Judas Goat Taberna, Vancouver

It’s fitting for Blood Alley to have a restaurant on its cobblestones named Judas Goat Taberna. While the real history of Blood Alley’s name is debated (some say the name comes from murders in the alley, some from the butchers who threw blood on the streets, while others say it was merely a 70’s invention to lure tourists), a Judas Goat is the animal that leads livestock to slaughter. It acts as a friend, but only to lure them in to their final destination. Luckily, this Judas Goat is no such beast. Owner Sean Heather is simply referencing the butchery theory of the alley’s christening. But, Blood Alley has become so harmless with pedestrian traffic increasing and crack addicts’ outbursts abating, the only real problem you’ll get into here is not getting a table.

Judas Goat is a tiny spot, which is part of its charm. There are 24 well-spaced seats, including a row by the window peering out to the street, a banquette and bright yellow stools to the left around four smaller tables. A communal countertop is great for gathering around – sitting or standing – and the restaurant’s glass façade glides open on warmer days. Mosaic tile floors announce ” Judas Goat ,” a large mural by Robert Chaplin narrates a curious story of one particular Judas Goat. Pull up a chair and read: The opening sentence reels you in, and then we get deeper into the life – the stress and final breakdown – of this poor beast. You probably won’t get through it all; it’s a hefty read.

The restaurant’s owners, Scott Hawthorn and Sean Heather , are well versed in the restaurant trade. You might take this spot for a holding cell while you wait for a table at the nearby Irish Heather or Salt , but that would be a mistake; Judas Goat is a destination of its own. Chef Lee Humphries has created a menu that could keep you here for hours, and the drinkage is stellar. The menu has a list of choices that you check the items you want, and before you know it, little plates of cured salmon, Serrano ham and tartare are being passed around the table.

This place had been billed as tapas, but you could easily build a full meal around the choices. Start with a sip of sherry – perhaps the Alvear Fino alongside a few olives – and peruse the list. The richly flavoured chorizo, caramelized onion and dark chocolate bruschetta ($2.25 each or four for $8) are a must. The beef brisket meatballs have a dense and richly flavoured tomato sauce and are easily shared, while the pork belly with onion puree and gremolata takes some dividing up, but is well worth it. There’s a good variety of seafood and veggie choices, such as sablefish with smoked paprika, potted prawns in pistachio butter, marinated beets with shaved ricotta and pressed vegetables with gazpacho. But don’t miss the warm lamb cheek with savoy cabbage and white truffle oil. This is a dish whose components meld into one mouthful of pure ecstasy.

There are no cocktails on the list – The Diamond and Boneta are around the corner if you’re in that mood – rather, Judas Goat simply plays off Humphries’ Spanish-inspired menu. Sommelier Kurtis Kolt knows his sherries and there’s a full range of options. Look forward to a variety of Sangrias, and beer (natch!) and Okanagan cider. This curiously tiny room in a sketchy area will certainly inspire Vancouverites to eat like Spaniards. That’s the point. But with both prices and flavours bang on, expect a busy little room.

Address: Blood Alley Square, Vancouver, BC
Contact: 604 681 5090
Cuisine: Tapas
Area: Gastown
Venue: Restaurant
Hours: Mon – Sat. 5:00 pm – 12:00 am
Price Range: $$$ (Within Reach)
Payment: Master Card, Visa, American Express

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