La Casita: Vancouver’s Best Chile Relleno, among other things
If you read this blog, you know how much I love Mexican food and you probably also know how much I love La Taqueria. The thing is that La Taqueria is a taco shop, which is amazing if I want tacos, but not so great if I want, say, chile relleno or enchiladas or something else equally complex. That’s where La Casita comes in.
I had been to La Casita twice before, but hadn’t written any reviews. The first time—on an evening after a busy street festival—they were all out of chiles relleno. Oh no! I had enchiladas, which turned out to be very good, but I forgot to take pictures. The second time I went, it was really late at night and it was way too dark for photos, plus I was absolutely starving and I engulfed my chile relleno. I remember thinking, Was that the best chile relleno I’ve had in Vancouver or was I just starving?
So, as you can imagine, after two very positive experiences at La Casita, I was thrilled when the guys from vaneats.ca contacted me to ask if I’d be interested in reviewing the sampler platter they would be offering in their custom-made dining package with La Casita. Apparently, they’d heard of my passion for Mexican food. Yay me!
Then Saturday happened. Oh Saint Patrick, you can really mess me up, you. On Sunday, the Big Man and I were feeling a bit, uh, sluggish, you might say, so we didn’t really eat all day and then it was 4 pm and we were starving, so we headed to La Casita.
Our meal began with complimentary chips and salsa. The chips are made on site from scratch and are very good. The salsas were quite unusual, but this was a good thing. The red salsa, described as a typical red salsa by the waitress, was not actually typical at all. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but it stood out for sure. The green salsa looked like avocado sauce, but as soon as I took a bite I knew it wasn’t. I asked the waitress and she said it was a coriander salsa. Mmm, this green soupy-looking stuff was divine!
I ordered the sampler platter, of course, as it was included for free as part of my review, but I also ordered the chile relleno. I had to know if it was as good as I thought it was the last time I’d tried it. I knew this was too much food, but I figured I could take the leftovers home. The waitress came back from the kitchen and asked if it would be okay if we started with the sampler platter as the chef didn’t think all that food would fit on our table at once. He he.
The sampler platter arrived and it was big, but so were our appetites (or so we thought). The sampler platter included chipotle shrimp, mole chicken wings, super nachos, cabbage salad with avocado, and chorizo quesadillas, as well as some Mexican rice and a corn tortilla.
We started with the mole chicken wings and the chorizo quesadillas. I told my husband to take 3 of the 4 chicken wings because I am not usually a big fan of mole and he just loves the stuff. Then we started eating the wings and I was blown away by how tasty they were! Not too chocolatey, not too intense—no, this mole was smooth and silky. I would easily order this again, but next time I won’t be sharing them so readily with the Big Man! The chorizo quesadillas were good, but didn’t wow me as I had expected. I love chorizo, and these quesadillas were packed with chorizo and ooey-gooey melted cheese, but we found the tortilla to be a bit too thick and overwhelming. They were tasty, but I guess I would have preferred them in a thinner flour tortilla or in several smaller corn tortillas.
The cabbage salad was light and refreshing and served well to cleanse our palates between the other items. The next item we splurged on was the chipotle shrimp. Wow. I was really impressed with the shrimp, so much so that I asked the waitress how to order just the shrimp next time I visit the restaurant. First of all, these shrimp were perfectly cooked, not overdone as shrimp so often are. Of course, I would expect expertly cooked shrimp at a seafood restaurant, but I wouldn’t expect it from a Mexican restaurant. This opened my eyes to seafood done Mexican style. To be honest, I’ve never ordered seafood at a Mexican restaurant, save for fish tacos. This is going to change from here on out. Perfectly plump, mouth-watering, expertly seasoned shrimp? Yes please!
We saved the nachos for the last because we didn’t expect much from them. They were coated in a sort of refried bean sauce, sprinkled with cheese and fresh salsa. We make nachos at home all the time, so nachos need to be pretty freakin’ good to impress us.
I took one bite and my eyes widened in surprise. What? They looked so simple, but tasted amazing! I urged Big Man to try them and he reluctantly did, but then he had the same surprised reaction. Deliciousness! The sauce was so unexpected, so unlike anything you’ve tried before on nachos. I identified that the sauce was made with refried beans and cheese mixed together, but then the waitress mentioned that there was also seasoned beef in there. Because we’d waited to eat the nachos, the cheese had plenty of time to get super melty so that each chip was absolutely loaded with yummy sauce and gooey white cheese. These are not your everyday nachos. These are, indeed, “super nachos.”
By the time we ate the sampler platter, we conceded that, yes, this is definitely a platter for two, even if you are super hung over from wild St. Patty’s Day partying, and then you went to an art auction and drank and bid (never a good idea), and then you went to your place with friends and drank some more, and then crashed without drinking enough water, and then woke up the next day and didn’t eat all day. Yes, even then, this platter serves two.
But then came my chile relleno.
La Casita’s chile relleno is $17, a hefty price tag for sure. Of course, the platter is huge and comes with mounds of Mexican rice, refried beans, cabbage salad, the biggest chile relleno you ever saw, a dollop of guacamole, and three corn tortillas. In short, it is served just as it should be.
In Vancouver, seeing a Mexican dish served “as it should be” is quite the feat. I’ve ordered chile relleno just about everywhere I could find it in this city and I have seen it in various twisted and unnatural forms. But no, not at La Casita. I can say that their chile relleno is indeed the best that Vancouver has to offer.
What makes this chile relleno the star of the city? Well, first of all, it comes with corn tortillas. I get really annoyed when I have to order these “on the side” and pay extra, when they are supposed to come with the dish in the first place! Okay, got that out of my system. Next, look at that rice. It is bright with seasoning, not plain white rice (I cringe when I see white rice on a supposed Mexican dish). The guacamole is chunky and delicious.
And, then, there is the chile. It’s freakin’ massive! It is packed with melted cheese inside, dipped in batter, basted with two kinds of sauce (a red sauce and salsa verde), and then topped with more melted cheese. That’s a little piece of heaven there. I was not “just hungry” the last time I had the chile relleno: it is the best chile relleno in Vancouver.
What about the price? $17 is pricey for me. As you know, I expect Mexican food to be cheap. Well, I’ve thought a lot about this and I have decided that since most chiles relleno in Vancouver go for $15 or $16 a plate, plus an extra $1.50 to $3.00 for corn tortillas that should’ve been included in the first place, then La Casita’s $17 chile relleno is actually a reasonable price to pay. Especially because you’re simply not going to find a chile relleno of the same calibre anywhere else in Vancouver, and you’re especially not going to find it for less.
Speaking of prices, you can go to vaneats.ca today and purchase this limited-time offer of the custom-made sampler dining platter for only $18. It is a steal and I highly recommend it!
101 West Cordova St.
Vancouver, BC V6B 1E1
Disclaimer: while the sampler platter was free, we paid for the rest of our meal and all previous meals. The free sampler platter was delicious and definitely a bonus, but it did not affect my review in any way.