Thursday, 1 May 2014

Los Amates Mexican Kitchen

34 Johnston St 
Fitzroy, VIC 

We’ve come a long way. From being a cuisine that’s associated with orange cheese and refried beans, Mexican food has since in the last few years evolved into a sparkling, vivacious cuisine. Some of it is homely, some of it is almost-fine-dining, but a lot of it is delicious. The orange cheese has long-since been replaced with queso.

That said though, Los Amates Mexican Kitchen has been around for over a decade. Like a true lady, it seemed quiet and unassuming from the exterior, but the moment you walk inside you are faced with an explosion of colour and personality. It was festively decked out with memorabilia and paper cuttings hung from wall to wall, and a gorgeous mural splashed across the back room. 

Horchata ($3.8)

Not even winning the lottery could possibly feel better than when Horchata ($3.8) is on the menu. This fabulous ethnic drink is grossly under-represented, and the last time I had this delicious cinnamon rice milk was at Fonda Mexican, where I fell in love with the beverage that is simultaneously warming and refreshing. This version was served tall and very sweet, and I loved the hint of creaminess. 

Papa Con Nopales ($8.5)

When I was younger, my parents always called me potato head. Combine that with a love of trying unusual foods, and I jumped straight onto the special of Papa Con Nopales ($8.5), described as cactus and potato cooked with an Ancho chilli sauce. Served with two fragrant tortillas, we essentially had a starter of two vegetarian tacos, the filling soft and mild like a veggie stew.

Pulpo Enamorado ($15)

I’m not a big fan of corn chips (though Chris loves them), but I will concede they’re about as good as topping-vehicles get. In our case, we opted for Pulpo Enamorado ($15), a generous serving of octopus in creamy dressing with salsa. The pieces of octopus were fresh and addictively chewy, spiced up with coriander, onions, and a hint of chilli in the tangy dressing. Whilst Chris spent his time picking around the coriander, I demolished the entire dish. 

Tacos de Res con Rajas ($22.5)

Arguably, the dish that everyone comes here for are the tacos. Instead of being served up at $6 a pop, these are served up in true Mexican spirit – DIY and shared. Our choice of filling – Tacos de Res con Rajas ($22.5) – was mouth-watering. Thin strips of steak were grilled with a medley of onions and peppers, resulting in rich, smoky, and succulent pieces of beef. And on the side, the most adorable little basket of tortillas wrapped warm and snug in coloured cloth. It was served with two salsas and pureed black beans, but I enjoyed the plain beef in tortillas best of all.  

Pastel de Elote ($7.5)

Having not eaten nearly as much of the octopus as I had, Chris insisted on dessert, and the Pastel de Elote ($7.5) was a sweet ending indeed. Flavoured with corn kernels and honey, our slice of cake was fluffy and hot, and we fought for the last spoonful (well, metaphorically; we actually shared it like respectable adults). And whilst calling half a strawberry a ‘berry coulis’ is stretching the truth to shattering point, we didn’t mind a single bit.

Los Amates advertises itself as the only authentic Mexican restaurant in Victoria, and whilst I’m not entirely sold on that point, I will concede that it serves up the most legitimate meal of home-styled Mexican food I’ve had to date. The staff bantered in Spanish, and whilst I had a bit of trouble understanding them through their luscious accents and over the music, it is all part of the charm. Here is Mexican food served as it was intended – homely, flavoursome, and fun.

Rating: 14/20 – mexican mama’s meals.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit. 

Los Amates on Urbanspoon

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