Judas Goat Taberna is the latest, hotly anticipated venture from the folks that brought us Salt Tasting Room and the Irish Heather. The self-described spanish influenced tapas restaurant is located in Gastown’s notorious blood alley. If you’re thinking about dining here, we’d suggest reservations as they have only 28 seats.
(Top to bottom: 1. The Entrance. 2. A pair of bruschetta: Piquillo Peppers with Serrano Chilli & Goat Cheese and Chorizo, Caramelized Onion & Dark Chocolate.)
Anticipating a potential wait, Case and I decided to hit Judas Goat right at 5pm when they opened. We were greeted by a friendly server who showed us to some of the remaining seats unoccupied by a a reserve sign.
Piled neatly on the marble slab bar were two tiny plates and utensils and two paper menus and an Ikea-style pencil to mark our orders a la Dim Sum style. Before we looked over the menus, we started with two glasses of Argentinian Pinot Noir.
(Top to bottom: 1. Foie Gras with Rhubarb Foam 2. Warm Lamb Cheek, Savoy Cabbage & White Truffle Oil.)
We began our first wave (as our server called it) with a pair of bruschetta: White Anchovy with Salsa Verde and Piquillo Peppers with Serrano Chili and Goat Cheese. The toppings were at once deceivingly subtle, yet dripping with flavour. Despite the description, the serrano chili wasn’t the least bit spicy.
(Top to bottom: 1. Beef Brisket Meatballs with Spiced Tomato Sauce. 2. Crisp Prosciutto with Squash, Arugula & Manchego Cheese.)
The bruschetta was followed by the beef brisket meatballs in tomato sauce — a quartet of heavenly tender beef topped with shavings of cheese and a simple yet tasty tomato gelatin. Next, the Arugula and Squash salad with a light vinaigrette topped with crispy flakes of prosciutto and chunks of creamy Manchego cheese. Then, the warm lamb cheeks followed: fall-apart tender cheeks wrapped in strips of crisp savoy cabbage and drizzled with white truffle oil and a rich demi-glace.
(Top to bottom: 1. Braised Pork Belly on Onion Puree with Pine Nut/Orange Gremolata. 2. Scallop Tartare with Pork Rinds.)
Having polished off our first wave, we realized now why there were two copies of the menu — you keep wanting more. We began the second wave with another pair of bruschetta. We returned to the piquillo peppers, but exchanged the white anchovy for chorizo, caramelized onion and dark chocolate. The chorizo and sweet onions played nicely off each other, although the presence of dark chocolate proved largely irrelevant to the flavour.
Next, we had the scallop tartare with pork rinds — a beautiful medley of gently chopped scallops and yellow peppers tossed in olive oil and was that a hint of lemon? The thick, yet lightly crispy pork rinds were a nice and uncharacteristically subtle accompaniment. Then, a coin of buttery foie gras accompanied with a refreshing rhubarb foam and crostinis. Finally, a gargantuan slab of pork belly arrived swimming in an onion puree and topped with pine nut/orange gremolata. The pork was perfectly seasoned and practically melted in our mouths, while the gremolata provided a nice crunch.
(Clockwise: 1. Goat Cheese, Apple & Almond Cheesecake. 2. Weapons of Choice. 3. Picturesque view of Blood Alley.)
To finish the meal, we had the goat cheese & almond cheese cake, which was a sinister combination that felt like eating an apple crumble pie with a cheesecake stuffed inside — so wrong, but so right.
Opening week, the staff and kitchen could be forgiven for any missteps — but in this case, there’s nothing to forgive. The menu was tasty, well-executed and staff friendly and efficient. I’m not sure how far the Spanish-influence aspect of the menu really takes hold, but the food was remarkable, regardless.
They did, however, lack coffee to accompany our dessert. Ok, so no one’s perfect.
Dinner including two glasses of wine came to $90 with tax and tip — which is pretty good considering we probably ate half the menu.
Perfect for: Kick ass, contemporary tapas with a picturesque view of binners in Blood Alley.