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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
Mexican cuisine really seems to be the Melbourne’s
next current big thing, with Mexican restaurants popping up all over town like rabbits. In addition to the restaurants, ‘gourmet takeaway’ brands like Salsas and Mad Mex have also made a name for themselves in the business as quicker, cheaper and tasty sources of tex-mex cuisine. A more-recent addition to this group comes in the form of Guzman Y Gomez.
Located on level one in the entertainment precinct of Highpoint, Guzman Y Gomez is in an ideal location to lure in customers tossing up between which restaurant to eat at and cinemagoers before or after a movie.
The color scheme was very well put together and in combination with the woody tones, they seemed to convey a fresh and environment-friendly atmosphere. There were plenty of seats about on a Wednesday night, but I can see the place completely filled on a Thursday or Friday night.
GYG’s famous nachos - corn chips, cheddar cheese, vegetarian black beans, Pico de Gallo salsa and guacamole.
Quite decently-sized, the nachos were large enough to share between four people. The topping amount was also very generous, so be sure to eat this quick to avoid a soggier mess (more so than usual) at the bottom.
Pork chipotle quesadilla - slow roasted pork in GYG’s spicy Chipotle marinade, with Pico de Gallo and Tomatillo salsa.
Steak chipotle quesadilla - BBQ steak in GYG’s spicy Chipotle marinade, with Pico de Gallo and Tomatillo salsa.
Both quesadillas were very similar, save for a subtle difference in the flavours and texture of the meats. Their prices were significantly less than what you normally pay for a quesadilla but that’s because their version was essentially a flattened and toasted soft shell taco (as opposed to two tortilla layers).
As a side note, I LOVED the presentation of the food on newspaper print paper, which provided a fish and chips takeaway feel to the dish.
Spicy chicken guerrero taco - grilled chicken in GYG’s Guerrero marinade, with Pico de Gallo and Tomatillo salsa.
Pork chipotle taco - as described above.
I found both tacos to be quite similar to the quesadillas except for an added crunch thanks to the hard shells. Given the similarities in flavour, it was a tough call to pick out a favourite, but it would probably be the pork chipotle. The slow roast cooking culminated in very tender pulls of pork, with bursts of spicy chipotle flavour that matched perfectly with the tomato salsa and fresh cheese.
It’s almost always surprising whenever a ‘faster food’ establishment churns out food that’s on par with the quality seen at a restaurant. But this has indeed been the case with Mexican takeaway time and time again, with the dining experience at GYG being no different. And just like its older siblings Salsas and Mad Mex, there will soon be more than one GYG around, with one opening in the CBD in the near future. Mexican rabbits indeed…
Guzman Y Gomez Mexican Taqueria
Level 1, Shop 1105, Highpoint Shopping Centre.
200 Rosamond Road,
Maribyrnong, Victoria, 3032.
(03) 9988 1401
This lunch marked our first “proper” lab lunch outing for 2012, with more than 3 lab members in attendance. On the menu: food from Trunk Diner. Despite the place being filled to the brim (typical for lunch hour I believe?), we came at the right time and were directed to two tables after a short wait of a few minutes. I wasn’t sure what I had pictured in mind, but after seeing what looked like a beer garden on the outside, I had a suspicion that the interior wouldn’t look anything like a typical American diner.
Yep. Not a typical diner. No red and/or white plastic booths and definitely no traces of greasy smells lingering in the air. The clear sheets enclosing the venue helped to protect diners from the outside elements and allowed plenty of natural lighting into the restaurant.
Fresh apple juice.
Chorizo quesadilla - chorizo, potato, thyme, oven baked tomato and cheese.
A few of us, including myself, ordered the chorizo quesadilla. The best tasting quesadilla I’ve tried to date was a chorizo one but unfortunately Trunk Diner’s version just wasn’t comparable to that. While it wasn’t bad or anything, the flavour balance was often not right. Some bites were more cheesier than others and these other bits were often more “chorizo-y”. The quesadilla itself was perfect. The texture was very crisp and a nice crunch could be heard when cutting into the quesadilla. The only downside to the quesadilla possessing a nice crispy layer was that the process of slicing and dicing became a little messier. My tray was covered in crumbs and quesadilla specks.
The fries were good and perfectly salted.
Chicken quesadilla - shredded poached chicken, cheddar, roast red peppers & tomato, coriander, lime.
This was another dish that was ordered by a few lab members. JP mentioned that the ingredients were complimentary to one another. But similar to what I had found with the chorizo quesadilla, there was a slight issue with balance. There always seemed to be something missing with each bite, whether it be more coriander, cheese or capsicum needed.
The burger - 175 gram fresh ground Wagyu beef, grilled brioche, baby cos lettuce, thick cut tomato & house-made pickles.
The good thing about deconstructed burgers is that you can put in what you like, as opposed to taking out what you don’t like. The latter often results in sauce-stained fingers! I guess it also makes the tray seem less emptier. Taste-wise the burger was okay but I think N expected the burger to be bigger than what was actually served. Even I wouldn’t have had any problems finishing off a burger that size!
While the prices at Trunk Diner are certainly affordable (many of the options are under $10), it doesn’t equate to good-value-for-money. Especially in the case of the teeny tiny burger. Despite the just-passable dining experience, I’m still keen on trying their restaurant next door. No teeny burgers or quesadillas on that menu!
275 Exhibition St,
Melbourne, Victoria, 3000.
(03) 9663 7994
Night market has come and gone. Over the three months in which it was held, I’m sad to say that I only managed to go once. Despite having to push through hordes of people and the massive queues for virtually all food and drinks, it all becomes worth it when you finally get your hands on some food!
A very lively atmosphere. On a warm night especially, there’s something that feels perfect about being here. I especially love the multiculturalism embodied by the various food stalls and even the market stalls.
Korean potato twists. Chicken salt and barbecue flavoured.
Ant’s Dumplings. So many dumprings!
Malaysian pork and mushroom dumplings with a touch of hot sauce. I wouldn’t know what Malaysian dumplings were supposed to taste like but these tasted like normal dumplings to me!
Chicken quesadilla with guacamole, sour cream and salsa.
Nepalese vegetarian dumplings. I can’t recall exactly but going by the green, it’s probably safe to assume that these were the vegetarian ones.
Dutch pancakes with cream and jam. I just felt like scones after eating a few of these. Must have been the the cream and jam!
And next up on the merry food adventures of laiwah and theycallmemaggie (with mons tagging along for the ride), we have Fonda Mexican, a relatively new Mexican (just incase you couldn’t already figure that out from the name… :) ) restaurant in Richmond.
It’s interior is a relatively small one. Cosy. There is additional seating outside at the back. Boxed in by three walls and the restaurant, the back area is shielded from much of the sun’s rays and is the perfect place to sit on a sunny day. Given the smaller size, this is a place that easily fills out and this was indeed the case when we were here. By the time we had left, there were no available tables and a cue outside.
I had one sip and was left practically reeling from the taste of tequila. I’m a pansy drinker though, and Laiwah was fine with the taste. She thought it was quite refreshing.
Charred corn - with chipotle aioli, ricotta salata and lime.
One of the main reasons that compelled me to come to Fonda Mexican was their corn. It looked delicious in photos taken by other restaurant goers, it looked delicious when served and it certainly tasted delicious. The flavours were very reminiscent of the corn from Mamasita. My only qualm was that the corn wasn’t very juicy, but it was a point that was easily overlooked when your taste buds are being bombarded with amazing flavour.
Fat chips - with chipotle aioli.
We were very hungry and some carbs were very appealing. They were quite tasty and helped to quell our rumbling tummies. I think Laiwah has also been deprived of chippies whilst in Japan, so we had to order them.
Braised pork taco - with pineapple, onion, coriander, lime.
I’m a firm believer that crispy meats go hand in hand with soft shell tacos, while ‘soft’ meats suit the crunch shells to provide a contrast in texture. I wasn’t a fan of the ‘mooshy’ texture from the shell and the pork. The soft shell tasted very ‘floury’/’beany’. The pineapple provided a nice, exotic touch and suited the lime and coriander flavour.
Vegetarian taco - squash/zucchini, peas/mint, salsa verde, lime.
I personally didn’t try this dish but mons tried it and she didn’t like it. In fact, she even said that the pork tacos tasted better.
Chorizo quesadillas - chorizo, queso fresco, jalapeno, salsa roja.
One word: AMAZING. Another one word: DELICIOUS. And one more just to reiterate my point: SCRUMPTIOUS. Even Laiwah, who has an aversion to anything remotely spicy, thought this dish was simply delicious. The mild spiciness of the chorizo was the perfect companion for the creamy melted cheese. It tasted just like a pizza disguised as a quesadilla.
Wow, it even looked like a pizza when pried apart… kinda…
I came to Fonda Mexican with only high expectations for the corn and instead walked away only satisfied with the corn and COMPLETELY WOWED by the quesadilla. Fond of Mexican? Then Fonda Mexican is where you should be!
248 Swan St,
Richmond, Victoria, 3121.
(03) 9429 0085
Again I’m playing mass-catch up with my posts and will start with this one from a little while back. Following thehouseofem’s and pamoola’s late-ish date with the hairdresser, we decided to head to somewhere closer to home to quickly fix our famished states; Los Latinos.
We ordered a jug of horchata to share between us. It’s an… acquired taste. Thehouseofem and pamoola thought it was fine and happily finished off the jug between the two of them.
Tex Mex Nachos - warm corn tostadas topped with Chile con Carne, Salsa Roja, Green Tomatillo Salsa, Spicy Cheese Sauce, Guacamole and Sour Cream, with refried bean sauce.
A lot of words to take in but it was basically your typical nachos, topped with the typical ingredients. It proved to be a very welcome and tasty starter dish, doing much to quell the rumbles from our stomachs.
Mexican quesadilla - Cheese, chicken and slice capsicum, encased in a flour tortilla, served with a green salad.
A very substantial tortilla exterior and stuffed with melted cheese, this is a must-get dish for a hungry person. The first few mouthfuls had definitely hit the spot… until it all became a bit too much. At this point, eating the quesadilla with the salad helps to combat the sickening overfull feeling.
Pupusas - Salvadorian pupusas served with Salsa Roja and Curtido.
Struggle-town really kicked in after finishing my share of the quesadilla and I really couldn’t provide an unbiased opinion for this dish and the next. I took a bite and didn’t like it because the flour exterior was very thick and hence very filling. Too filling.
Tamales de pollo - served with salsa and curtido.
And I didn’t even try when it came to this dish but I heard that it’s quite nice.
128 Mitchell St,
Maidstone, Victoria, 3012.
(03) 9318 5289
The problem with an indecisive person eating in a food court is having too many options to choose from. I was recently at the refurbished Melbourne Central upstairs food court and was greeted with an onslaught of eateries. Among them, the mexican Mad Mex caught my attention. I had cravings for Mexican and would have in a heart beat chosen picked it, but had some reservations about take-away Mexican. After minutes of deliberation, I just went for it and wound up… well, I won’t give the plot away just yet…
That is sure a lot of beer bottles…
The making of the quesadilla; grilled flour tortilla, with cheese, capsicum, onions, 2 salsas and sour cream. For the filling, I selected the Carnitas (pork) option - shredded, traditional style with garlic, onion, lime and cumin. I chose the mild tomato salsa (fresh tomatoes, coriander, onion and jalepenos) and the picante (with a chilli rating of 3). I also bought a serving of their homemade tortilla chips and guacamole to share.
And in no more than five minutes time, viola! Just based on appearance, my doubts were fast dissipating. Except for maybe the ‘sour cream’. It was… quite runny and looked more like thick milk than cream. Not at all appealing. The quesadilla itself was grilled to a crisp perfection. Without burning the outside, they managed to get the cheese nicely melted. The shredded pork was quite tender and the flavours fitted nicely with the cheese. The guac was good but standard, and the tomato salsa tasted fresh with a slight chilli kick. For a chilli rating of three, the maximum given on their menu, the picante wasn’t very spicy.
A close up shot, just so you can see to some extent the tasty goodness that lies inside the tortilla wrap and the horrible runny-ness of the sour ‘cream’.
Their tortilla chips tasted like the original flavoured ones straight from the packet, except warm.
Overall, for something prepared in such a short amount of time, it was surprisingly tasty. And filling. After eating two thirds of the quesadilla at 3pm, I didn’t feel hungry again for the rest of the day. There’s no doubt about it, Mad Mex is good value in terms of both cost and service.
Level 2 Dining Hall,
Corner LaTrobe and Swanston St.
Melbourne, Victoria, 3000.
Friday 30th September 2011.
J picked me up from uni for our Friday night food adventure. We originally had bookings WEEKS IN ADVANCE with this other restaurant but they cancelled our reservations on Wednesday, which really wasn’t much notice. I won’t name and shame them but I’m still a little unhappy about it. Things worked out though because we ended up going to Mamasita instead.
We were slightly worried about parking and getting to the place without being drenched in the rain. But as it turned out, going to Mamasita was in the cards because J managed to find a parking spot that was practically right across the place. On Collins St. At 6.30pm. On a Friday night. Such a prime parking spot!
When we arrived, we were greeted with the same scene that you get with a lot of the other restaurants down on this end of the city: a nice, long queue of people. Luckily J and I were only dining for two, so it was much easier for us to get a table than say if you were dining with a larger group of people. Even a group of THREE people warranted a slightly wait! After almost an hour of slowly making our way up the stairs, we were seated at the bar.
Authentic Mexican soft drinks, but made in the US and Canada? I stuck with a conventional lime flavour while J tried the mandarin. It actually tasted like mandarin and not some generic citrus drink!
Totopos (tortilla chips) with salsa and guacamole.
These were great to munch on whilst waiting for our food. It certainly helped to quell the rumblings coming from my stomach. The salsa was good. The guac was so so.
Elotes callejeros - street style chargrilled corn with queso, chipotle mayonnaise & lime.
From a while back I knew their corn was their specialty dish. Scores of friends who have eaten here before have raved about it. Even the waiters themselves rave about it and practically force everyone to order them. The corn was always on my to-order list so the persuasion was not necessary. Truthfully, that first bite was mediocre. BUT the more I ate, the more it grew on me. To such an extent that I was left wanting to ‘lick the dish’ Haha, no, not to that extent but I was certainly craving more! It’s almost like the flavouring just continued to accumulate with every single bite.
In short, yes, their corn lives up to all the hype. All the other dishes could have tasted crap and I still would have walked out happy!
de Pollo tostaditas - chargrilled chicken, avocado, queso fresco & chipotle mayonnaise on a fried tortilla.
These came out soon after the corn. Each element in the topping contributed to the overall deliciousness of this seemingly bite size morsel (yeah, it wasn’t bite size for me) To prolong the tastiness, I used some of the tortilla chips to scoop off some of the generously sized toppings. Another dish that’s well done.
Bunuelos de garbanzos - chickpea fritters, field mushrooms, sweet potato & jalepeno herb sauce.
By this point my stomach was starting to yell out in protest, ‘No more food!’ But we had to keep going. The fritter was quite dense and filling. The jalepeno salsa was an interesting flavour that helped to give the fritters some flavour. The mushroom and salad accompaniments were good and lighter to stomach.
de Champinones quesadilla - mushrooms, roasted corn, spinach, epazote & goat’s cheese.
Really struggling at this point (J as well!), I ended up only eating one piece and scooping out the mushrooms from the rest. This dish definitely would have been MUCH tastier a few dishes earlier.
All in all, I liked Mamasita. It goes without saying that they do Mexican food WAY better than Taco Bill. I also can’t help but think that having such massive lines works out quite well for them. The long wait increased my hunger levels and food always tastes better when you’re super duper hungry! Mamasita - one hot mama of a restaurant that I must go back to someday soon (Lame I know, but I just couldn’t help myself…)
11 Collins St (Level 1)
Melbourne, Victoria, 3000.