29th February 2016
72 Stubbs St
Kensington, VIC 3031
One of my dearest wishes is to travel to Mexico, and eat 50c tacos out of a street-side stall. Chris is convinced that the moment we step foot off the plane, we will get entangled in a drug cartel and lose our lives, all for some tacos, which we can get in Melbourne anyway. And he’s not even the one who watches breaking bad (no one spoil it I still need to finish the last season).
So whilst I’m still trying to convince Chris that Mexico is a perfectly safe place to go provided you have your wits about you, La Tortilleria seems to be as good of a place as any to quench my taco cravings. In fact, it may be better than good; their house-made tortillas are apparently so good that they’re used by a whole lot of Mexican big-shots in Melbourne, such as Mamasita, Fonda, Paco’s Tacos, Bay City Burrito, Mesa Verde, and Smith and Daughters. And that’s not even the full list.
Although clearly a refurbished inner Melbourne home, the interior (and exterior) has long-since been alarmingly bedazzled beyond recognition. Space is tight for sure, but the sheer exoticness of the decor made dining here feel like an adventure, as opposed to cramped and uncomfortable. Just make sure to suck your tummy in as you weave between the tables.
Horchata ($5) is my must-order whenever I go to a Mexican restaurant, and one this is amongst the best. The rice water is sweetened with creamy condensed milk and cinnamon quills, served clinking with ice cubes.
We placed our order, and everything came out at the same time on a chipped, colourful platter. The smell was intoxicating.
To start off, we had a trio of tacos. The Carne Asada Taco ($4.8) was filled with juicy chunks of grill beef, topped with a tangy drizzle of green salsa. In true Mexican fashion, the taco was double wrapped to keep everything together, the tortilla lending its soft, sweet aroma to the beef.
Meanwhile, the Al Pastor Taco ($4.8) was sweet and spicy, the tender pork complemented by pieces of grilled pineapple. To finish up was a fresh and crispy Pescado con Salsa de Arbol ($4.8), the delicate white fish battered and topped with spicy salsa.
The Hongos Quesadilla ($4.5) was a failsafe combination of cheese and mushrooms that was unabashedly rich and earthy. Less exciting was the Tinga de Pollo Quesadilla ($5), a simple combination of chipotle-infused chicken and melted cheese.
I left the Ceviche Tostada ($5) until last because it didn’t run the risk of the dreaded tortilla split. Turns out I would’ve done better to have interspersed this throughout the meal as a palate cleanser. Although delicious, the sour lime-marinated fish was just too much in one go, even when tempered with grated radish and guacamole.
And finally, a lonely Barbacoa de Borrego Flauta ($5). The excellent tortilla turned brittle and airy once fried; in the middle was a chunky filling of lamb, but it was the fruity mango salsa on top that really made it pop.
I was deliberately saving room for the Flan (vanilla) ($7.5), and thank goodness I did. The wedge of custard was thick and eggy, melting smoothly in the mouth with each bite. Its rich sweetness was tempered by the pool of slightly bitter caramel sauce, and it was incredibly easy to have ‘just one more bite’.
Despite having never been to Mexico, La Tortilleria seems like the real deal, at least if Google images is to be believed. Sure, the tacos are literally 10 times more expensive, but I guess you can’t have everything. And yes, you can buy these tortillas to take home.
Rating: 13.5/20 – exemplary flan.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.