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Mexican Mania

Mexican Mania

Featuring Vatos Urban Tacos (South Beach), Clinton St. Baking Co. & Restaurant Singapore, Muchachos, Jones the Grocer (Dempsey Hill), La Salsa, El Mero Mero, Piedra Negra, Stuff'd (City Square Mall), Lower East Side, LES 45
Veronica Phua
Veronica Phua

H O S T E D
Don’t ignore the desserts here. They definitely deserve some real estate in your belly.
If you prefer a substantial and sweet ending, or are a fan of all things nutty, the Tequila Pecan Pie is the one to get. Served à la mode with housemade cinnamon flavoured ice-cream, it stars larger-than-usual, crunchy and very fresh tasting pecan nuts from North Mexico in a mix of glucose, eggs, sugar and a splash of 1800 Anejo Tequila.

H O S T E D
Here is an excellent choice for when you want a bright and refreshing dessert.
The Braised Pineapple at “El Mero Mero” is probably my favourite pineapple dessert of the moment in Singapore. Those thick slices of fruit are sweet, incredibly juicy and unusually fiber-less thanks to it having undergone the multi-step process of being blanched, frozen, sous vide with “piloncillo” (cane sugar melted with butter) at 70O degrees Celsius for 45 minutes before finally being grilled in the Josper oven. Even the vanilla ice cream that is sprinkled with fresh lime zest, is also made in-house.

H O S T E D
Before El Mero Mero underwent the recent refurbishment, I had already eaten this dish and enjoyed it very much. So seeing it still on the menu had me feeling both pleased and relieved.
Yes, the Oyster Blade beef is wonderfully grilled thanks to the Josper oven but it is the lip-smackingly tasty Poblano Shishita Crema sauce that is the main attraction for me here. That is also why the accompanying warm, flimsy and soft flour tortillas play such an important role. They are the best thing to mop up every bit of the sauce with. And believe me, not s single drop should be wasted.

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H O S T E D
If you love a hearty, hot liquid, this “Tortilla Soup” has your name on it.
Velvety-smooth and thick, it is composed of Josper-roasted tomatoes, garlic, onion and guajillo chilli pepper that are boiled then blended with flamed corn tortilla. And in case you think it is plain ol’ liquid, well, the deep-fried tortilla strips and diced avocado are there for to prove you wrong.
Do note this soup seems to have a delayed hit of spiciness, so sip with caution.

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H O S T E D

I’d dined here before their refurbishment and liked it. So when the invitation for a tasting of their updated menu came my way, I said yes straightaway.

The re-energisation of this 5-year-old establishment can be seen, felt and tasted. Founded and driven by Alejandro Blanco, the first Mexican to be naturalised as a Singapore citizen, there is no doubting the authenticity of the offerings here.

You can expect a cocktail menu that proudly features Mexican alcohol-starring concoctions such as the “Pina Loca” which has pineapple getting jiggy with tequila, and the dramatically smoky “Old Chicano” with a base of fat-washed mezcal.

As for the food, instead of adhering strictly to tradition, Head Chef Jorge has reinterpreted classic Mexican favourites to introduce dishes unique to “El Mero Mero”. Furthermore, because Alejandro’s other company produces tortillas, taco chips and tostadas, generic commercial brands have no place here.

Shown above is one of the dishes I was particularly fond of, the “Tostadas De Atun” ($17++). Those crispy tortilla “cups” are filled with yellowfin tuna ceviche tossed in a spicy mayo and topped with fried banana shallots. They are enormously tasty and I would happily munch on a few at one go.

I love a good steak so the automatic choice of protein when I ordered the Fajitas was the Angus ribeye. But admittedly, the other options of the signature Wagyu meatballs, Berkshire pork, chicken, seabass, tiger prawns and vegetables were very tempting too.
The beef that arrived looked like it weighed at least 200gms or even slightly more, and was quite thick. It smelled so good sizzling on the hotplate with soft capsicums and browned onions that I could feel my mouth watering.
Eating Fajitas is always fun, don’t you agree? The process of taking the pieces of meat and rolling them up in the tortilla (the set comes with 4 of those in a separate container) with a bit of the guacamole, salsa, sour cream, cheese and jalapeños is enjoyably interactive. But the most important bit is whether the taste makes the cut, and despite the beef being a bit more of a medium than my preferred medium-rare, it was tasty, juicy and still tender enough. So La Salsa gets a thumbs up from me.
By the way, this place is on Burpple Beyond, so you can enjoy 1-for-1 for mains and tacos here as well. Honestly, the savings is very attractive.

My dining partner’s choice of the “Pescado Veracruz”, a classic fish dish of seabass prepared with tomatoes, green olives, capsicum and capers, was basically free. This is because I had ordered the more expensive “Angus Ribeye Fajita” ($38++) and since I can enjoy 1-for-1 for the mains at “La Salsa” with Burpple Beyond, I did not have to pay for the lower-priced of the two.
I must say, the presentation of the fish was quite dramatic with the boneless piece of seabass laid in the curve of a giant flaky cracker. It turned out to be a pretty filling dish as there’s Mexican rice and refried beans served together. Flavours were bold, bright and tasty.

Muchachos has resurfaced, looking all shiny and new at Fraser’s Tower. Its street level location is just across from Amoy Street Hawker Centre. Besides the usual, there are a couple of new items on the menu too. Like the California Burrito.
If you are a die-hard fries fan, this has your name on it. Stuffed in there with the grilled beef and cheese is pretty much a truckload of crispy potato strips. Should you find the going a tad dry, just reach out for the bottles of sriracha or habanero hot sauce sitting on the tables. A squirt of either or both does a lot of good based on my experience.

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H O S T E D
And with a whole new look and branding too.
Now located at #01-01 of Fraser’s Tower on Cecil Street, Muchachos’ all-glass frontage faces Amoy Street Hawker Centre which makes it easy to spot from the street. The eye-catching interior is done up in Cali-Mex (California-Mexican) style with colourful neon strip lighting.
Orders are to be placed at the counter near the main entrance, after which a buzzer is given to you. Once it sounds, you just need to collect your food at the pick-up section towards the other end.
I decided to try the tacos today, choosing 3 different proteins for the filling: Tongue ($6) Fish and Chicken ($4.80 each), and added guacamole to all (for an extra $1.20 per taco) because I can never say no to guac. Served warm, the tortillas were very soft but sturdy enough to hold the generous amount of fillings well. Speaking of fillings, I thought they were seasoned nicely and decently flavourful. My top pick would be the Tongue, partly because I don’t recall having come across a tongue taco in Singapore to date and this was tasty. One thing to note: there’s quite a bit of chopped raw onions used as garnish. I love that personally but just in case you aren’t so keen on having “onion breath”, you might want to inform the staff when placing your order.

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“Taco Tuesday”. Two words that would thrill any Mexican food lover. It is a bonus when you forget it is a Tuesday and suddenly see the banner advertising it outside Vatos just as you’re walking in. Which is what happened to us earlier this week. Whoohooo!!
We warmed up with a serving of Queso (hot cheese sauce) and Chips before ordering enough plates of tacos to conquer the entire surface of our table. Because that’s the only way to do “Taco Tuesday”. Am I right or am I right?
Having eaten a few different kinds including the Barbacoa (slow-braised pork with hot sauce) pictured above, I still vote the Baja Fish (it has a large, super crunchy deep-fried fish fillet) and the Galbi Short Rib Tacos (it comprises of marinated beef short rib with Ssamjang aioli, Asian slaw, raw chopped onions and sesame seeds) as the tastiest of the lot.

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A stone bowl of bubbling hot Queso (cheese sauce) with chips on the side waiting to be dunked. That’s how we like to get things started whenever we hit this joint. By the way, that gooey cheese is great on everything else too.

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M E D I A I N V I T A T I O N

LES 45 is Hidden Door Concepts’ latest baby. It lets you enjoy authentic Mexican (not the more common Tex-Mex) cuisine done with a contemporary twist, in the sky. Well, not really but close enough as the restaurant cum bar is located on the 45th floor of Singapore Land Tower 😊

Helming the kitchen is cheerful Head Chef Jorge who hails from the Southern part of Mexico and is very proud of the food in that region. We had the opportunity to sample five of the dishes he’d created for LES 45’s menu:

- GUACAMOLE EN MOLCAJETE ($30++): A little pricey in my humble opinion but it did taste good as it’s made from scratch right at your table.

- SCALLOP AGUACHILE, AVOCADO & PICKLED JICAMA ($25++): I liked the refreshing flavour profile of this raw seafood dish.

- BRUSSELS SPROUTS, GUAJILLO, CHORIZO & COTIJA ($17++): The chorizos were an appetising match for the Brussels Sprouts so even if you aren’t fond of this vegetable, I think you may want to give it a go.

- TEMPURA HAKE TACOS, HIBISCUS MAYO, SALSA FRESCA & CABBAGE ($18++): I liked this the most of all we were served. The crunchy battered fish tasted fresh and was really mouthwateringly accessorised.

- CHICKEN TINGA TOSTADAS, MANGO GUACAMOLE & WASABI, SUNNYSIDE-UP ($18++): Nice touch with the runny-yolk egg as it moistened the dryish cooking style of the chicken.

- LES CHURROS WITH CHOCOLATE HAZELNUT CREAM ($8++): Crunchy and sweet, the cinnamon-dusted fried dough sticks were good with or without the thick chocolate sauce.

If you are wanting after-work dinner and drinks at a venue-with-a-view in the CBD area, this new spot is worth considering.

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Can't cook to save my life but boy, can I eat! 😄 (I pay for all my meals unless otherwise stated)

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