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Tapas And Talk With Carmen Ruiz y Laza At El Matador

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It’s hard to keep up with this Zoomer as she’s always on the go!

She’s Fit, Fabulous and Zooming through life with the energy of a teenager and the wisdom of someone who’s knows better… That’s how I describe my friend Carmen Ruiz y Laza of Zoomer Media. If you’ve never met Carmen before that is all about to change in mid September. Carmen will be launching her own segment called Carmen TV on Zoomer Media’s JoyTV10 showing all of us what it means to be a Zoomer in the 21st century. When I invited Carmen to dinner as part of my latest series on exploring the wonderful and diverse ethnic foods and culture available in Vancouver it was no surprise that she chose a Spanish Tapas restaurant called El Matador. Born and raised in Spain until the age of 13, dining at El Matador is like a little bit of home for Carmen.

Does it get any more fabulous than Pride 2013

That photo from this summers Vancouver Pride Parade sums Carmen up to a tee! Vivacious and fully in her own power. You have to be to wear a corset and tutu down the street. Lucky for me the tutu stayed at home when we met up for dinner. I picked Carmen up in style in my loaner Ford Explorer Sport and off we went to the North Shore for dinner.

Ford Explorer Sport

El Matador

Located just behind the Lonsdale Quay and underneath a Starbucks at 131 West Esplanade, El Matador is the vision of owner Paul Mon-Kau and his business partner Jeff Murl. Not only is it their vision but it’s the result of over 4 weeks of extensive travel in Spain with them eating at over 110 Tapas bars during that time. Thank god Tapas are small plates otherwise they might have gained some serious weight during that trip Smile

el Matador patio

Long table in the middle of El Matador

In Spain tapas are the little snack that you get when you order a round of drinks. Small plates, bite size portions and inexpensive is what it’s all about. Here in North America we’ve taken tapas to mean a smaller portion of an entree. That’s not the way it’s done back home in Spain or at El Matador confirms Carmen. In fact looking over the menu Carmen saw many dishes that are traditionally served at tapas bars.

Welcome drink menu

Carmen checking out the menu

We order a glass of vino (Spanish of course) and set to ordering some dishes. Eight dishes in total and that doesn’t include dessert. Starting off we enjoy some lovely spiced marinated olives, a major staple on any Spanish table. Then we had a Garbanzo Salad, Russian Potato Salad, Spicy Shrimp in Sherry and 24 Month Aged Serrano Ham. the most expensive plate was $6!!!

Spiced Marinated Olives

Light and Tasty Garbanzo Salad

Russian Potato Salad

Spicy Shrinp in Sherry

24 Month Aged Serrano Ham

What’s particularly fun about trying out a new restaurant with a friend is hearing the oohs and aahs coming from your dining partner. Especially cool when the food you are eating is what they grew up eating. According to Carmen El Matador nailed the first plates we enjoyed. All authentic and what she would be enjoying if she was back in Spain.

There isn’t too much room left in my belly but I’m happy to squeeze a few more plates onto the table especially if they are Cabrales with Honey and Walnuts for me and Smoked Salmon Devilled Eggs for Carmen.

Cabrales with Honey and Walnuts

Smoked Salmon Devilled Eggs

Fabulous and full to bursting I barely have room left for dessert. However… on the recommendation of the Chef (Kenny Kyle) We can’t resist the Rice Pudding with Figs and the Flourless Almond Cake. the Almond cake was by far the star of the night. Light, moist with just enough sweetness it was the perfect way to end our meal.

Chef Kenny Kyle

Rice pudding with Figs

Flourless Almond Cake

Like every great meal I’ve ever enjoyed this one tons of great conversation, mostly involving Paul and Carmen sharing stories about their time in Spain. Passion is a word that describes both of them and I’m proud to call them both friends.

It’s time to say goodnight to Carmen and El Matador but not before I get the answer to my famous five questions. Here they are and as always the answers are in Carmen’s own words.

#1 – If you could have any career you wanted other than what you are currently doing what would it be?

As I like people, and am always curious as to what makes them tick, I would go back to my education and first love – which is Psychology.

#2 – Who’s the first person you call when you have good or bad news?

My darling sisters Elisa and Rosario, or I call and will talk to my Mother in Spain if I can find her at home as she’s always out. They are my rocks and my keels.

#3 – What advice would you give your 16 year old self?

Life is a wonderful journey and you have a long way to go. Stay on course and have fun along the way. Basically exactly what I’ve done J

#4 – Have you had a light bulb moment in your life? What was it and what did it mean for you?

When I left the Convent in Spain at age 13 I made a decision to never allow anyone else EVER to tell me what to do. I can negotiate, be convinced and am flexible. I think this strong independent feeling makes me a good team player, because I assume everyone else feels the same way, so you learn how to ask for things and how to motivate people – because they want to do it, not because you tell them to.

#5 – Chocolate, Vanilla or Strawberry Ice Cream?

French Vanilla all the way

I’m curious what are your thoughts on Spanish cuisine and tapas specifically? Have you ever been to Spain? Please share.

That’s a wrap. I’ve got another 29 special guests and great ethnic meals to share with you over the coming weeks. Here’s hoping I don’t gain too much weight.

A big thanks to Patak’s for sponsoring the #30DaysOfEthnicEats series. One of my favourite Patak’s products is Tandoori Curry Paste and here’s a super easy and tasty recipe for Tandoori Chicken using it. Click here to find out just how easy it is to Mix in a Little India in your life!


El Matador on Urbanspoon

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Marc Smith is a former event planner turned vagabond adventurer. He loves strong Americano's, great wine, cold beer and zip lining over tree tops. Formerly of Vancouver, most of Marc's time when not travelling is in Canada's largest city, Toronto. Follow along on his nomad adventures and discover places to stay, things to do and where to eat & drink as he explores the world one city and region at a time.


  1. Terrific start Marc. All the very best for this series. i look forward to the next 29 days.
    Btw…I have tried the Tandoori Chicken a few weeks ago and it is indeed terrific . Will now try and mix in some of those flavours into your awesome Spanish delights!

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