Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Doña Cata Mexican Foods (March 8, 2008)

5076 Victoria Drive
ph: 604-236-2232

Doña Cata has received a lot of good press from Vancouver media. Good press leads to flow of customers. Flow of customers leads to a bigger location. We've been to Doña Cata before when they were still in the old location. We visited them today in their new, bigger digs.

From this new location, service seems a little bit smoother. The servers there seemed to be more comfortable in their roles. They know where they're going and they go with purpose. Nice to see that they have the kinks worked out. The ambience is great: seems like good, honest food with good, honest service. None of the uber-friendly-Hi-I'm-Jennifer-and-I'll-be-your-best-friend-today service, which I absolutely abhor. I really do not need to get personal with my servers and I dislike the exchanging of vapid pleasantries.

I had a "hot torta sub" and the tacos. I put the quotation marks around the name because I do not think it is the name they know the torta as. When I said I wanted the "hot torta sub," reading from the menu, with a North American English accent, the server gave me a blank stare. When I said "torta" with what I thought was the correct Spanish accent, the server responded. I chose the torta with the pastor filling.

"Hot torta sub" is the term I see printed on Duffins Donuts signs. I had a "hot torta sub" from them before and it was quite nice. The folks at Dona Cata might have thought this was a name that Vancouverites would recognize, hence the same category heading on their menu.

Torta is the Mexican name for sandwich. It usually comes with lettuce, tomatoes, refried beans, avocados, jalapenos, and whatever filling you choose (beef, chicken, pork, eggs). It comes on a soft, white bun, like a Kaiser or a Portuguese bun. I usually love tortas, but I didn't fall in love with this one. It didn't come together as a sum greater than its parts. There's always the question of the wet-dry balance and this fell somewhat on the dry side for me, even with the pastor, bean, tomato, avocado filling. It just did not have that unctuous lusciousness that I would expect from the ingredients. At $4.50 though it is quite a nice deal.

Tacos are even better than the last time. I ordered the carnitas (pork), beef, and the barbacoa de borrego (lamb). The carnitas taco was great, really unctuous, very delicious. The beef was a little tough and not as good as the carnitas. The lamb was also very tender and melt in your mouth. On their menu, they claim they steam the meats and do not fry them in oil. Seems like a truthful claim, as the meats seem to be paler and wetter than normal.

Carnitas are traditionally pork fried in lard until so meltingly tender. Carne asada, the beef, is traditionally grilled. Barbacoa de borrego is a lamb cooked over an open flame (barbacoa = origin of barbecue?).

While Doña Cata does not do the taco meats traditionally, they are still very flavourful and authentic in their spicing. They are a little wetter than other tacos I've tried but that is forgivable. At $1.50 a taco, with a double corn tortilla, they are quite a bargain. Three or four of these tacos would be filling enough for lunch or dinner.

My rating: 8 out of 10. Good, honest food at good, honest prices.

I agree with all of the above. I really think that I would just get tacos every time I go to Doña Cata as that is their specialty. I am quite curious about the alambres, though.

The torta sub is OK, but I found that I didn't really taste the meat filling (pastor). As for the steamed taco fillings, I don't mind at all. I found the "wet" fillings quite nice as they seemed juicier and more tender.

We didn't mention the salsas, but they had a number of them (8 or such number). It would take quite a while to discover your own favorite filling-salsa combination, but I think my favorite condiment of the lot is actually the simplest: sliced onions and jalapeños in lime/lemon juice.

We had horchatas with our meal. I believe js enjoyed it more than I did. I'm finding that I'm not really liking cinnamon when it is the only flavor featured in a dish/drink/dessert.

Again, all in all, excellent. "Proper, proper food."

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