Sweet and spicy margaritas, golden fried tortillas to dip in bright and bold salsas and one of the most impossibly tender octopus dishes await you at Vancouver’s Monarca Cucina, a new modern Mexican restaurant that opened in April .
Located at 181 Carrall St. (in the vacant Coquille space) in Gastown, Monarca Cocina Mexicana is the second restaurant overseen by Veracruz, Mexican chef Francisco Higareda, who previously launched Ophelia Restaurant for the Flying PIg Group in the Olympic Village .
Monarca’s name is a nod to Higareda’s father, who lived near the famous Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve in Michoacán, Mexico; vibrant winged creatures also play a special role in Mexican culture, as they are believed to represent the spirits of ancestors floating around for a visit with loved ones.
The restaurant’s gorgeous space mixes art deco with lush, moody tropical vibes, but you’ll want to be sure to pop into the restrooms to see a stunning art installation of colorful skulls.
Open for lunch, happy hour and dinner, Monarca offers an exciting menu of creative dishes that blend classic and contemporary flavors and approaches.
In addition to a full bar with their own cocktail creations, there are several margaritas to choose from, including the spicy ‘Picante’ option, or the ‘Del Sol’, made with tequila’s smoky sibling, mezcal. . There’s even a bright and sunny non-alcoholic pineapple marg, as well as a few other non-alcoholic beers. However, if you want to stay in the “spirits” of Mexico, you can sample tequila by the flight, or opt for one of Monarca’s many agave options from their long list. You can also taste the sun south of the border thanks to the many Mexican beers they have in stock.
Monarca’s dinner menu is split into a few categories, with dishes ranging from super accessible and often perfectly shareable plates, like a gooey skillet of queso sprinkled with chorizo and mushrooms to folding into warm tortillas or a aguachile of steak and tuna crudo, where the proteins come in a spicy broth.
An adventurous main course choice is Higareda’s “Pulpo a la Brasas”. The pulpo – octopus – is marinated until almost fork tender in Salsa Roja then charcoal-grilled and served with new potatoes, Brussels sprouts, garlic and red pepper aioli, arugula and blue cheese crumbs.
In addition to bold big dishes like octopus, Monarca offers a whole selection of steaks: entrecote, skirt or tenderloin, as well as a few taco options, like shrimp with melted Oaxacan cheese.
There are plenty of ways to create a fun meal to combine appetizers, sides and mains, and your meal starts with fried tortillas that you can break into chips to dip in a trio of fresh salsas, including a tongue-tingling habañero a.
@vancouverisawesome Mexican food, margins and a fun bathroom? ! I’m in! #forkingawesome #vancouverbc #mexicanfood #newrestaurant ♬ The recipe – Aluna & KAYTRANADA