Richmond, VIC 3121
I am very Fonda Mexican food. Awful puns aside, I do count the traditionally fresh and bright flavours of this cuisine to be amongst my favourites. Guacamole, tostadas, ceviche, tacos – you name it, and I can’t get enough of it. So I was pretty stoked when I heard about this small Mexican cantina in Richmond that embraces the concept of a fonda – a family home turned restaurant, open to anyone passing by. ‘A place for the community to congregate and enjoy mama’s cooking straight from her kitchen’, says their website.
Getting into Fonda Mexican at lunchtime (and I assume dinner too) is a battle, but service is fast and friendly, and most of the crowd is here for take-away, so don’t let the queues scare you off. The food may be casual fresh Mexican but unlike Mamasita, there’s much less waiting and much more eating.
After ordering at the counter, I squeezed my way back to our table, clutching a generous jar of Horchata ($4.5), which I’ve wanted to try ever since that Vampire Weekend song. This light and sweet brew was served with a shiny ice cubes and a whimsically retro straw. It tasted like vanilla ice cream in drink form, with a hint of cinnamon. It is SO good, on par with chocolate milk at the very least.
|Charred Corn ($3.5)|
The Charred Corn ($3.5) at any Mexican restaurant is a must-order for me, and this version is sweet, creamy and juicy. I especially liked the fluffy ricotta salata scattered on top, though a bit more char action on the corn, and maybe a scattering of chilli would have gone a long way. It’s excellent and delicious, but the Mamasita version is still my one true corn.
I actually screamed PORK SCRATCHINGS!!!! when I saw it on the menu. No joke. It’s not often I have a reason to eat a whole packet’s worth of pork rinds so there was no way I was passing this opportunity up. The Chicharons ($6) were piled high in a big bowl and looking for the world like giant popcorn. They were airy, crunchy, and left a dusting of salt on our lips – all the things that are so good, but so, so bad. But they didn’t hold a candle to the guacamole they were served with; chunky and creamy with a generous squeeze of lemon, I may or may not have eaten it with my fingers once we ran out of scratching.
|Fish Taco ($6)|
Fonda Mexican’s infamous Fish Tacos ($6) lived up to their reputation. A little pouch with cubes of golden crumbed fish, crunchy pickles, and a generous smear of smoky chipotle aioli was the perfect harmony of flavours with a prominent overtone of freshness. We unanimously agreed that this was our favourite dish of the day.
|Braised Beef Brisket Taco ($5)|
The Braised Beef Brisket Taco ($5) consisted of fall-apart tender beef sitting in a pool of its own juices, topped with sour poblano peppers and the crunch of radish cubes. It’s a hearty, earthy taco that is perfect for the cold days where you need something rich and spicy. Just make sure you have a plate to catch the copious amount of drippage.
|Mushroom Quesadilla ($12)|
By the time we got to the Mushroom Quesadilla ($12), we were already rather full, so it wasn’t the best time to be presented with the overwhelmingly decadent flavours of meaty mushrooms, corn truffle, and queso fresco. And whilst the freshly pressed tortilla (dough sourced from Abbotsford Convent Bakery no less) was smooth and pliant, the copious use of cooking spray has made them rather greasy. Not even the spicy sourness of the salsa verde could cut through the oil in this dish. An unfortunate end to our meal.
Fonda Mexican is not especially fancy, and the menu is fairly small. But it exudes genuinely homely warmth, and is a stellar choice if you want a bite of authentic Mexican food without premium prices, long waits, and 42 types of tequila a la Mamasita.
Rating: 14.5/20 – mi casa, su casa.