We were on the block of Hastings which El Pulgarcito inhabits because we were trying to get into Bo Laksa King for a late lunch, another authentic foreign food experience that we reviewed. You can read our review of Bo Laksa here. Alas, that day we arrived during Bo Laksa’s mid-afternoon closing period in the dead zone between lunch and dinner. But it turned out to be a happy accident as you will see…
Wendy has had a love affair with pupusas ever since I introduced her to them back at Fusion Fest in Surrey a couple of years ago. So when we spotted this little Mexican/Salvadorean restaurant we had to sample their version of the Salvadorean staple.
Inside, the theme is the bright, bold colours of the Salvadorean flag (blue, white and yellow). The name is also nationalistic, pulgarcito meaning Tom Thumb, which is a kind of slang term for El Salvador since it’s the smallest country in Central America.
Inside is a little shop area, both refrigerated and shelved, which is typical of the more traditional Latin American eateries. I always love browsing in these, it makes you feel like your in a foreign country. My apologies for the blurring of the second pic, I should have let Wendy handle camera duty as I guess I was a bit over-excited when snapping these 😛
Wendy was first to brave the stairs leading down to the washrooms, she found it a bit spooky down there. However I liked the atmosphere, it made you feel like you’re at grandma’s house or something. (Wendy edit: yeah, if your grandma happens to be a mass-murderer who keeps corpses in her freezer!)
For my main dish I chose Chiles Rellenos ($10.50). It is also available with meat but I chose the cheese version. It’s a green chili pepper stuffed with cheese and breaded with batter then smothered in a mild red sauce. It came with refried beans, lettuce, avocado and rice along with a spicy home-made salsa that had a deep burn to it. If I remember correctly our server said it was made with Árbol chili. Either way it had a very distinct flavour, with a nice subtle aftertaste.
I somehow conned Wendy into ordering the Sopa de Pata ($10.50), a soup whose main attraction is a cow’s foot planted in the center. It also contains tripe, cassava and corn among other ingredients. I’d had it once before and vowed never again, due to the overpowering barnyard smell it emits. However, one of Wendy’s fave dishes is pork bung, and to me that smells about the same although quite a bit milder. Put simply, they both smell like ass. Wendy didn’t seem to mind too much though, and if you hold your nose the broth is actually quite appetizing. It came with some standard corn tortillas on the side.
We ordered two types of pupusa as well ($5.50 per pair). Two pork and cheese, and two pork, bean and cheese. The addition of beans was definitely more appetizing, but both types were up to par. For those who have yet to try these amazing creations, they are thick, flat tortillas made with hominy flour and stuffed with various cheese, meat and bean combinations. This was the first time we were able to try them alongside their traditional accompaniment, curtido, which is basically the Salvadorean equivalent to sauerkraut, although not quite as sour. It was very refreshing between bites of pupusa.
I can’t really give this one a fair review since we got it to go and then let it sit in the fridge for a week before eating, so a pic will have to suffice. It’s Tres Leches, aka 3 milk cake, something Wendy had been looking to try in Vancouver but had some difficulty finding. To sum up: good value and friendly service, plus the atmospheric setting will ensure we find ourselves at El Pulgarcito again soon.