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Restaurant: Judas Goat Taberna
Cuisine: Tapas/Mediterranean/Spanish/Italian
Last visited: March 12, 2011
Location: Vancouver, BC (Gastown)
Address: 27 Blood Alley
Price Range: $10-20, 20-30

1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!

Food: 3
Service: 3
Ambiance: 3
Overall: 3
Additional comments:

  • Tapas style
  • Mediterranean tapas (modern)
  • The Heather Group Restaurants
  • Popular to locals
  • Hidden location
  • Seasonal menus
  • Busy on weekends
  • Small selection of wine/beer
  • Small/limited seating
  • Quick, casual modern dining
  • 1.5 hour seating time
  • Reservations recommended
  • Tues-Sat 5pm-late

**Recommendations: Duck Confit & Foie Gras Terrine, Foie Gras on Toast with Green Apple, Gambas al Ajillo, Marinated Beets with Spice Ricotta & Rosemary Honey

We weren’t even hungry after a very full day of eating. We started with dim sum which included Peking duck and sea bass at Red Star Seafood, which was followed by an intense cupcake tasting and then a friendly stop at Bella Gelateria. But when two passionate food bloggers come together there’s no end to it… until one of them has to call it quits in order to get to hockey practiceyeah and that wasn’t me.

Sherman (thank you for the photos) and I were always curious about Judas Goat and my interest peaked even more when I hosted a $100 give away for The Heather Group Restaurants – see here. Out of their five restaurants in Gastown I had only tried the Long Table Series at The Irish Heather (see here) so I wanted to see how their other restaurants stacked up.

I’ve only driven by Judas Goat on one occasion since it’s hidden away in Blood Alley, so I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. I was actually quite surprised to discover it was so tiny and only seated a maximum of thirty people. It got full pretty fast so I would highly recommend making reservations especially on weekends, although I’d assume it’s quite busy with locals living in the neighbourhood on weeknights.

The service is quick and casual and so is your stay. They make that clear right on the menu where it says “The Rules: As intended with this style of eating, our seatings are short – you’ve got an hour and a half!” So there are really no surprises although the ambiance seems a bit cozier and inviting than what the menu suggests. I felt like I was at “Western” dim sum with a “dim sum” like order form as a menu which offered a good variety of meats and a handful of seafood items.

The menu is seasonal and it changes frequently, but it’s more or less modern Mediterranean style tapas that are meant to be shared. It’s mainly Spanish and Italian, but there’s a lot of West coast influences as well. Even though I was expecting tapas/small plates, I wasn’t expecting the portions to be as small as they were. At times I found they were quite overpriced for what they were, and in this case I saw more value and satisfaction in Mis Trucos, which is very similar in concept and style.

Overall the food at Judas Goat Taberna was good, but also not as impressive or satisfying as I thought it would be. I saw it as a place for pre dinner drinks or after dinner drinks more so than an actual dinner place, but with the time limit, I’m not sure if I would really come for either.

On the table:

Bacon and Egg – 3/6

  • $3/each
  • It was a home made baguette, tomato relish, quail’s egg and crispy prosciutto.
  • These were good, but literally bite sized so you have to order one per person. I found them pretty pricey for what they were.
  • The baguette was crispy and it was quite tangy from what tasted like tomato paste rather than “tomato relish” and I wish the egg wasn’t as cooked as it was.
  • It was a nice and crunchy with a crispy salty bite from the prosciutto and then the tang from the tomato, but it wasn’t anything surprising either.

Braised Beef Tongue with Salsa Verde – 3.5/6

  • $8
  • I shared BEEF tongue with Sherman! Don’t let him convince you otherwise! Thank god my post will likely go up before his.
  • I’m kind of torn between this tapa because I was expecting a Mexican or Spanish style salsa verde rather than an Italian one, which is what it was.
  • It was a very tangy and sharp Italian salsa verde and it tasted like it was made with soft pickles and vinegar and it really hit your nose even before biting into it.
  • It almost tasted like a pickled parsley sauce with some salty anchovy, maybe some smashed capers and perhaps a little mustard. It didn’t have a crunchy texture, but it carried a very bold and sour flavour which killed any natural herb flavours that it was also made with.
  • The whole thing was a bit oily, but the tongue was incredibly tender and soft. If you’ve never tried beef tongue it’s incredibly lean, not gamey and very smooth. Since this one was braised it was ultra soft too.
  • It was very flavourful and I did like the contrast of crunchy baguette and soft beef, but I just found the tang on the salsa verde a little too strong and I just wanted something to pull it back a bit. I think a garlic aioli or something to that degree would have worked.

**Duck Confit & Foie Gras Terrine – 4/6

  • $10
  • This is one of their popular tapas and I actually did like it and see its value, although the foie gras was the size of a quarter.
  • It came with about 5 crostini and the terrine was actually quite large.
  • There was also an onion marmalade with some spiced fleur de sel served along side.

  • The duck was nicely cured and quite savoury with a flaky quality that wasn’t dry either.
  • There were actually plump raisins in it and some black peppercorn, but it could have used more of both since I wouldn’t have known it was in there until I dissected it.
  • I couldn’t taste the sweetness of the raisins or the spice of the black pepper and it was basically savoury throughout.
  • The onion marmalade added great texture and crunch and also made the duck confit less heavy and salty.
  • They said it was pickled onions but it was much more sweet than it was tangy. It worked really well bringing out the natural sweetness of the duck and creating great balance with the richness and salty cured flavours of the terrine.

**Foie Gras on Toast with Green Apple – 4/6

  • $8
  • This is another house favourite. As simple as it was, it was damn good and I enjoyed it.
  • It wasn’t even made with the described “green apple”, but I still liked it although I could imagine it being even better with the green apple. Green apples just add that extra crunch and tartness.
  • Each crostini, or toasted home made baguette, was generously topped off with rich creamy and thick foie gras pate.
  • It was ultra smooth with a strong foie gras flavour and the julienne apples just cut through the richness and added a nice sweetness to the savoury pate.
  • I love the sweet and savoury contrast and creamy, crunchy and crisp textures and I saw the value in this as well.

Cold Smoke Salmon, Pear Relish – 1.5/6

  • $6
  • I really wanted to love this, and I really love pear, but it really didn’t work.
  • The cold smoke salmon was was too salty and no matter how much pear relish I tried eating with it, the salt was the only thing I could taste. I just think the scallions needed to be mixed into the pear relish as well and it needed another ingredient to help fight the saltiness.
  • The pear relish was actually quite sweet and honey like in flavour. It was a grainy unripened Bartlett pear so it carried quite a crunch and texture. It was marinated with a nice vinegar tang, but it didn’t do anything for the salmon.
  • It was trying to play with the sweet and salty balance, but it was really unbalanced because the main ingredient (salmon) was just too salty in the first place.
  • It kind of brought me back to the House Cured Gravlax dish which suffered a similar problem at Commune Cafe.

Maple Sugar Sablefish – 2/6

  • $10
  • I love Sablefish, but this one was very underwhelming and overpriced for the size and execution. I’d say it’s meant for two people, but easily finished by one as well.
  • I found it a waste to have it sitting on a baguette and it would have done better sitting on a bed of creamy white beans or pureed yams, or something similar to that in starch.
  • For some reason the Sablefish was almost pasty without the moist flakiness it usually carries. It’s a near impossible fish to mess up, so I’m not sure what happened to the texture.
  • It was seasoned well with salt and pepper and the yellow colour just tasted like olive oil and I actually don’t think any Maple or sugar was used on the actual fish.
  • It was served with a side of Maple sugar that you sprinkle on top before eating.
  • The maple sugar mimicked the idea of a seared crust and it was actually okay to use liberally because it was mixed with what I think was toasted bread crumbs so it wasn’t too sweet at all. It was finely ground to almost a crispy powder, but it just didn’t make sense to use it on a Sablefish that was sitting on top of a crunchy baguette.

**Gambas Al Ajillo – 3.5/6

  • $9
  • These were really unique and different from anything I’ve ever tried of this nature.
  • It was cold water prawns rolled in citrus aioli with a garlic and shallot crust served room temperature.
  • The first one I had I thought the texture was really weird. The second one I had I actually really liked it. The last one I had I found it was good, but the unique qualities had kind of worn off.
  • The texture was very unexpected and the crust was semi crispy and almost powdery, and I was surprised it didn’t become pasty.
  • At first it tasted like a semi-soggy powdery crust that was replicating a “deep fried” quality, but since the prawns were wet and somewhat cold, it just came off as a bit odd.
  • The crust was a bit nutty and wonderfully savoury. I think they deep fry the shallots and garlic and then turn it into a finely grounded powder to roll the prawns into.
  • The citrus aioli acted as the binder and it added a bright tang yet it didn’t overpower the sweetness of the prawns or the aromatic salty qualities of the crust.
  • These were again slightly overpriced for a room temperature tapa.

**Marinated Beets with Spices Ricotta & Rosemary Honey- 4/6

  • $8
  • I think I saw about ten of these come out in the hour I was there for. It’s definitely the favouite in the salads section and maybe even just in general.
  • The portion was quite generous and there was a good amount of each component to make up the dish.
  • The beets were tender and sweet and the sweetness was enhanced by being marinated in aromatic Rosemary infused honey. The Rosemary was quite mild and it added a floral like quality to the beets, but it played more in the background of the dish more so than as the accent of it. It left that je ne sais quois quality if you didn’t know it was in there.
  • The spiced Ricotta I’d say was the accent, but it didn’t taste spiced at all. It was actually very light and fluffy and I found it literally and figuratively refreshing from the usual “goat’s cheese & beet” idea.
  • I think the mild and slightly sweet ricotta actually played in favour of the beets as well, allowing the beets to really shine.
  • It was a very light and summery salad and the natural flavours of the ingredients were really the highlight of the dish.
  • I just wanted to top it off with some pine nuts or walnuts, for some crunch, but it was enjoyable as is.

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Linda March 14, 2011 at 11:35 am

mmmm i love fois gras, i know alot of ppl are against it and don’t even like the taste of it, but i really like it – i think i fell in love with it when i went to paris a few years back – i’m glad both dishes that featured this ingredient was well received. did you know that in chicago, fois gras is banned? lots of restaurants still use it as a ‘garnish’ component but featuring it as a main is a big no no :)

alot of these dishes seemed to have some potential – at least based on its description and fancy names. i’m super excited to try the beets though, those look good and from the looks of it, a really good value considering some of the other items on the menu lol too bad about the sablefish though, i really love this type of fish because of its velvety smooth texture :)

hahaha no i understand why there was so much tongue banter between you and sherman lol

2 Bow March 14, 2011 at 8:31 pm

Nice pics, thanks Sherman, surprised the cold smoked salmon was so salty …would be better served with a sourdough, spread w. pear relish under it(and the tongue could have be served without bread and mebbe a sauce raifort aux noix fraiches(horseradish sauce w. fresh walnuts or a remoulade(however I understand that these are classic French sauces and the Judas doesnèt do this). The bread would absorb the salty salmon.

3 Mijune March 15, 2011 at 2:29 am

@Linda – hello Linda!! Wow! I actually didn’t know foie gras was banned!! Chicago is such a HUGE food city too… hmmm I wish they would ban shark’s fin though… yeah I feel really guilty ordering foie gras as much as I like it. I try to only order it if it’s recommended. Definitely a guilty pleasure!

I LOVE sablefish as well and it’s one of my favourites! it was just wrong to put it on top of a baguette though.

Sherman is awful… I can’t eat anything “rack” “breast” “tongue” or “balls” w/him…. *EYE ROLL* shhh don’t tell him I said that ;)

@Bow – Hi Bow!! ohhh you’re smart! that would have helped if it was with bread! I’m waiting until the day you open a restaurant… I’ll be first in line!! Oh and I actually don’t think I’ve tried raifort aux noix fraiches! It sounds delicious though…. where can I get that? Or I could make it I think? Again Bow, thanks for your comment!

You and Linda are sooooo awesome!!! :)

4 Linda March 15, 2011 at 4:15 pm

:)

oo i actually looked into it and the overturned the ban in 2008 but california is banning it as of 2012 =O

5 Mijune March 15, 2011 at 11:32 pm

@Linda – Oh wow!!! good research my dear! Things change with the new generation so I can’t say I’m THAT surprised… it’s bittersweet news.

6 Erin March 15, 2011 at 11:34 pm

Hooooonestly, as someone who has been to Spain about five times (and who is half Spanish), I get SO frustrated that you cannot find good tapas ANYWHERE in this city. Pardon the caps, but it’s a serious thorn in my side. Not that I haven’t looked. I’ve tried them all, and judging by your review and these photos, gotta keep on truckin’!

I haven’t heard good things about this place, and it really grinds my gears when places like this ask you to spend $15 on a glass of wine and $8 for a drop of beet salad, then kick you out the moment you finish. It’s poor restaurant management strategy all around.

Thanks for the review once again!

7 Mijune March 16, 2011 at 3:04 am

@Erin – ohhhh you’re Spanish!!??! Trust me, I understand you’re frustration. Okay well to be fair, we can’t really expect the same authenticity and “goodness” as the tapas you’d find in Spain in Vancouver. The resources just aren’t available. I can relate to your pain though because I lived with girls from Spain for half a year and also spent some time in Madrid and Barcelona with their families… and I miss the tapas there dearly!!! I even learned how to make that potato omelette and home made croquetas from their moms! We don’t have anything even close to it in Vancouver and I think it’s just the lack in population. :(… i wish I had another recommendation for you, but I don’t right now….

Judas Goat is definitely modern style tapas, so I can’t really ding them for not being “authentic” unless they claimed to be authentic. But just from your comment I don’t think it’s your cup of tea lol. Have you tried Mis Trucos or La Bodega? Mis Trucos is still modern, but very good and La Bodega I haven’t been myself yet. Thoughts?

Thank you for commenting and visiting! I love getting to “know” readers etc.!

8 KimHo March 16, 2011 at 6:47 am

Erin, similar to other cuisines, that’s unfortunately a fact of life of sorts. When you live in another part of the world, a bit far from the cuisine of origin, local restaurants will most likely take the idea and run away with it. Compare it to izakaya: in Japan that would be more on the lines of a watering hole for after hours crowd with some snacks. In Vancouver? More on the lines of a full blown restaurants serving alcohol. Even if you were to open a “real deal” version, people might not accept it due to what people might perceive as the “real deal”. If you do find that place, please, let us know!

9 Erin March 16, 2011 at 5:19 pm

Yep, I know you can never find something that will be the “same” as the country’s cuisine you visited, but there is “close enough”, and there is “embarrassing”.
La Bodega, I’ve been to a few times, hoping it would get better, and nope… it’s another miss :(
These days, you can get the ingredients to make an authentic ‘Spanish’ meal, but it’s just the integrity of the preparation and finished product that doesn’t work.
I genuinely feel like place like Judas rely on “the cool factor” with no real substance.
Trip to Spain, anyone? ;)

10 Miriam Martin March 16, 2011 at 11:02 pm

Hmm, I’ve been to Spain many times and the food is definitely one of the highlights … I’m not sure how this is Spanish at all! But it looks so amazingly yummy … I wonder why it missed the mark ever so slightly? And yes, I’m glad you pointed out the apples aren’t green … that one bugged me right away!

11 Mijune March 17, 2011 at 2:46 am

@KimHo – good points

@Erin – I’m ready when you are!! Have you tried Cafe Barcelona? i haven’t yet, but that might be worth a check out?

@Marian Martin – ohhh lucky girl!!!! Which areas do you go to? I REALLY want to go South of Spain! Yeah the Gambas Al Ajillo was the only really “Spanish” thing, but it wasn’t even made the traditional way… that’s why I had to stress it was “modern Spanish” and “fusion” and “West Coast”… I had to “rate” everything based on if it was good not if it was “authentic”. lol re: apples… bothered me too/

12 Erin April 25, 2011 at 9:33 pm

I was just catching up on your blog and came across your reply! Funny you mention Cafe Barcelona- I have studied their menu… looks promising so I WILL be trying it out, and when I do…. I’ll hit you up with some feedback!

13 Mijune April 26, 2011 at 12:55 pm

@Erin – I’m honoured you catch up on my blog!! :) Yes! Please do!! I’ve really interested in YOUR feedback since you’re more familiar with the cuisine than I would be! Thank you!!

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