Sunday, December 11, 2011

Excellent Chocolate Cake at Bandidas Taqueria

Bandidas Taqueria on Urbanspoon
I'd heard of this place from vegetarian and vegan friends, but tacos didn't really excite me. I mean, how inventive can they be?
Well, it turns out that Bandidas Taqueria can turn out some really inventive tastes for tacos, and without using any meat at all. Although the theme is predominantly Mexican with tacos and burritos and the like, I can't say the tacos I tried tonight made me think "Mexican" at all.

The ambiance is very Commercial Drive, so it doesn't look like much on the outside and the decor (and the use of jam jars for glasses) on the inside can be off-putting if you're used to posh Yaletown restaurants, so suck it up and focus on the food. Our friendly and very patient server Heidi said the quietest time was between 3pm to 5pm. After that, you can expect lineups possibly well into the night.

Their tacos are corn-based, and therefore should be gluten-free. They are still soft and pliable, and you may very well not know any different, especially as the fillings will crowd out any taste of the tacos anyway.

I tried the Estelle (pineapple, black beans, cheese, fresh red salsa, romaine lettuce & sour cream) and the Camillo (spicy breaded walnuts, pinto beans, cheese, purple cabbage, fresh red salsa & sour cream). The mix-and-match offer means the more you buy the cheaper it gets, plus you don't need to have multiples of the same type of taco. The tacos are also assembled very quickly, probably because they are just throwing raw stuff onto already-prepped tacos.

When it hits the table, the first thing you will notice is that it looks like mounds of salad with no soft tacos. That is because there's so much filling it covers the entire taco, and without eating some of the filling first, you are likely to make a colossal mess if you try to fold the taco in half to bring it up to your mouth. This is very different from probably any other restaurant serving tacos, and it's hardly a complaint when you can't fold tacos because of too much filling.

The tastes worked very well together, sort of like a good salad but with more bulk to it from the beans and taco shell. If you're only going to have tacos for dinner, 3+ might be a more filling total. Since I was going to make sure I could fit in the chocolate cake, I stopped at two. (And I also had a largish dim sum earlier that day, at Fisherman's Terrace in Richmond).

Desserts are not on the paper menu nor on the website, but chalked onto a small blackboard near the bar. A vegetarian foodie friend of my dining companion that night recommended the quinoa flourless chocolate cake, which shows up as "gluten-free chocolate cake" on the chalkboard for $5. It is a very dark chocolate that is chocolaty without being either distinctly sweet or bitter. There is only a very thin later of chocolate cream on top, which will either be a disappointment if you're into cream, or a relief if you can get sick of too much cream. Other than that, it is a very tasty chocolate cake, on par with the vegan chocolate cake from The Wallflower, and scoring only very slightly less for having less chocolate cream/sauce, and for not being vegan.

The cake portion itself is a bit on the crumbly side (but generally holding together because of its nice moistness) but still solid and quite filling. There is also a grainy feel to it in your mouth, not unlike a spoonful of rice. The portion is quite large and if you weren't ready for it and maybe tried to get full on the vegetarian tacos, you might need a friend to help you finish it. An à la mode option here might have been nice, perhaps with a vegan friendly soy based ice cream that would still keep the overall dessert gluten-free.

There's an extensive drink menu (not on the website) that includes a few interesting non-alcoholic beverages, such as hibiscus tea and a tamarind drink (listed as tamarindo). This strange drink that's both sweet and sour at the same time might be interesting to try but I didn't really like it. It reminded me too much of lemons in brine that my mom sometimes made.

Our dinner for two came out to one "red devil" beer, one tamarindo drink, four tacos, half a House Salad (romaine lettuce, purple cabbage, cilantro, avocado, feta cheese, pumpkin seeds, and fresh salsa dressed with house balsamic vinaigrette), and one slice chocolate cake -- $28.75 after tax, before tip.

You can see some pictures of their menu items on their website.

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