Deciding to check out Me & Julio’s Honourable Mention in this year’s Vancouver restaurant awards, we had dinner there last night. Overall, it it was pretty good.
Me & Julio advertizes itself as the “modern Mexican kitchen” and it lives up to that. The dishes use traditional ingredients and forms (taco, enchiladas, etc) but combine them in new ways and plate them flawlessly with modern style. The menu isn’t long, allowing the kitchen to focus on a few good ideas.
My better half chose the paella, which had also tempted me. Unfortunately, it was bland and uninteresting. It seemed to cry out for salt, but at the same time one knew that would simply change it, not improve it. I had much better luck with the bistec. It was rare as ordered and came with a fine if unoriginal prune sauce. Side vegetables were excellent and the horseradish-avocado mash was very good indeed.
They have a huge serving staff and service was polite and competent. However, they don’t seem to have the same staffing levels in the kitchen and the wait for food was too long. On a more positive note, they have used the space available really well, with a single large room. Decoration is muted and attractive, comfortable to be in. Popular, too: There always seemed to be folks at the door waiting to get in.
An aside: The short menu, the happy bistro ambience created by the one-large-space, and the dominating bar are attributes Me & Julio shares with the Reef. From the outside at least, Timbre looks to be similar. Waazubee was one of the forerunners of this style on the Drive, but their space is too dark and internal to work as well. Charlatans would like to be seen that way, I believe, but the multiple levels takes it out of the one-large-space category. With at least three new restaurants opening with this style, perhaps this is the new Drive look and feel. I don’t mind it at all.