Tim Pawsey, The Vancouver Courier
September 21, 2005
Latin Lolita's seduces West End
WHO KNOWS why Davie Village has turned into a dining wasteland; dominated by as many average Greek spots (Taki's Taverna excepted) as mediocre sushi bars? But if you wander down towards English Bay, just at the end of the village, you'll come across Lolita's - a sassy Latin newcomer (in the old Random space) that's truly a ray of sunshine in a surprisingly lacklustre strip.
This bubbly, packed little room seemed to arrive with almost turnkey precision. That's likely because Lila Gaylie (who co-owns the pint sized joint with brother Jaison) learned a thing or two about life in small spaces as manager of Bin 442.
The new owners transformed the room with refreshing abandon, bringing in a boatload of bamboo and thatch, putting in a set of very cantina-esqe windows that invite looking in, and even finding a home for the aquarium that
somehow survived regime change.
Lolita's is a no holds barred "Binimitation" that blends thoroughly made Mexican, other Latin and Caribbean influenced small plates with a dash of West Coast, beside a lively drinks list.
This is a perfect example of how the new, more flexible approach to liquor licensing can really make things work. You can just drop by for a late night beer and a snack, sit down for some seriously good brisket taquitos or fish moqueca, or hold the food and just sip on your paraiso - a seductive concoction of lichi-li (lychee liqueur), vodka, guava and white cranberry.
Above all, the reason that Lolita's works so much better than Random (which was certainly no slouch in the food department) is that somehow they've managed to shoehorn a bar into this Lilliputian space.
Good tastes? Just about everything we've tried over three visits has proved out, particularly the beef taquitos, filled with favourful, slow roasted brisket and served with a suitably zesty pico de gallo: The moqueca comes with whatever's available fresh (ours was halibut) served in a spiced tomato and coconut broth that still delivers enough of a kick to keep things interesting without masking the seafood.
Small tastes and drinks are all prepared with an obvious thoroughness and house prepared ingredients, which convey the owners' passion for detail, such as homemade tortilla chips. For take out, we also enjoyed the tasty achiote sliced pork, served in a plantain leaf with rice and excellent refried beans - as well as the taquitos, again!
If you're even remotely antisocial, you probably shouldn't be here. This place is so small even the wait staff has to suck it in to get around. But it's exactly that very confining style that makes the place so darned friendly. Whether you're at the bar or manage to score yourself a table, you'll find yourself quickly meeting everyone around including the chefs, if you sit up at the open kitchen.
The drinks list is fun, and somehow everything gets made in reasonable time by bartenders that must moonlight as contortionists for Cirque de Soleil. Go for the mango margaritas; check out the Manzanita, a bold mix of spiced organic apple juice and dark rum; or just crack a beer from a list that includes not only the obvious Dos Equis but also San Miguel, Red Stripe and a couple of others. Wines? Well chosen and well priced, respectable picks from B.C. arid relevant regions such as Mexico, Chile and Argentina.
Food prices are moderate (around $6-$12 for starters, to $19 tops for mains, all prices tax included). Our advice? Go early (or late). And go often!
Fred Lee's Urban Landscape
Vancouver's newest dining hot spot tucked away on the quiet side of Davie Street, west of Jervis, is attracting a fabulous following, including foodies and fashionistas. Former Bin manager Lila Gaylie and her brother Jaison, both under 30, have spent their life savings renovating the former Random space creating a cool cantina style Mexican restaurant offering one of the city's best margaritas and some of the tastiest chips in town. Executive chef Shelome Bouvette has designed a pleasing, comfort style menu of starters, soups and salads, and mains hoping to fill a Mexican niche missing in the land of sushi and sashimi. Judging by the good buzz and midweek lineups it seems to work.