Szechuan Peppercorn Rockfish, Kimchi, Lemon Aioli and Rice Noodles at Cuchillo
Cuchillo has the Best Damn Happy Hour
on the Wrong Side of the Tracks
I love Mexican food so it better be damn good for me to travel to the wrong side of the tracks aka Chinatown. I know some of you insist that it’s perfectly safe to walk the streets within a six block radius of East Hastings St but a few years back I was fortunate to escape the attention of a raving madman who strolled up beside me brandishing a knife in the air. So I try to avoid this area as much as possible but on some occasions the thought of discovering a new restaurant gem is enough to entice me to brave the possible dangers. Well Cuchillo is one place I’d gladly fight my way through Chinatown to reach.
Cuchillo isn’t fancy but rather unassuming and dark inside – note to self, best date spot for those of us over 40 as it’s a known fact that wrinkles get lost in the dark (unfortunately, mine have found their way home). You can elect to sit on a table for two or at the communal table if you’re a social butterfly or just like to steal people’s food when they’re not looking (just don’t sit beside me if you’re hungry). The kitchen is open, so no worry about cooks spitting in your food or in the case of my dad’s restaurant, ashes in the food as he very often smoked while he cooked.
I came for the happy hour special of $15 which gets you an order of tacos and a Tommy Margarita. There’s only two tacos to an order but they’re not skinny mini ones like some Mexican places (in Vancouver) I’ve been where after three tacos I’m still famished. And at the price of $4 per taco, you might as order an entrée elsewhere. At Cuchillo, the tacos are $12 each but the two that you get in one order are ginormous. I ordered the Szechuan Peppercorn Rockfish tacos (see photo above). Each piece of rockfish is ginormous and the combination of the kimchi, peppercorn and Szechuan flavours are as good as anything I’ve had in any Asian restaurant. Each taco comes with two tortillas because one wouldn’t be enough to contain all this giant pile of goodness. As there are two to an order, it’s great for sharing.
There’s other creative choices such as Lamb Albondigas with Ancho Chile Cream, Morita Chili BBQ Pulled Pork and Yucatan Achiote Chicken and a vegan choice of Roasted Cauliflower with Almond Date Butter and Tomato Ginger Jam.
As for the accompanying Tommy Mango Margarita, it was flavourful with just enough alcohol without blowing my socks off like some do. There’s also a lime flavour one although I’m not sure why it’s called Tommy, unless the bartender’s name is Tommy.
Along with the happy hour special I couldn’t resist ordering the blistering Shitso Peppers which are similar to the blistering Pedron Peppers you find on menus in tapa bars in Barcelona. The Pedron Peppers usually come plain and unadorned on s plate (you just add salt) but at Cuchillo, the Shitso Peppers arrive with hummus and plantains making this a dish that even a meat lover will love.
The Dulce De Luche is the only dessert on the menu. I love churros, so I had to order this and was surprised that it wasn’t just churros served in a pool of tamarind butterscotch dulce leche. They say presentation is everything and when this arrived, it would have blown my underwear off if I had been wearing any. This dessert is layered like a trifle with the bottom layer being the decadent butterscotch tamarind dulce leche, then the caramalized pineapple, blackberries and gooseberries. And top it off with the whipping cream, honeycomb and churros. Then grab your spoon and shovel it in your mouth before your friend can get any. This dessert is so good, you won’t want to share.
Happy hour is every day from 5-6 pm and besides the $15 special, there’s also $5 off all Tequila and Mezcal flights, $4 Tequila & Verdita and $4 Good Company Lager. Our waitress informed us that the happy hour specials will be changing so that all tacos are half price, although at the time of publishing this post, the happy hour specials haven’t changed.
Another good thing about Cuchillo is that bus stop is right outside the door where the no. 4 or 7 takes you to downtown. So if you’re bothered by any raving lunatics with a cuchillo (Spanish for knife), you can quick run inside and grab a cuchillo at Cuchillo. Otherwise use your cuchillo to protect your dessert from your greedy friends.