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The 21st of December was a day of several huzzahs; it marked the last day of the work year and more importantly, the return of our lovely Japanese tourist friend, Laiwah. We celebrated the return of Laiwah with a surprise visit, followed by an eating adventure a few hours later. We decided on peking duck in Preston… and found ourselves at Gringo Vibes Mexican Cantina in Northcote instead thanks to this blogger’s GREAT navigation skills*
*IT WAS TOTALLY GOOGLE MAP’S FAULT.
The interior wasn’t the most stylish of interiors but the orange and the Mexican-esque items like geckos, mini cacti and sombreros were charming in their own little way.
Check out the skull on the tables. Funky to most but spooky to some - we heard a tale of one patron going to the lengths of covering up the skull during his meal!
Behold, our Mexican feast.
It didn’t seem like much when we were making our order (our hungry tummies were in command) or when the plates were placed down in front of us but these four dishes shared between three was too much!
Nachos - house corn chips layered with melted cheese, topped with olives, salsa, guacamole and sour cream.
Being my first encounter with blue corn tortilla chips, I thought half the nachos were burnt! The chips were quite thick and crunchy-crisp, and hence slightly more resistant to becoming soggy. The addition of olives added a tasty burst of salty flavour that added to the slight saltiness of the chips.
Fish tacos - two soft tacos with grilled fish fillets, shredded cabbage and secret sauce.
We soon noticed that all the tacos were served with two tortilla shells - the extra layer was most likely there to help cope with the sogginess/leaking. For us, we used one of the extra layers to turn two tacos into three!
Being someone who doesn’t love fish, I wasn’t exactly thrilled to see grilled fish instead of battered fish (must read descriptions). But I realised from the first bite that battering the fish would have been a mistake; the light grilling process brought forth the natural and sweet flavours of the fish that blended in perfectly with the accompanying herbs and secret sauce. My taste buds thoroughly enjoyed the strong herby coriander presence and zesty lime flavour that worked its magic on the fish.
Chicken tacos - two soft tacos with grilled chicken breast, black beans*, lettuce, cheese, salsa and sour cream.
*option of refried pinto beans available.
The chicken breast possessed a strong BBQ flavour that rivalled the flavour from the beans. The coriander and tomato salsa kicked in almost soon after and the freshness helped balance out the heaviness from the chicken and beans. The addition of hot sauce is highly recommended.
Sauteed spinach and garlic quesadilla.
Feeling quite full after chowing down my two tacos, I struggled to eat my share in this dish. The tortilla reminded me of the tacos, except lightly toasted and with spinach sandwiched between the two layers. I thought the garlic was quite minimal or at least dulled in comparison to the spinach and cheese. While the quesadilla didn’t leave any lasting memories, I quite liked the well-flavoured rice. Despite my stomach screaming out in protest against any motion to eat more, I would continue to fit in a small spoonful of rice every now and then until I ended up finishing a third of the rice!
While we didn’t exactly get our hands on peking duck that night, we ended with a tasty Mexican spread instead from what appeared to be a local favourite. And with good reason - great customer service, great prices and… you guessed it, great-tasting Mexican cuisine! I’m surprising myself by saying this but you can’t go wrong with the fish tacos.
On one last note, I suppose if you substitute the soft tortilla shell with a pancake and the fish/chicken with peking duck, then we had ourselves a Mexican version of peking duck… I’ll keep floating that one by the other two until they forgive or forget this once-off incident.
Gringo Vibes Mexican Cantina
489 High St,
Northcote, Victoria, 3070.
(03) 9044 8568