Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Mexican: dos & don’ts

As my regular readers may have gathered, Mexican cuisine is something I love. This stems from being raised on Mexican and eating as much of it as possible on my infrequent visits back to the USA. So when restaurateurs decide to open a Mexican outpost because it’s 'like so cool right now' without learning how to make the food properly it really makes me angry (think Ari Gold tirade). Luckily my faith has been restored by some first time restaurateurs setting up shop in Richmond.

Paco’s Tacos (don’ts)

When I heard that Paco’s Tacos had replaced the underperforming Movida Terraza (financially underperforming, the food was actually decent) I was really excited to have a more accessible lunch taco option than Mamasita (hopefully without a side of groan inducing hipster attitude).  

Last week I got some of my regular lunch buddies together for a girl’s lunch at Paco’s. Firstly I’ll give them credit for the positives: it’s a great outdoor venue that would be good for after work drinks in summer, they have their kitchen garden spread around the tables, which adds a point of interest. 

We started our lunch with a flustered and slightly rude server when ordering at the counter, which I generally forgive when a restaurant is busy but not when it’s practically empty as it was at 12:05 on a Wednesday.
We began with the Chicharrones (pork crackling $10) with salsa verde and a roasted capsicum salsa. The salsas were flavourful, however, the crackling should be cut smaller and be crispy (ours was hit and miss, which makes it hard to bite through giant chunks). 

H ordered some vegetarian tacos ($6 as are all their tacos), which had black beans, pico de gallo, guacamole and queso fresco. Main Problem: as with all of the tacos we ordered, the corn tortillas were not prepared properly. They hadn’t been toasted on a grill and they were cold, had a bad flaky texture and fell apart. Again I would have let this slide on the basis of it being a one-off, but my reading of other diners reviews suggests that it’s a constant issue (who cares if the tortillas are from Casa Iberica if you don’t know how to serve them).

Y and I shared the ‘pulled’ pork tacos with pineapple. The filling was fine but the tortillas were problematic. 

Next we tried the prawn tacos.

The roast duck with ‘mole’ was pretty bland. Proper mole is one of the more complex sauces in existence often containing more than 20 ingredients, while this one tasted like it was missing about 75 per cent of those. 

We finished on a better note with the grilled corn with chipotle and an interesting mix of cheddar and queso fresco ($6). The corn was deliciously charred and cheesy and was well accompanied with lime. But seriously, it would be pretty hard to ruin grilled corn.   

My tips for Paco’s Tacos:
  1. Do your research properly before opening a restaurant
  2. Learn how to prepare corn tortillas
  3. Fix up your recipes
  4. Try your food before you put it on the menu so that you don’t end up with giant chewy pieces of crackling, crap tortillas and entire stalks of coriander on your tacos
  5. Make sure you’ve got some consistency coming out of your kitchen (i.e. so that Gordon Ramsay wouldn’t have a coronary while shouting the F-word repeatedly at your cooks, not that that would be a bad outcome)

Pacos Tacos on Urbanspoon

Fonda Mexican (dos)

This week I decided to dip my toe back into the Mexican dining scene with a dinner visit to the brand new cantina, Fonda on Swan Street in Richmond with Clare. 

It was buzzing when we arrived with a lot of people waiting for takeaway or tables. I was craning my neck to check out the action in the open kitchen, which included a guy dedicated to pressing and grilling tortillas (awesome). 
Fonda at the end of dinner (note the tortilla press on the left)
We were finally seated in the cute courtyard at the back and proceeded to peruse the soft opening menu (they’ve only been open for a few weeks and are still tweaking things).  I wanted to order everything but had to compromise and pick out a selection to share. 

Our beverage choice was pink grapefruit and guava Jarritos Soda ($4.5). 

We started with the delicious fish taco with chipotle aioli, pickled onion and carrot with cabbage ($6). This was mine and Clare’s favourite for the night with the crispy crumbed fish and creamy aioli (topped with some hot sauce of course).

The braised pork taco with pineapple, onion, coriander and lime ($5) was also good.

Next we had the juicy charred corn with chipotle aioli, salted ricotta (milder than queso fresco) and lime (could’ve been more generous with the lime, it was difficult to squeeze anything out of the lime stubs). 

To finish we shared the chopped beef burrito ($13.50) with black beans, salsa roja and chipotle aioli. The burrito was beefy good (really good flour tortilla) but could be improved with the aioli inside and a bit of salsa fresca to brighten up the flavours. 

I’m really stoked to have a place like Fonda in the neighbourhood. 

Update: Things I’ve tried since that are worth a try:
  • the new beef brisket taco
  • the horchata
  • potent margaritas
Fonda Mexican on Urbanspoon


  1. Nice.

    There is so much we have yet to discover about mexican food.

    You know what Melbourne REALLY needs?

    Street food. Proper, honest to god, street food.

  2. Agreed Alex.
    Fonda update:
    new awesome things they do = horchata was lovely, their chicharrones are good, crispy and bite sized deliciousness
    things they could improve = they need proper hot sauce on the tables, it was there on my first visit but is now missing (their house made one isn't particularly hot and the consistency is a bit wet, more like a salsa done in a blender, flavour good though), the burritos could use a bit of work - they seem to lack a bit of freshness of flavour that could be improved with more salad or something


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