El Santo – New Westminster

Last Friday wasn’t even a work day- it was personal… I had ventured out of the ‘city’ to New West for a funeral/celebration of life for a dear friend, and I certainly wasn’t looking for a place to write about, but it found me.

El Santo, on Columbia St, in New Westminster, sat like a little oasis on an otherwise dreary day, so I ventured in with some friends for a ‘quick’ cocktail to lighten the mood. Little did we know that this unassuming little gem would seduce us into staying late into the night – on a day when the duality of life and death, sadness and hope were the focus, I guess it is appropriate that, even as we left the church… we were seduced by el Diablo…

Specifically, the Rojo Diablo– which my friends had been raving about all day –  a dangerous little cocktail, that would eventually be our undoing.  It was a perfect balance of not-too-sweet and spicy… Tequila, bathed in Cherry, pomegranate, lime, and finished with a slice of jalapeño pepper. (Apparently the longer you let it sit, the heat would begin to inevitably rise.  We didn’t get that far. It was too delicious.) We knocked back a round before any angels could intervene…and that was that, our souls were sold.  We settled in, plans got changed, and a perfect night ensued. I knew we had found a hotspot.

The decor was fresh, and the staff were welcoming and unaffected.  We were seated in a bright, yellow, spacious booth intending to stay only for a cocktail or two… Little did we realize that we had already fallen under its spell.

The spell of El Santo is good for the soul. The energy was vibrant, fun, and the food was the same.  The trio of homemade salsas- colorful, fresh and tangy – were a simple treat, reflective of the place itself.  Everything was full of flavour and prepared with care, and the whole experience felt personal.
Highlights were the selection of tacos for sharing… we tried the El Pastor and Pescado, and I intend to go back to try the Cachete and Tinga de Pollo – braised beef cheek and slow-roasted chicken with chorizo, respectively – because it was impossible to choose.  The ceviche was perfectly balanced, and it seems that the select feature changes weekly, ensuring its freshness and quality.  The Devil’s in the details, they say, and this couldn’t be more true for El Santo.

Chef Shane King, and Founder, Alejandro Diaz, clearly take pride in their inception of “contemporary Mexican cuisine”, and they should.  Their special attention to detail and quality is evident and they were on hand, with an inspired presence, giving life to the evening with special touches like the pink marshmallow, hot pepper-infused tequila that they brought over to get us into trouble.  Which it did.

In the end, there was dancing, many more cocktails, lots of laughter, and a fresh new vibe that will keep the locals indefinitely coming back for more.

I could say the devil made me do it… but I’d do it again, in a heartbeat.

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