An invite from Diana, aka, Miss Foodology to try the new Chronic Tacos menu at the Gastown Cantina location was the vessel to this feast. Also partaking in the event was Ange (Food Punk), Anita (PetiteFoodie) and another one of Diana’s friends (who may not be a food blogger, but knew a lot about great food!).
I’d like to stop a second here and do the whole disclaimer thing that I was invited, was not paid to write this review and my meal was taken care of by the restaurant.
The new menu, as explained by Aidan – manager of the Gastown Cantina has more variety and pub fare. Gastown is littered with pubs and this makes perfect sense to draw in a bigger audience. The design of the new menu is very cool with the unmistakable flare of Mexican art.
If you’ve never been to the Cantina, it’s a fairly large space with big booths, large TVs, an upstairs and usually a live DJ spinning all sorts of music. The theme is the very colour of Chronic Tacos – red and black, with this great piece of artwork – that’s probably not going to impress your parents but cool nonetheless.
First up, we ordered the taco platter (8.49-11.49). One platter usually comes with two tacos with a side of rice and beans. I’m not entirely sure whether you can just order tacos on their own – but I felt the two tacos would’ve done the trick. Refried beans were okay, but for my own personal taste – I’ve never really been a fan of the texture and taste. They also come with black beans, but once again, not a fan. The tacos were stacked and you definitely get more bang for your buck here.
We ordered almost every kind of tacos on the menu (Carne Asada, Carnitas, Al Pastor, Fish and Shrimp). The fish and shrimp have the option of being battered or grilled. The general consensus was that the Al Pastor was quite spicy, but I prefer spicy dishes when I eat Mexican food.
Speaking of tacos, I often find that people compare Chronic Tacos with La Taqueria, and I think that isn’t a fair comparison. Chronic Tacos is definitely Mexi-Cali/Tex-Mex with an assortment of different types of foods whereas La Taqueria’s specialty is in their massive assortment of tacos that hail originally from Mexico. I enjoy both and I really don’t see what the big divide is about. I feel this back and forth debate is almost like trying to compare Cantonese cuisine to Shanghainese cuisine (ie, they’re different – just fall under the same generalization!). Anyway, that’s my two cents on the matter! 😛
Up next was the Baja Ceviche ($7.49). Ceviche is ‘raw’ fish made usually with lime and onions. This one was creamier, made with lime, mango and pears. I found the taste to be quite cleansing to the palate with the lime and fairly sweet with the mango and pears. I believe the green on the top is salsa verde which gave the dish a little more colour. The plantain chips serve for scooping purposes – a tad bit healthier than traditional chips.
Ceviche is served in a lot of Spanish countries – including the Philippines, so it’s always interesting on trying different takes on the dish.
The next dish was the Flank Steak Fajitas ($15) consisting of flank steak and a mix of red, green and yellow peppers and onions. It also comes with rice and pico de gallo (which is similar to salsa). I tried a little bit of the steak and it I was really surprised at the first bite. I was expecting a grilled flavour but this steak was full of bright and spicy flavour. I think this might’ve been my favourite dish out of all the ones we tried.
Our next dish was the Southwest Stuffed Peppers ($15). These three halves of peppers contained tofu, spinach and rice, covered in jack cheese and mole. Mole is popularly known as the ‘chocolate’ sauce in Mexican cooking – but mole actually is a mix of peppers and in some moles cocoa will be added (hence the surprise that it isn’t so sweet and chocolately when you taste it!). Anyway – the flavours in this particular dish was good, but I felt like it needed a kick – maybe adding cilantro when cooking up the dish rather than a garnish would clean the flavour. I also think maybe a dash of Cholula would’ve helped as well.
We ordered two deep fried dishes – Jalapeno Poppers ($9.49) and Beer Battered Prawns ($9.49). While these two dishes lean more towards pub fare – I’m always a fan of Jalapeno Poppers! These ones were practically bursting with the the cream cheese and had great bits of jalapeno. While it isn’t too spicy – the inside is about 90% cheese – this might not be for everyone.
The Beer Battered Prawns were fantastic. They were crunchy on the outside with great batter and juicy and fresh on the inside. I like how they bread their shrimp here (also their fish) as opposed to other places that make it so crumbly.
Our last two dishes were desserts. Deep Fried Ice Cream Sandwiches and Churros.
We almost didn’t get to try the churros because they were all out, but Aidan was very nice to accommodate our request and they were made fresh for us.
The Deep Fried Ice Cream was literally ice cream sandwiches that were breaded and topped with raspberry sauce. I’m not sure whether these were ‘real’ ice cream sandwiches tossed in a deep fryer as the cream in the middle seemed a lot heavier and less sweet than ice cream usually tastes. It was an interesting texture of crumbly, crunchy and soft. The cream in the middle was not cold, so it wasn’t so bad on the teeth. Deep fried ice cream? Not so big a fan, but this one was okay.
The churros are served with a scoop of ice cream. If you’ve never had churros, I recommend you do! These deep fried batter-y goodness of cinnamon and sugar are amazing and one of my favourite treats.
Overall, it was a great thing to do a revitalization of the menu. These particular items are only available at the Gastown location which makes a lot of sense, given the nature of the district they’re in. There is more variety to their menu now and I’d definitely recommend the flank steak fajita and the burritos (see my last review). The Cantina is a great, spacious place to catch the game or hang out with friends if you’re wanting a more relaxed atmosphere.
Thanks again Diana for the invite and Aidan for being so accommodating to six hungry girls!