Most of the Spanish I’ve been encountering goes like this: “Boots, this is the pelota. See the pelota? We need to get the pelota into the basket.” Oh Dora, aren’t you sweet and so repetitive.

I was elated to encounter some Spanish of the grown-up kind at the Sardine Can, a reference to its tight quarters. The ode to Spanish tapas and wine/beer has just a handful of tall tables or seats at the bar (and wallpaper that’s so hip it hurts). The marked-up bar and tables came from the Avalon hotel bar in North Vancouver.

From any angle in the restaurant, you can watch how all the food gets assembled in the tiny, open kitchen with just a hot plate and convection oven. The Sardine Can is a fantastic place for early nibbles, a light dinner, or late snacks with great company.

Our favourite dish by far was the smoked sardines on toast (tostas de sardinas) ($5). So good that we ordered them twice.

Sardine Can, Vancouver

The chorizo con jerez ($10) was simply sliced spicy chorizo sausage cooked in sherry. Something that simple had us sopping it all up with the sliced bread, served whimsically on a receipt stand thing people used to stick memos on. (I will mail $5 to anyone who can tell me what that’s actually called.) Jason has claimed the $5.

In the piquillo rellenos de bacalao ($10), we tasted more of the roasted piquillo peppers than the salt cold it was stuffed with.

I’m hardly a dessert person but the chocolate terrine ($5) was too intriguing to pass up. While the thick slab of chocolate terrine paired with chili flakes, olive oil and sea salt sounded strange, it tasted amazing. Just one of those combinations of extremes that works.

We had wonderful service that made us feel like regulars even on our first visit. As my second glass of Marques de Caceres rosé ($7) was being poured into a short glass, I said to Jason, “Let’s move to Gastown and come here every night!”

And as he finished his Spanish beer, then a glass of sherry, he almost agreed.

Sardine Can, Vancouver

Sardine Can, 26 Powell St., Vancouver, (604) 568-1350. Open daily at 3 p.m. You get 10 per cent off if you pay cash.

Sardine Can on Urbanspoon

Child-friendly notes
Access: Extremely tight quarters and only bar-height chairs and tables
Advice: Definitely get a sitter and leave the kids at home. Enjoy date night.