To eat the whole menu at Cuchillo would be quite a feat. The beast is like a Tolstoy novella translated into Spanish. Finishing it is being hamstrung by the fact that we have yet to encounter anything at the new Latin-themed restaurant in Japantown that we wouldn’t order again. It’s therefore easy to fall into the trap of ordering the same things on each visit, leaving whole sections to wilt in waiting. The thing will take us ages to get through in its entirety, but that’s a problem we don’t mind having.
So far, we can recommend the following: heartily flavoured duck crackling tacos with roasted garlic and punchy blackberry habanero jam ; dense but still creamy white bean and Parmesan dip with excellent tortilla chips ; the damn fine house Mojito ; our favourite dish so far – the albacore tuna ceviche (you smash it up with the back of your fork) with purple potato causa made with double smoked bacon ; gently chili-spiced BBQ pulled pork tacos with refreshing mango papaya salsa ; tall Esteban Canal cocktail of thyme and cilantro infused Pisco, pear nectar, lime juice, honey, egg whites and bitters ; fried bread lightly dusted with chipotle sea salt ; baby husked corn (a new thing for us), grilled, buttered and flavoured with pequin pepper ; high-wire balanced Mexican Firing Squad cocktail of El Jimador tequila, lime juice, housemade grenadine, and angostura bitters ; pan-roasted heart of palm (where else can you get this?) served with a Basque-ish tomato/piquillo piperade and an awesome saute of cactus paddle and kale ; and the ground lamb mole tacos with sardo browned parmesan popcorn .
It had been a long time – years, even – since we’d supped at chef Stu Irving’s trough, probably not since he was the co-owner of Gastown’s long-shuttered Cobre (now Rodney’s Oyster House). We didn’t completely forget how good he was, but it was a happy, filling thing to be so deliciously reminded. And “H”, the bartender, is a straight up scientist who really knows what he’s doing with every bottle on his shelf.
One last note for the folks who decry or otherwise describe Cuchillo as an “upscale” eatery: the food might be top drawer, inventive, and especially easy on the eyes, but the prices range from $5 to $21 a plate, which is significantly cheaper than most other restaurants of a similar caliber. Dinner costs less here than it does Earls and the Cactus Club. Is it as cheap as the Ovaltine or a fill-up at Prime Time Chicken? No. Few meals are that affordable, but the quality at Cuchillo is much, much higher. So maybe stop with the “high end” and “fancy” bullshit. It’s just fiction – and not the kind that’s worth reading. Just sayin’.