Heavily concentrated in the Northern Melbourne ‘hip’ locations of Brunswick, Carlton, Northcote etc you can jump on board arguably the coolest movement happening in the food industry right now. This movement being the rise of the food trucks a.k.a vans with fully equipped kitchens pumping out an assortment of cuisines in many geographic locations. Claimed to be the first of it’s kind here in Melbourne are Taco Truck and burger sibling Beatbox Kitchen. The longest operating trucks and from the twitter/facebook statistics (9,000 Facebook and almost 20,000 Twitter) they have by far the largest followings too.
Recently this new trend has been receiving loads of media attention as well as a continually growing fan base. Some of the newer players include; Dhaba Truck (Indian), Cornutopia (tacos), Gumbo Kitchen (seafood) and Big Moose’s (hot dogs) to name a few. With this in mind it was only a short matter of time before The Chommery whipped out the trusty Google Maps and sought some of these bad boys out.
Salty corn chips with guacamole ($6.00). No hidden surprises here, just very addictive and crunchy corn chips. The hint of mayo/cream in the guacamole made for a perfect spread for the chips.
Left is the potato taco with jalapeno, ricotta, slaw with salsa verde ($5.00). This was the vego friendly option. Personally, I preferred the other tacos. Keep in mind, I am a life pledged carnivore (fishivore too). To the right is the fish taco with slaw, lime squeeze and poppy mayo ($5.00). We concurred that this was our favourite taco. No surprise, everyone adores battered fish in any culinary dish. This taco was full of flavour, the experience was over all too soon.
Side by side, two chicken tacos with corn salsa, baby spinach and chipotle mayo, await a quick demolition, with a few corn chips thrown in the mix ($12.00). A very close second to Mr Fish. These used a corn based salad instead of the slaw which was a great alternative. The tender, small chunks of chicken oozed fresh juice in each mouthful. These were totally awesome tacos, leaving you begging for more.
Overall, I believe the novelty factor is high when you embark on a food truck adventure. Nevertheless, it is a great outing to take the kids, especially so when the truck is positioned near a park or playground. The only issue I had, as a massive chommer, is that I would need a good 5+ for a full meal. Then it would become a reasonably expensive experience. Sourcing and finding the truck is an enjoyable task and the tacos are certainly delicious. Follow this truck on FB and/or Twitter and if the tacos are near you, your destination is clear.
The Important Details…
Suitable for: Fun for all people
Price: $6.00 per taco
My View: A delicious snack
Address: Various locations
Watching the stages of development of Radio Mexico was an easy task as a regular customer of the Galleon Cafe. Once every week or fortnight after my late breakfast I would stroll next door and put my hands and eyes up on the glass hoping to get a glimpse of what was to come. I had a deep down feeling that finally something special was going to open – and it did.
Casual Mexican inspired restaurant and bar, Radio Mexico has been operating for barely two weeks and the locals are all well aware of this. Enjoying their precious space before it explodes big time onto the Internet. Upfront apology to any St Kilda folk that did not want this information leaked to the web, The Chommery just cannot resist but share this eating delight. With their website going live only a couple of days ago, no blogs have been uploaded and the crew are not tweeting their every move, it would explain why the customers seem to mainly be domestic.
The inside has been decked out cleanly and pleasantly. Its a half way point between the next door grunge of Galleon and a Newmarket Hotel restaurant elegance. My verdict is a good balance of both environments, forming a groovy and comfortable space for diners.
If you are thinking oh no, I have seen corn done this way before – boring – then you are entitled to your opinion. For me, I know I have seen it and I know I love it. I’m just going to keep ordering them as my starter here, there and everywhere. Above is the Elotes - corn on the cob with cheese, chilli salt and lime (2 for $6.00). This radio station does a nice job. Soft char grilled kernels, with a thin layer of butter and the shaved parmesan with lime. Love.
What an amazing bonus for coming to a restaurant in the first few weeks – complimentary dishes that were still undergoing trial. When we were offered the Ensalada de Qinoa y Calabaza - Arbol chilli roasted pumpkin with quinoa and sesame ($14.00), we stopped and thought for a second, then obliged. Big ask. We managed. This is a top vegetarian option and was easily shared between the four of us. The pumpkin was cooked softly, the goats cheese (I think) was melted enough to start dripping down the orange pieces and the toasted salted pumpkin seeds were a great final touch.
The Toastaditas de Frijoles - crispy corn tacos topped with blackbeans, slaw and salsa (3 for $15.00) were fresh and scrumptious. Nothing too fancy here, just what you see is what you get – a mouthful of crunch. The green jalapenos were a good touch as they were only mild and not too overpowering.
Camera went a bit loco when I was attempting to photograph the Radio Mexico substitute for nachos, as they like to describe these. We had the Rojo - Red sauce with beans ($10.00). These definitely were a new take on the traditional nachos considering the chips were warmed and become moist with the ‘red’ sauce and the cheese oozing down. All at the table enjoyed these and nothing was left over (not that it’s saying much for me). You make up your own mind – does Radio play nachos like you like to eat them?
Only after ordering our first few sharing dishes, did I realize there was a back side to the menu. Needless to say, I felt like a kid again, as if I had discovered lost treasure. In this case, the treasure was the tacos – I wanted all of them. The tacos were served firm and at room temperature. We attempted to order a range of toppings. I think we did pretty well. The above is the Baja - Beer battered fish, pico de gall and slaw. The golden fried piece of fish sat in the middle of that taco glistening for a total of 5 seconds while I snapped a piccy. Then it was gone forever. Note: all the tacos are $6.00 bar the bugs ($12).
Presenting on the left we have the Barbacoa - the slow cooked organice saltbush lamb, red cabbage and salsa. On the right we have Carne Asada - BBQ hanger steak with queso fresco, lettuce and salsa. I cannot tell a lie (that’s a lie) – I did not try either of these. I did speak to the lovely ladies that chommed these two delights and their verdict was ‘mad’ tacos. Plush pieces of red meat, drizzled with marinade accompanied by just the right amount of veggies for an epic eating pleasure. What a broadcast!
The Camaron - Chipotle prawn and slaw also went down a treat. Rolled him up tight and ate it as if it were an edible cigar. The prawns were fresh. Furthermore it was good to see two prawn brothers on the taco – would have been upset if he was an only child.
Side by side the pulled pork tacos stand like soldiers ready for battle. They were called the Al Pastor - Otway free range pork caritas with pickled jalapeno and charred pineapple. These two were presented so nicely for battle, but did not stand a chance against us. They lost and were demolished super fast – story of my life. The goodness of the pulled pork was sweet and beautiful. Only issue – it getting stuck in the old chompers.
According to trustworthy sources, the full menu has not yet been released. We are still in the soft opening weeks and bit by bit this crew is releasing more authentic Mexican cuisine for the feast. I for one have no complaints if the menu continues to expand. It works well for my soon to be next visit and most likely again after that. With much of the same blood, management and staff shared between Radio and Galleon you should know you will be in very capable hands.
Take some time out and tune into Radio Mexico.
The Important Details…
Cuisine: Melbourne Mexican
Noise: Buzzing like a bee
Bookings: No – so get in early
Suitable for: Young - middle aged
Price: roughly $30 p.p
My View: Fresh, clean, delicious Mex
Address: 11 Carlisle Street, St Kilda
Phone: (03) 9534 9990
I’m going to throw the Newmarket Hotel in to my group of restaurants that I would recommend to anyone that was looking for a rounded Melbourne hype/culture food experience. Off the top of my head, Mamasita, Longrain, Izakaya Den, Chin Chin, Golden Fields and Cookie are some other examples that would join this level of restaurant. They all pack out night after night, full of loud music, not on the cheaper side of pricing but serve up delicious assorted cuisines. Although you couldn’t eat at them every night of the week (maybe I could), though when you do you are sure to have a memorable experience.
The Newmarket Hotel is situated on Inkerman Road, on the same spot where Schnitz and Tits used to lie, just a casual stroll down from the corner of Grey and Barkly Streets in St Kilda. It’s large presence will make it hard to miss.
Let’s not play any games here, I’m on the continual hunt to satisfy a bottomless pit. I’m all about the food. At this point in time, I feel I need to comment on the unbelievably cool (and surely expensive) fit out. All the architect buffs should know who we can commend once again for the efforts here and its Six Degrees Architects. Six Degrees are the same folks that contributed to The Royal Saxon, Auction Rooms, De Clieu and Middle Park Hotel. Their resume speaks for itself, excellent looking cafes and restaurants. The Newmarket looks equally as brilliant. Indoor dining can be seen above, meanwhile practically the entire left wing comprises outdoor seating that can be used for diners and offers a top spot for a drink.
Undoubtedly the hottest selling dishes at the Newmarket would be their tacos. They are about the size of the palm of your hand, topped with an assortment of different and delicious toppings. The soft shell crab tacos, guacamole, shaved fennel, spicy corn ($17.00 for 2) was a wise order. The tacos are ultra soft and the crab has a delicate tempura coating. The verdict: Goddamn these are mighty fine!
The taco of the day was pulled pork, apple and coriander ($16.00). While the consumption of these was a short lasting experience, it was a memorable one. The only thought jingling through my head after two rounds of these amazing tacos, is …more tacos, more tacos. There is no question, next visit to this establishment will involve many more of these delectable treats.
BBQ corn on the cob with chilli and queso fresco ($6.00 each). While this dish has made a big name for itself in the restaurant industry, this chommer understands why they are showing up everywhere. Besides the fact that they are scrumptious, it must have something to do with the long lasting Aussie affiliation with these bright yellow vegetables.
Quaesadilla with huitlacoche, wood BBQ mushrooms, spinach and jack cheese ($17.00). This was served pre-cut and not sickeningly cheesy with the wrapping as more of a crepe like formula than the standard tortilla. Overall, this is a top entree and The Chommery would recommend it.
Wood roasted figs, spiced lamb and goat’s cheese dressing ($18.00). The figs were so soft they fell apart as you picked them up and the goat’s cheese dressing was gentle and tasty. Although they were delicious, I couldn’t justify paying such a high price tag for these again.
Large chopped Mexican salad, iceberg, radishes, jicama, sweet tomatoes, cactus and queso fresco ($20.00). Fresh, crunchy pieces of lettuce drowned in a mayonnaise dressing with a range of hidden goodies mixed throughout made for a simple salad that everyone loved. This Mex salad can be added to the ‘to order’ list when you head down either with or without me.
Triple cooked bravas potatoes with two sauces ($9.00). The Newmarket version of everyone’s favourite roast potatoes are divine. Each individual ‘tato has a great crunch to soft inside ratio, perfectly coated in a light mayonnaise and tomato/bbq based relish of sorts. Order this dish, you will love it, that’s our Chommery guarantee.
Yucaten style banana leaf wrapped wood roasted local snapper, jicama and lychee salad, smokey habanero salsa (for 2 @ $33.00 per person). These arrive in a DIY format in which you build your own taco. Add a small bit of the lychee salad, continue with some soft juicy pieces of snapper to form a small mound.
Constructed Yucaten snapper taco. Besides the smudge on the plate (left by the amateur photographer), I think the taco looks great. Tasted awesome too.
Daily wood oven signature rotissera specials of organic lamb and suckling pig interchange throughout the week. An assortment of Latin cured meats, half or whole roasted chicken and a variety of 300 – 600g premium beef options are also available. After hearing about all these other mouth watering choices I’m sure you can easily tell that this chom has most definitely only scratched the surface of offerings. We can call this Newmarket Part I, a sequel is in the making and sure to be released on the bloggosphere in the not too distant future. Unconfirmed rumours floating around that Spielberg and Tarantino are both in the running to direct it – under the name ‘Newmarket Hotel – The never ending chom’.
The Important Details…
Cuisine: Mexican & a bit Latino
Noise: Plenty of la Musica
Bookings: Via phone
Suitable for: Over 18+, pub environment
Dress: Slightly nicer than usual
Price: $50 per head
My View: Great hit of Mex in the burbs
Address: 34 Inkerman Road, St Kilda
Phone: (03) 9537 1777
There is no question that we have been rocked by a tidal wave of Mexican eateries over the last year or so. It was only a couple of years ago when eating Mexican food in Melbourne was a very overpriced and dissatisfying experience. If I am the first to tell you, it is in a process of a radical change. The CBD is undoubtedly the headquarters with ever supreme Mamasita, newbies Seniorita’s & Touche Hombre on the scene, Movida’s Paco’s Taco’s and word is out that Curtin House will build a latino quarter too. Not to forget the suburbs, where Newmarket Hotel dominates St Kilda, Taco truck running a muck around Brunswick and of course Fonda Mexican is doing a world of good in Richmond.
Sitting Black and pretty on Swan Street, Fonda has been divided into thirds. The outside seating along Swan Street and some tables up the graffiti-ed wall, the inside/kitchen (motor engine) and a cosy courtyard at the rear. Note: this courtyard gets HOT when the weather heats up. Rumour has it, these guys are ready to expand to the property to the right. Here’s hoping once they do, there will be some more exciting menu additions and more space for The Chommery for future visits.
Eating in the inside section proved to be an eventful choice. Midweek at around 9:00pm, I expected the dinner rush to have died down. Boy, was I wrong! Not only, were pretty much all the tables in each third taken, but the take-away queue was snaking out the doorway. STOP, in case you are thinking… busy – avoid, busy – avoid. These guys know what they are doing. The food arrives in a very timely manner. The most unbelievable part is how the Fonda staff find synergy in that tiny kitchen. I don’t know how they do it, but they do – Everyone is loving it.
A 6″ braised pork, pineapple, onion, lime and coriander taco ($5.00) was a great appetiser to warm up the engine that is my stomach. Very fresh ingredients, delicate pork and the sweetness from the pineapple made for amazing mouthfuls of goodness. It would seem that tacos are the dish of the moment. I am certainly not complaining. Give me about 7 – 10 (preferably assorted, but not essential) and I’ll be a very happy camper
The mesmerising turns of the mixers on the old-school slushee machines made ordering the Horchata’s a must. Once you approach the counter and are faced with these unusual drinks, you know what you have to do. They are made of rice, cinnamon, water, evaporated milk and vanilla ($4.50). I would consider these a light and not overly sweetened accompaniment which are cleverly presented in jars with thick retro straws. A good recommendation, especially if you get stung by a strong jalapeno. All the regular Jarrito options are available too.
Chorizo 12″ quaesadilla – chorizo, queso fresco (cheese), jalapeno and salsa roja ($12.00). This cheesy choice is served as four separate pieces and is ideal for sharing. I didn’t notice the jalapeno flavours, so this dish is fine for the chilli averse.
Tortilla chips with guacamole and spicy salsa ($6.00). Very self explanatory starter with no gastronomic properties. Nevertheless, the avocado left overs were used optimally on the burritos to come.
The Charred corn with chipotle aioli, riccotta salata and lime ($3.50 each). You can find these treasures more easily in Melbourne nowadays but you still can’t go past them. Juicy corn, limey zing and amazingly soft parmesan is felt with each bite as you make a mess while chomping on these. The corn prices at Fonda are more reasonable than what you would expect at some of your flashier alternatives. So, you should order one or two.
You have to order a burrito when you come down to visit Fonda. It’s the backbone of your meal and will provide the major sustenance of your experience. The 12″ ‘Chopped Beef’ burrito – beef/pork burger, black beans, salsa roja and chipotle ailoli ($13.50). A delicious choice, surprisingly filling and a salsa sauce is provided on the side if you feel it needs more jazz. An amazing contraption is being used in the kitchen to flatten and cook the Abbotsford Convent Bakery dough into the these scrumptious burrito wraps.
The ‘Grilled Chicken’ - quinoa, salsa verde, corn, queso fresco and cabbage burrito ($13.50) is a great choice too. The use the power grain quinoa is very interesting in this wrap as it provides an alternate substitute for rice or lettuce. These delicate burritos are overflowing with their respective ingredients and each bite into these lush wraps is better than the one before. The Fonda burritos are pre cut and are great for sharing with 2 or 4 people.
Fonda Mexican really is a brilliant place. It isn’t trying to be a fancy restaurant, and at the same time it is managing to steer clear of being just another fast food joint. Positioned on Swan Street Richmond, far enough away from the crazy intersection at Church Street ensures that you will have some peace during your visit. Open seven days a week, Monday to Friday from 12:00 and Saturday and Sunday from 3:00pm. Come down in the evening and you will notice the Fonda troops creating burritos and taco late into the night.
You can rest assured that The Chommery would not lead you astray. Get yourself down to Fonda!
The Important Details…
Suitable For: All
Price: $15 – $25 per head
My View: Funky spot with great Mexican fare
Address: 248 Swan Street, Richmond
Phone: (03) 9429 0085
There were not many eating options available on the first of January 2012, yet luckily enough I found out through visiting Ms G’s earlier in the week, that their sister restaurant El Loco would be trading. One would only assume that if El Loco was anything similar to Ms G’s in terms of quality, looks and taste, that I would be in for a treat…. And I was!
Above displays the funky entrance available via Waterloo street. Multicolored tables and chairs line this street allowing customers to sit out in the sun while enjoying the Mexican-inspired street food. El Loco is both a bar and eatery that provides a combined lunch/dinner menu.
Orders and payment are generally taken inside at the bar and these really cool cactus table numbers are handed out. My appetite was not quite at its normal level on this day so unfortunately we could not order everything from the menu. Smaller options include prawn, chicken, beef or tofu taco while larger dishes consisting of a fish sandwich, chili salad, pork burger, grilled fish and the hot dog are on offer.
On the left is the ‘Pollo’ – chicken with sweet corn salsa taco ($5.00). On the right is the ‘Carne Asada’ taco- lemongrass beef with salsa verde ($5.00). Both were light and tasty that proved to be an excellent snack. I could only imagine wondering down Foveaux Street to El Loco on a random night and ordering 10-20 of these little goodies for a group of alcohol fueled individuals.
Stopping at the two tacos was never going to happen. The ‘Exelsior Hot Dog’ – grilled pork Frankfurt, soft bun, pickled jalapenos, pico ge gallo, mayonnaise and cheese became the main event. WHAT A CHOICE! Sh*t got real when this baby arrived. This was by far one of the best hot dogs I have had the pleasure of eating. The bun was soft, the ingredients fresh and delectable on the taste buds. Overall, the experience at El Loco was one for the books. It is the perfect atmosphere for a groups of any size, and people of various hunger levels. All can be satisfied at El Loco.
I highly recommend it!
My only negative comments are as follows:-
- We were too hungover to try some of the drinks which included a margarita that looked intense (intense = good)
- My appetite was not at full power 24 hour no toilet no shower strength, therefore I couldn’t try a wider variety of food
- I do not live in Sydney, therefore limiting my time between the next time I dine at this fine establishment.
- I have food/drink envy of all that are chomming El Loco while I wrote this and you are reading this.
The Important Details…
Cuisine: Mexican inspired
Noise: Outside – pleasant chatter. Inside – Could only assume quite loud at night
Suitable for: Draws a younger crowd. Don’t be surprised if you see me there when I am 60
Dress: Very casual – anything.
Price: $15 – $30
My View: Why are you still reading this? Go Already
Address: 64 Foveaux Street, Surry Hills NSW
Phone: (02) 9211 4945