Archive for January, 2017

Restaurant review: El Santo freshens up with savoury Mexican flavours in New Westminster

January 11th, 2017

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El Santo

680 Columbia St. | 604-553-1849

Open: Sunday to Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.;

Hungry for fresh Mexican fare but don’t have the time to board a plane bound down south?

Well, you may want to consider making a stop at El Santo, a contemporary New Westminster eatery that serves up authentic food at a fair price point.

Located along the historic waterfront district, El Santo is an eatery fed by a mission. And that mission is to change the way people think about Mexican cuisine.

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The Enchiladas Flor de Jamaica, $18, at El Santo.

“For me, it’s really important to show people that Mexican food is more than just tacos and enchiladas,” El Santo owner Alejandro Diaz explains.

Diaz says his goal is to make Mexican food synonymous with fresh.

“It’s time to show people the contemporary side of Mexican food,” he says.
Diners looking for the swimming-in-sauce-and-cheese appeal of some Mexican eateries may find themselves disappointed. While El Santo certainly serves up dishes featuring deliciously fresh and gooey cheeses (all sourced from Burnaby’s Scardillo Cheese), the first lesson diners learn upon glancing at the menu is that real Mexican cuisine uses cheese sparingly.

“A lot of food, when you’re actually in Mexico, does not contain cheese,” Chef Shane King, who has been with the establishment since it opened in December 2015, explains. “That is more of a Tex-Mex thing with burritos and nachos. So, there isn’t a lot of cheese in a lot of our items.”
El Santo’s few dishes that do feature cheese — such as the shareable Queso Fundido ($10), a bubbling mini skillet featuring poblano peppers, caramelized onions and tomato, served with a side of fresh tortillas — include traditional options such as Oaxaca and Cotija cheese.

But while the El Santo menu is light on queso, it’s heavy on locally sourced ingredients.

“All of our proteins are locally sourced,” King says. The menu boasts Farmcrest chicken in its Tinga de Pollo (petite tacos featuring slow-roasted chicken, house-made chorizo, cheese and pickled onion for $9), and King says most of their specialty meats are sourced from Two Rivers. The local love doesn’t stop at the meats.

“Throughout the spring, summer and into early autumn, we visit as many local farm markets as possible and all of our vegetables during that time come from local suppliers,” King explains. “And all of our micro-herbs come from local suppliers.”

The Churros at El Santo in New Westminster.

King says some traditional Mexican ingredients present a problem for sourcing locally. And for those, they head straight to the source.

“All of our dried chilis come directly from Mexico,” King says. “We have local suppliers that deal solely with Mexican ingredients of the highest quality.”

The quality and attention to detail comes across in El Santo’s dishes, which are plated in an unfussy manner — and many come in a shareable size.

“Nothing here that is put on a plate comes from a bucket or a jar,” Kings says. “Everything is made in-house, as close to the traditional way as we can.”

That includes the delectable salsas, which King says are all made the old-fashioned way: by dry roasting the ingredients. It’s also the most time-consuming way.

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The bar at El Santo in New Westminster. Credit: Foodie Photography [PNG Merlin Archive]“I don’t believe in shortcuts,” King says. “I do believe in keeping to the more traditional way of cooking because that’s how I feel you find the true flavour of Mexican cuisine.”

That attention to detail can be enjoyed in the shareable Trio of Salsas ($8), which features a heaping bowl of house-made tortilla chips with three salsas: roasted tomatillo and guajillo, salsa verde and salsa roja.

The salsas were fresh and delicious, with mild, medium and hot options. The salsa roja was the table favourite, boasting a rich base of tomatoes that balanced the moderate spice and left our dinner party fighting for the final crispy tortilla chip to scoop up the red sauce.

Passing on the popular Pescado a la Veracruzana ($28), a whole Westcoast rockfish served with Spanish-style olives and capers, our table opted for the Enchiladas Flor de Jamaica ($18), which offered the opportunity to taste an unexpected ingredient: Hibiscus flowers.

The vegetarian dish — El Santo offers 10 veg-friendly items on its regular menu and at least one on its ever-changing seasonal list — was mild and delicious, with a nice crunch thanks to slices of carrot and cabbage.

As for dessert, we tried the churros, deep-fried sticks of dough coated with cinnamon and sugar and served with a small dollop of dulce de leche. Despite a shared sweet tooth, our table found the soft sticks of sweet dough lacked a satisfying crunch.

Next time, we’ll skip the dessert in favour of ordering an extra helping of chips and fresh salsa.

Aharris@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/Aleesha_H

Read the full article here: http://vancouversun.com/life/food/local-food-reviews/restaurant-review-el-santo-freshens-up-with-savoury-mexican-flavours-in-new-westminster