It’s pitifully rare to see mole of any sort listed on a menu. I wanna be bathed in it.
Sounds like a plan! It was a hard day at the office…
Their hand-cranked tortilla press. The grill is the flat surface to the left of it. I didn’t see any use of oil or grease on the grill, so the tortillas are basically pressed fresh and placed on the grill for cooking as-is. Results in a soft, very non-greasy tortilla. Which you may or may not like… More below on that.
You can get plain churros, churros with caramel, or churros with ice cream and caramel! EVERYONE GETS CHURROS!
Eight core tacos with a couple feature tacos the day I was there. They also have tortas, quesadillas, and rice bowls. If you choose the meat option, you get to choose from the list of taco fillings. We went for a torta with pastor (pork & pineapple).
Screw “establishing a baseline”! I’m going for the feature tacos.
I haven’t been to La Taqueria in ages, so I don’t know if the days of four tacos for $10/12 are gone or what. But I guess tacos shouldn’t be immune to the price increases affecting all kinds of food lately. Four meat tacos here will cost you $15. I guess those tacos at Four Winds Brewing don’t sound so expensive now, huh Kevin? (I’m talking to the other Kevin.)
Their fountain drinks: Lime & Chia, Horchata, and Jamaica.
Their housemade sauces: Tomatillo, Chipotle, and “3 Chiles”.
Their bottle sauces. I tried a smidge of the “Black Label Reserve Chile Habanero”. Good stuff. I like how the bottles are CLEAN. Also notice the salt shaker. I find it critical cuz most Mexican places seem to hold back on the salt in their taco fillings.
Horchata ($3.25). Pretty good horchata that didn’t taste watered down or too sweet. Mild success.
Moyenchow’s Tinga Taco ($3.75), tomato/chipotle-braised chicken with cotija cheese, beans, and sour cream. You’ll have to wait for her review to see what it tasted like.
Moyenchow’s Carnitas ($3.75) with guacamole and pork rinds. Love the look of those pork rinds on top.
Red Mole ($3.25) with potatoes, mushrooms, cashews, rice, and sour cream. I did get a bit of that dark chocolate/cocao flavour in this mole, but overall a pretty mild experience that was much improved by their in-house salsas. I didn’t mind the rice even though some people might think it’s filler.
Chicken in Mole Verde Sauce ($3.75) with pumpkin seeds, tomatillo, cilantro, sour cream, and a layer of black beans on the bottom. This one had more flavour and impact than the red mole taco, but was still helped by additional salt and salsa. I enjoyed the textural crunch from the pumpkin seeds.
Now, about the tortillas: the tortillas here are very soft. Soft feel, soft and slightly mealy texture as you chew, but strong enough to hold your fillings and flexible enough to not break. I’m not sure if I like these tortillas or not. It’s the most unique housemade tortilla I’ve had in the Lower Mainland. It’s that softness, that slightly thicker quality (I’m talking microns), and a general nagging feeling that these are a bit undercooked and have a bit of rawness left in them. The clean, non-greasy quality makes them imho a bit less delicous than they could be. It’s like the less-greasy roti canai at John 3:16…it’s less greasy, yeah, but sometimes it’s more delicious when there’s a bit more fat involved. I gotta give props to Four Winds Brewing for their housemade tortillas though. They nail all the points: warmth, strength, pliability, and taste (example here).
Meat Torta ($8.75) with al pastor, beans, chipotle mayo, guacamole, cheese, and side of tortilla chips with cheese and sour cream. A very unique torta that’s like a hybrid between a torta and a pressed panini. Eats more like a panini too. I’d rather eat this than whatever skimpy shit passes for tortas in this town, but still…I wanted more meat to balance out the bread, and a torta that uses guac instead of sliced avocado just seems wrong to me. You may very well love these and their approach though.
The al pastor was flavourful, with lots of pineapple chunks, but was perhaps too mushy. But I’d like to try their al pastor straight off the spit sometime to see if it’s better. (Spit was empty that night.)
Churro + Cajeta ($3). Apparently, cajeta is like dulce de leche but made with goat’s milk instead of cow’s. So Moyenchow might be right that there is a goatiness at work here. I’m sorta immune to gameyness, and love extreme amounts of gamey funkiness in my food.
I think this churro was overfried or something because the outside was hard and tough. Difficult to cut with a knife, and difficult to bite. Other customers’ churros looked less browned and seemed more delicious from the expressions on their faces. Moyenchow had a better churro experience during her first visit, so I chalk it up to inconsistency.
As a comparison, the best churros I’ve personally had so far in town is from the El Cartel food truck:
Now, that churro was fresh, hot, crispy on the outside, and oozy soft in the middle.
From this first visit to Maizal, I’m lukewarm about the place. They’ve been open two months, so I think the way they do their tortillas is something you’d have to accept. Their feature tacos do make things interesting though, so Maizal might deserve a revisit.